October 9, 2010 § Leave a comment
The only way to view the Lines of Nazca is from the air. The best way is by taking a flightseeing tour, there are flights available every hour from sunrise to sunset. To make your reservation you can ask at your hotel, book at a local travel agency or go directly to the Maria Reiche airport to ask directly with the planes for pricing. Prices vary depending on where you purchase the ticket and how many people are on board.
Plan to arrive to the airport approximately 20 minutes before your scheduled flight and remember to bring your passport with you or you will not be able to board. You’ll first need to fill out a form with the airlines that includes details like your name, passport details, age and weight. Once you’ve provided the information, you’ll pay the 20 Soles airport departure tax and head through security to board your plane. On board each passenger is given a set of headphones to hear the captain and a map to help with identifying the puzzling desert figures.
The tour lasts roughly 45 minutes flying over the Nazca Plateau is a desert in the truest sense of the word – rain is almost non-existent here. The hot dry environment worked as an oven baking the earth’s surface over the millennia. The result is a near perfect canvas where any disturbance to the surface’s crust over the centuries could be seen. The Nazca Lines were created by the Nazca Culture sometime between 300 BC and 800 AD. The Nazca people removed the reddish-brown stones that cover the Nazca desert to display the white soil underneath.
These geoglyphs were rediscovered in the 1930’s by American Archaeologist Paul Kosak. It was years before their significance was realized in no small part due to the work of Maria Reiche a German born mathematician and archeologist who dedicated her life to restoration and preservation of the figures. In 1995 the Lines of Nazca were named as a UNESCO world heritage site.
As you might imagine with their recent discovery in an area that had been inhabited for centuries there are other impressions in the desert those of tire tracks, and water flows from years past. Due in part to these other marks the first few figures are among the most difficult to recognize. Partially due to their geometric nature, but as you fly over scanning over the desert floor you’ll suddenly realize that these marks are significantly different from any other and were not done as a fluke accident but instead were purposefully placed in an exact form.
The flight continues over the plateau the astronaut can be seen on the side of a mountain pointing towards the sky. Then the tour reaches its climax as the figures the dog, monkey, parrot, heron, spider and condor can all be seen close together. You’ll pass overhead of the viewing towers where people who prefer not to take the plane ride can climb up an observation tour to see the hands and the tree.
The flight-seeing tours are aboard small Cesna planes. I had been cautioned ahead of time not to eat anything before flying to avoid air sickness. This is sage advice, the planes fly between 2200 and 3200 feet elevation. Along the way the pilot makes a circles above the figures banking from left to right to provide optimum photo and videos for both sides of the plane at each figure.
I traveled in the cool time of the year and the small plane became a sauna in the warm sun. I travelled in the afternoon – which in hindsight was probably not the best time of day for the trip. The other 3 people and I were all drenched by perspiration by the end of the flight.
I would recommend planning your flight for the early morning hours before the sun reaches its peak and wearing light clothing to make the experience as comfortable as possible. Based on my experience and the reaction of my companions I think more people get air sick due to the combination of the circles, banks and heat than any air turbulence.
I recommend the flight to get the best view of all the figures and ponder firsthand about why the ancient culture created them.
October 8, 2010 § Leave a comment
Traveling is fun, but to be honest it can also be a bit stressful. Checking in and out of hotels trying to establish some sort of normal pattern while seeing the sights you’ve dreamt of seeing. When I’m looking for a hotel I always try to find somewhere where I’m comfortable yet have a degree of privacy. I like to have internet access and be close enough to things I want to do that I can easily get around. I’m going to attribute it to luck that I found the Hacienda Nazca Oasis Hotel when traveling in Peru.
This is a new property, open only two months and is located just off the Pan-American Highway between Vista Alegre and Nazca, close to the airport where you go for the tours of the famous Nazca Lines. The Hacienda is run by a mother and daughter, Zolya and Cecila. From the moment you arrive you feel absolutely welcome.
Unlike the other hotels in Nazca this is a peaceful retreat – without the noise of local bars at night and the continual noise of taxis honking looking for passengers. Instead you are out on the edge of the desert, surrounded by farm land – like any good hacienda would be. The property is light and bright with the use of natural colors and textures.
The rooms are extremely large and come with either twin beds or a matrimonial bed – there are also several connecting rooms. Each room has a large private bathroom that includes both a shower and tub. There is a sitting room in the main building as well as a dining room and bar. There are tables and chairs out back, and a warm swimming pool with rock waterfall. Cecilia has rescued several falcons, which live in an aviary at the rear of the property.
The Hacienda Nazca Oasis is a unique mix I didn’t expect to find. The family has roots going back for generations in Nazca, yet they went to live in the United States for years. As a result they understand a level of service that international travelers expect. Zolya provides the warm inviting atmosphere of being a guest in her home as well as providing delicious food while Cecilia complements it with a youthful energy and eye for technology. The result is a place that feels like you are home yet has all the comforts you would want from a hotel – a rare treasure to find.
The family has lived in the area for generations and they know all the history of the area and can arrange whatever you need in just a quick phone call. Cecila was telling me stories of visiting Maria Reiche with her father when she was a little girl and that everyone thought at the time she was a crazy woman sweeping the desert with a broom. At the time the local people did not understand the significance of the Nazca Lines. They have secret spots to share like nearby virgin beaches, places you would only know if you were from the area. I spent a couple of days exploring the area, and felt well rested here and like I had made good friends.
October 7, 2010 § 2 Comments
Nazca is one of those places those out of the ordinary places which are can be found in National Geographic Magazine or documentary videos. Located in southern Peru, the Nazca Plateau is home to the mysterious Nazca Lines that have had people pondering their existence since they were first discovered back in 1930’s. The Nazca Lines are appear in a variety of shapes and figures a whale, dog, monkey, hummingbird and an astronaut are among the many to be seen. What makes the figures so incredible is they can only be seen from the air. Your choices to view them are either by taking a small Cessna over the plateau or by climbing a lookout tower. The fact that from ground level the figures are unrecognizable has only added to the speculation over the years of their creation were they created by ancient Nazca People some 2,000 years ago to signal alien life or were they created as some type of unusual celestial calendar used to determine the time of year.
These lines are one of archeology’s greatest puzzles due to their quantity, nature size and quality. One of the reasons the lines have remained over the centuries is that Nazca Plateau is one of the driest places on earth where rain and wind is almost nonexistent. This point leads you to wonder why these ancient people would choose to live in such a desolate area.
Adding to the mystery of the area, the same people that created the lines had similar afterlife beliefs as the people of Egypt and mummified the dead preserving the people and their belongings for their next life.
Incredible engineers, the Nazca people created the Cantalloc Aqueducts a series of underground canals and wells that brought the water from areas higher up the mountain down to the valley and extended the farmable land. The Nazca people used these wells as a year round irrigation system to grow cotton, corn, beans, potatoes and a variety of fruit.
Arriving in Nazca you learn that it is more than just desert and a place of antiquity – in the cool season when the rest of Peru is cold and rainy it is almost idyllic in Nazca with temperatures in the 70’s and 80’s. Located at the base of several mountains there are two towns side by side Nazca and Vista Alegre the ancient irrigation system help to create an oasis in the desert. Located in the Ica District the area is home to the grapes that create the national beverage of Pisco. The area is surrounded by desert but it has green trees, farms and fresh fruit too. September is a celebration of peanuts, raisins and chocolate all produced locally.