Monday, June 13, 2011

Peru – Chasing Aliens in Nasca

Beam me up, I'm ready.
Have you ever heard of Nasca? No, this is no typo; it has nothing to do with Nascar, although the Nasca lines may be some kind of ancient race track. We are pretty certain that you have seen the Nasca lines before on TV or in a magazine. There is much debate about their origins and purpose. We personally like to go with the interpretation of Erich von Däniken who believes that they are landing strips for alien spacecraft.... Let's go chase some aliens!

Where are those lines?
Unless, you are an extra terrestrial being there isn't much reason to visit Nasca other than looking at the Nasca lines – a UNESCO world heritage site. The town of Nasca is also on the way from Lima to Cusco or Lake Titicaca and hence a popular stopover to break a very long journey. This is also the main reason why we are here.

The Nasca lines are numerous symbols, shapes, and lines whose images can't be seen well from ground level, but once you are up high, they become visible. Tourists have two options to explore them: charter a small plane for an overflight or climb the Mirador (viewing platform) 30km/19 miles outside of town.

Alien flight control tower?
or simply a Mirador?
We looked at the flights but their safety record is not very good. We didn't feel like crashing or getting abducted by Aliens angered by us invading their airspace... so we decided on the Mirador option. Of course, the cost of the flight (equivalent to four days of our travel budget) and the rather uninspiring video footage that we've seen on YouTube, and hearing all the stories of people waiting around all day for their flight NOT to take-off, had no impact on our decision whatsoever. Seriously though: it was the anxiety of a possible alien abduction that kept our feet securely on the ground. By the way, click here to see the best video that we found on YouTube.

See the hands?
To get to the Mirador is easy: Soyuz buses leave Nasca in (direction: Ica) and stop right there, how convenient. From the platform you can see two of the figures easily, the "Hands" and the "Tree" The tail of the "Lizard" is partially visible – but only when you know where to look. Just check where the highway runs through some lines. Yep, the road engineers cut off the lizard's tail... wonder what the aliens think about that?

A tree with many branches and
roots which resembles an octopus
We are surprised that the lines are not washed away by heavy rainfall (even deserts have occasional rain storms). But we are reassured by the Mirador guardian that the lines are 100% natural and not maintained/restored... hmmm, we are not convinced. Now we are sure that the maintenance of the lines must be done at night under cover of darkness, by their alien creators (when the guardian is sleeping)! Just like the infamous crop circles in England.

Nope, this is not one of the Nasca lines
After taking lots of pictures from the Mirador, we walked to the nearby hill in hope to see other views. During the 20min walk along the Pan-Americana highway, we think of our friends Patrizia and Brö who might have cycled along this very road some years back. We have a renewed respect for the two of them, cycling in this environment is no cake walk. We wonder if their Tandem bicycle might have been mistaken for a grounded Alien Spacecraft by the tourists flying overhead :D

See the landing strip?
The view from the hill is not quite as good as from the Mirador, we only see some of the long straight lines, but none of the figures. By the way, the wide black line in our Pics is the Pan Americana, and not really part of the Nasca lines ;-)

Food from heaven: raw and fried
seafood combination.
We returned just in time to Nasca to have a late Ceviche lunch (typically Ceviche is only served until ~4pm, to ensure freshness). We ordered a mixed plate and felt like we were flying in food heaven. The restaurant "El Limon" is not mentioned in any of our guide books and was full of locals – always a good sign.
While we indulged in our seafood platter, a group of locals on the table next to us were playing the guitar and singing a folk song... We have really arrived in real Peru.

We decided that one day was long enough for Nasca. It is a more low key kind of place and we are now ready to hit Peru's busiest destination: Cusco – a tourist Mecca. Read more in our next post about our first overnight bus trip (15 hours). See you soon in Cusco.