What to see in Nazca beyond the famous lines
I hadn’t seen the ocean since the end of October 2018, and I had somehow forgotten the barrenness of the Peruvian coast. The desert landscape is a vast contrast to the lush green of the highlands. Sea birds hovered and the glint of the early coastal sun reminded me of my month up north last year.
Eight hours on the overnight bus to Lima was bearable and I had decent sleep. I said goodbye to Steph and Travis at the Cruz del Sur bus station just before 10pm. Steph and I would see each other at the end of the month, but Travis and I were heading in opposite directions. For a time at least, we will both be somewhere along the coast.
The bus that would take me to Nazca came a couple of hours after I arrived in Lima. Unfortunately Nazca was still over eight hours away and I had run out of snacks by then, that’s definitely something to think about for the next bus rides.
Cementerio de Chauchilla (Chauchilla Cemetery)
After a couple of hours in Nazca, I went on a tour of the Chauchilla Cemetery. The famous cemetery was used as a set location in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. The cemetery is in the Nazca plains and about an hour and a half’s drive out of the city.
The site itself is over 1,500 years old, and like many of these sites in Peru, it was discovered and raided by bandits. They would ransack the graves, take the beautifully intricate fabric the mummies wore and discarded
The ancient Nazca people wore mostly cotton due to its hot, humid climate. My guide, Julio, told me that if there was an individual tomb,
it meant they were the only person who died that day. If multiple mummies were found in one tomb, it was highly likely that they were related. However if there are partitions between the mummies, it meant they died on the same day but no related, more likely warriors fighting over water. Water was limited in the plains and was often the cause of fatal battles.
Life expectancy at the time was no more than 50 years old, and even
less for warriors.
Textiles and jewelry collective
We also visited a textiles and jewelry collective run by ten families.
They used both traditional and industrial dyed wool, and producing traditional and modern fusion designs. The natural dyes were made
from local plants and minerals. Seven of the families worked on the textiles and three families made jewelry using local shells, stones and gems. It’s a fading art form that they hoped to keep alive.
Aqueducts, Cahuachi Pyramids
and dune buggy adventure
I actually booked this tour as a package with my Nazca Lines flight. You fly in the morning, then around 2pm was picked up at my hostel to join the group. The tour itself is supposed to be around four hours, but due to some engine trouble, we ended up back in Nazca later than expected. As fun as it was to drive around in the desert at night, it was also very cold because the buggy left us fully exposed!
The tour itself takes in the aqueduct in Ocongalla, which is still in use by the local village. You also make a stop at the Cahuachi Pyramids, which was thought to be the ceremonial center for many Nazca cultures. Unfortunately for me I didn’t get to walk around due to feeling dizzy from the desert heat!
Of course the highlight of the tour had to be the dune buggies zooming overing the sand dunes! Then finished off with sandboarding during sunset - that was something pretty special. I only managed to go done the dunes sitting down, but don’t worry, you actually have to try pretty hard to fall over. Some of the group tried it on their stomachs, and one even managed to do it standing up.
You could probably visit and do these activities separately, but it made it convenient to do it in one day. Also, the Cahuachi Pyramids are in the middle of the desert, so I would say to go with a guide, not just a taxi!
fivefootronna is Ronna Grace Funtelar - a thirtyish storyteller, creative, writer and poet currently working and traveling in Peru. A woman with
a curious mind who lives for hiking mountains, outdoor adventures and eating pizza. She has a unique brand of optimism that is a combination
of her great enthusiasm for life and cups of coffee during the day.