desert dreaming in peru

friends knitting in peruNazca, a small desert town situated approximately 175km (109 miles) south-east of Lima is most famous for its mysterious drawings; the Nazca Lines. On the plain between the Inca and Nazca valleys, is an assortment of perfectly straight lines, many running parallel, others intersecting. In and around the lines there are also trapezoidal zones, strange symbols, and pictures of birds and beasts all etched on an enormous scale. Many theories abound as to the origin and purpose of the Nazca Lines, so Intrepid’s Chotie Moloney was intrigued to find out more on site…

“In the 1920’s a Peruvian doctor and anthropologist Toribio Xespe was the first scientist to show an interest in the “great Incan ceremonial artifacts”. Maria Reiche, a German mathematician and archaeologist arrived in the 1940’s and spent the next 50 years on the Nazca plain, researching the lines and determined they depicted an Astronomical Calendar indicating the direction of the rising of important stars and planetary events like sun solstices. She believed the Nazca Indians constructed the elaborate formations between 300BC-AD800.

Erich von Daniken the Swiss writer even suggested they had been built as a map for extraterrestrials who would use the formations to guide them in landing their spaceships. Although this seems as plausible as any theory to some, the desert floor is soft earth and loose stone and would not support the landing wheels of either an aircraft or a flying saucer! My local guide believed that the ancient ones called the town “Nanazca”, a place of grief and despair, and that these ancestors were punished and exiled to the desert for the remainder of their lives. Here, they constructed images from their former life in the jungle; the spider, the monkey, the hummingbird.

Whatever theory you subscribe to, the 30 minute flight over the Nazca Lines is the only way to appreciate the complexity and scale of these amazing formations. Our pilot was only too willing to point to the outlines of the hummingbird, monkey, condor, spider, dog and the comic-like hero known as the Astronaut. A word of advice though; do not eat breakfast beforehand and sit up front in the aircraft. The flight is very turbulent and the pilot performs acrobatic like manoevers to ensure all passengers get a birds-eye view. It is well worth it though!”

Tour Peru with Intrepid on trips like these great small group adventures:
Peru Highlights – 21 days
Homeland of the Incas – 21 days

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* photo by Raelene Laver – Intrepid Photography Competition

About the author

Sue Elliot - Like many of us, Sue contracted a serious travel bug at an early age. She's visited over 90 countries in search of a cure, but her wanderlust just seems to get worse. Thankfully at Intrepid Travel she's amongst people who understand the affliction and since 1998 Sue has enjoyed being our blog and newsletter editor. Here you'll find helpful travel advice and inspiring tales from Sue and other Intrepid travellers.

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