A Stroll Through Old Panama City, Part II: Casco Viejo

Today is the final post in an unplanned series of features on all things Panama. Over the past week I’ve covered everything from my experience at/on the Panama Canal to why Ecuador’s most famous export is called the ‘Panama’ hat.

The series began last Wednesday, when Part I of my Stroll Through Old Panama City took me to the Spanish settlement’s origins at Panama Viejo. Today my wanderings continue in the other half of the Archaeological Site of Panamá Viejo and Historic District of Panamá UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Casco Viejo from Ancon Hill (surrounded by its amazing bypass)

Casco Viejo from Ancon Hill (surrounded by its amazing bypass)

The Historic District of Panamá, more commonly called Casco Viejo (the Old Quarter), was founded in 1673, two years after Panama Viejo was destroyed following an attack by the pirate Captain Henry Morgan. Unlike its predecessor, much of this second Spanish settlement survives to this day. I spent a lovely couple of hours in the late afternoon being shown around this colonial gem of the New World by Nghiem of Panama Your Way.

A typical street on the edge of Casco Viejo

A typical street on the edge of Casco Viejo

As I mentioned last week, the ‘new’ location for Panama City was influenced by both military and practical reasons. Firstly, the site was easier to defend, a pretty important point, considering the fate of Panama Viejo.

Souvenir stands line part of Casco Viejo's old defences

Souvenir stands line part of Casco Viejo’s old defences

The obelisk stands near the tip of the old defensive walls in Plaza de Francia

The obelisk stands near the tip of the old defensive walls in Plaza de Francia

Plaza de Francia

Plaza de Francia

The French Embassy in Plaza de Francia

The French Embassy in Plaza de Francia

Secondly, the new location was closer to the entrance of the river that formed part of the route across the narrowest strip of land (or isthmus) between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. In the 20th Century, this river became part of the World’s most famous artificial waterway, the Panama Canal.

Sunset over the entrance of the Panama Canal, two miles distant, with Ancon Hill (right) and the Bridge of the Americas (left)

Sunset over the entrance of the Panama Canal, two miles distant, with Ancon Hill (right) and the Bridge of the Americas (left)

If you look carefully, you can see my ship, the Zaandam, moored just left of centre on the horizon

If you look carefully, you can see my ship, the Zaandam, moored just left of centre on the horizon

Modern Panama City from the Old Quarter

Modern Panama City from the Old Quarter

Like its predecessor, Casco Viejo was constructed on a grid system. At its heart was the Plaza Major (Main Square), which today goes my the name Plaza de la Independencia, overlooked by the impressive Metropolitan Cathedral.

Me in Plaza de la Independencia

Me in Plaza de la Independencia

The Metropolitan Cathedral

The Metropolitan Cathedral

Ruins of the Convent of Santa Domingo, destroyed by fire in 1756

Ruins of the Convent of Santa Domingo, destroyed by fire in 1756

Santa Domingo's famous Arco Chato (Flat Arch)

Santa Domingo’s famous Arco Chato (Flat Arch)

Part of what makes Casco Viejo so culturally important is its diverse mix of colonial influences, from places such as the Caribbean, the Gulf Coast, France and, of course, Spain. It also preserves examples of how architectural styles evolved in this region between the 17th and 20th Centuries.

Calle la Oeste - the red bricks apparently indicate you're within the UNESCO World Heritage Site

Calle la Oeste – the red bricks apparently indicate you’re within the UNESCO World Heritage Site

Ruins of the Church of the Compania de Jesus, also destroyed by a fire, this time in 1781, and further damaged by an earthquake in 1882

Ruins of the Church of the Compania de Jesus, also destroyed by a fire, this time in 1781, and further damaged by an earthquake in 1882

Church of San Jose

Church of San Jose

Despite the success of the Panama Canal, Panama as a nation saw little economic benefit for almost a hundred years, until it took over running the waterway on December 31st, 1999. Consequently, much of Casco Viejo still has a slightly rundown and neglected feel, although this is changing.

Strolling along Avenida A

Strolling along Avenida A

Also on Avenida A (if I remember correctly!)

Also on Avenida A (if I remember correctly!)

