Day 12: The Nazca Lines

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January 22, 2013 by jiejie768

With our long holiday adventures drawing to a close, there were only two more things on the vacation to do list: The Nazca Lines and the Islas Ballestas. To catch up on all that came before, click on the links at the bottom of this page.

The plane carrying Ty, Meg, Lolo and me heads down the runaway en route to a flight over the Nazca Lines.

The plane carrying Ty, Meg, Lolo and me heads down the runaway en route to a flight over the Nazca Lines.


Day 12: The Nazca Lines

At 5:15 a.m. on Jan. 2, our alarm clock rang, forcibly dragging us from a peaceful sleep. It would be the last time on this trip for such an early wake-up call. So it was, that we dragged ourselves out of bed and got ready for the 6 a.m. departure to see the famed Nazca Lines. Harder than waking up, maybe, was the fact that our shuttle left the hotel before the breakfast buffet opened, leaving me hungry and longing for bacon.

We had arranged a private shuttle and tour guide to drive us from our hotel to the Nazca airport — two hours away — where we would split up into two four-seater Cessnas and take a 30-minute flight over the desert to see the ancient creations.

The Nazca Lines are a series of giant, geometrically precise drawings that were etched into the desert floor hundreds of years ago by the Nazca Tribe. There are hundreds of drawings, but among the most famous are the Monkey, the Hummingbird, the Dog, the Tree, the Spider and the Hands — all of which we would see on our brief flight.

Meg, Lolo and Ryan get ready for takeoff in the tiny Cessna that will carry them over the Nazca Lines.

Meg, Lolo and Ryan get ready for takeoff in the tiny Cessna that will carry them over the Nazca Lines.

Not a whole lot is known about how or why the lines were created. It is assumed it was some sort of tribute to the gods, as they are pretty much invisible without being several thousand feet up in the air — they weren’t discovered by modern Peruvians until the early 1900s and the advent of flight. In fact, the man who first flew over and discovered the Nazca Lines is now featured on the 10 sol bill.

In addition to the flight, there are a couple of towers along the desert highway that offer a partial view, but to get the full scope of the creations, you really have to get in the plane.

Ty was there, too.

Ty was there, too.

So it was that a weary collection of Andersons arrived at the airport at 8 a.m. and prepared to board the plane. I did learn one disheartening factoid while at the airport: I have not lost nearly as much weight as hoped during my time in Peru (they weigh everyone before boarding so they know how to arrange people on the plane).

Meg and I were joined by Ty and Lolo while Dan went with Tom and Pam. We boarded the planes and put on the giant airplane headphones so we could hear the co-pilot narrate the flight. It is said that many people get airsick during these trips, and I think Ty felt a little queasy (nothing awful though), but I felt fine the whole time.

I did, however, come away a little underwhelmed. While the Nazca Lines have a fascinating and mysterious history, and it’s fun to wonder how and why they got there, actually seeing them was not very exciting. Though huge in scope on the ground, once you’re in the air, they are smaller than I’d expected, and kind of brought to mind flying over a series of corn mazes. I’ll always be glad I took the trip to see them, but I doubt I’d do it again, and seriously wonder if they were worth the rather steep price ($170 for flight and shuttle).

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After we returned to the airport, we grabbed a quick snack from a concession vendor and piled into the van to return to our hotel in Ica. Along the way we made three stops. Two of those stops were at the observation towers that I mentioned above. From the first, we saw the Tree and the Hands (again) from a lower perspective. At the second tower, we saw a series of “drawings” that actually predate the Nazca culture, but are similar in nature. Unlike the Nazca Lines, these creations were made on a hillside so as to be visible without flight and featured what appeared to be drawings of a tribal royal family.

The other stop on the way to Ica proved to be the most interesting part of the day. We pulled into a tiny museum along the highway dedicated to Maria Reiche. Reiche was a German nanny who moved to Peru in 1934 to care for the German Consulate’s children. Sometime during her six month assignment, she learned of the Nazca Lines and became fascinated, nay, obsessed. After her job with the consulate was over, she remained in Peru and studied the lines for the rest of her life — which ended in 1998.

Already fascinated by Maria Reiche's life, Meg became a true fan when she caught sight of Reiche's wheels: An authentic VW van.

Already fascinated by Maria Reiche’s life, Meg became a true fan when she caught sight of Reiche’s wheels: An authentic VW van.

For the vast majority of this time her research was unfunded and unsupported by the Peruvian government. Furthermore, she had no husband or children and the only family she had was a sister that visited her and eventually moved to Peru with her very late in life. Most of her days were spent in the hot desert sun (she died of skin cancer, further complicated by Parkinson’s) charting the hundreds of “drawings,” researching the Nazca culture and processing her research in a one-room office/bedroom where she lived.

Even so, very little is known even today about why the lines are there. I think this is part of why I was so underwhelmed. The history has the potential to be fascinating, yet there isn’t much history to be shared, just guesses and conjectures. Certainly, more fun than actually seeing the lines, is simply wondering about them and pondering their mysterious origins.

We returned to the hotel in the early afternoon and spent the rest of the day relaxing. We played in the pool, took advantage of the 2-for-1 Pisco sours at the pool-bar happy hour, ate more tequeños and played cards. We also arranged to go to the Islas Ballestas, near Paracas, the next morning. Ty, Meg and I almost declined to join the rest of the family on the trip, before being persuaded when we learned we could leave at 9 a.m. instead of the previously planned 7 a.m. With the knowledge that I could hit the breakfast buffet before departure, I went to bed ready for our last real adventure of the holiday vacation.

Catch up on a our holiday vacation with the following links:

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