Hummingbirds and astronauts - A view from above

Trip Start Dec 21, 2009
Trip End Jul 17, 2010

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Monday, May 17, 2010

I mentioned in previous blogs that we were back in Australia which was what we were waiting for to put these blogs up en masse. Alas, the pathetic process of procuring internet has put us back something like 6 weeks in our blog posts. A process that started in London BEFORE we came home has only just been completed and we are finally able to continue our blogging. To our friends overseas, this is extremely embarrassing. To our friends, in Australia, this is extremely common. The best way to fight the frustrations of getting internet set up is to relive our holiday and share some of our experiences. We hope that you continue on our journey, there's still so much more that we did. We’d better get on with it.

We left the city of Arequipa and made our way towards the famed Nazca lines. Before reaching the city of Nazca, we stopped off and made a beach camp at a place called Puerto Inca. No super pictures here, just a great time camping on a beachside and celebrating a birthday on our truck. My cook group cooked had smashed it out of the park yet again and we had plenty of beers to wash down the good food and cake. Special thanks to Theo for opening up the T-Bar for the occasion. Theo, I know I gave you plenty of grief about the warm beer but you showed four qualities that elevated you to being one of the best barmen I have ever known.

1) You always had alcohol on hand (irrespective of hiding spots or age)

2) You were always ready to take on the role of drinking buddy well into the night, making sure that NO ONE drunk alone (only your 19 year old liver could recover)

3) You showed a Rainman-like ability to keep track of who had what and make sure they marked it down in the exercise book. Doing that sober is one thing, but doing so while plastered or hung over is just freakish

4) You ensured the financial viability of the T-Bar by waiting for the truck to be moving (captive audience) before collecting debts and using the truck baseball bat to point out who owes what. You embodied the saying, "Talk softly but carry a big stick." (Except I don't remember you talking softly)

Birthday party over, we packed our tents and headed for the city of Nazca. Before we got there we picked up a guide and headed for the Cemetary of Chaucilla. We had a knowledgeable guide called Jensen who walked us around and educated us about the culture and the people. He was even interviewed by National Geographic a few years ago about the cemetery. How did we know this? He brought a copy for us to see. Anyway, Jensen told us a lot about the local area but I have to admit, shortly after he mentioned that the Atacama desert (where we were) was the driest place on earth, my brain started frying. The only questions we had for Jensen was, “Where’s the next grave site Jensen?” After Jensen pointed us in that direction, the race was on to get there first and begin the clamour for shade. Interesting to know that before the archaeologists came, many of the mummies were above ground but still amazingly preserved. These dudes and dudettes still had hair! That’s testament to how dry this place is. You try decomposing when you get less than 1mm of rain a year. Cemetery tour over, we checked that our truck tyres hadn’t melted (they hadn’t) and made our way to Nazca.

Nazca is well known for the Nazca Lines, a system of underground aqueducts and being home to the world’s tallest building. OK, so I lied about the last one. You come here for the Nazca Lines and that's about it.  

The Nazca people made these shapes (Nazca Lines) in the ground around 400AD. The shapes are stunning they are so incredibly huge in size and super accurate and you can easily tell what each shape is. They’re so large that the only way to really see them is in the air via a helicopter or plane. If you looked at them from the ground level, you would never know they were there.

The lines and geoglyphs were made by moving the stones OFF their original positions. The ground underneath the stones was white so do this a couple of thousand times in a co-ordinated fashion and before you know it, you’ve got a UNESCO World Heritage listed site. The designs are still there because of the dryness and stillness in the air. The stillness in the air would impact us later on that day.

We went to the airport to get onto our plane but a haze was hanging around so 2+ hours and one vase purchased out of boredom from a craft shop later, we made our way back to camp disappointed. Tomorrow would be our last chance before the truck had to get going. Nicole and I had resolved to go on this flight and catch the truck up at the next town if needed. After mentioning that, we had about 6 of our fellow truck buddies commited to the cause as well. Nazca Lines was something we’d all wanted to do for a long time. That wasn’t necessary because the weather cleared the next morning (after another 2+ hours at the airport - if we watched the Nazca DVD they had on loop there one more time, Nic was probably going to get violent) and before we knew it, we were on the runway taxiing in a plane slightly bigger than a car. I can see why people feel uncomfortable in these little planes. Reminds me of the episode of the Simpsons when Homer is up in space and James Taylor is brought in to sing them some of his "own brand of laid back adult contemporary music". "Sweet dreams and flying machines, in pieces on the ground....." 

It was the both of us, Lars (aka the Great Dane) and Emma. When Lars was asked if he was cool with the flight, his response was typically and positively Lars, “I don’t get travel sickness, I’m a VIKING baby!” Five minutes after takeoff, it seemed that the viking had taken a parachute and left the plane, leaving a green faced, Hageloff wearing Dane in his place. The Goldhammer was less gold and more like the green of tarnished copper. Poor Lars. Me telling him that he was only 5 minutes into a 40 minute flight didn’t help much either. Kudos to the Green Dane for keeping his breakfast down, I thought he was a goner. Being the trooper that he is, he joined me for a hot dog and a burger at a fast food stand a few hours later.

The flight was great and we had plenty of passes back and forth on the shapes to be amazed. I’ll admit that before the flight, I was hoping that spotting these shapes wasn’t going to be like one of those 3D hidden shapes that were so popular in shopping centres during the 90s. I was sure those were a con. You know the ones. You’d walk up to it and the guy would say that there’s an elephant in the picture, all you have to do is to make your eyes lose focus. I can honestly say that I failed to see the shape EVERY single time. The Nazca came through and each shape was right in front of us, plain to see.

The usual "pictures don’t do this place justice" line has to be used here, so please go there and see for yourself. When you get there, don’t cheap out, go on the plane. Just make sure you bring some extra cash in case a haze appears out of nowhere and you have to buy yourself a vase you don’t need.

When viewing the pictures of the shapes, you might want to refer to the guide sheet picture that I've uploaded. We started at the bottom of the page, went to the left, looped at the top and came back down on the right side of the page. That should give you an idea of what you're looking at in the order that the pictures are posted here. We've also got a video of the flight but even we haven't sat through it so the chances that I'm going to edit it for here are scant at best. If you want to hear the endless drone of a motor, then go into suburbia on a weekend in the summertime and listen to people cutting their lawns. The sound's much the same. 

So the blog is back on track. Join us on our next blog entry when we see a desert oasis, go sandboarding, I eat more barbeque I ever thought possible. I even get to test my footwork to make sure that I avoid getting puked on as I look after a drunk buddy. An unjust reward for being the sober one. 
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Steve on

What are the theories on how they were able to make those huge geoglyphs drawing on the ground??

travellingtans on

There are lots of theories. Of course aliens were always put up as a reason, along with astronomical reasons or marking underground water sources. So take your pick. Personally I'm going with the silliest reason out there, so aliens did it.

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