Day 3: The Nazca Lines, Ica, Haucachina, and Ica Stones of Dr. Cabrera
We checked out of the hotel temporarily, and left the majority of our luggage at the hotel (to which we would be returning in a day or two). Early in the morning our new guide Diana met us in the lobby, and we took off in her private car for the 186 mile road trip to the town of Ica, Peru. The majority of the trip was fairly boring, as we were passing through desert country that was pretty barren, although some of the large sand dunes and little towns that we saw helped break the monotony. After several hours we arrived at the town of Ica, and went directly to our hotel for the evening, the Hotel Las Dunas. This hotel was a collection of small buildings (each containing a few rooms) spread out over a wide grassy area, with a miniature lake nearby. Llamas freely roamed the grounds, and there was a huge patio area next to the pool where we had an excellent buffet lunch.
Picture from the brochure for the Las Dunas Hotel in Ica.
After lunch we were taken directly to the local Ica airfield, from where we would depart in a small plane to make our fly-over of the famous lines at Nazca. (If you haven't heard of the Nazca Lines, check out these three websites: 1, 2, 3) Many people travel to Nazca to catch a similar flight, but it wasn't worth the drive down to Nazca when the Ica flight could get there in a shorter period of time. While waiting for the plane to depart, we visited an area behind the hangar that had a pen with several llamas, and a rare captive condor in a cage. This was the only condor that we saw during our trip, and you could get right up within a few feet of him. Normally the government does not allow condors to be held in captivity, but I think this one had been injured and was not capable of being returned to the wild.
The captive condor at the Ica airfield. He sits inside a shaded enclosure
on a mound of rocks that serves as his own private mountain.
The small plane that we used to overfly the Nazca lines.
Then we (along with a half dozen other tourists) were off on our ninety minute round flight to Nazca. It seemed like most of the trip was spent in transit, with only a short time actually over the lines. Unfortunately our trip occurred near midday, which is not the best time to see the lines (early morning or late afternoon provides better lighting for the designs). Once we were over Nazca the pilot would announce in Spanish, English, and then Japanese what design we would see, and then he would bank the plane around the graphic etched into the desert floor so that you could take a picture of it. He would then circle around to bank around it for the people on the other side of the plane to see. It was often hard to see the animal designs (much less take photos of them) amidst the plethora of lines covering the desert floor, especially since you only had a few seconds to spot the design with your eyes and then try to take a picture of it before it disappeared from the view of your small window. We only seemed to visit 6-8 of the 12+ biomorphic designs (the popular ones were the dog, the monkey, the astronaut, and the hummingbird), and then before you knew it, we were on our way back to the airfield. If I hadn't read a lot of material about Nazca prior to the trip, I probably would have wondered what all the fuss was about. However, if nothing else, I can now say that I have flown over and seen the Nazca lines, one of the most unusual ancient mysteries on the face of the planet.
One of the few Nazca designs that is not on the flat desert floor, this humanoid figure (with an arm raised as if in greeting) is etched into the side of a small mountain alongside the Nazca desert. Due to his round eyes and head (and the absurd theories of Erich Van Daniken), this figure is known as "The Astronaut".
Once back on the ground we briefly visited the very small museum there at the airport, and then our guide put in a call to Dr. Cabrera, who was supposed to be the next item on the itinerary. We had made a special point of making sure that we would be able to visit Dr. Cabrera on this trip, since we were both very interested in seeing his collection of ancient stones. He has amassed over 11,000 stones which were carved in some by-gone era, which show scenes from an ancient civilization that has since disappeared without a trace (except for the stones). The artwork on the stones show scenes of man interacting with dinosaurs, performing heart transplants and other highly advanced medical procedures, and other such concepts that if true would force a re-write of the timeline of history. Unfortunately, because this concept is so radical, and because it was initially reported that the stones were a hoax, it has been impossible to get the scientific community to study the stones (or even to take them seriously). We wanted to see the stones for ourselves, and to talk with Dr. Cabrera in person (although this has to be done through a bilingual translator, as Dr. Cabrera speaks Spanish).
The housekeeper for Dr. Cabrera informed our guide that he wasn't feeling well today, and that he was not seeing any visitors. Since the stones are stored in an annex of his house and are under his protection, it is impossible to see the collection without him being present. Luckily our guide was able to do some fast talking and convinced the housekeeper to let us meet with the doctor for a little while.
We met Dr. Cabrera at his house on the main plaza of Ica, and were invited inside, where I used some memorized lines of Spanish to say that it was an honor to meet him and to thank him for receiving us that day. We each presented him a small gift (I gave him a laser pointer, to help with his presentations, and Sue gave him a "space pen", which was designed by NASA to write under any conditions), and then he took us to the adjacent rooms where the majority of his stone collection is kept.
