The Nasca Lines, Part II
Alibi’s Ilene Style reports from her volunteer mission in South America
"The mysterious drawings known as the Nasca Lines have puzzled archaeologists, anthropologists, and anyone fascinated by ancient cultures in the Americas. For just as long, waves of scientists—and amateurs—have inflicted various interpretations on the lines, as if they were the world's largest set of Rorschach inkblots. At one time or another, they have been explained as Inca roads, irrigation plans, images to be appreciated from primitive hot air balloons, and, most laughably, landing strips for alien spacecraft." —National Geographic, March 2010
I was warned NOT to eat breakfast before the Nasca flight, as the dipping and swirling of the small 4-6 seater plane can make one's stomach react violently. One of my fellow voluntarias, here from Ireland, told me that when she went on the flight during a previous trip to Peru, not only did she get sick during the plane ride, but another person on her plane got sick too. Ugh. Perhaps I should have checked this out more carefully before making my reservations. When I checked into my hotel in Nasca and asked what time breakfast was served, the hotel clerk gently reminded me that it would be best not to eat before the flight. Everyone was so serious about the empty stomach thing that I decided to not eat dinner the night before either.
There were 3 other passengers on my flight, plus a pilot and co-pilot. The co-pilot thing is relatively new, due to the fact that there have been seven airplane accidents over the Nasca Lines in the past two years, resulting in 12 deaths. As of March 15, 2010, all planes must have a co-pilot, and no aircraft in service can be over 30 years old. Although I already knew about this new regulation when I booked my flight, I was still relieved to see that both Jose AND Alejandro would be our pilots.
The flight itself is about 30 minutes long—enough time to see quite a lot. I was able to see figures of a whale, monkey, dog, condor, hummingbird, spider, parrot, heron, a tree, and something called the “astronaut," a funny-looking figure that does somewhat resemble an astronaut. I also saw geometric shapes of a rectangle, trapezoid and spiral. And lots and lots of lines. It was fascinating. I couldn't get over the fact that these etchings have been here for almost 2,000 years and have not eroded away. And since it never rains on the southern coast of Peru, which is considered one of the driest places on Earth, they can't wash away.
The plane ride can be difficult on one's stomach because, besides the fact that the aircraft is a very small propeller plane, the pilot has to dip and tilt the plane at some precarious angles in order for the passengers to get a good view of the Lines. I did not get sick. But the girl sitting next to me did not fare as well. She had a great attitude though, and after we landed she said, "It's all just part of the experience." Indeed! Everything in Peru is an experience.