We flew back to Lima, and the next morning we were on a bus to Paracas, a small coastal town on the way to Nasca. Nancy had been waiting to see Nazca for thirty years. That stretch of Peru from Lima to Nasca is right on the Pacific Ocean, but despite being next to one of the largest bodies of water in the entire world, the area is a desert. Arriving at our hotel we were greeted by our Peruvian, amazingly good, English speaking guide, who explained what this part of the journey had in store for us. We were given 20 minutes to get situated, and 45 minutes to shop before our next tour was to begin. Forty-five minutes for shopping for my shop-a-holic family is like swinging raw meat in front of a hungry lion and then taking it away before he has a chance to sink his razer-like teeth in it. Decisions are made slowly and deliberately, and the process of finding the perfect item at the best deal takes time for those of us who savor every flavor for as long as possible. We walked into the market area, and never made it past the first shop, whose jewelry was beautiful, unique and inexpensive. After being forcibly removed from the premises, we began our private tour of the National Reserve by having lunch by the seafront, surrounded by pelicans, Peruvian folk singers, and sea lions. Ceviche, a typical, and savory dish of fish cooked in lime juice, was our appetizer, followed by shark. We then split into two separate cars and made our way through the magnificent sand dunes. I don't think I ever realized before this trip, how millions and trillions of sand granules piled together, could create such outstanding beauty. I wasn't the only one who found these piles of sand irresistibly delectable; Lisa and Jon kept exclaiming how this was their favorite day because of how surprising it was to be astounded by these amazing mountains of sand, and bordered by the stunningly blue ocean. The color contrast alone was enough to throw ones visual senses into overdrive. Needless to say, picture taking became an Olympic sport, and it seemed we were all competing to see who could take the most pictures. We had a disappointing moment at the end, when the flamingos failed to show up at their designated meeting place at the designated time, but we didn't shed too many tears over it.
The following day began with the smelliest boat ride I have ever been on. Our destination, the famous Ballistas Islands. Their famous not only for their wildlife of penguins, sea lions, dolphins, and various species of birds, but also for it's valuable guano, or bird poop! You wouldn't believe the enormous bird population that chooses this island as it's favorite bathroom stop. Note the picture of Kyle with his life jacket being used not as a precautionary floating device, but a makeshift bird poo helmet.
Stepping into the boat gave one the feeling of exiting Peru and entering the country of France. If I didn't know that those two countries did not border each other, let alone cannot be found on the same continent, I might have actually believed the change in countries occurred in this city of Paracas. You might wonder, why I found myself confused as to what country I was in. It was due to the amount of French invading the airwaves as we scurried to our seats on the left side of the boat. The musical notes of the French language glided gracefully through the air, past our noses and skimmed the waters surface before surrendering to the depths of the ocean. The words with their musical yet harsh sounds were almost palpable, creating a forcefield around our motorboat. But alas, the smell of bird poop defeated the French bubble at it's very molecular infrastructure propelling the bonjours, j'taimes, and ouis out to sea with the pelicans.
After the viewing the jumping dolphins, sea lions fighting and lazily lounging, and dodging stink bombs, we headed out of our little beloved beach town of Paracas to Hual... We ate a delicious, but more cautious lunch, considering some of us, Lisa, had gotten sick, from an unknown source. Our goal for the day: cover our entire bodies from head to toe in sand. Of course we didn't know it was our goal until we had already achieved it. After laughing at our our sole-toothed, bad, but high-spirited magician who entertained us as we ate, we headed out to the sand dunes. Sand boarding was the name of the game for the day, but before we could get good and dirty in the sand, we had to find the highest dunes. This meant a dune buggy ride at speeds of 60 miles per hour or more. Similar in feel and speed to a roller coaster, the youngens screamed with delight while the queens screamed for a merciful end. A constant verbal battle began aimed at the badgered and confused driver, who by the way only spoke spanish, to both slow down and speed up at the same time. I was torn between slowing down and speeding up myself because I loved the speed and the exhilaration of traveling at mach 3 down the hills of sand, but the bumpiness of the ride concerned me because of my mother's ailing back. Arriving at our first hill, I was overcome with laughter at the crazed look of the queens, and was almost surprised that they didn't kiss the sand as they climbed out of machine that seemed to endangered their lives. Sand boarding was simple, lay with your stomach on the board, keep your mouth closed and let gravity do the rest. The first trip, I was a bit intimidated and found myself using my feet as brakes for almost the entire length of the ride. After a couple of trips however, I worked up the nerve to save the brakes for the end. Lisa was only able to ride once because her stomach was bothering her. And Jonathan and Kyle both attempted the standing position, finding themselves face first in sand after only a few seconds.
Arriving to our hotel in Nasca, we attempted to rid ourselves of the castaway sand from our adventures in the dunes, but even after showering, sand was found stored in secret compartments, such as the creases in the ears, for the next couple of days. Our hotel was beautiful, but we were almost to exhausted to enjoy it. We dined in the hotel, after a walk around the shanty town of Nasca, and went straight to bed. Our flight over the mysterious Nasca lines was early in the morning. The massive figures carved into the cracked desert earth are only visible by air, which is one of the many mysteries as to why these earth drawings were created in the first place. The most popular theory now, besides that aliens are responsible, is that they are a grid system pointing to water. What do people in the desert want most? Water is the answer. The drawings are the main attraction, but there are lines as well all of over the desert floor. It is thought that the lines were the grid system while the drawings were an attempt to please the gods. Which would explain why, they would make drawings that can only be enjoyed by air.
After our flight, we headed to the cemetery 30 minutes outside of Nasca. When I had read about this cemetery, I had imagined grave tombs, which would only be mildly interesting to me, and flat out boring to Lisa and Jonathan. But instead of grave tombs we found preserved skeletons, dressed in the clothes they were buried in, placed in the fetal position, and surrounded by their valuables. Of course before the Peruvian government decided to make it a national site with protections, grave robbers had already visited and stolen almost everything with value. Besides the robbing, they also confused what bodies and/or skulls belonged in what tomb. Of course the most important members of the community had the most belongings, but they were also ....
The part of the day, that I looked forward to the most, was the seven hour bus ride from Nasca to Lima to stay in our favorite noisy hotel. Sometimes sarcasm is difficult to hear on paper, so I am just going to freely admit my sarcastic intention now. We were lucky enough to have reclining chairs with leg rests, one meal, and three movies, so I really shouldn't complain too much. But it is difficult not to go stark raving mad after riding on a bus for that amount of time.