Aliens from outer space

Trip Start Jun 09, 2005
Trip End Jun 08, 2006

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Flag of Peru  ,
Sunday, April 30, 2006

One of the theories put forward for the mysterious lines in the desert near the city of Nazca, in Peru, is that they are beacons and landing strips for alien space craft. Theories like this certainly whet my appetite to see the famous Nazca lines, but I suspect there are also terrestial explanations that fit the evidence etched in the dry dusty desert.

We begin our journey on the overnight Flores bus from Cusco (70 Soles or GBP11.50). On the bus they even serve us dinner, but the beefsteak, chips, and rice served in a little plastic container is some of the worst Iīve tasted: beef extremely tough, cold and laced in MSG (as Rachel later discovers when pangs of thirst take over her).

The road is extremely twisty and its quite hard to sleep on the bus. They donīt have any blankets on board and I start to feel cold in the night. Unlike Rachel I didnīt bring my coat on to the bus. At 2am in the morning I dreamily stumble down the stairs to go to the bathroom. Returning to my seat a young Peruvian lady kindly gives me her long leather jacket for a blanket.

I awake at 6am thankful for the donated coat. Its a bright sunny day as it is here every day. We are heading downhill from the altiplano and through an arid area of desert. Soon we arrive in Nazca which seems to be a dusty run-down place where you would not want to linger. Rachel awakes and doesnīt believe my story about the coat.

We are accosted by a barrage of touts rudely shoving laminated cards describing their tours to the Nazca Lines in our faces.

We bump into a Charlotta a young Swedish traveller who is also looking for a flight over the Lines. The three of us walk towards the centre of town flanked by two touts who accuse each other of lying and seem to be bartering the price down in the process.

One of the touts offers to drive us out to the airport with no strings attached. When we are there we can look at his company and if we donīt like it we can move on. We take him up on the offer and soon we are out at the airport. Unfortunately for him he increases the price of his flight from USD$40 to USD$50 once at the airport, so we walk out to visit some other companies.

We soon find another place offering flights for USD$50 including airport tax (10 Soles or GBP1.70) and a transfer back into town. We walk into the small shack which serves as an office and watch a short British-made video about the lines and what they are thought to signify.

The lines and figures were made by removing the top layer of stones from the desert floor. Because stones on the surface are exposed to air they have a dark patina on the surface. Once the top layer of stones is gone, the area appears lighter than that surrounding. And because it never rains (well perhaps 2mm per year) and there are no plants and few ground dwelling animals, the soil is not dynamic. They say footprint might last for 50 years.

As well as lines and trapezoids, many of the etchings in the desert are representations of animals such as hummingbirds, dogs, condors, monkeys, and whales. These animals are thought to have been important in shamanistic society of the ancient Nazca people. Under the influence of hallucagenic potions the shamans believed they were flying. And if they were flying they would see these images in the ground as their spirit guides, enabling them to perform their healing function. And maybe the alien explanation is a better one.

We meet the fat pilot of the 6-seater plane who will be taking us on our half hour flight. Three of us plus and English couple climb on to the plane, don our headsets, and buckle up for the flight.

We take off quickly and things start to move fast. Within a few moments the pilot is banking sharply to the right and pointing at a representation of an astronaut on the hillside. Then we bank sharply to the left so that everyone on the other side of the plane can see too. Sure enough there is the etched figure of a man in the hillside who has a goldfish bowl on his head. Further proof of the alien theory.

We pass a series of other figures banking sharply right and left. I think the representation of the hummingbird is the most beautiful. It doesnīt look big from up in the plane but apparently its nearly 200m long on the ground. The trapezoids are the most intriguing shapes though. They really do look like alien runways. And there are so many long straight lines etched into the ground as well. Some people say these are part of a giant star observatory. However the night sky around Nazca has so many constellations visible, and there are so many lines, its inevitable that many of the lines and the stars align.

All too soon the spectacle is over and and we are flying back to the little airport. There certainly is no time to get bored during the flight. A slight queasiness in my stomach makes me glad that we didnīt eat breakfast and took some motion sickness pills before getting on board.

Back in Nazca town we find out about local buses heading north to Pisco and eat a late breakfast. Sitting at breakfast we canīt quite believe that weīve been flying that morning. It all seems a bit too much to take in. I am content in my newly achieved understanding that no-one really has a clue why the ancient Nazcans created these striking images in the desert.
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