Nazca

In the roadmap of my trip through Peru and Bolivia, one of the cities included it was Nazca. It is a very old town in terms of history, where in the past, before the arrival of the Spanish Conquerors, there lived three different people with its different cultures in different eras. The first inhabitants of that region it was the "Paracas People" and  later on it was occupied by the "People of Nazca" between 100BC and 600AD. Around the 15th century the Quechuas (also known as Inkas) was occupying the region. Therefore, in Nazca there are also Inka ruins. In the 16th century the Inkas was conquered by the Spanish conqueres.
When returning to Lime from Nazca, we stopped by Ica City, where there is a small oasis with a lagoon in the middle of huge dunes. I wrote a bit about this city below, in the end of this post.

Nazca Lines and extraterrestrial astronauts?

The first time I heard about Nazca, it was when I was a teenager and read the book "Were The Gods Astronauts" written by Erick Van Daniken, a swiss author. In Nazca region there is the "Nazca lines", being huge drawings made on a desert area and on some mountain slopes. At that time and still nowadays, Van Daniken says that the "lines" were made by an ancient civilization to be seen by Austronautas aliens that were there in the acient times. In addition to the drawings, there are also traces and geometric lines that according to Van Daniken imagination and theories are runways used by  extra terrestrial astronauts to land and take off. Eric Van Dniken became a millionaire selling his books and built a theme park and documentation center about his theories in Intelaken in Switzerland. I have been to Interlaken and saw the facilities of theme park, anyway I did not have time to visit Van Daniken Theme Park. I hope I can visit it when I return to Interlaken, maybe someday.
Well, now you can understand how my interest in Nazca begun. So when I visited Peru, I made a point of going to Nazca and see the Nazca Lines and explore them.

Beyond the Nazca Lines: Underground Aqueducts and Pyramids of over 2000 years old!

Although Nazca became famous in the world for the huge drawings and the geometric lines on the desert, to my surprise and to anyone surprise who visit that city, we will see that there are many more things to see and explore than the so called Nazca Lines.
On the site there are subterranean aqueducts built by ancient civilization, and also pyramids that are over 2000 thousand years old built by the "Nazca people". The countless pyramids form an archaeological site discovered a few years ago, and the excavation works are still in the early stages. There is also in Nazca, ruins of an administrative center of the Inkas. The ruins are reminiscences of  buildings built before the 16th century.

Planning my trip to Nazca | By Bus, the better choice!

Before continuing this narrative, I would like to say that, at least until 2016, there were no regular commercial flights from Lima to Nazca. To get there by plane I would have to charter a flight and it  would be very expensive. Another thing to consider is, if you really want to know and explore Nazca, never think of doing a day-trip or round trip in one day! It is impracticable, almost an stupidity, although some people do this, leaving Lima before dawn and coming back in the night by vans or chartered cars. When they arrive there they will only go to the local airport to make a flight over the Nazca Lines. Surely it must be very tiring, it is more of a burden than a pleasure. Nazca has much more to see, and if you read this post until the end, you will know how many surprises and things to see that exist in that city. So the best option is to go by bus by Cruz del Sur Company and stay there at least a couple of nights to explore the culture and archaeological attractions, understand and demystify much of what some people say or imagine about the ancient civilizations that existed there.

I suggest going through the company Cruz del Sur (Southern cross), because they note down all passport or document numbers of all passengers, what makes the travel safer. Moreover, the buses are quite comfortable. I also suggest that you book a seat on the first row on the upper deck of the bus, facing the front windshield glass so you can better see the sights. In our case, we were partially exposed to the sunbeams, however we could see the scenery.

The trip with some scenic parts and our arrival at Nazca

It was October 14, 2016, we woke up at 5:00 am in Lima where we had spent our first three nights in Peru. We took the bus to Nazca at the station of Cruz del Sur, in the neighbourhood of Javier Prado, not far from where we were staying in the Miraflores district. It took us about 20 minutes to get to Javier Prado. The Cruz del Sur bus terminal was comfortable and moderns, and finally we embarke on the bus. The bus went via Panamericana Highway that runs along or near the coastline, heading south of Peru. We chose to travel during daytime, because it would be interesting to know the geography of the low lands of Peru. Lima is close to the sea on the coastline and Nazca at an altitude of 520 meters, unlike the Highlands or the Andean Plateau area, where Cusco and Puno are between 3600 and 4000 meters of altitude.

