After our first week in Peru most of our group left to return to Florida. One other family stayed behind for a few more days and we spent the weekend enjoying as many touristy things with them as we could stuff into one weekend!
On Saturday we hired a van and a local driver to drive us south to Nazca to see the Lines, with a few other stops along the way.
We left the house at around 6:00 AM, and got back around 2:00 AM the next morning. A BIG chunk of that time was spent in the van. All the kids were great sports about it for the most part, entertaining themselves and staring out the window at the dessert scenery….or napping, as Cora did pretty much the entire time. By the time the trip was over Cora had napped on about half the people in the van.
I could sit in a vehicle and stare out the window all day long, it’s one of my favorite things to do so I was a happy (albeit squished) clam.
It wasn’t all fun and games on the road trip though. As a big van full of gringos we seemed to have a giant target on us. The Peruvian police pulled us over 6 times, and that was mostly just on the way down, since it was nighttime on the way back, and they didn’t seem to want to bother us in the dark, or maybe none of them like the night shift?
Five of the officers just let us go after checking the driver’s papers, but one wasn’t going to let us off so easy. He made up some law and claimed we were breaking it in an attempt to extort money from us. Luckily we had a few savvy Peruvians with us and we were finally allowed to continue, without having to pay his bribe. Unfortunately this is a very common practice with the Peruvian police. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it was scary (although it would have been without the locals with us) it’s just more annoying and makes me angry for the people of this country, and others like it, that so many of their government officials are too busy being corrupt to actually do good work for the people.
One of the many little villages we drove through.
We stopped for lunch about 5 hours south of Lima in Huacachina, a tiny village built around a dessert oasis.
This is the first tower we stopped at and climbed, turns out it’s not to view the Nazca Lines, it’s to view another, much less impressive set of geoglyphs, although this tower is no more structurally reassuring than the one we climbed in Nazca so you get the idea. (Yes, I’m still afraid of heights. Yes, I still force myself to go high).
The Nazca lines are a series of around 70 large ancient geoglyphs that span an area over 620 square miles. These are the three figures we could see from the tower we climbed. You can’t really make them out from my pictures, we still weren’t really high enough, but it’s a pair of hands, a tree and an iguana.
They are pretty amazing to see in person, totally worth spending a day in a van. No one knows for sure who created them (an ancient civilization, aliens) or even exactly how or they were created. They are so big that you can’t even tell what most of them are until you get up in the air in one of these towers, or an airplane.
It’s estimated they were created around 200 B.C. and first (re)discovered in 1927 by an archeologist on a hike through the nearby foothills. They were made by scraping away the reddish, iron oxide covered pebbles on the desert surface and uncovering the lighter colored sand underneath. The trenches are only 4 to 6 inches deep and would have long been eroded away had they not been drawn in one of the driest, windless desserts on earth. Just think about that, these are trenches on 4-6 inches deep, drawn in the dessert, that have been around for around 2000 years. It blows my mind a little. They would have lasted a week where I’m from in Florida.
Here we are at the top of the tower of terror we climbed to view the Lines in Nazca.
Cora’s never seen a camera she didn’t want to jump in front of, so she joined the Rits family for their family photo at the Lines too.
On Sunday we went to church and then spent the rest of the day sightseeing again.
We started off dipping our toes in the Pacific Ocean, you know, so we could all say we’ve been in the Pacific Ocean in South America, of course!
Awkward family beach selfie.
After the ocean we toured the Simón Bolívar museum, part of the museum is built in what was his home – it’s absolutely beautiful. I can’t believe I didn’t get more pictures, but I did get one of this fantastic tree in the courtyard. The foliage is so thick that almost no light gets through – I would love to see a forest full of these.
Next we toured Convento de San Francisco – the Monastery of San Francisco. I have zero pictures of that because you can’t take them inside and it was dark by the time we made it out and I’m super paranoid of my phone being snatched.
Anyway, trust me that the monastery was fascinating. The end of the tour takes you through the catacombs where some 25,000-30,000 bodies were buried from the time the monastery was built until the early 19th century. This was the first time the girls have seen catacombs. One of the girls loved it, was totally fascinated, the other one couldn’t get out fast enough! (I’ll let you guess which was which)…
The most interesting part of the monastery to me is the seismic wells. There are 6 giant wells built in the underground catacombs. They are there to absorb seismic waves to keep the building from collapsing during earthquakes. They also threw some of the 25,000-30,000 bodies that were buried down there into the wells, so there’s that…. It’s fascinating to me that that long ago they had the know-how and technology to built earthquake-proof structures.
Our final stop on our whirlwind weekend sightseeing tour was Circuito Mágico del Agua – the Magic Water Circuit (sounds much better in Spanish). This is a park with 12 water fountains, in the one behind us there is a choreographed light show every night. It was pretty cool, although I have to admit by this point in the weekend I was pretty touristed out.