They’ve mystified anthropologists and mathematician’s for years. Only truly appreciated from the air, the Nazca Lines are a 300 square mile anomaly in this rock strewn arid desert in Southern Peru. The Nazca Lines consist of over 800 lines, 300 figures and about 70 animal and plant figures drawn into the earth by removing sun-darkened stones from the desert surface to expose lighter stones below.
But the lines have been here for centuries. Who drew and connected them? And how did they do so with such accuracy and precision yet they are only appreciated from hundreds of feet above the earth’s surface? German mathematician and perhaps leading researcher of the lines, Ms. Maria Reiche theorized that they were made by ancient cultures from 900 BC to 600 AD, with a handful of additions drawn by the Wari in the 7th century. She claims the lines were an astronomical calendar mapped out my sophisticated mathematics, a long string and patience. Others claim that the lines were ritual walkways connected to water/fertifiily cults, giant running tracks, extraterrestrial landing strips and crystallization’s of Amazonian shamans’ dreams induced by hallucinogenic drugs.
Depending how you look at it, I either traveled 300 miles from Lima or more than 20,000 from my home to see these amazing lines with my own two eyes (and feeling much better, I might add). Passing through more desert and irrigated agricultural areas. I still see the cane housing and trucks spewing diesel overloaded with cane. Through the town of Pisco on the Pacific Ocean I get a glimpse of nice beaches while my eyes are feasted by the colorful bottles of Peru’s famous beverage: Pisco, made from white grapes and fermented not unlike brandy. usually mixed with a variety of other beverages the most famous is the Pisco Sour. But I’m on a mission.
My first stop is the Mirador tower right on the highway just 30 miles north of the tiny town of Nazca. From this tower three of the figures can be seen after climbing up the rickety structure. But I wanted more. I made my way to the Nazca Airport and arranged for a 45 minute plane ride over the lines. My goal was to have 3 or 4 hours of daylight after flying to make it just a tad closer to Cuzco. Scanning the map and the clock it looked like the miniscule town of Puquio nestled in the Andes would be an easy target after my plane ride.
Most guidebooks suggest getting and early morning flight to see these amazing lines. After my 45 minute ride and the look of despair and sullen and sunken jaws of the other 4 passengers on my flight, I know why. Bounced, tossed and shaken like clothes in a dryer we all grabbed our headphones as the pilot took right and left bank turns over each of the major figures while spouting the location and description in both Spanish and broken English. Everyone clung to the windows trying to take pictures, or just trying not to throw up. it’s amazing how clear and distinct these figures are when flying high above. We flew over a monkey, a condor with a huge 400 foot wing span, a hummingbird, spider, and a unique figure with what appears to be a fishbowl over his head and is now commonly referred to as “the astronaut”.
With more time, I’d explore the museum in town and research more about the conflicting theories, but I’m hoping to meet Jeremiah in Cuzco so that we can brave Bolivia’s vast and scenic southwest corner together. It’s rugged, rural and the rainy season. Most bikers looking to see this part of Bolivia long passed through here a couple months ago. We’re both on edge about whether to take the chance. Fielding data from other riders such as Anne, Brad and others we hope to have a clear picture of road conditions and make an informed decision.
But for now. I’ve got a little less than 4 hours to make it to Puqio before sunset. Gotta jam.
Photos: (1) A milestone for me was to see the Nasca Lines. I’m here; (2) Spider figure from hundreds of feet above the Nasca Lines; (3) the astronaut; (4) the hummingbird; (5) living in the Atacama desert of Peru doesn’t look very appealing; (6) Pisco on sale roadside; (7) more cane to build more houses?; (8) taking a dip to see the Nasca Lines in our 6 passenger jumpy plane.