Monday, September 7, 2009

nasca lines and mummies and mercury

I sure wish I could find a computer with a USB port so I could upload some photos, I´m seeing some cool stuff down here!

This morning I went flying over the Nasca lines, which are pretty amazing. I will admit that it was a little like going to a good movie you´ve been hearing about forever and then you finally make it and you so so wish you could have gone by accident on opening day and therefore had no preconceptions or prior knowledge at all. But I still recommend seeing them if you are ever in the area - yet another set of questions Peru has given me with no answer.

This afternoon I went on a tour of a mummy cemetary. I know. Crazy. So cool. There is an area 2 kilometers by 500 meters that 5 different native cultures - the Inca being the last that used this part of the desert to mummify and bury their dead. Because it only rains 10-15 hours a year ( I thought it was interesting that they measure in hours rather than cm. but, hey, it´s Peru, it doesn´t have to make sense) and the underground water is 40m deep, it is a great place to perserve mummied bodys. Unfortunately, it wasn´t safe from grave robbers so many of the mummies are not complete, but still amazing. At this point most of them are just bones and wrappings though there is one in the museum that they just found in ´85 that isn´t bleached out and the skin is still really well preserved. Until five years ago, the tombs were completely open to the sun so the bones are bleached out and the hair is bleached to a light brown. Now there are shade covers over the tombs and in November they are putting a UV protective glass over them - glad they are doing it but glad to have seen them before this step. To date only 15% of the area has been explored so it will be interesting to see what kind of stuff they find as they go digging further. I am a little surprised at how fascinated I am finding myself with dead people, but I can´t get enough. My pictures will testify.

After the cemetary we went to a pottery making showcase (an excuse to hopefully get you to buy some pottery) which was actually pretty cool. To see the different rocks that are crushed to make paint. There were some gorgeous pieces there, but only a fool buys pottery to pack into their backpack - they should really come up with a less breakable souvenier.

Then we went to the gold processing place. Lots of different minerals that were interesting, but probably the most interesting part is that they use mercury to extract the gold. In a glass soda bottle with a plastic lid, in my hand was enough mercury to poisen the water supply of all of Nazca and that was just a small sample of what they use. They crush the rocks and then put them into an open container with the mercury and wash it all around for a while and the gold sticks to the mercury like a magnet then they run it through a wet cloth to get the liquid mercury out (don´t worry, they wear rubber gloves!) and let the water evaporate off so they can pour it back into a bottle. Then they do some kind of extraction to get the rest of the mercury and gold separated. And it´s all open air and so not controlled and at the actual working part in the back where they didn´t take us, there were little kids working with this stuff. Some things about the third world are so very cringe-y.

Tomorrow I head to Pisco. I will be working with an organization (Pisco sin fronteras - started with Burners without Borders and this is the org. they set up so they could leave) that I heard about from my Australian friend Dave that I worked with in Cusco. He is in Chile right now but should be back by the weekend so it will be fun to see him. They are destroying and rebuilding - mostly lending whatever labor necessary to help out the folks who were wiped out in the earthquake a few years ago. Tied into it being the anniversary of Katrina, it made me wonder if we´ve got some organizations helping out in a similar fashion there.

Hope all is great and I hope that I am able to get photos dealt with in Pisco. I am behind since Titicaca!

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