Peru (Part III): Nazca and Lima
We arrived early in the morning by bus from Cuzco and were told to wait at the terminal by Edgardo, who was our next Couch Surfing host! We met Edgardo and he took us to his couch surfing pad – get this, he is still living in his house and the couch surfers get to live in the new house he has built (well it was about 85% complete when we were there so the rooms and bathrooms were well capable enough to handle CSers by that stage). Very nice place located in a very quiet area in Nazca with the backdrop of the world’s largest sand dune – google it!
Nazca was not originally on our list of places to visit in Peru (not that our list was much else apart from Cuzco, Machu Picchu and Lima as that is all we really had heard about in Peru), but thanks to a suggestion from our good friends Andy and Cathy Cluver we were able to enjoy the fascination behind the incredible Nazca lines!
The Nazca Lines are a series of ancient geoglyphs in the Nazca Desert in southern Peru. The plateau stretches some 80 kilometres between the towns of Nazca and Palpa which is about 400 km south of Lima. Scholars believe the Nazca Lines were created by the Nazca culture between 400 and 650 AD which significantly pre dates the Inca period – wow! However, they differ in opinion in relation to what the lines were meant to represent. Some say it was religious, some say it was to do with irrigation and probably one of the most popular was astronomy (ie the astronomical calendar)!
In 1940 Maria Reiche, a German mathematician and archeologist who dedicated almost her entire life to researching the Nazca Lines, became an assistant to the American Paul Kosok, a historian from Long Island University in Brooklyn, New York. Kosok is credited as the first westerner to seriously investigate the Nazca Lines. He originally studied the lines in connection with field work on ancient irrigation systems, but quickly concluded they had another purpose. Kosok noticed lines that converged at the point of the winter solstice in the Southern Hemisphere in June 1941. Together, Kosok and Reiche began to map and assess the lines for their relation to astronomical events.
Later Reiche found lines converging at the summer solstice. Around 1946 Reiche began to map the figures represented by the Nazca Lines and found 18 of different kinds of animals and birds. After Kosok left in 1948, she continued the work and mapped the area. She used her background as a mathematician to analyze how the Nazca may have created such huge-scale figures and found them to have a mathematical precision that was highly sophisticated. Reiche theorized that the builders of the lines used them as a sun calendar and an observatory for astronomical cycles.
Eventually scholars concluded that the lines were not chiefly for astronomical purposes, but Reiche's and Kosok's work had brought scholarly attention to the great resource. It is widely believed that they were used as part of worship and religious ceremonies related to the calling of water from the gods!
The figures range in complexity from simple lines to animals such as the hummingbird, spider, jaguar, monkey, fish, shark, llama, snake and astronaut. The largest figure is over 200 metres! Some of the measurements for the figures include that the Hummingbird is 93m (310 ft) long, the Condor is 134m (440 ft), the Monkey is 93m (310 ft) by 58m (190 ft), and the Spider is 47m (150 ft).
The extremely dry, windless, and constant climate of the Nazca region has preserved the lines well. The Nazca desert is one of the driest on Earth and maintains a temperature around 25 °C (77 °F) all year round. The lack of wind has helped keep the lines uncovered and visible to the present day.
Another local expert on the lines is none other than our CS host, Edgardo!
Edgardo is an astronomer and is basically an expert on the matter. Edgardo runs the astronomy observation centre in Nazca, which is recommended highly by most well known books and also by travelers we have met along the way. Well we got to do it for free because we were CSing with the boss, Edgardo! Thanks and we found it very interesting and informative!
The astronomy centre is also a dedication to the life and works of Maria Reiche. When she lived in Nazca she lived in the hotel room just next to the Observation Centre (as they are all part of the Hotel Nazca grounds).
During our experience at the observation centre we were able to see the difference between stars and planets (stars twinkle by emitting light produced by a nuclear reaction and planets shine because they reflect light), identified the red planet known to us as Mars and also Saturn with our naked eye. Other stars and constellations that we were shown included Sirius, which is the brightest star in the sky, Southern Cross, Big Dipper (also Plough or the Saptarishi) and The Milky Way! The special highlight of the night was getting to see a clear picture of Saturn through an ultra high powered telescope! Amazing experience as you can see the rings around Saturn!
