|After a long drive on an overnight bus from Puno where the drive took us along the coast then inland to meet the desert area of Peru and reach the town of Nazca. Here we booked a flight in a light aircraft to see the Nazca lines.
The Nazca Lines are located in the Nazca Desert, a high arid plateau that stretches between the towns of Nazca and Palpa on the pampa (a large flat area of southern Peru).
The Nazca lines are spread across 500 square kilometres, they form a network consisting of over 800 lines, 300 figures and some 70 animal and plant drawings etched into the surface of the pampa. The most elaborate designs include a curvaceous 90 metre long monkey, a condor with a 100 metre wing span, a hummingbird, spider and a figure that resembles an astronaut with a goldfish bowl around its head. The ancient lines were formed by removing sun-darkened stones from the desert surface to expose the lighter stones beneath. Nazca only receives 1 hours worth of rainfall a year therefore the etched lines remain unspoilt in the sand. As it happens that hour of rainfall occurred whilst we were in Nazca!
Hopping off the bus we were surrounded by people wanting to sell us trips over the Nazca lines or take us to their hostel. One moustached fellow held a card up with our intended hostel so we let him drive us their in his tiny car. After checking the room out the moustached man introduced himself as 'Steve' and tried selling us a flight over the lines. Initially he tried charging $55 which we knew was too much he soon came down to $40 but as he seemed a ropey character we walked away and checked with other places that this was a good price before handing any money over.
We attended a lecture that night at the Maria Reiche Planeterium situated in The Nazca Lines Hotel. This German lady devoted most of her life researching the Nazca Lines and deduced a few theories about them, those being that they were made by the Paracas and Nazca cultures from 900 BC to 600 AD, with additions made by the Wari in the 7th century. Maria claims the lines were an astronomical calendar mapped out by sophisticated mathematics (and the use of a long rope). Other people theorise that the lines were ritual walkways, which sourced water, or that they were giant running tracks even that they were extra-terrestrial landing sites? Helen's own theory is that it was a giant etch-a-sketch for the people of Nazca to doodle on.
Our flight was booked for the next morning and 'Steve' picked us up to take us to the airport or rather airstrip. Here we boarded a cessner with a pilot who miraculously managed to speak to air traffic control without headphones on? We were soon swooping about in the desert air circling some of the most prominent animal and plant figures. There are also lines etched into the sand everywhere and they are unbelievably straight! Glad we opted to have breakfast after the flight because some parts were very bumpy. A smooth landing brought us to the end of the flight after 30 minutes.
Not much else to do in Nazca so we caught the next local bus to Ica. The deal with the local buses is that they beep their horn urging you to hurry up and jump aboard, making you think that they are going to leave within the next minute. They toss your bags up top, and you are left wondering if they are tied on or if some scally has whipped them straight off the other side of the bus and ran off with them. Not much in our bags to run off with though, other than smelly worn out clothes so we weren't too bothered. You then sit on the bus that you think is about to leave for another half hour until they have filled it to brimming. Finally it leaves after you've been asked for the umpteenth time if you want to buy some sweet corn to munch on by the street sellers.