Nazca, Huachachina

Nazca Travel Blog

 › entry 6 of 7 › view all entries
After Arequipa, we caught an overnight Royal Class service to Nazca. This is another dusty desert town and it is hard to beleive that the Amazon rainforest is in the same country. (All of the west coast of Peru is desert). Here we came across touts a la India.
As soon as we stepped off the bus early that morning, we were surrounded by some very persistent women, folders in hand, pointing to pictures of very drab looking hotel rooms that they insisted were "very nice - its in your guidebook!" as though that should be our only criterion. (the Lonely Planet warned about these people and that some of them said that they represented places mentioned in the book, but that they would tell you whatever you wanted to hear and shouldn't be trusted.
They are after a commission for bringing you to the hotel).

We walked through them to find a taxi, which of course they had sorted for us too. The exchange went a little like this:
We went up to an official taxi (ie. one's that actually are labelled on the side as a taxi). and they screamed, "No, don't get in there!! It's not a real taxi, it's BAD!!! Don't go with him!" As if he was Jack the Ripper.
"Yes it is a real taxi" we said.
"No, this is a real taxi, come in this one" pointing to a plain white car.
"Um, no, that is not a real taxi"
"Yes it is, that one isn't. Get in here!!"
We ignored them and proceeded to ask the real taxi driver if he knew the particular hotel we wanted to go to. He did, and so we were going to go with him. However in the melee, we didn't see that he already had another backpacker in the backseat.
As a result, his boot was full (the little official taxis in Peru are tiny Daewoos that will only fit one piece of luggage in the boot. Any other items you have must go on the backseat with you. The taxi driver (obviously thinking it was his lucky day with 3 gringos in one trip -$$$) suggested that we put one of our backpacks in the backseat, and that Cameron, myself, and our other luggage should share the front passenger seat. Um, no thanks!!
At which point, the women who were still there, thought that they were in with a chance again and started expressing the virtues of their white car again. Luckily taxis in Peru outstip normal cars around 10 to 1. And around bus terminals this increases to 20 to 1. So right in the nick of time, another official taxi pulled up. Ignoring the women, we negotiated a price and left. The women were still tapping on the window and pointing to their hotel photos as we pulled away. We were glad to get rid of them, except we hadn't.... We pulled up at the hotel, and lo and behold, they had followed us in the white 'taxi' and were still hopeful that even though we had obviously chosen this hotel and were in the process of checking in, we may actually change our minds and go with them after all. There should be more optimists in the world!!
They were pretty bold coming into another hotel but the staff seemed powerless to kick them out. Now they were trying to sell their tours to us."No Gracias". "No Gracias". "No Gracias". This was our most commonly used of our limited Spanish.

Naza is a dusty, boring place on the side of the Pan Americano (the long straight highway that runs down the coast of Peru). In town itself, there is nothing of any interest. However, around 1920 when the first commercial aircraft flew over the area, strange drawings were noticed etched onto the desert floor. These are now known as the Nazca lines.
They range in size from around 300m to 1km in length. Therefore from the ground you wouldn't notice them (and indeed nobody did for eons - the Pan Americano bisects right through a lizard)
There are around 300 figures, and many other shapes. There is a condor, a hummingbird, a tree, spider, a waving astronaut (!), a monkey, a dog and many others. There are also trapeziod shapes that look like a runway.
They were made by simply removing the stones from the desert floor and stacking them on either side of the lines. This exposes the lighter soil below which makes them stand out.
They remain one of the world's greatest archeological mysteries. Who made them and why? The general belief is that they were made between 900BC and AD 600 by the Nazca cultures perhaps as an astrological calender. However, some believe that they are markings from aliens, which they say explains the landing strips and welcoming astronaut.

The best (and only) way to see the Nazca lines is in a light plane. I wondered what Peruvian airline safety standards were like... However, what the hell, there was nothing else to do in Nazca so we both signed up for the standard 35min flight in a 4 seater Cessna. The brochure advertised "Plastic bags included in the price for being sick"
I needn't have worried though, as the air safety seemed to be of a high standard. We had to wait for an hour before we could get in the plane and go, as the control tower said there was no space for us. Plus, the pilot came out wearing a proper pilots uniform (not out of place captaining a Qantas jet), so for no valid reason, I felt comforted.
The flight was fine, if a little hard on a sensitive motion-sickness prone stomach (not mine!). We saw all of the major figures, and there was a bit of plane tilting (for ease of vision) and then rapid 180 degree turns so the people on the other side of the plane could see. The plastic bags remained in place, but it was close.

We realised just how boring Nazca was and regretted that we didn't just do the flight and get out of there on the same day.
The next day we caught another bus to Huacachina, 2 hours up the coast. This is the quintessential desert oasis. Huge towering sand dunes, a lagoon in the middle, surrounded by swaying palm trees, a few hotels, and some eateries. This was a restful place to stay for a few days. It is a popular weekend place for Peruvians, and, I suspect, where young Peruvian couple go parking. There were love birds everywhere!
You can go sandboarding on the huge sand dunes, or hire row boats and paddle boats in the lagoon. Otherwise most of the hotels have swimming pools to relax by, which look more inviting than the lagoon.

On Tuesday it was time to get back to Lima - the big (8 million people), dirty, crime ridden capital of Peru. Here the sky is permanently grey from all the smog, even though there may be sparking blue sky above it.
We did some last minute souvenier shopping and had a nice last meal. Then, the next morning at 3:45am, we left for the airport. 36 long hours later we arrived back in Brisbane.
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photo by: ulysses