During the voyage, after leaving Lima, we saw flat landscapes, with mountains far away in the background, many deserted areas coverd with sand and gravel. At certain point we saw the sea and the bus went along the coastline. In the midst of deserted areas, sometimes we saw plantations.
During the bus trip, we stopped by a bus station, which was perhaps the Paracas City bus station. I am not sure if the bus stopped by Ica City bus station. What I know is that Paracas and Ica it was near the route.

When we approached Nazca, the voyage becomes visually more beautiful and interesting, because the bus had to go up hill and then down on small range of mountains. At a certain points, the road and landscape could have some slight resemblance to the crossing of the Andes that I made by bus, between Santiago City from Chile and Mendoza City in Argentina. The slight resemblance would be about the colors of the mountains and its terrain, but it could not be compared with the grandiosity of the Andean sights seen in the travel aforementioned.

Houses ready to add rooms in a area that does not rain

During some parts of the travel, we saw village houses on the roadside that seemed to have some resemblance to slums or poor shacks, usually built in flat terrain. Anyway we come to understand that those houses was not slums. Actually, it was typical houses built using local resources and in accordance with the local climate. The houses are usually very low, not only because the locals are not high, but also because in that area, as many parts of Peru are subjected to earthquakes.
Nazca is in the middle of a desert, and it seems that the inhabitants do not complete most of their houses and buildings. It seems to be part of their way of life, and it seemed to us that the locals take pride in  showing that their houses are going to be increased in number of rooms and number of floors. It is very clear to notice because they leave the irons of the concrete pillars coming out of the slabs, awaiting for the completion with more pillars and walls. Almost a rule, usually only the façade is painted and the external side walls are left in apparent brick.
Most of the houses have no roof, just slab, because in Nazca it rains only 1 hour a year, so why protect  too much the houses against the rain?
Many houses are made of reeds, some have even the roof made of reeds. Bamboo also seems to be quite used in constructions.

From the bus station to the hotel

At the end of the trip, the bus arrived in a rustic and poorly planned bus terminal. Once there, we waited for the owner of the Inn that we had reserved. The transport from the terminal to the hotel was included in the reservation. In fact, I realized that there is a lot of competition between the inns and hotels to get guests, and the owners of inns and hotels are afraid to lose their guests to other competitors. To avoid that guests are offered better prices when in the bus terminal or on the route between the bus terminal and city centre, they wait for the guests in the bus terminal and give them a free ride to the hotel or inn.
Moreover, they want to sell tour packages such as flights over the Nazca lines, tours to archaeological sites and aqueducts. It is important extra money to them. As soon as we arrived at the hotel, the owner of the hotel offered us the tour showing a catalogue. Since we had just arrived, we said we did not want to book tours at that moment.
We left our luggage in our hotel room and went for a walk in the city. When walking, we noticed that there was numerous tourist agencies that offered the same tours and packages for flights over the Nazca Lines at better prices.

Lunch in a Polleria

After walking a little by Bolognesi Av., one of the main streets of Nazca and having spent some time in the Plaza de Armas, we decided to lunch. Exploring the town, we went on a parallel street to the Bolognesi Av. and found a simple restaurant on the second floor of a building. We ate chicken with salad and potato chips which costed us 15 Soles and we drunk a bottle of 1,5 liter Coca Cola for 5 soles. The meal was also accompanied by a green sauce that I can not recall its name. In practice, five soles was about US$ 1.5 dolar. In Peru, food is not expensive, especially in Lima, Nazca and Puno. Chicken, which in spanish means "Pollo", is the most eaten type of meat in Peru. The name for restaurants that serves chicken food is "Polleria". When we finesh out meal, we continued to walk in the city center. Once in while, we stopped by some tourism agencies to get information about tours and about the flights over Nazca Lines.