Heading down Avenida Central

Heading down Avenida Central

I have to admit, the ramshackle look of some of the buildings adds a certain character

I have to admit, the ramshackle look of some of the buildings adds a certain character

Nghiem told us that a lot of investment is being channelled into the historic Old Quarter, of which there’s plenty of evidence. However, the renovation process is being done gradually, in part so that the whole district doesn’t become one huge building site. I’d love to go back in 10 or 15 years to see how the restoration of Casco Viejo comes along!

Buildings in need of a little TLC side-by-side with those already restored

Buildings in need of a little TLC side-by-side with those already restored

Hopefully, all Casco Viejo will one day look like this

Hopefully, all Casco Viejo will one day look like this

The Church of St Francis of Assisi, devastated by fires in 1737 and 1756, it was restored in 1998

The Church of St Francis of Assisi, devastated by fires in 1737 and 1756, it was restored in 1998

This post was inspired by Cee’s Which Way Challenge and Jo’s Monday walk.

Me on Avenida Central

Me on Avenida Central

If you’re the sort of person that loves exploring historic, faraway places, why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal (on WordPress or Bloglovin’), or through my website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr?

And if that’s not enough for you, the first three Jaspa’s Journey novels will soon be available to enjoy, both as ebooks and in paperback! Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

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Panama Hats Come From…?

It seems I’m unintentionally having a bit of a Panama week here on Jaspa’s Journal.

On Wednesday, in the first of a two-part story about my recent visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Old Panama City, I described strolling around the original Spanish settlement, Panama Viejo. On Friday, I took you on a trip through the Panama Canal. And next Wednesday, I plan to conclude my Old Panama City mini-series, with a visit to Casco Viejo, the colonial town that succeeded Panama Viejo after it was sacked by pirates.

During my trip to South America last month, I saw Panama hats being made in the town where they originated. So when I saw that Ailsa’s (of Where’s My Backpack?) travel photo theme this week was Hats, I immediately thought… yes, you guessed it… Ecuador!

A Panama hat being made in the traditional fashion in Montecristi

A Panama hat being made in the traditional fashion in Montecristi

I’m sure I’m not the only person to assume ‘Panama’ hats are so called because that’s where they come from. Not so, our guide Mauro from Manta SOS Guide informed us. And just to prove it, took us to the small Ecuadorian town of Montecristi to see ‘Panama’ hats being made in the traditional way.

Montecristi, Ecuador, home of the 'Panama' hat

Montecristi, Ecuador, home of the ‘Panama’ hat

So why are they called Panama hats, if they come from Ecuador? As far as I can tell, there isn’t a single simple answer to this question. That said, the most important part of the tale seems to go something like this…

Back in the mid-1800s, a savvy Ecuadorian hat-maker realised there was a much bigger market for his product in Panama. Unfortunately, there was no way to put ‘Made in Ecuador’ on the hats back then, and people naturally associated them with the place they were bought. So the name ‘Panama hat’ was born, much to the continued annoyance of the Ecuadorians!

It's intricate and skilful work, that's for sure

It’s intricate and skilful work, that’s for sure

If you agree I’d look pretty good in a Panama hat – worn at a jaunty angle, of course – why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal (on WordPress or Bloglovin’), or through my website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr?

And if that’s not enough for you, the first three Jaspa’s Journey novels will soon be available to enjoy, both as ebooks and in paperback! Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

 

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The Panama Canal

From the moment we booked our South America cruise, one of the things I was most excited about was sailing through the Panama Canal. My introduction to the canal, however, wasn’t aboard our ship. Instead it took place at visitor centre of the Miraflores Locks, on the outskirts of Panama City, with Nghiem of Panama Your Way.

The Miraflores Visitor Centre

The Miraflores Visitor Centre

The museum at the visitor centre is fascinating, although seeing a ship passing through the locks is what people really come to see. And we were no exception.

My first view of the Miraflores Locks

My first view of the Miraflores Locks

Nghiem timed our arrival to perfection. We had just enough time to wander around the museum before heading up to the top observation platform to grab a good place from which to watch the first southbound ships of the day pass through the locks beneath us.

