Drawing the water from the sky

Trip Start Sep 17, 2007
Trip End Oct 08, 2008

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Flag of Peru  ,
Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Nasca was just a town in the middle of nowhere until commercial airlines started flying across the desert about 50 years ago.  People began reporting strange figures that could be seen from the air.  Hence the discovery of the Nasca Lines.

Spread across 500 sq. km of desert are a complicated network of over 800 lines, 300 goemetric figures, and some 70 animal and plant drawings.  They were created by removing the top layer of dark soil to expose the whiter layer underneath.  They can only be seen from the air and no one really knows why they were made.  But there are plenty of entertaining theories.

Iīve heard: astronomical calendar, map of the universe, pictures of shamanīs hallucinations, alien landing strips, lines tracing water underground, and giant running tracks.  Fun stuff.

Seeing the lines is one of the more unique experiences Iīve had on this trip so far.  An airport outside of town has 11 companies each offering flights in tiny planes over the lines  (Erin adds that they are cessnas, for those who care).  The flights vary from a 20 minute flight in a 17 person plane to a 40 minute flight in a 5 person plane.  We took the latter.  The flights arenīt cheap, but they are worth it.

The company representatives hound you the moment you step off the bus.  We avoided the initial crowd (after about 5 minutes) and made it into the streets.  We headed for a hostel but were intercepted again by Christian.  Twice actually.  He eventually convinced us to turn around and follow him to his hostel and therefore got the first chance to talk us into a flight.  The game is to get the tourist to commit before he walks around and begins comparing companies.  We honestly wanted to have lunch, but it worked in our favor because he desperately didnīt want us to slip away.  He made us name a price before we left the door, first for the economy plane and then the small special plane.  So I did name a price, a low price.  He looked at me a minute and then called his company to see if they would accept it.  He turned to me and said okay on the condition that I didnīt tell the other tourists what I was paying

The funny part is you never really know whether you got a good deal or not.  I can just see all the companies getting together and sharing stories.  "Hey guys, I used the, 'donīt tell the other tourists what youīre paying,' gig today.  He bought it hook, line, and sinker." 

Anyways, we found ourselves driving out to the airport at 7:30.  When we got there they said it was too cloudy so flights were delayed.  I looked up at the clear blue sky.  We drove back.  We were going to get breakfast (due to motion sickness we were told not to eat before we flew) when he chased us down and said we needed to be there for whenever they started.  So we drove right back.  We saw an introductory video that said that the lines were designed to draw water from the mountains when the rain stopped coming.  A lot of them pointed towards what was considered the source of the water.  The river only flows a couple months out of the year today.  They believe the lines were walked over in procession to ask for water.  The lines become larger and more desperate during the big period of drought.  Then the Nasca culture disappears.

We ended up leaving at around 9:30.  There were five of us plus the pilot and we had a great view out the window.  We flew into the pampas and the pilot would call out which side and what we would see.  They were smaller than I expected from the air, but once we got used to it we got pretty good at spotting them.  The pilot would generally circle the main drawings once or twice slanted to the left side and then once or twice to the right side.  We saw a whale, the famous astronaut, a dog, monkey, condor, spider, hummingbird, parrot (Erin does not agree it looks like a parrot), tree, and hands (or frog).  The flight was about 40 minutes but went really quick.  The whole experience was really cool.

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