Turns out I had so much to say about the epic Nazca lines that they get their own blog post!!
Thankfully our next stop was only 3.5 hours away by bus and we drove through the desert with the Andes soaring above us on one side, through dry valleys with fertile oasis at the bottom, from reddish soils to whites. I am not sure what I expected of Peru but I don’t think it was this!
We passed many small, roughly built and what appeared to be barely finishes houses, but of course they all had satellite dishes on the barely their roof!🤔
Our next stop was Nazca and as seems to becoming a habit on this part of the trip, we had no time before we had to go out on a tour to see the Nazca Lines – the whole reason we were in Nazca. Unfortunately, it was already almost 4 in the afternoon so we did not have a lot of light left in the day and it was all very rushed.
Now for the history lesson, the Nazca lines (sometimes referred to as Nasca lines) are distinct white lines which appear in the tan/red earth of varying complexities – some are just a mass of geometric lines and shapes, whilst others depict very distinct shapes e.g. a hummingbird, whale, monkey etc.
To date, a total of over 800 straight lines, 300 geometric shapes and 70 animal and plant designs have been discovered, ranging from 15m – 365m in length.
The lines were first studied in 1926 by a Peruvian archaeologist, but as they are virtually impossible to identify from ground level, they were really only bought to public awareness when lanes started flying over Peru in the 1930s.
German mathematician and archaeologist Maria Reiche made studying the lines her life, she spent 40 years studying them and became know as the Lady of the Lines. She fought for recognition of her theories on the lines astronomical and calendrical purposes and single-handedly battled to protect the lines. In our whirlwind tour we had time to visit a small museum dedicated to her and her work which is located in the small house in which she used to live.
The majority of the lines, or geoglyphs and biomorphs as they are called, are considered to be the work of the Nazca people who flourished between around 1-700AD. It is still debated as to exactly why they were created but current general consensus is that the lines and geometric shapes were related to water rituals (the area only gets 20 minutes – 1 hour of rain a year!) and the animal and plant shapes are indicative of the animal symbolism common throughout the Andes e.g. spiders are signs of rain, hummingbirds are associated with fertility etc.
As well as the Nazca lines, there are the Palpa lines created by the Paracas people, which could potential pre-date the Nazca lines by 1,000 years! It was one of these Palpa line figures that was our first stop on our tour. As these are on a hillside, they are far easier to see from ground level, or small platforms or hills. Unlike most of the Nazar lines, they show humanoid figures, in fact a high priest family. Charmingly the young boy is depicted holding up heads of human sacrifices!
We finally got to the viewing platform overlooking a couple of the Nazca lines just before sunset but had got their just after a large tour bus so we had to wait to be able to ascend the tower. Whilst we waited a few of us created an alternate rock, paper, scissors game called Lizard, Tree, Hand, in honour of the 3 figures we were supposed to be able to see from the tower. Thankfully it made the 10 minute wait seem much quicker as we struggled to play the game whilst laughing hysterically.
We finally made it to the top of the tower just as the sun began to set and had a decent view of the tree and the hand but could not real see the lizard in the quickly darkening desert. The brief glimpse we had convinced me that I had to take the flight over the lines the next day as it really was the only way to properly see multiple biomorphs. (Note that all of the photos except for the two directly below were taken from the airplane.)
It was already dark when we returned to Nazca, a small dusty town, that reminded me of other small dusty towns I have been but could not a finger on exactly which one or why – it was just very familiar. Perhaps it was a combination of places around the world. Due to the incredibly low rainfall, residents only get 2 hours of water a day (thankfully hotels pay for more)!
Only two of us signed up for the flight (though I am sure after they saw our photos, others wished they had joined us) and we were due to be picked up at 11am, so we arranged a short tour to Cahuachi, a major ceremonial centre for the pre-Inca Nazca civilisation.
Our guide told us that only 5% of area has been excavated and it was incredible to imagine how vast the site is. It was initially though to the be capital of the Nazca state, but as the population appeared to be quite low, it is now considered to have been a ceremonial site. Unfortunately the site is proving popular for grave robbers who are continuing to find and loot previously undiscovered tombs.
On the way to the site we passed the production of two surprising exports from the region – asparagus and seaweed powder (which is brought from the sea to the desert to dry before powdering and exporting for use in beauty products).
Agricultural in the area is still possible, due to the incredible aqueducts built by the Nazca people, most of which are still functioning today.
Our flight was scheduled for midday, but this was pushed back due to high winds, which stop the light aircraft from flying. Our new scheduled time was 1.06pm, literally the last time slot we could have to land in time to catch our 2pm bus.
Thankfully there were no further delays and we took off dead on 1.06pm. The flight was incredible and definitely worth the money to see the amazing figures from the air. There was definitely no terrestrial view that could match it.
We had been told to run as soon as we landed to get our transport to the bus station, so run we did. Typically, the others involved in our transfer were on ‘chicha’ time – as in Ecuador, Chichi is a local alcoholic drink, here made from maize and much better tasting than the Eucadorian jungle cassava Chicha (although I did not mind that either!). ‘Chicha time’ is in reference to things happening at a laid back pace!
Our driver was late and then stopped to pick up a couple of nuns on the way! Thankfully they must have blessed us and we got to the bus station just in time to catch our next bus – 7 hours to Arequipa.