October 25th - 26th 2003
We left Paracas, not looking forward to the drive ahead, and worried we would be stopped again and again by the police. We had barely been driving twenty minutes before we were indeed stopped again. It seemed to take the policeman ages to reach the side of the car and we were dreading having to talk ourselves out of yet another fake infraction. But he just shook our hands, asked where we were going and wished us a pleasant journey. We weren't stopped again the rest of the day. Hopefully that meant that the only problems with police were around Lima.
We continued to drive through the coastal desert, and about 20km north of Nasca, we stopped to look at a few of the Nasca Lines you could see from the viewing platform at the side of the Panamerican. From the top you can see the hands, the tree and the lizard (the latter being cut in two by the Panamerican). But to really appreciate the lines you need to take an overflight.
The "Hands", The "Tree" and the "Weasel"
Arriving at Nasca about lunchtime, we checked into the Hotel Nido del Condor - to camp in the grounds. Then off into the town itself for a bite to eat, catch up on emails and check out the Bolivia situation. We had checked the FCO website a week ago and there was still a travel ban for British nationals to Bolivia. That would mean we would have to leave Bolivia out of the trip and go from Peru straight to Chile. We checked again today and found that the ban had been lifted, as things had settled down with the new President. So provided the situation remains stable, we may get to Bolivia after all.
After a relaxing afternoon and evening, we got up early to check in at the aiport for our flight over the Nasca Lines. There are a number of airlines that do the flights, but as our hotel had a special relationship with Aero Condor Peru, we opted for them ($35 each plus $3 airport tax). They take three people per flight, (others take 5) so we had to wait for a third person to join us before we could go. Luckily that didn't take long and we whiled away the time watching the BBC video on the theories behind the lines. Dr Maria Reiche studied the lines for over 40 years and believed they were an astronomical pre-Inca calendar, whilst other theories propose they were tracks of running contests, weaving patterns, or represented fertility patterns in the Andes. Another theory talks of their being a map to guide extra-terrestrials as they can only be seen from the air....But the most plausible theory for us seems to be the one linked to the shaman. In some of the pottery and textiles produced by the Nasca people, there are images of a flying being with a discharge coming from its nose and mouth. This could be a representation of the shaman who are known to take psycho-active drugs which make them think they are actually flying into the spirit world. The lines are therefore a map for the shaman. This would also explain why there are representations of monkeys and killer whales, animals not found in the area, but which have the qualities needed by the shaman in his journey into the spirit world.
You can only appreciate the lines from the air. The flight lasts about 35 minutes and the pilot points out the various lines as you come to them - trapezoids, the whale, astronaut, monkey, dog, humming bird, condor, spider, parrot, the trees and the hands. The area is really vast and it is an amazing sight.
Returning to the campsite Ed wired up our new speakers - finally we would have music and wouldn't need to entertain each other on the long drive south! Then a swim in the pool before lunch of ceviche (raw white sea bass marinated in lemon, chili and onions, served cold with a boiled yam) and a relaxing afternoon updating the diary.