Best location to stay in Nazca

I had reserved a hotel, better say an Inn because it was more of an Inn although it was advertised as hotel. It was a good inn and located on Av. Bolognesi, between the Plaza de Armas and another small triangular square (Plaza Bolognesi) where it is the best hotel in the city, the Nazca Lines Hotel. It is in the Nazca Line Hotel yard that it is the Planetarium Maria Reiche.
In my opinion, the best location to stay in Nazca is the area between Plaza de Armas and the Planetarium.
Actually, when traveling through Peru, if you are in Cusco, Puno or Nazca, always book  accommodations close to Plaza de Armas, that usually is the main square in the historic center or busiest area. The Plaza de Armas in Nazca is a pleasant place to sit on a bench and relax seeing the locals, their calm life style, the simple but picturesque square with is church and gardens !
In Nazca, there is another street that is busy and has lots os shops, a parallel street to Av Bolognesi, the calle Lima. ("Calle" is the word for "street" in spanish). We were there in the evening and begining of the night, and we noticed that the peruvians seem to enjoy shopping at night.

Planetarium Maria Reiche

If there's a name you're going to hear a lot, it's Maria Reiche. It is a German astronomer that adopted the hypothesis that the Nazca Lines would be the largest astronomical calendar in the world. She spent practically most of her productive life in Nazca, studying and documenting the huge drawings and lines made in the desert. Actually she spent about 50 years in Nazca and stayed there till her death.
The Maria Reiche Planetarium is located in one of the inner courtyards of the Nazca Lines Hotel, in front of Plaza Bolognesi. The function of the planetarium is to demonstrate the relationship between the Nazca Lines and the stars according to the theories of Maria Reiche.
We went to the planetarium in the evening, before spending our first night in Nazca. Arriving at the hotel, we bought our tickets and the attendant showed us the hotel lobby to wait for the session. In the hotel lobby there was a great model with the lines and drawings made on the desert. After a while the attendant called us as well as some other people waiting on the site and we went to the interior of the small Planetarium where a  researcher peruvian gentleman, who was a former assistant of Mary Reiche led the explanations.
Then we went to the courtyard where he had a telescope and showed us facts about the stars. An interesting fact is that, he said that the South Cross is represented wrongly in the flag of Brazil, but he also said that, once a brazilian woman who was there said it would be a "poetic license".
He also said that Mary Reiche spent her last years in that hotel, in a room that stays closed, where she lived. In her last few years she was having problems with eyesight and skin illness due to high exposure to the heat and desert sun.
I asked the researcher who funded Maria Reiche and he said that it was her sister, Renate Reiche, a physician who lived in German and used to send the money to fund her researches. A time came when  M. Reich became well known in the academic media and gained international reputation. Anyway, only when she was somewhat old, she received a pension from the peruvian government, but it was equivalent to a teacher's income. He also said that, at the end of his life she decided to be a naturalized citzen of Peru and she really loved that place.
It was a super interesting night! Then we walk to the hotel, but first we went to a diner and ate sausage sandwiches with potato chips accompanied by "chicha morata" to drink, a kind of black corn juice, very usual in Peru.

Flying over the Nazca lines

On our second day in Nazca, 15 October 2016, we woke up early in the morning and had our breakfast on the terrace of the hostal where we were staying (Inn in Spanish means "Hostal", do not confuse this word with hostel). We drunk coffee, juice, ate fried egg, bread with jelly and butter and I don't remember what else was available to eat!
So we went to the the travel agency we had chosen to fly over the Nazca Lines on the desert, but it was still closed. We walk a little more and we found another agency openned that made it all cheaper. We got into a shuttle included in the flight package and went straight to the Nazca airport to get the flight.
Nazca Airport is full of tourists and have inumerous airlines sales counters offering flights that departures all the time. The planes have at the most 6 seats, 2 seats in the front line for the pilot and co-pilot and 4 seats back divided into two rows for passengers. The plane we embarked on it had 6 seats. As anyone, we were all excited, I, my wife Ana and and another woman and her daughter.
Very soon the plane took off and we were flighing over Nazca and heading to the lines over the desert.
It was a real adventure, not because of the thrilling of flying over the lines but also because some difficult things was to happen ! Very soon the passengers became sick and vomited !

