Thursday, 10 February 2011

A white city, and slightly bizarre but marvelous Inka creations

Moving on South to the second biggest city of Peru, Arequipa - la ciudad blanca, an UNESCO world heritage site, we made a stop in another UNESCO site for a few hours in a deserved area with some huge lines drawn every here and there...


The Nazca lines are very impressive when you read and hear about them, stretching more than 80 km these geoglypths encompasses everything from single long lines, to complex massive drawings of spiders, orcas, llamas and, my favourite, monkeys with the biggest figures measuring over 200 meter across.

Created by the Nazca culture some 1500 years ago, the technique - of removing the top red stones to reveal the whiter ones beneath, was impressive and so was the massive size of these lines and the mathematical skills of the Nazca people.
However, although the views of the desert and discussing about the real meaning of those figures facing the skies being quite fascinating, to the eye the lines are kind of disappointing.


We chose not to do the expensive and supposedly really quite dangerous flight tour over the lines - and perhaps this would have been more impressive, but we heard from someone that had done it at the same time that you hardly saw anything as the plane whisked by - but from the platform where we went to see the lines the view was far from as impressive as I had imagined although the panamerican highway crossing right through one of the forms was fairly interesting. It seems that the road was constructed before the Nazca lines were ever discovered.

We also visited the house of Maria Reiche, a german woman who dedicated most of her life researching and documenting the Nazca lines. The locals remember her as a nice but 'crazy' woman, who spent most of her days under the the burning desert sun, measuring the lines in all possible ways.

With very little much to do around Nazca, we were happy that we had booked a way out from there the same night, and we boarded yet another night bus and took off in the dark to wake up in the magical white city.
The historic centre of Arequipa is in fact built with a pearly white volcanic rock (sillar) taken from the volcanoes that surrounds the city that does not only render the city shiny and beautiful but supposedly also is seismic. And it was really quite an animated and beautiful view that met our eyes this first day in the city.
Well, it was a Saturday after all so the centre was heaving with life, with many people trying to find shade from the hot alpine sun in the middle of the central Plaza de Armas, while other were busily out shopping at the market street close by including buying some of the more extraordinary cakes that I have ever seen - huge, extremely colourful and highly decorated they didn't look to appetising though.
It also seemed like a day for weddings! And I saw 5 or 6 wedding parties throughout the day, 2 at one of the old churches (not the cathedral though that seems too big for a normal wedding), and other that were busy with taking pictures with the backdrop of the white buildings and especially the cathedral.
Instead of getting married, or joining a wedding party without invitation, we decided to cough of the rather high entrance cost for the little city within the city, Arequipas own 'Lost City' - the huge Santa Catalina monastery  for nuns that is situated in the middle of the centre.

With high walls surrounding the monastery, this place was for long closed off to the real world with only a few small means of communication, but was opened up to the public after a series of earthquakes in the 60s forces the nuns to build a new accommodation next door.

It was fairly interesting to walk around this big, 20'000 square meter 'city'. It was especially interesting to see how these nuns, who I guess were supposed to live a simple life, had several rooms in what must have been a fairly amount of luxury.

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