One section of one of the storehouse walls, containing shelves full of Ica Stones. The stones are grouped by category, and this group seems to show animals that are supposed to have been extinct when man walked the planet. Note the stone second from the left on the second shelf, which seems to show a man riding a creature that looks like a cross between a horse and a brontosaurus.
Doctor Xavier Cabrera gives a tour of one of the areas in his museum that is filled floor to ceiling with the Ica Stones. He is holding a steel rod that he used as a pointing stick during his demonstration.
Dr. Cabrera would point out the most interesting stones, and explain the significance of the designs on them. Our guide translated his statements, while I filmed as much as I could on the camcorder and Sue took a number of 35mm photos. We were allowed to feel the weight of some of the palm-sized stones, which seemed to weigh more than a standard stone of that size should. We were told that these stones had a higher "gravity" (weight?) than normal stones, and it seemed to be true.
Here are three of the Ica stones that we were allowed to handle and examine closely. The first shows a man with the classic feathered headress of the men depicted on all of the Ica Stones. He is standing astride a long fish, with the head of a bird either on the end of his headress, or on a neck that is part of the fish's fin. The next stone shows a strange creature standing on two legs, with a bird's head and beak, the ears of a cat, circular spots on his body, and a striped tail like that of a lizard. The third stone had a design that wrapped around it. While the first two stones were mostly flat, the third stone was almost spherical. The design shows a monkey with a spiral tail that is remarkably like the monkey biomorph on the plain of Nazca. Because Dr. Cabrera was impressed with our knowledge of (and genuine interest in) his collection, and believed us to be real supporters of his theories, he gave each of us a stone to take with us (as shown above on my coffee table -- the one I am shown holding above was given to our guide, who later gave it to us as a gift at the end of the day). These stones are among our most prized possessions, and are now kept in a bank safe deposit box for their safety.
After about a half hour tour of his favorite stones, we returned to his private study, where we each purchased the English edition of his book, and had him autograph/personalize the books to us. We could have spent all afternoon discussing the stones and his theories, but unfortunately we had to end our visit so that he could get some rest. We wished him a speedy recovery, said our goodbyes, and returned to the car. We left with a number of questions still unanswered, though I hope that his book will be able to fill in some of the gaps. One question that I have now is: what happens to the stones (and the story that they have to tell) when Dr. Cabrera passes on? He is in his late seventies, and only has a daughter and a son-in-law living locally who could potentially pick up the crusade for the truth about the stones. I was worried about the stones' future, and knew I had to make a website to help promote the stone's story while they were still available for public scrutiny. (That website has now been completed, and can be found here: The Ica Stones of Dr. Cabrera). Also, you can click HERE to see one more page of photos that we took during our visit with Dr. Cabrera.
UPDATE (2002): Dr. Cabrera passed away on December 30, 2001 after a long bout with cancer. (See the news article about his passing HERE.) Sue and I are convinced that he was sick with the cancer when we met with him. He practically got up off of his sick bed to dress up for his unknown visitors, whom he had been told were genuine believers in his cause (and had flown all the way from the United States to see him). We are now more appreciative than ever that he was gracious enough to spend his time with us, when he was really not feeling well. I wonder if we were among the last outsiders to see his collection while he was alive (how many other visitors lacked a persuasive guide/spokesperson who was able to get them in past the housekeeper to see the ailing doctor?).
A large (almost 3 foot tall) Ica stone showing two men operating on a third man. Between them they hold a human heart, which they are transplanting into the patient. This stone is one from a series of similar stones, each showing a different stage of the operation. These stones were discovered in 1961, before modern man had conducted the first successful (that we know of) heart transplant in the mid-1960s. Note the peculiar headdress worn by the men, a feature common to all of the Ica Stones.
After leaving Dr. Cabrera we hurried over to the Ica Regional Museum, since we had about an hour before it closed for the day. That was about all that was needed to see everything, as it wasn't a very large museum. (Though it was well laid out and did contain some very nice displays on the ancient Nazca and Paracas cultures.) We finished up our tour just as the museum was closing, and then hit the road to go to the resort at Haucachina (about 5km away). This resort has an oasis-like lagoon surrounded by massive sand dunes that seemed to reach to the sky. People were climbing and playing on the dunes, while others swam or boated in the lagoon. We spent a few minutes taking in the scenery, bought some cheap souveniers, and then went back to the Las Dunas hotel.
The sand dunes surrounding the Haucachina lagoon. The small dark spots on
the dunes are people, giving you an idea of the size of these dunes.
By the time we got to the hotel the sun was beginning to go down, so we explored the hotel grounds for awhile prior to dinner, and got close to a couple of the semi-wild llamas that were running around. We then visited a hotel gift shop, where I bought a Nazca t-shirt, some postcards, and a wall map of the Nazca lines. We then went to dinner in the hotel restaurant, which was pretty much the end of a very interesting and busy day.