The first passenger to  to puke was a girl who was with her mother behind us. The co-pilot asked me to pass along lots of plastic bags to give her. Then it was time to Ana throw-out the breakfast she had early in the morning. All the passengers threw up except for I and the pilots.
Many people feel sick in small airplanes because it shakes a lots. Anyway, to better see the lines and drawings made on the desert, I believe the pilot tilts the airplane more then normal when making curves. There is another thing that makes the plane to shake more then usual which are the pockets of hot air over the desert or the streams of hot air.
After a while, I almost puked, but nothing came out. I became pale and had cold sweats! Despite the fact that we was sick, everybody was enjoying the flight, and we kept watching everything, photographing and filming! The flyover is really very cool and we can see the main lines and drawings on the desert.
For the pilots it seems to be a normal thing. Seeing the large stock of vomit bags available in the plane, I think pilots are always betting on the passenger which will win the vomit contest. (Lol)
After landing, still in the runway, the pilot said that Ana must have beaten the world record for vomiting. (Lol). Well, there was more to come. He did not even know the vomiting would not stop there. Once we returned  to the airport hall, she went to the airport toilets and puked twice again.

So, get this hint! If you are flying, do not have a heavy breakfast! Pick something very light! To fly early in the morning, in the first hours of the day is better because it is less hot.
As for the costs, the flight is relatively expensive, we paid $70 per person, but it worth it. During the months that there is more tourists and travelers in the city, prices are higher. Another thing, after the flight the pilots still ask to tip them!

Antonini Archaeological Didactico Museum

After a while in the airport to recompose us, we went back to the city centre of Nazca by taking a van included in the package. Arriving there, we decided to go on foot to visit the Antonini Didactico Museum. The collection of the Museu is about the Nazca Lines, the Paracas people and the people of Nazca, the two oldest civilizations that existed on that area. The museum is also installed on an archaeological site, where we saw vents to collect water from underground aqueducts and also open parts of the aqueducts built in stone. In the place there are also tombs of these ancient civilizations.

Mototaxi

In cities such as Nazca, Puno, Ica and Ollantaytambo we saw an interesting means of peruvian transport. It is an small vehicle that runs on 3 wheels and that can take at the most 2 passagens. It is called "Mototaxi" which means "half motorcycle and half car taxi".
To build this different vehicle, they use the motor and front part of motorcyle to power a two seat cabin on a two wheel axle.
Although there is normal car taxis in the cities of Peru, you will find there lots of "Mototaxis" as well.
To return from the Antonini Museum to the city centre, we took a "Mototaxi". The driver it was an old man, and the price was very affordable, not to say cheap. We came down to the Plaza de Armas again and went to lunch in the same restaurant that serves chicken dish (Polleria), the same we were yesterday.

Guided Tour

As what I have said before, early in the morning we flew over the lines of Nazca and later went to the museum Didactico Antonini. After lunch, we hurried out to the same tourist office, for a tour we had scheduled. I must say that in Nazca it is interesting to hire a guide or join some tour, because some distances to visit archeological sites are very large, and it is not feasible to do on our own. If you consider using public transportation It will take you much more time,  and you will have to stay many days there. It is only feasible to go on foot to attractions that are inside the city and not to far from city centre.
In fact, the members of the tour were just I, my wife and the guide, a Peruvian gentleman who also drove his own car, by the way a new and very good car. This guide knew a lot about the history of the Nazca and archeological sites and told us many details about the history and construction of the sites we visited. Bellow the list of sites we visited:
  • Aqueducts of Cantaloc
  • Park of the walls aka Paredons
  • Metallic Mirador of Palpat
  • Nazca Metallic Mirador
  • Natural Mirador
  • Maria Reich Museum
  • Tellr's Villa | Crafts
We first visited the Cantaloc Aqueducts, and then the archaeological site named "Paredons" (It means Big Walls) that are ruins of an administrative center of the Inkas, during their domain era. The Paredons were built around the 14th century. According to the guide, who was born in Nazca, this site was practically destroyed by an earthquake that occurred in Nazca more than 50 years ago. According to him, in Nazca, earthqukers happen every 80 or 100 years.
As for underground aqueducts, the ventilation holes in the form of spirals can be visited. It is in this holes that water are still collected by the local. These aqueducts were built by the Nazca civilization between the years 100DC and 600DC. Although it never rains in Nazca, the water is captured from the mountains and descends underground into stone aqueducts. Nowadays these aqueducts are used for a good part of the Nazca population and farmers. The trapezoildal-shaped construction of the aqueducts was also designed in order to resist earthquakes.
Then we proceeded to the lookout point Palpat aka Mirador Palpat. It's an interesting high tower in metallic structure, which terrifies people who are afraid of heights. By the way, there is wind blowing to make it more daring. Ana was afraid and did not go up, but I went up stairs and I took some pictures from the top. The function of this belvedere is to see from above the geoglyphs aka Nazca lines. The Nazca Lines are huge primitive drawings of animals and also geometric lines made with desert stones. That is, the drawings were made by gathering stones and arranging them in lines, and you will notice, if you go there that stone is what is not lacking in that desert, it is abundandt. To get an idea, these drawings are enormous. The monkey must be about 90 yards, but there are other bigger and smaller ones.

