Our steward on the bus informed us that we were currently driving through the Nazca Lines. It was dark out, so we weren’t able to even get a glimpse of the valley that housed these wondrous geoglyphs. We arrived into the city of Nazca a few minutes later. As the bus pulled into the station I began to feel nervous for the first time on the trip. The dimly lit streets were filled with people and the vast majority of them were crowded around the station. What didn’t help my anxiety was that I honestly didn’t know if anyone was going to pick us up because I never got the chance to confirm with the hostel. My mind wandered to ridiculous movie plot lines of us being abducted or robbed in a strange city where we didn’t know anyone and without a working phone. As we were standing and doubt was mounting I suddenly heard my name called above the din of the crowd. It may be being dramatic, but it felt like I was tossed a life preserver and my fear quickly dissolved. Our tour guide, Oscar, had worked with the hostel to get our information and to pick us up.
Oscar drove us through the main square of Nazca pointing out various restaurants that he thought we should try. We arrived safe and sound at our hostel, Nazca House, where we dropped our belongings and started to plan for dinner. However, I was slightly worried about wandering down the busy streets alone with no sense of direction, but any worries were alleviated by our hosts. I asked bluntly if it would be safe to walk from the house to the main strip and he said that it would be fine. So we put down our bags and headed out for a meal. We walked to the Plaza de Armas, which was well lit and had quite a few families enjoying time together on the benches and greens. Seeing that put me at ease and I was able to enjoy our time out. I can say that any initial worries were erased during our time in Nazca and that it truly was a great city where we thoroughly enjoyed our time. After a wonderful meal at La Encantada, where I sampled some of the local quinoa and corn, we headed back for some rest because we had an early morning flight over the Lines.
Oscar picked us up at 7:30am, so we could get to the airport for our flight by 8:30am. We decided to skip breakfast on a recommendation for our hosts due to people feeling ill on the flights. At the airport we were faced with our second weather delay on only our second day in Peru. Not a good start to the trip. We were told that fog had settled over the valley and obviously there’s no reason to fly over the Lines if you can’t see them, so we waited. Fortunately, in my research I read that fog could cover the valley in wintertime, so I was somewhat prepared for the delay and we had nothing else planned for the day. We filled the time by peppering our guide with questions which he was happy to answer, going over American idioms and Spanish equivalents, and watching an informational video on the Nazca Lines.
The lines are an amazing feat, which is why people come from all over and pay more than normal tour fees to fly over a valley in the middle of the desert. The desert assists the preservation of the lines due to the lack of rain to corrupt the hard work. The Nazca people created the lines around 400-650 AD by removing stones and pebbles from the area and then smoothing out the ground. The entire valley is covered by these stones and pebbles, so the cleared area immediately stands out when viewed from above. There is still speculation as to the reason they were made; some argue that they were made as an astronomical calendar, others, as a form of worship to the gods who could view them from above, and finally of course someone thinks that they were created for extraterrestrials.
After a three hour delay we finally were cleared to take off. Our pilot introduced himself and led us to our plane. The plane was easily the smallest plane we’ve ever climbed into. It only seated 5 passengers! With all of us crammed into the aircraft we went over the flight pattern, the pilots would tilt the plan in a corkscrew pattern to enable the passengers to see the lines. They corkscrew both to the left and right so each side can obtain a view of the Lines. They told us that the flight would take approximately 30 minutes and with that we buckled in and taxied to the end of the runway. After about 5 minutes we had our first line, the whale. I was genuinely surprised by how small it looked, obviously it doesn’t change the amazing complexity of the work the Nazca people did, but it did surprise me. The next shape we flew over was the astronaut, which was one of my favorites. It is the shape of a waving man carved on the side of a mountain. During the rest of the flight we were able to see the hummingbird (the most famous), the hands, the tree, the parrot, the dog, the monkey, the heron, and the condor.
Before the flight they had warned us about people getting sick on the trip due to the movements, but I wasn’t worried, until I discovered that apparently in a small corkscrewing plane I do get motion-sickness. About halfway through the flight I started to feel ill, stopped taking pictures, and held the bag they give each passenger. I am however glad to report that I survived the flight without incident, but as we landed I was pretty happy to be on terra firma again.
After the flight we were returned to our hostel, where one of the owners was kind enough to cook us a meal because we had yet to eat. After the meal they offered us to keep the room for a little longer if we wanted to clean up or take a nap even though it was past check out time. We gladly took them up on their offer and took a short nap before going back out. Feeling rested we headed back out on the town. Our bus didn’t leave until 10pm, so we still had almost 9 hours to spend exploring the city. We first searched out a local market to pick up some food to carry with us and our search led us off the main street and onto a small side street. We found numerous shops where we were able to procure supplies. During our stroll I made an observation that this street probably didn’t see a whole lot of tourists because almost every person that passed Sarah stared at her. Sarah had a propensity to stick out wherever we went with her porcelain skin, blue eyes, and blonde hair. I got a good laugh out of the looks she was getting and had to explain to her why when she asked. She hadn’t noticed any of the looks at all.
Our walk eventually landed us into an entire open air market filled with exotic fruits and vegetables laid out for passersby to inspect. The people were incredibly friendly, smiling and greeting us at each turn. I noticed some of the small children playing with their family get incredibly shy when we would stop by. They would see us and their eyes got big and then they would hide their faces or run behind their parents. With our supplies in hand we flipped the scenario and sat in the Plaza people-watching.
The flight over the Nazca Lines was an incredibly unique experience and I was happy that we decided to spend the time and money to do it. I think the flight delay and motion-sickness unfortunately does somewhat jade the experience in my memory and keeps it from being one of my favorite things during the trip. I will say that the city of Nazca itself is worth at least a night to explore. It just had a distinctive sense about it with the mototaxis and the lively streets that should be experienced.