Ocucaje + Nasca, Peru – Presidential donations and the mystery of the Nasca Lines

The president doesn’t appear, but the First Lady who conveniently is the Minister for Women at the same time, and the Production Minister. They show up at 11 a.m. But people are waiting, waiting for the donations to come in big black plastic bags at 12 a.m. The show is over soon.

20 km north of Nasca (or Nazca) where the mysterious lines are situated Maria Reiche erected a lookout tower (S 14°41’37.1’’ W 75°06’49.6’’). For two Nuevo Soles we can climb it and watch two of the figures, the tree and the hands, but we only get a sketchy impression from here.

1500 years ago a pre-Columbian folks that we call Nasca scratched over 800 straight lines, 300 geometrical figures (trapezoids, rectangles, and spirals) and around 70 plant-, animal- and manlike drawings into the sand of a 700 sq km / 270 sq mi desert landscape. Those figures up to 300 m / 330 yards long respectively kilometres long lines are called Geoglyphe. Most of the lines are only 20 cm wide and deep as a thumb, but that was enough to remove the darker surface sand, oxidized by humidity, and expose the lighter ground below. The figures are clearly discernible only from the air. Why the Nasca created ground drawings that they couldn’t see themselves and for which purpose is still unclear.

Despite some of the lines were known earlier German mathematician and geographer Maria Reiche (1903 – 1998) devoted her life to exploration of the mysterious drawings from 1946 on. She found calendrical usable lines, but her theories didn’t provide conclusive evidence. Besides some unconventional assessments like the lines are procession paths or even a space centre at least a partial truth seems to crystallize: The Geoglyphe are connected with worship of water, since some of the lines show the route of underground watercourses. Ironically we guess today that not the merciless aridity of the region (20 minutes rain per year in the average) made the Nasca culture fall, but flooding caused by climatic phenomenon El Niño. Still today water is Nasca’s enemy. The increasingly occurring rainfalls that go along with climatic change threaten to cover up the lines.

South of Nasca town on the opposite of the Maria Reiche Airport from where the circular flights start Hotel Maison Suisse offers camping in the courtyard. The tidy sum of 20 PEN per person becomes clear since this is the only option (Nido del Condor is closed). There are showers, bathrooms, water, Wi-Fil, and electricity if parking on one of two lots further down in the garden where it is quieter. We think the additional 20 PEN pp for swimming pool use are impudent, but manager and staff are very friendly and helpful (S 14°51’02.3’’ W 74°57’30.7’’). The free camping night with a flight booking isn’t available any more. Most inexpensive flight booking is directly at the airport (same price for all airlines): 30-minutes flight above 12 Nasca figures 95 US$; same tour in a private airplane (2 pilots / 2 passengers) 100 US$; 35-minute-flight with the same plane above 14 figures plus the aqueducts of Cantallo 110 $.

We decide for the latter with Aero Moche. All airplanes for four to six passengers dip their wings right and left to make every passenger see the figures, but the smaller planes can fly lower and are better for taking photos. The flight should be early in the morning because the lines are seen best with low sun. We book the first flight at 7 a.m. There is an additional fee of 25 PEN airport tax (cash only). The airlines take 10 % surcharge if paid with credit card.

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