Then we visit another metallic lookout, the Nazca Mirador. At Palpat Mirador, there is only one rustic cabin next to tower. On this other lookout, which is more crowded, there are an small handicraft fair next to the tower and a rustic building. There we bought a souvenir in the form of keychain and stones engraved with drawings of the geoglyphs. There was a queue on the site and many people was climbing and descending the stair, while the wind was blowing. This belvedere is beside the Pan American Highway, which by the way cut the enormous design of the "Iguana".
Having visit that mirador, we got in the car with our guide and went to the place where Maria Reich lived during many years and had its rustic and simple office. Nowadays this site is The Memorial and Museum Mary Reich. There we saw many tools she used to measure the Geoglífos, maps, notes, writtings and also his bedroom and office. All very simple, the ground of the rooms it was not paved.
Then we went to see another lookout also in the desert, called the Natural Mirador. It is actually a  mountain of rocks. We can see also see the lines closely before climbing the mountain. Once on the highest parts of the mountain, we can see more NASCA lines, this time in geometic form.

At the end of the afternoon, before finishing the guided tour, we visited the "Vivenda do Tellar", a shop in a very modest and simple construction where the local artisans produce, expose and sell their handicrafts. We can see old looms and other instruments to produce fabrics. They produce the threads, the fabrics,  tapestry to hang on the wall, rug, shwals, blankets, etc. In the place they sell also other types of crafts, such as necklaces and bracelets with semi-precious gems. Many blankets and rugs are for decoration to be placed on the walls, like paintings. The craftsman explained to us about the types of drawings made with colorful yarns, some have to do with Paracas art and others with art of Inkas art, etc.

Finally the guide drove us back to Av. Bolognesi where it is the agency that offered our tour and also where is the hotel where we were staying. On the same street I exchanged some dollars for Peruvian soles and then walked to Plaza de Armas to see the interior of the cathedral. To our surprise, we saw that in the plaza (mains square) it was was happening a show of some branch of protestant believers, spreading their religion with music.

After staying for a while in the main square we went to dinner, and Ana had chicken soup, something light because she did not want to force her stomach, since she had vomited in the morning. I ate something called "salsipata" and we drunk "Chicha Murata", a juice made of black corn. Finally we went back to the hotel.

