Sunday, February 04, 2007

Nasca and the Lines

The ride to Nasca thankfully involved coming down in altitude to a rather more pleasant 600m, but the price to pay was the heat. Coming through the desert towards Nasca, the temperature soared so when we arrived, I needed to shed most of my bike gear to avoid turning into a puddle of sweat. The ride from Cusco to Nasca is really great though, I quite enjoyed turning into a bike hooligan on the countless bends while my near-bald rear tyre didn't spoil things too much.

We picked Hostal Via Morburg which had secure parking and we booked up a flight over the famous lines for the following morning. I was kind of nervous about this as I'm not a great flyer even though I do fly microlights as bizzare as it sounds- It's a kind of 'backseat' driver sort of thing.

At 8am the following morning, we were picked up from the hotel and taken out to the towns airport where we were met by a very anxious pilot who was keen to throw us into his plane and get moving, always a reassuring thing in a pilot though I'm pleased to note he is wearing an ironed white shirt and sunglasses like the proper pilots. Within a couple of minutes, we were airborn in the little 6 seater Cesna airplane and on a course to the lines at around 120mph. There was quite a difference between this and the microlight, which only cruises at around 55mph but takes off a lot faster.
The lines have been here for well, ages and several theories abound as to what they were used for. Everything from astronomy, agriculture, religious ceremonies, water channel locations (it´s a bloody desert for God´s sake, there just isn´t any) and naturally a landing site for aliens. If you´re interested, the lines were actually made by clearing the rocks away and exposing the gypsum rich soil beneath. The most amazing thing is that they wern´t discovered until about the 1930´s or so and they just can´t be seen properly from ground level. How they made the shapes and lines so perfectly is still a mystery. There was a German woman who devoted most of her life to mapping, restoring and researching the lines and we went to a talk about her and the lines the previous night. Basicaly, about 30% of the lines point to the position of the sun at summer and winter solstice but then we´re pretty near the equator so I´m not sure how much difference that really makes. It might have helped you ín the field´though. Then there´s the water theories which some folk think the lines relate to underground water channels. Again only a few of the lines correspond to those and lets face it, there really is no water here. And then there´s the astronomy angle, but you really need a good imagination to see the relationship between say, the monkey and Orion. And then there´s the possibility that they were used to carry out religious ceremonies which is perfectly plausable I guess as the lines are wide enough to walk along. But to my mind it´s obvious- It´s a big bloody alien landing site and they´re already here so we might as well just get used to it.

'Spaceman on the left' screams our trusty pilot and throws the little Cesna into a bank of nearly 90 degrees so we on the left side on the plane can get a look at the lines which indeed resemble a spaceman (though it's aparently a man with an owls head- make of that what you will). And so it goes on for the next 40 minutes. I made the mistake of looking at my camera at one point and nearly threw up as sudden motion sickness overcame me. I wasn't alone though as it took the best part of the day for Michelle to overcome hers.

Our chariot for the morning

A spaceman or just a ordinary man with an owl for a head

- you decide...

Some slightly bigger lines for you

And what a day it was. After leaving the hotel, we rode up to Huacachina a couple of hours north and took a sand buggy tour of the dunes and that was just bloody brilliant! Our driver was fantastic, taking us up over blind summits and then dropping us down into the next valley, all the while we were shrieking with delight. As the buggy had no windscreen, our gums got covered in sand because we were grinning so much. The dunes were just beautiful but I'd rather tear around them like a total hooligan anyday.

And then our driver got out the sandboards... Now I've ski'd most of my life but have so far never tried snowboarding. Strapping the board on at the top of a rather large dune, I slowly eased myself over the edge and promptly fell on my arse. And so it went on for the next few attempts but by about the 4th attempt, I'd made it all the way to the bottom without falling, a born natural. Now I've just got to master a few turns! The driver cautiously let me drive the buggy for a bit which was brilliant fun and I didn´t even roll it.

Silver surfer (I´m not actually going anywhere here)

Easy there, steady now...

Driving this was a blast!

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