Pisco and Nazca

16 05 2008

Posted by: Laura, please note that due to technical difficulties, I am unable to access our pictures from our Nazca flight, so I have borrowed pictures.

Pisco, national liquor of Peru, is made from grapes which are fermented, then distilled to make a clear liquor. The hot dry climate near the coast of Southern Peru provides the perfect conditions for growing grapes. The town of Ica has many distilleries around the area, so we made a visit to El Catador. Our guide explained the process and rattled off facts describing how long each stage takes and how many liters each vat of liquid held. He got very excited when he described the pisco festival that occurs every year when they harvest and crush the grapes and crown a local queen. I think he told us about the queen three times, then showed us a poster of the festival and of course, the queen. We tasted five different types of pisco including one made with figs. Our entjusiastic guide insisted on tasting each one with us. We then sampled, a Pisco Sour, a popular mixted drink, which Chris didn´t like, so I had to drink it all.

After our pisco tasting, we got on a bus to Nazca, only three hours away. The town is mainly famous for the Nazca lines, which look like huge crop circles, except they are cut into the rock of the desert floor. No one knows exactly how they got there or why they were made. When they were discovered in 1920 by pilots flying over the desert, they were thought to be remnants of alien contact. Now anthropologists believe they are associated with the Shamanistic beliefs of the early Nazca people. They have narrowed down the date of origin to somewhere between 900BC and 630 AD. You can only see the lines from the air, so Chris and I got in a tiny Cessna airplane and took a 30 minute flight. First we just saw a bunch of lines and trapezoids, then we flew around the back side of a mountain and saw a spaceman person etched in the mountain.

It´s hard to get a sense of the scale because you are flying over them in a plane, but the largest figure, the hummingbird is almost 100 meters long. We saw the designs of a monkey, a hummingbird, a condor, a spider, a pair of hands, and lots of perfectly formed spirals. Our pilot flew over each shape twice so that both sides of the plane.

Thirty minutes doesn´t seem like a long time, but the turbulence of being in a small plane did not sit well with my stomach. I was glad when we reached the ground. As we walked from the runway a lady asked me in German if I enjoyed the flight. After I stared at her blankly, she asked again in English. After laughing at Chris because no one can figure out where he is from, we were amused that someone thought I was German.

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