Another morning in Nazca and visiting the Pyramids Cahuachi

On this morning of October 16, 2016, we slept a little more because we were a little tired because of the day before. First we asked information about bus tickets, because we intended to travel in the afternoon to continue our own travel itinerary.
We visited again the travel agency and hired a tour to visit the Pyramids Cahuachi (read the H as W). Again, it was just the two of us, practically a private tour. We went with the same guide that was with us in the previous day, Mr Manoel, who was also the chauffeur. He spent good part of the trip fighting with his girlfriend on the phone, and drove somewhat fastly in the middle of that huge desert full of gravels on the ground until we reached the pyramids, but he explained everything very well.
Arriving there, he introduced us to Mr. Pablo, one Peruvian man, very friendly, very small and very old who worked there and would guide us through the archaeological site. Meanwhile the driver and guide, Mr. Manoel stayed at the reception house at the entrance to the archaeological site resting in the shade.
Meanwhile, we follow Mr Pablo, who told us that there are 36 pyramids discovered and cataloged in that area. There are more pyramids that have been discovered recently, which are across the stream (small river), which runs through the valley with vegetation along the same. While we were walking, he said he could feel the energy of the place.
About 2000 years ago, the priests of the Nazca civilization in its heyday lived in the pyramids, while the common people, who worked in the pyramids and agriculture, lived in small houses, in the surrounding areas. It is believed that Cahuachi was a center of pilgrimage of the Nazca civilization.
He also showed us the bricks of adobe and explained to us about the construction of the walls, thought to be stable to resist to earthquakes.
We saw the entire archaeological site or at least its main areas. In this October 2016 visit, there was a great pyramid discovered some years before, and it was partly reconstituted according to the original construction method. That pyramids were built with rounded shaped adobe bricks. The old gentleman showed us interesting sites, and also a couple of holes in the ground with openings to underground silos.
He explained that, the archaeological excavations that were conducted by an Italian archeologist, it was then suspended due to the lack of financial support. The support was interrupted by Peru government  and from some Italian supporters in the light of a crisis in Europe. He also explained that he worked with the archaeologist and continues to work there as a guide and as a lookout. He said that at the time of excavations, there was archaeology students from many parts of the world, and many of them would stay at the house (big shed) in the archaeological site.
Interesting that, when I went to the toilet of the archaeological site, near the entrance, I stepped on something that nudged slightly my foot, but fortunately did not hurt me. When I looked at the sole of my sneaker there was a big nail-shaped thorn that punctured it! Laughter.

The myths of geoglyphs associated with the visit of extraterrestrial astronauts

With regard to this gentleman that guide us in the pyramids site, I asked him if he believed that the lines  of Nazca (Geoglyphs) would have been made by the guidance of extraterrestrials or made to be seen by extraterrestrials that would come from space. He assertively said no, there was nothing to do with ETs or ancient astronauts and for me it was nice to hear that. I also think it has nothing to do with alien astronauts. He said that, if you climb a few mountains, not very far from the place we where we were at that moment, we would see some drawings from above. I as an engineer and also with considerable knowledge of architecture, I have formed the theory that huge drawings (geoglyphs)  perhaps has to do with a large recreational area and local areas for celebrations. Climbing the mountains, many of the ancient inhabitants of the area (Nazca Civilization) would see the drawings of artists and planners.

Leaving Nazca, passing through ICA and returning to Lima

Before returning to Lima, the capital of Peru, we wanted to stop by Ica, a city that has as attraction sand dunes and an oasis, formed by a lagoon surrounded by the dunes.
To reach Ica, the best way for was it was to take a common bus or intercity bus. It was not one of those Cruz del Sur Company's buses where you travel with many tourists and travelers, where there is a good security control, since they check passaport and other things.
Anyway, we took the intercity bus in a kind of bus station, in a different location from the other bus stop where we arrived in Nazca. It was at a more central point in the city. To get the bus, we did check out in the hotel, and went walking down the Av. Bolognesi, passing through the square "Triangular" and the Lines of Nazca Hotel where the Planetarium is. Eventually, arriving in the bus station, we bought the ticket on time. On this bus station you can find buses leaving for Ica every moment.
The passengers were all common Peruvians, and only I and my wife were "gringos" or foreigners. There were many simple people in the bus, like workers and farmers. Being a common intercity bus, the driver would stop whenever someone waved. Every time the bus stopped to collect more passengers, someone would enter in the bus to offer and sell popsicles, Chicharron and other types of beverages and local food.
It was a bit hot that day, and the sun would burn anyone's skin. We closed the curtains on the side of our window to not let the sun in but we left a gap to "peek" the scenery outside.
Eventually, almost in the end of the afternoon, we arrived in the city of Ica where we stayed until about 22:00 (10pm), maybe some more time, till we embarked in a direct bus to Lima.
See also my post about our quick adventure and "pit stop" in Ica City and also about our trip to return to Lima City. In Lima City, we where there three times during our Peru Bolivia adventure.

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