Travelling from south to north Peru you realise what a big country it is and how many incredible sites there are to visit and explore. After the pinnacle of Machu Pichu it was hard to imagine anything could be quite as cool but then we pulled in to the town of Nazca, about 450 km South of Lima (the Capital) to see the ancient Nazca lines and a very barren landscape.
We've been really lucky to arrive at some major tourist attractions in the off-peak season completely unintentionally. The advantage is of coarse hotels and tour guides need your business and pay more attention to your needs. We found a lovely hotel for a very reasonable price that was very accommodating of our motorbikes, allowing us to park them in the main lobby on what looked like a brand new white tiled floor. They motorbikes were a terrible obstacle to the other guests accessing the hotel through reception and we offered to move them but the staff insisted we leave them for security.
Nazca is located in a region of Peru that is quite flat and very sandy with sand hills, much like the north of Chile and reminded us a little of San Pedro de Atacarma just a lot nicer and a lot cheaper. It was late by the time we got ourselves organised and went for a walk in to town for dinner but we found a handy tourist shop and arranged all the bookings for the next day, a day full of activities.
First up was the Nazca flight. We met our guide and mini bus in town and drove to the airport, about 5 km out of town. At the airport we weighed so the pilot can position passengers with an even weight distribution throughout the small aircraft which holds 5 passengers and 2 aircrew. Then there was a bit of waiting around but the little convenience shop services coffee and snacks which you can consume while watching the promotional/education video that plays in the waiting room. Be aware though if you are prone to motion sickness and select sensible food and beverages!
Negrita came with us in the mini bus to the airport, we were hoping to sneak her on to the flight but the staff wouldn't approve her so she stayed at the cafe while we took our 20 minute flight. The little plane ascends very quickly and it can be a bumpy ride depending on the weather. We had beautiful blue skies to view the fascinating Nazca lines which were possibly built around 2000 years ago using primitive surveying equipment. The reason they were built is still unknown although you will hear different stories while in town. In any case, they are just incredible when you see the scale of them and consider how old they are. We managed to capture photos of the Pelican, the Hummingbird, the Monkey the Hummingbird and the Alien. The pilot made it really easy to locate the ancient geoglphys by circling above the ground with the tip of the wing pointing at the landmark.
The mini bus took the three of us back to town, we quickly grabbed some lunch and returned Negrita to the hotel to meet our next tour guide for our dune buggy and sand boarding afternoon. The dune buggy was fun, so much so we considered swapping our GS's for one. No not really but man could it handle itself tearing up and down the sand dunes, some near vertical. The sand boarding was hard work. After each run we had to walk back up the dune to take another turn, we only had the stamina for five runs before sunset approached and it was time to return to Nazca to eat and sleep.
There was a pleasant surprise on our ride out to the dunes as our driver stopped at two historical sites. The first was an ancient aqueduct called Ocongalla. Not much is known about the aqueducts that are still used to day but they were ingenious and imperative to the survival of the people. The aqueducts are constructed from small stones, much like the Nazca lines, and the channel flows 7 m below the ground level. We were able to walk down the stepped rock-walls to the entrance of one of the ducts.
The second historical site was the Cahuachi ruins which are these stepped pyramids that appear to be made from the surrounding sand. Our tour guide didn't know much about the ruins but gave us plenty of time to walk around and take photos. Our tour guide was excellent and we we were the only tourists booked for the afternoon so we had his undivided attention and he very kindly offered to take photos of us throughout the afternoon including the sunset photo below which we love and will definitely be getting printed and framed when we go home so we can remember our adventures in Nazca.
From Nazca we headed to the coast; time to move away from the mountains and start covering some ground quickly. Heading north west out of the town of Nazca you pass a viewing tower. There is plenty of parking and you pay peanuts to climb the tower and take some photos of the Nazca lines adjacent to the road. If you didn't want to pay for the flight then don't worry because you can still see the historical lines. We took Negrita up the tower, agreed that the aeroplane ride was awesome and continued on our way. Janell really wanted to stop in the town of Pisco, famous for the delicious Pisco wine used in the cocktail Pisco Sour. We first tried the beverage in Concepcion, Chile, and fell in love with it. Slightly disappointed as we rode past the turn off, Janell settled for drinking Pisco Sours every day until we left the country.
We weren't sure what to expect of Lima, the capital of Peru. We stayed only one night then took the National 1 coastal route to Ecuador. It was extraordinary scenery with rolling sand dunes for 1100 km to our right and sometimes glimpses of the Pacific Ocean to our left. We split the ride up over 3 days and there was a sense of monotony about the ride by the third day with very very few towns and and only signs of vegetation as we approached Ecuador. We passed several brave soles riding the long, hot, straight route north on bicycles; geez those guys have some mental strength to tackle that ride and enjoy it. The parallel mountain route to the east of Peru is definitely the nicer route to take however would have slowed us down a lot. Next time.
Peru. Great People. Great Food. Great Attractions.