After a day and a half in Lima, I was pretty much over it. Since I didn’t have anyone else to hang out with for the rest of my days there, I decided on a whim to make a short trip to Nazca to see the infamous Nazca lines. If I had time, I also wanted to hit up Ica/Huacachina to go sandboarding, but I wasn’t going to push it. Didn’t want to miss my expensive flight back to San Francisco in four days!
I took a Cruz del Sur bus (the most reliable bus in Peru, so I’ve heard) past a few tourist cities (like Ica) and finally ended up in Nazca at about 9 pm at night. The trip down there however was kinda nuts. It looked like Mad Max land out there! Nothing but desert and brush with some homes (and sometimes in villages) out on the plain by themselves. Very end-of-the-world-ish-looking.
When I got in, the Nazca Inn hotel owner was waiting near the bus station to bring guests to his hostel. He was really welcoming and friendly – a local Nazcan who went to school in England for a little bit to learn business, who then returned to his hometown to run his family’s hostel. We spoke back and forth in Spanish and English, which made communication easy and fun. He took me on a short tour around the main strip and dropped me off at the hostel. Which, by the way, is AWESOME!
Later that night me and the hostel owner got drinks on the main drag…however, after getting completely drunk after one drink, I had to go out to get a burger so that I wouldn’t be completely embarrassing. I ate in his car while we drove around town and met his friends…
Yeah, I can be a bit of a sloppy drunk. So sue me.
The next day in the morning, I did the traditional “Nazca Lines” trip (morning is the time to do it, when winds are low). Thanks to a few friends back on the states that warned me in advance, I made sure to eat light so that I wouldn’t vomit on the plane (unfortunately I forgot the Dramamine, so I had to buy coca candy for the ride). My friend Christina said that she took only one photo the entire trip because she spent the rest of the time hurling!
I shared my tiny plane ride with a family from Sweden – I think. They were really nice, but I felt so bad – the girl next to me barfed THE ENTIRE TIME. For like half an hour!! I gave her my plastic bag as she proceeded to barf up her chunky liquid breakfast into two clear plastic bags (why don’t they make the bags black in color, or at least opaque? SHIT). All I could think was, “If any of my friends were here on this plane they would start throwing up” – like something straight outta “Stand By Me”. Even when I say the word “barf” my friends get nauseous.
The lines were pretty cool, albeit a bit hard to see. You gotta search for them amongst many of the other lines and markings on the ground (there’s hundreds of regular lines out there, along with some that look like animals and people). I got pretty sick myself too, but I hung in there. Sometimes to get a closer look, the plane woud dive down to one side so that we could see better. That was also a bit barf-feeling-inducing…
After the tour, I went back to the hostel to check up on the next tour that I wanted to take, which would give me a chance to check out the infamous sand dunes in the area and do a little bit of sandboarding. Part cultural history, part adventure.
Turns out I underestimated the adventure part of the tour. I guess that’s what Lonely Planet meant by “roller coaster rides”. We all sat in a giant open-air dune buggy that went off-roading in the desert!! We screamed the whole time. It was pretty fun.
I love Nazca because all the folks I met were local, knowledgeable, and are fiercely proud of their culture. Our guide on this trip was no different. He spoke in Spanish the entire time (to a mostly South American/native-speaker crowd)about the history of Nazca, using a lot of stories from his childhood growing up in the city as a reference point. Here’s a picture of the “puquios” (my guide was all like, “Some people know them as “aquaducts”, but that’s just the stuff that we tell the tourists. They’re puquios”) – watering holes created thousands of years ago by the people who lived here when Nazcan climates became dryer. My guide and his friends used to play in them growing up. While the water level picture here is pretty low, it used to be much higher (thousands of years ago).
Afterwards, we went on another exciting off-road desert journey to check out an adobe temple in the middle of the desert. They started carefully unearthing it in 1980. Apparently it’s huge but most of it’s underground – like an “adobe Machu Picchu” there! It used to have a thatched roof on top.
By the way, it’s CRAZY windy out there in the desert! While it’s not cold at all (it’s pretty hot and humid during the day), the flying sand does become a little abrasive. Bring a long sleeve or a sweatshirt.
So I heard that we would be going to an ancient graveyard, but I didn’t know it would look like THIS:
Pretty crazy huh. I guess the ancient Nazcans buried their dead here, but over time the elements have exposed their remains on the desert floor. No foul play necessarily involved. But it was pretty shocking to see half-buried bones and remains scattered around an area of dunes for a few hundred yards!
We finished the day by doing a little off-roading on the dunes, and taking a few crazy (but very safe) rides down some dunes – on our butts/stomachs (make sure to close your mouth and wear sunglasses!). So much fun.
After a few runs, we all got back in and took the long journey back to our hostel. While most of the trip is spent in the buggy, it was pretty entertaining. Plus the landscapes out there are pretty amazing. All in all, a very worthwhile trip. I highly recommend it.
That night when I got back to the hostel, I spent most of the night hanging out with the other guests in the house during the Nazca Inn’s “happy hour”. Long story short, I got wasted, hung out with some local guys, and ended up eating Peruvian pudding in a car in the middle of a street near downtown Nazca. The night was pretty hysterical. There were times when I thought to myself, “this might not be that safe…” but ya know. Life is a bit of a gamble anyways, isn’t it. The people out there are hella nice and a lot of fun, and Nazca’s such a chill city that even hanging out in the middle of the road ain’t a thang. I think I went to bed around 5 am. Pretty late for a 34 year-old-lady like me!
The next day (with just 3 or so hours of sleep) I awoke to a beautiful sunny day at the Nazca Inn – still a bit intoxicated from the night before. Had to sober up and eat breakfast quickly so that I could catch my bus out of there, and back to Lima!