Nazca, Peru. A mundane, baked town surrounded by nothing but scorched desert and arid wasteland for miles around. Well nothing but a few weird scratchings in the sand that is, better known as the Nazca Lines…
I was journeying through Peru from Arequipa in the country’s south up to Lima. ‘Why not break up the journey? Why not check out those Nazca Lines? It’s a Unesco World Heritage Site, it’ll be cool.’ My perfectly reasonable thinking was soon to be blown to smithereens.
For the quick version of the area’s past, having been found and then discussed by a Peruvian archeologist in 1939, American historian Paul Kosok flew a plane over the site and realised that one of the shapes was a bird. Hundreds more have since been discovered, over 70 in the shapes of animals. Some measure as much as 370 metres in size. It’s believed the design of the lines, created by removing the red pebbles of the surface to reveal the lighter ground beneath, date back as far as 500 BC.
So far, it’s hard to argue that there isn’t an element of intrigue, the Nazca Lines provide an excellent source of mystery. The dry and windless climate has naturally preserved the site for hundreds of years. So if you find yourself in Peru and you happen to be so close to them, the temptation will be there to go and take a peak for yourself. I did.
But I wish I didn’t. Immediately after stepping off the bus it’s a bombardment of offers for flyovers. I’d probably time the first offer coming in in just under three seconds. For what is quite an unimpressive town, it is quite obvious there is only one reason tourists come here.
Eventually agreeing on my flight, I ensured not to pay too much as to be ripped off, but also not too little to put myself in danger. Tourists have died in crashes during flights over the lines in the past.
I’m a person who is fine when it comes to flying, which may not come as a great shock as I blog about travel, but this flight is immediately different. The planes flying over in this part hold a maximum of eight people, you’re even weighed before you get in. Bumpy to say the least. I was warned too I might feel sick.
Is that it?
Those were the three words I asked myself, unable to contain my excitement at the first glimpse of one of the shapes. It’s just, they don’t look very big. It might be a 300 metre monkey in the sand that nobody can explain, but there and then it’s a dot. Well, a detailed dot. You do your best not to, you might even feel a bit guilty for doing so, but you can’t help feeling disappointed. I came all the way into the middle of the desert, for detailed dots.
I believe planes did once fly over them a little lower, but in the days when crashes were not uncommon. With better safety regulations in place now, you’re left with a more underwhelming experience. Oh, and I did feel absolutely, horrendously sick.
For my half an hour in the air, the last 25 minutes were spent on concentrating to keep breakfast down. Looking beneath the wing is the advice given to counter it, but I would applaud anyone who manages to stop that horrible feeling developing in the stomach in its tracks.
You’ve come all the way into the desert to see what is widely regarded as a world famous site. It is one of the great mysteries left in the world. You are in a plane, looking right at them, sort of, if you can spot them. And you just do not care. You want it to end.
Back on the welcoming location that is the ground, thoughts return to the ancient Nazca Culture. They could have made the lines a bit bigger. Or better still, not bothered at all, and saved me the nauseating process of trying to take them in. If anybody would like some advice, I wouldn’t bother. Google has all the information you need.