Here come the first southbound ships of the day

Here come the first southbound ships of the day

Despite this panorama making the Miraflores Locks look banana-shaped, I can assure you they're actually straight!

Despite this panorama making the Miraflores Locks look banana-shaped, I can assure you they’re actually straight!

Two ships entering the Locks

Two ships entering the Locks

Unsurprisingly, the locks themselves are massive. Yet when the gates close, enveloping each ship in a protective basin for its voyage upwards or (as it was in this case) downwards, there’s very little room to spare on either side.

Breath in!

Breath in!

Next morning we were up early for an even closer view of the Miraflores Locks, from the deck of our cruise ship, the Holland America Zaandam. But first we had to pass under the Bridge of the Americas, which until 2004 was the only fixed bridge across the canal.

Dawn arrives with a fleet of ships waiting for their turn to go through the canal

Dawn arrives with a fleet of ships waiting for their turn to go through the canal

The Bridge of the Americas up ahead

The Bridge of the Americas up ahead

Passing under the Bridge of the Americas

Passing under the Bridge of the Americas

There are currently six pairs of locks on the Panama Canal, three pairs to lift ships up to the level of Gatun Lake, 85 feet above sea level, and three to lower them back down again. Heading northwards from the Pacific Ocean like we did, the first two steps are combined into the Miraflores Locks.

Approaching the Miraflores Locks

Approaching the Miraflores Locks

Entering the first lock was very exciting. It hardly seemed believable that our ship would even fit. Indeed, it took six powerful locomotives, known as mules, to keep her steady as she slipped into the lock, like a letter into an envelope.

One of our mules taking up the slack

One of our mules taking up the slack

Entering the first of the Miraflores Locks

Entering the first of the Miraflores Locks

Up we go!

Up we go!

A different view of the Miraflores Visitor Centre

A different view of the Miraflores Visitor Centre

Moving into the second lock

Moving into the second lock

Exiting Miraflores

Exiting Miraflores

A mile and a half after, the Pedro Miguel Locks completed our the journey up to the level of Gatun Lake.

Approaching Pedro Miguel Locks

Approaching Pedro Miguel Locks

Between the Pedro Miguel Locks and Gatun Lake is a nine mile stretch called the Culebra Cut. This excavation through the hills of the Continental Divide proved the biggest challenge during the construction of the canal.

Sliding gently through the Culebra Cut

Sliding gently through the Culebra Cut

The Centennial Bridge, completed in 2004

The Centennial Bridge, completed in 2004

After that it was plain sailing (or at least it seemed to us passengers) across Gatun Lake, to the opposite side of the Continent!

Gatun Lake

Gatun Lake

One of the Panama Canal's flotilla of tugboats

One of the Panama Canal’s flotilla of tugboats

Thirty one miles after leaving Pedro Miguel locks we approached Gatun Locks for our three-step return trip to sea level.

Coming up on the Gatun Locks

Coming up on the Gatun Locks

Told you it was tight!

Told you it was tight!

I hope he's not driving!!

I hope he’s not driving!!

Going down!

Going down!

Panorama of one pair of gates at the Gatun locks

Panorama of one pair of gates at the Gatun locks

It's tight on the other side too...

It’s tight on the other side too…

But the mule driver isn't worried!

But the mule driver isn’t worried!

The last set of gates opening before us

The last set of gates opening before us

This end of the canal, beside the city of Colon, is generally referred to as being in the Atlantic Ocean, although I can’t help feeling it’s more correctly in the Caribbean Sea.

And we're free! - Looking back at the Gatun Locks

And we’re free! – Looking back at the Gatun Locks

Whatever the case, it was quite the adventure squeezing through the various locks of the Panama Canal. And by 2016, even bigger ships will be able to take this shortcut between oceans, when the new, larger-capacity locks are opened. I hope I get to sail through them one day!

The new Pacific locks under construction

The new Pacific locks under construction

The new Pacific locks are quite an undertaking

The new Pacific locks are quite an undertaking

As are those at the Atlantic (Caribbean) end

As are those at the Atlantic (Caribbean) end

This post was inspired by the photo theme Enveloped from Krista (of the Daily Post).

