Icons on Earth


Peru is a country laden with treasures, past and present. I’m on a mission to explore them all. Or at least as many as possible.

One of the most impressive in that list for me has been the Nazca figures, or Nazca Lines, as they are called. These geoglyphs have captured the imagination of everyone who has seen or heard of them. Uju and I took the evening bus from Paracas to Nazca with Cruz del Sur and checked in to the charming El Jardin.

[As always, I had read too many reviews and comments covering the spectrum from how fantastic they are to what a waste of time it is, waiting hours for the 30-minute flight, only to spot tiny, hazy figures far away. My greatest fear while traveling is the feeling of being underwhelmed. There’s no word for that yet.]

We had an early morning pick up from our B&B, and we did have to wait an hour or more to board our flight with AeroParacas. There were enough distractions to pass the time after getting weighed in for the flight – a documentary playing on the screen, a small and basic cafe, some souvenir shops. We had started to get a little bored of the video, and just as we wandered off to the shops, they called us in to board.

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Ours was a ‘cute’ 8-seater, and after a set of instructions, we were off. The landscape, even without the figures, had a lot going for it.

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And soon enough, we spotted the first image of the ‘whale’. And a series of animal/bird figures. I was carrying my 18-200mm lens, which was perfectly suitable.

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The Whale

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Monkey, whose tail inspires the Peru national logo

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The Hummingbird, and its terrain

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The Hummingbird

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The Spider

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The Condor

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The Tree and the viewing tower (if you chose the land route)

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The Lizard that got cut off during the construction of the Pan-American highway

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The Parrot

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The flower

The pilot would tilt the airplane and align the wingtip to the figure for us to have the best possible views. That also meant that there was a lot of tilting, and at some point it got a little dizzying. Earlier I was disappointed that we didn’t have enough people to go out on the longer Nazca-Palpa flight to see more images, but towards the end of our 30-minute adventure, I must admit, I was glad to get back on land.

The myths surrounding these Lines abound, as the Nazca folks didn’t leave any proper notes to explain their endeavours. There are all kinds of theories, from astronomical calendars to UFO landings and alien artwork. I find the figures fascinating. The “drawings” are easy to identify. Did one person design them, to be executed by thousands through labour? How did they know they were getting it right? There’s a sense of humour in the images too. How else would one conceive of this: a humanlike figure on the side of the mountain, scratching his head, wondering what to do next, or whether it is all worth it.

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The Astronaut

There’s also The Pelican (or the flamingo), that we did not sight (but saw on the printed chart during our flight), but the rendering of it is fantastic, like the bird in motion, skipping over the water, before taking flight.

The Nazca civilisation must be studied through a holistic approach, and Uju and I found ourselves peering at the interesting collection at the Museo Didáctico Antonini, after a sumptuous breakfast at El Jardin.

We were planning to have a lazy afternoon after lunch, but when we read about the Cantalloc Aqueducts, we simply had to visit.

The Nazca region is arid, which has helped in the preservation of the geoglyphs. It is believed that the Nazcas had built underground aqueducts to transport water without evaporation in the dry climate, mainly for agriculture. There are openings on the surface to access the water, which are what we went to explore.

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All of the above can be accomplished in less than a day. We missed the Maria Reiche museum; the house that Maria Reiche lived in during her work uncovering the Nazca Lines.

The Nazca Lines had their share of contemporary drama, when Greenpeace pulled their ill-advised publicity stunt: http://www.iflscience.com/environment/greenpeace-irrevocably-damages-fragile-nazca-lines-peru-during-publicity-stunt/ and are still trying to regain their credibility.

In conclusion, for a dry, dusty little town, Nazca certainly punches much above its weight.

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Categories: La Conquista de Perú, TravelTags: , , , , ,

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