Day 16 |
Oct 27, 2008

Paracas, Peru

By Claire Allum

Position: 13.49,141S and 076.15,874

After a Zodiac ride ashore, the majority of us had chosen to go to Tambo Colorado – the most well-preserved Incan monument on the Peruvian coast. Strategically located at the entrance to the Pisco River Valley, this imperial outpost is primarily built out of adobe. Remarkably preserved, right down to the red, white, yellow, ochre and black paint on the walls. This archaeological site was a regional centre designed to exude the power and organizational prowess of the Incan empire. The entire complex, including three palaces, complete with servant quarters and bathrooms, additional residential buildings and barracks, revolves around a central trapezoidal-shaped plaza.

Some of us got to do a fly-over of the Nasca Lines. Our guide, Diego, met us at the port of Paracas. On our way to the airport at Ica, he told us all about economic life in the Ica Valley—its strong economy based on introduced agricultural crops such as asparagus and artichokes, all destined for sale to North America and Europe. He said this was a good thing as Peruvians didn’t eat asparagus, and from the expression on his face, we could tell he didn’t like it either. He pointed out shantytowns along the sides of the Pan-American Highway, which housed highland refugees who had fled the threat of the Sendero Luminosa (Shining Path) guerillas during the 1980s.

At the airport we visited the gift shop and were shown a video about the Nasca Lines by a charismatic elderly man while we waited for our plane. Our aircraft held 14 passengers and we each had a window seat. As we took off, we had a wonderful view of the town of Ica, its coliseum and the bright blue swimming pools in people’s back yards. We reached the Nasca Lines by flying along the edge of the foothills and the coastal desert. We crossed over river valleys. The green of the agricultural fields in the valleys was in stark contrast to the buff-colored desert sand.

The first lines we saw were long and thin, originating in the foothills and crossing a wide flat plane. Then it was trapezoids. At this point the pilot banked the plane, first one way and then the other, so that we could all take photographs. The guide built up the excitement until we reached the figures—the astronaut (the owl man), the monkey, the parrot, the condor, the dog, the humming bird, the hands, the spider, and others. It always took a few seconds to make out the image from the surrounding lines and desert sand, but when one did, it seemed so obvious.

After an hour in the air photographing, we returned to the airport, picked up purchases from the airport shop and returned to the ship. As we left port we passed the “Candelabra,” not a Nasca Line, but another geoglyph. A few of the Captain’s Nasca Line images were shown at recap.