Whether or not you’ve ever passed through (or seen) the Panama Canal, why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal (on WordPress or Bloglovin’), or through my website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr?

And if that’s not enough for you, the first three Jaspa’s Journey novels will soon be available to enjoy, both as ebooks and in paperback! Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

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A Stroll Through Old Panama City, Part I: Panama Viejo

Over the last 500 years, there have actually been three incarnations of Panama City: the original settlement, Panama Viejo, its colonial replacement, Casco Viejo, and the thriving modern city. And in April, I was fortunate enough to visit all of them, in the care of Nghiem of Panama Your Way.

Crossroads in the heart of Panama Viejo

Crossroads in the heart of Panama Viejo

The two parts of Old Panama City, Panama Viejo and Casco Viejo, are regarded by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. They’re official referred to as the Archaeological Site of Panamá Viejo and Historic District of Panamá. Today, I’d like to take you on a stroll through the ruins of the earliest of these.

Part of the modern city from Panama Viejo

Part of the modern city from Panama Viejo

An doorway partly made from stone and partly from brick

An doorway partly made from stone and partly from brick

One of the original streets of Panama Viejo

One of the original streets of Panama Viejo

And another

And another

Panama Viejo was actually the first European settlement on the Pacific Coast of the Americas. It was founded by the Spanish in 1519, although there is also evidence of Pre-Columbian peoples at the site. The colonial town was arranged according to a grid system, similar to planned settlements of the time in Europe.

The remains of the Cathedral tower dominate the ruins of Panama Viejo

The remains of the Cathedral tower dominate the ruins of Panama Viejo

Tower and columns

Tower and columns

IMG_3209Throughout the Spanish period, Panama was an important stopping point for captured Peruvian gold and silver on its way back to Spain. Unsurprising then, after surviving earthquakes, fire and slave uprisings, Panama Viejo was eventually destroyed by pirates!

Looking up at the Cathedral Tower - note the spiral staircase part way up

Looking up at the Cathedral tower – note the spiral staircase part way up

Looking down the spiral staircase

Looking down the spiral staircase

In 1671, the city was attacked by the infamous pirate, Henry Morgan. In the aftermath of the fighting, Panama Viejo was utterly destroyed by fire. To this day it remains unclear whether the pirates were responsible for the blaze, or whether it was the result of city’s commander exploding his gunpowder reserves before they fell into enemy hands. Whatever the reason for the fire, thousands of people lost their lives during the pirate attack and Panama Viejo was abandoned.

From up here, the grid layout of Panama Viejo is clear

From up here, the grid layout of Panama Viejo is clear

One of the original 'blocks' of Panama Viejo

One of the original ‘blocks’ of Panama Viejo

The Spanish relocated Panama City to a new site a few miles to the west, which was easier to defend and closer to the river mouth (which would later become the entrance to the Panama Canal). This second colonial settlement is today known as Casco Viejo. I hope you’ll join me next week for a stroll through its streets!

The causeway heading for heart of the modern city

The causeway heading for heart of the modern city and Casco Viejo beyond

The ultra-modern downtown of Panama City from the original settlement

The ultra-modern downtown of Panama City from the original settlement

This post was inspired by Cee’s Which Way Challenge and Jo’s Monday walk.

Rubble from a destroyed building

Rubble from a destroyed building

IMG_3211If you’re the sort of person that loves exploring historic, faraway places, why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal (on WordPress or Bloglovin’), or through my website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr?

And if that’s not enough for you, the first three Jaspa’s Journey novels will soon be available to enjoy, both as ebooks and in paperback! Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

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Floods & Drought in Chile’s Elqui Valley

The Elqui Valley is a fertile jewel in the Chile’s arid north. It’s particularly famous for its grapes, be they destined for the table or to be made into wine or the local liquor, called Pisco.

Vineyards in the lower Elqui Valley

Vineyards in the lower Elqui Valley

Me getting a closer look (and taste!)

Me getting a closer look (and taste!)

We arrived in La Serena, gateway to the Elqui Valley, at the beginning of April. Just one week earlier an unseasonable storm had produced terrible floods and landslides, bringing chaos and sorrow to northern Chile. Our friends at EcoTourismo had already assured us that our tour would go ahead as planned, but we still weren’t sure quite what to expect.