So after Nazca it was a 6 hour bus ride north to Lima. We would have loved to stop in Ica for a few days, but unfortunately we did not have enough time as it was necessary to get to Lima and then onwards a week later to Guayaquil, Ecuador to catch our flight to the Galapagos Islands!
You may recall from our Colca Canyon blog posting that we were very kindly offered a room to stay in whilst we were in Lima by the lovely Mercedes we met on the Colca Canyon trek. Well obviously Mercedes was supposed to be there in Lima as well, but unfortunately she was off in Mendoza snowboarding for the
week! Lucky for us Mercedes was kind and trusting enough to let us still stay in her magnificent 16th floor 4 bedroom apartment in Miraflores (best area to stay in Lima)! Lucky us!
So we had a week hanging out at Mecha’s apartment in Miraflores catching up on our photos, blog, website, watching movies, cooking and also speaking to our parents. We did manage to explore the city whilst we were there, albeit for only 2 days as it was nice to just chill out for a few days and do not much after being on the go since leaving Sucre in Bolivia!
Lima is the capital of Peru and is located in the central part of the country on a desert coast overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Lima has a population of around 9 million people and is the fourth largest city in the Americas behind Sao Paulo, Mexico City, and New York City! Lima is home to one of the largest financial hubs in Latin America.
Lima was founded by Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro on 18 January 1535, as la Ciudad de los Reyes, or "the City of Kings". It became the capital and most important city in the Spanish Viceroyalty of Peru. Following the Peruvian War of Independence, it became the capital of the Republic of Peru. Lima is home to one of the oldest higher learning institutions in the new world - The National University of San Marcos, founded on 12 May 1551 during Spanish colonial regime, is the oldest continuously functioning university in the Americas.
Miraflores was a fun place to be in Lima – check out the photos of the view from our APARTMENT! The view was amazing as it over looked a sports club (about 10 clay tennis courts and a swimming pool) and the Pacific Ocean to the right! Quite spectacular! The area itself was always full of buzz and action. It was trendy, modern and a very happening area! That is the opposite to what we thought of the historical part of Lima which we found a little disappointing to say the least (well at least we think we visited the historical centre!). Apart from the main square, which was actually very beautiful, there wasn’t that much to the city which was disappointing for us!
During our time in Lima we also got to meet for the first time a friend of a good friend of ours. Our friend Eric Tan from Singapore loves Peru and travels there quite often. We were fortunate enough that Eric put us in touch with a good friend of his called Yuliana. We met up with Yuliana for dinner one night and she walked us around Miraflores and all the way along the coast to the trendy neighbourhood of Barranco. We must say that the coast along Lima is quite special, as it is perched right on the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean – if you are looking for a new high spec beachfront 4 bedroom apartment overlooking the ocean in a upper-class neighbourhood, then this is the place! It will only set you back about USD 300k which is extremely cheap all considered!
That night Yuliana invited us to come down to her family’s restaurant the following day to try Ceviche at her family’s restaurant for the first time! All we have heard since arriving in Peru is that you definitely should try Ceviche, however, we had been a little skeptical about trying Ceviche in places where there was no ocean! Fair point hey? So here we were at their wonderful restaurant “Bora Bora” (do go there if you are in Lima) and about to try Ceviche for the first time and being seafood lovers we were about to be spoilt!
For those who don’t know, Ceviche is raw fish that is cured / marinated in lemon, lime, garlic, onion, tomato, (sometimes coriander) and then served fresh to you in a bowl or on a dish with an accompanying side dish of platanos (pan fried bananas that are cut into pieces)! Super stuff!
Since that experience we have been eating Ceviche like it is part of our normal daily diet!
So that is it for the wonderful country of Peru…onwards and upwards (literally on the map) to Tumbes, Peru and then over the border to Guayaquil, Ecuador!
See you in Ecuador with the Fudgemeister scribing the next section…