On July 22nd we thus boarded the bus heading for Nasca on the south coast. The bus ride was uneventful - the landscape was much the same as that of the previous day. Sand dunes, desert, mountains with no life, except for in a few green river valleys. We made it to Nasca after about seven hours. It’s a smallish, sandy town in the middle of a desolate desert area. We booked into the least overprized hotel we could find - Hospedaje Nasca Sur, across from the hospital. Thay charge 45 soles, whereas Estrella del Sur next door charges 70 for exactly the same kind of room.
July 23rd was a nice, warm and sunny day in Nasca. We slept in - tired from all the travelling over the last few days. Then we went for some food in restaurant Los Angeles. Conveniently, the owner there also books plane tours over the Nasca lines, which is what brought us to the town of Nasca in the first place. We booked a trip through her for the next day, then had a nice breakfast with mate de coca on the side. Then we went to sort out some other practicalities - we booked a bus onto Cusco for the day after tomorrow, put in a reservation for seats on the Machu Picchu train from Cusco for the 31st of July, send some postcards, and booked a hostel for our first night in Cusco. All that sorted, we had a well deserved day of R&R.
On the 24th, we were picked up from the hostel by the lady from the Los Angeles restaurant, and she took us to the little airport and introduced us to the pilot. We waited around for a slot to open up, and around 10 am we boarded the tiny six seater Cessna plane, and took off across the plains of Ingenio around Nasca. The flight lasted 30 minutes, and rolled and rocked like a rollercoaster, making my stomach protest.
But this was well worth it for a look at these amazing lines and figures! Over an area of 500 sq km, the flat, dry plain is covered in a myriad of lines and figures, criss-crossing each other and forming a huge network over the landscape.
Straight lines are interspersed with huge triangles and trapezoids, looking like giant arrows on the soil.
Among these are scattered figures of animals, plants and people - these are smaller than the lines and trapezoids, but are still 90-120 meters long.
The lines are created by removing darker stones from the surface, to expose the lighter rock underneath. All in all the 500 sq km area contains around 300 figures, and 70 animal and plant drawings - and who knows how many straight lines. The lines and figures are thought to have been created by the Nasca people around 900 BC - 600 AD. Various theories state that they are anything from an astronomical calendar, ritual walkways related to a water cult, giant running tracks, alien landing sites, and representations of drug induced hallucinations. Alan favours this last theory - as he put it: “they must have been fucked up”. Whatever their reason, the lines are an amazing feat, and they must have taken ages to create. They are also beautiful and mysterious to look at, and the few that you get to see on the fly-over were absolutely amazing! We saw a whale, a man (often referred to as an astronaut due to the shape of his head), a dog, a monkey, a bird known as a condor (which it is not really, due to the shape of its beak), a flamingo, a hummingbird, a spider, a parrot, a tree and an odd figure known as the hands.
After the plane ride, we went to a restaurant with an Italian couple who had been on the plane with us. Here, we ran into another Italian couple who were on their honeymoon. The six of us ended up spending nine hours in the restaurant, drinking beer, having some food, and just talking for ages. It was a great day, and in the end we said goodbye to the others who were heading out on a night bus, and went to bed.
See more pictures from Nasca on Flickr at www.flickr.com/photos/divingdog5