We docked at the port of Coquimbo, before dawn on an overcast morning. After being collected by Jorge, our guide for the day, we drove through La Serena and into the lower reaches of the Elqui Valley.

Drip irrigation is widely used here to get water to crops

Drip irrigation is widely used here to get water to crops

Grapes on their way to a winery

Grapes on their way to a winery

The winery in question

The winery in question

The first sign we saw of Nature’s power on this area was at the Puclaro Reservoir, just west of the small town of Vicuña. Ironically though, it wasn’t evidence of flooding or landslides but of the drought that has gripped this region for the last eight years.

Downtown Vicuña

Downtown Vicuña

In Vicuña's central square, with its unmistakeable tower in the background

In Vicuña’s central square, with its unmistakeable tower in the background

Standing at the village of Gualliguaica, on what should be the north shore of the lake, we could just about make out a pitiful puddle over a mile and a half away to the west. Jorge told us that the reservoir currently contains less than 10% of its capacity, a dangerous situation for a valley dependant on irrigation.

Standing on what should be the shoreline of the Puclaro Reservoir at Gualliguaica - the dam and current lake are just visible in the distance

Standing on what should be the shoreline of the Puclaro Reservoir at Gualliguaica
– the dam and current lake are just visible in the distance

Panorama of the

Panorama of the “Puclaro Reservoir” taken at Gualliguaica on April 2nd, 2015

The first indications we saw of the previous week’s flooding were during our visit to the Aba Pisco Distillery. Mud caked the area around the outside fermentation tanks, and production had been temporarily halted at the time we were there. (Look for more about our time at Aba in a future post.)

Mud around the fermentation tanks at the Apa Pisco Distillery

Mud around the fermentation tanks at the Aba Pisco Distillery

However, it wasn’t until we left the distillery to head a little further up the valley that we saw worse effects of the flooding (which were actually comparatively light in the Elqui Valley, relative to other parts of the region). Jorge wanted to take a minor road that runs part way up the side of the valley towards our next destination, to show us the view. Unfortunately, we soon discovered work to clear a landslide off the road was still in progress, so we had to backtrack and return to the main highway instead.

This mudslide covered the road and partially buried the field beyond

This mudslide covered the road and partially buried the field beyond

Two or three feet of mud have already been cleared off the road, but the adjoining fields are a different matter

Two or three feet of mud have already been cleared off the road, but the adjoining fields are a different matter

The clean-up continues

The clean-up continues

On the bright side – literally – it wasn’t long after that the Sun finally decided to make an appearance and burn off the stubborn layer of clouds. Finally we had blue skies and were able to see the surrounding mountains, allowing us to appreciate the upper reaches of the Elqui Valley in all its glory.

The Elqui Valley in the sunshine

The Elqui Valley in the sunshine

Blues skies make it look prettier, but unfortunately don't help fill Puclaro Reservoir

Blues skies make it look prettier, but unfortunately don’t help fill Puclaro Reservoir

Looking north across the dry lake bed, with Gualliguaica visible on the far shore (right of photo)

Looking north across the dry lake bed, with Gualliguaica visible on the far shore (right of photo)

Looking downstream from the Puclaro dam

Looking downstream from the Puclaro dam

It's easy to see the normal shoreline of the Puclaro Reservoir

It’s easy to see the normal shoreline of the Puclaro Reservoir

Beautiful and heartbreaking

Beautiful and heartbreaking

This post was inspired by the photo themes Forces of Nature from Brie (of the Daily Post) and Storm from Jennifer Nichole Wells.

With Jorge back at the ship  (the clouds have returned too, down here at the coast)

With Jorge back at the ship
(the clouds have returned too, down here at the coast)

While you’re thinking about the trials Mother Nature is currently throwing at Northern Chile, not to mention the volcanic eruptions the south is dealing with, why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal (on WordPress or Bloglovin’), or through my website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr?

