During my morning tour, Vito recommended that we leave for the Temples of Cahuachi around 3pm. “It’s too hot to go earlier and the light will be better for photographs,” he said. I readily agreed since anyone with camera sense knows that the best light for outdoor photos happens early in the morning or late in the afternoon. That gave Amanda and me a few hours to enjoy a nice lunch. Then she would spend some time by the pool reading and I would enjoy my book, “The Master,” a fictional account of the life of author Henry James Jr.
Lunch at the Nasca Oasis Hostal was good. Amanda was able to get her vegan fare and I enjoyed a Chicken Cordon Bleu with papas fritas (French Fries to those of you in the US). Although breakfast was included in the price of the hotel, the kitchen remained open for lunch and dinner. A nicely varied menu provided the prices which were reasonable for the area.
I had heard about the temple complex called Cahuachi after my original visit to Nasca. I have always been interested in architectural remains from ancient cultures. It was important to me that I return and see this incredible site. This ceremonial complex covers 370 acres and is the largest in the world according to one source. Very few actually lived in this city. It was used mainly for ritual purposes relating to agriculture, water and fertility. Although the Nasca culture spanned the time period from 300BC to 700AD, the temples were only in use from 1AD to approximately 500AD.
The site is being excavated and one temple has been partially restored by the Italian archaeologist Guiseppe Orefici. He has been working at the site for over thirty years, an impressive feat considering his funding. Conflicting theories have been espoused by people studying the site. The one that sounds most reasonable to me involved a flood. The heaviest rains in centuries caused the Nasca plain to flood. Those waters came through and partially covered some of the temples while killing off half of the population. The survivors buried the rest of the site to protect it due to its religious importance to them. Afterwards they moved to other areas. It is theorized that this is when the aqueducts were built (500AD – 700AD). After this period, the Nasca (a Quechua word) were conquered by the Wari and remained under their rule until the Inca.
At a quarter to three, Vito arrived in his jeep like vehicle to take us out to the temples. We flew through the dry desolate desert at breakneck speed. “I have to go fast to avoid the bumps,” said Vito as he smiled at me. I looked at Amanda in the back and said, “How you doing Cowgirl?”
“Great,” she said with a smile on her face.
Forty minutes later we arrived at the beginning of the complex. Vito pulled over to the side and we walked out among the unexcavated archaeological remains. Vito told me they no longer call them ruins. It has something to do with how people perceive the sites. They are more likely to destroy something called a ruin. We walked through pot holes until we came to the top of the largest pyramid in this area. I stared down at hundreds if not thousands of holes left by grave robbers Sun bleached bones and broken pottery shards lay scattered across the landscape.
The dry desert wind whispered past my ears. If I tilted my head just right I could hear the anguished voices of the ghosts that occupied this land. Their mournful screams begged for the return of their belongings, things necessary to carry them through the afterlife promised by the priests. At my feet a skull lay partially uncovered. The coronal sutures not fused, it belonged to a baby. The desecrators cared nothing for what they were doing. The image of gold was the only thing in their feverish brains as they dug with their hands and crude tools. Hundreds of years later, farmers would bring their tractors and plow through the tops of the temples. They destroyed their heritage in their lust for things to sell on the black markets of the world. Later, self styled archaeologists came, little more than grave robbers themselves. A countries heritage and culture crated and shipped to museums around the world. Now Peru and others cry out in the courts of the world to have their artifacts returned. These were my thoughts atop that pyramid while Vito explained the history of the site to us.
From there we loaded ourselves back in the vehicle and headed to the area where Orefici and his crews have been working. Entry to the restored main temple complex isn’t allowed at this time. Restoration continues as well as significant finds. One recent dig uncovered a wall with painting still intact. Mythical creatures reminiscent to the one found in the Temple del Luna in Trujillo. It’s still impressive to see from the outside. As we climbed over temples partially destroyed, we could see that some straw mat roofs as well as the ropes that held them together remained intact. Tunnels that connected the temples had been cleaned out. Holes to the surface provided light for the people coming and going between them. For more information here is a great website. http://www.nazcamystery.com/nazca_cahuachi.htm
This site should be on your list is you plan to come to Peru, Especially if those plans include an over flight of the Nasca Lines. Cahuachi was as important to the Nasca people as the Lines. Come back for Part 3 where I will talk about seeing the Lines from the Observation tower, visiting Maria Reiche’s museum and dune buggy riding in Huacachina.