Friday, October 26, 2012

Nasca, Arequipa, y Puno

This is something new for me. I am going to attempt to type a post via my iPod touch. Mostly stemming from my current laziness, I have decided to curl up on the deep foam mattress of our 'matimonial' bed at the Hostal Uros in Puno, Peru and see what comes of my fingers on this tiny keypad. As a fervent anti-supporter of a lot of modern technologies, there is something luxurious about being able to type with my pajamas on. After all, nearly every other blog post in my history had been from a shady international Internet cafe, where some I am either surrounded by teenagers on role playing games or creeps on porn sites (that being said, I've never actually seen anyone on a porn site, but in both Asia and Africa, the Internet cafes tended to consist of small, curtained cubicles...leaving intentions up to question).

We have continued on the aptly named 'Gringo Trail' into the heart of southern Peru this past week. It's not a trail as much as a path through Peru that all the white tourists seem to follow, as it covers the most ground and delves into all the famous sights. From Lima to Paracas to Nazca, which was a sweltering town (the town of the horrible sunburn, which only today has abated and is starting to peel) . Nazca was a desert oasis of little interest save for the famous Nazca lines, and a couple other Inca and pre-Inca leftovers. As the only way to see the famous lines is from the sky, we took an early morning flight on our second day. The flight itself was a tour-de-force in a 4 seat Cessna, total flight time being about 30 minutes, we banked circles around each of the 20 or so lines and characters. If you do the math, that equals about a minute a circle; remember to keep your eyes on the horizon, it keeps you partially sane.

A 500+ year old Inca cemetery was just outside of town, so we visited one afternoon with our friendly guide, and marveled at the fact that, though completely exposed to the elements, the 20-odd mummies in the area were almost completely the same as when they had been found, less some gold jewelry stolen by grave robbers. The air is so horridly dry in the area, that the mummies haven't changed a bit during their post-mortems! Fantastic, if you ask me. However, even more fascinating to me was our two consequent side trips. Usually I'm kind of against tour guides stringing you along to their friends' establishments post-tour, as it usually ends awkwardly with a lot if refusals to buy trinkets. Our guide, on the other hand, wanted to show us both the processes of gold mining in the area, and how traditional Inca pottery was made. Being into the arts and culture aspect of anything, I was all for it. The former gold miner turned out to be a hilarious old man who sang whilst demonstrating gold mining in miniature. He made Mr. Rogers land of make believe look like a side show. While he provided a good laugh, the woman who showed us how to make traditional pottery was just extremely sweet. Her studio, which appeared to be the entire backside if her house, reminded me of any other artists'studio, complete with a little old man in the corner painting a n Inca mask. The process was equally fascinating, as the colors are extracted from minerals, painted on the green ware, and then buffed to a shine with a polished stone. The piece is then fired, and the colors remain glossy.

Though Nazca had some cool aspects, as did Paracas and Lima, I didn't really love anything here until we got to Arequipa. It was in this city, glittering with buildings of volcanic stone, perched at about 7,000 ft, in the shadows of 5 volcanoes (only 3 are active!) that I thought, "Okay, this is awesome" for the first time. Sorry desert Peru, you are just too vast for my comprehension. I had no idea there was that much sand, and I've been to Africa. Arequipa was a lush oasis, where we strolled the streets by day, popping in and out of museums, and by night we cooked up delicious fresh foods purchased at the market. We were lucky enough to get a great room through 

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