And if that’s not enough for you, the first three Jaspa’s Journey novels will soon be available to enjoy, both as ebooks and in paperback! Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

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Seeking Monkeys In An Ecuadorian Rainforest

I wish I could properly put into words what it’s like to hear wild howler monkeys for the first time in a rainforest in Ecuador. It’s the type of sound that goes straight in your ears and immediately reappears on your mouth as a huge smile.

We visited Pacoche Marine and Coastal Wildlife Refuge, about 20 miles southwest of the bustling port of Manta, with Mauro and Fernando from Manta SOS Guide. Bypassing the path chosen by the big tour buses, they instead took us a little deeper into the reserve, to the much quieter Pasaje del Mono Trail.

IMG_3021And practically the first thing we experienced was the sound of howler monkeys nearby.

The path started out deceivingly manicured

The path started out deceivingly manicured

But soon began getting more rustic

But soon began getting more rustic

Looks like jungle to me

Looks like jungle to me

Bromeliads on a branch

Bromeliads on a branch

A quick view across the treetops

A quick view across the treetops

Heading down into the valley

Heading down into the valley

Bamboo bridge at the end of the tended path

Bamboo bridge at the end of the tended path

For the next hour and a half we hiked down a virtually dry valley through the forest, heading for the coast. Along the way, local guide Javier kept up a fascinating commentary (translated by Fernando) on the refuge’s plants and animals.

Spot the path!

Spot the path!

The stream bed was all but dry

The stream bed was all but dry

Not the sharpest photo, but it gives a sense of scale

Not the sharpest photo, but it gives a sense of scale

Speaking of scale...

Speaking of scale…

Tree being slowly killed by a strangler fig

Tree being slowly killed by a strangler fig

A rare splash of colour among all the green

A rare splash of colour among all the green

Sadly, there are never any guarantees on wildlife tours, and we didn’t got a close-up encounter with any monkeys. Yet looking on the bright side, early on we did get a brief glimpse of one running off down the path ahead of us. And a bit later we saw a group taking a siesta high in a tree, away from the path. So at least we saw something!

A sliver of sky from the bottom of the valley

A sliver of sky from the bottom of the valley

Monkeys!

Monkeys!

And to be honest, just the howls of tantalisingly close monkeys made our visit to Pacoche one of the highlights of our time in Ecuador.

A little more colour

A little more colour

A tumbled-down building made of local materials at the end of our hike

A tumbled-down building made of local materials at the end of our hike

This post was inspired by Cee’s Which Way Challenge and Jo’s Monday walk.

If you’re the sort of person who’d enjoy wandering through the hot and humid jungle in search of monkeys, why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal (on WordPress or Bloglovin’), or through my website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr?

And if that’s not enough for you, the first three Jaspa’s Journey novels will soon be available to enjoy, both as ebooks and in paperback! Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

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Peru’s Mysterious Nazca Lines

The Nazca Desert is located roughly 280 miles south of Lima, penned in by the Pacific Ocean to the west and the foothills of the Andes to the east. At first glance, you could be forgiven for thinking it looks much the same as any other arid area along this stretch of the Peruvian coast. In fact, until less than a hundred years ago, even the local people had forgotten its significance. And then the aeroplane was invented…

Early pilots began telling tales of strange lines criss-crossing the desert in the area. Some of them had been mistaken for trails by the Spanish back in the 1500s. But its only when seen from the air that the true extent of these lines becomes apparent.

Which sounds like a great excuse to go flying to me!

Into 1 JTo date over a thousand ‘lines’ have been identified.

Lines on the Nazca Desert (you can also see the Whale if you look carefully)

In addition, there are numerous geometrical shapes, such as triangles and trapezoids.

Lines and Trapezoids everywhere!

Trapezoids 3 J

Lines and Trapezoids crossing the natural landscape

Lines and Trapezoids crossing the natural landscape

Beneath our right wingtip... yet more Lines and Trapezoids

Beneath our right wingtip… yet more Lines and Trapezoids

A giant spiral

A giant spiral

The Nazca Lines also include over 70 representations of manmade objects, animals and plants.

Couldn't see the whale before? How about now?

Couldn’t see the whale before? How about now?

Me over the Whale

Me over the Whale

Technically, the Nazca Lines are ‘geoglyphs’, large artificial designs on the surface of the Earth.

The Monkey is one of the best-known designs

The Monkey is one of the best-known designs

Slightly closer look at the Monkey

Slightly closer look at the Monkey

Most of the lines were produced by the Nazca culture between 200 BC and 500 AD, although archaeologists believe some date as far back as 500 BC. The majority were created by scraping away the dark-stained desert surface to a depth of about 8-12 inches, to reveal the lighter-coloured rock beneath.

In places 'newer' lines and designs overrode older ones

In places ‘newer’ lines and designs overrode older ones

Although exceptionally delicate, environmentally speaking, the Nazca Lines have survived so long thanks to the extremely arid conditions that characterise this area of Peru. It’s no overstatement to say it hardly ever rains here. If it did, the lines would have been washed away centuries ago.

If you look carefully you can just about make out the Flamingo (body to the right and zigzag neck to the left) - sorry for the poor quality of some of these images, but Rich's proper camera was stolen earlier in the trip

If you look carefully you can just about make out the Flamingo (body to the right and zigzag neck to the left)
– sorry for the poor quality of some of these images, but Rich’s proper camera was stolen earlier in the trip

A slightly fuzzy image of the Dog (which is upside-down from this angle)

A slightly fuzzy image of the Dog (which is upside-down from this angle)

Of course, the main questions asked about the enigmatic Nazca Lines is why a pre-historic culture would go to such extremes to create enormous designs only visible from the air? Our guide in Lima, Vanessa, told us that somewhere between 20 and 30 different theories have been proposed over the years.

This lookout tower is only way to see any of the geoglyphs from the ground

This lookout tower is the only way to see any of the geoglyphs from the ground

The Tree (left) and Hands (right)

The Tree (left) and Hands (right)

Some scientists have suggested the Nazca Lines represent a huge calendar, although recent studies have shown that only some of the lines relate to astronomical features.

A Parrot

A Parrot

Several of the more plausible theories relate to water, a crucial resource in the desert. It’s been demonstrated that many of the lines point towards valleys and other water sources.

A fertile valley in the desert slightly north of Nazca

A fertile valley in the desert slightly north of Nazca

Lines pointing east towards the Andes

Lines pointing east towards the Andes

More fancifully, some people believe that the lines and images were influenced by spacemen!

The Owl Man or Astronaut is over 50 feet tall

The Owl Man or Astronaut is over 50 feet tall

Unlike most of the geoglyphs at Nazca, the Owl Man is on the side of a hill, and so thought to represent as earlier phase

Unlike most of the geoglyphs at Nazca, the Owl Man is on the side of a hill, and so thought to represent an earlier phase

Or perhaps the Nazca people were just sending messages to their gods.

The Condor

The Condor

Whatever their purpose, and whether or not we ever discover it, the Nazca Lines are truly remarkable. They represent the World’s largest and most diverse collection of prehistoric geoglyphs. Unsurprisingly, UNESCO declared an area covering approximately 175 square miles a World Heritage Site in 1994.

The Spider is about 150 feet long... ugh!

The Spider is about 150 feet long… ugh!

This post was inspired by the photo theme Intricate from Krista (of the Daily Post) and, given we’re in a desert, also by the themes Arid from Sue (of A Word In Your Ear) and Sun from Jennifer Nichole Wells.

Perhaps the most famous of the Nazca designs, the Hummingbird

Perhaps the most famous of the Nazca designs, the Hummingbird

Our awe-inspiring day, which began with an incredible boat ride out to the Ballestas Islands, Peru’s answer to the Galapagos, was arranged with the help of our friends at Adios Adventure Travel.

Me over the Hummingbird

Me over the Hummingbird

If you’re like me and are fascinated by the Nazca Lines and such things, why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal (on WordPress or Bloglovin’), or through my website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr?

And if that’s not enough for you, the first three Jaspa’s Journey novels will soon be available to enjoy, both as ebooks and in paperback! Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

Jaspa's Journey Logo (Bigger Bucket)

Posted in Adventure, Environment, History, Jaspa's Journey, South America, Travel | Tagged , , , , | 22 Comments