´Normally people arrive into Nasca, stay one night and then fly the Nasca lines and leave´, said Luis, taxi driver, tour operator and hostel owner mogul. It seemed like a quick turnaround of tourists. What I hoped to do was even speedier: take the very next flight and then jump onto a night bus to Cusco.
Within an hour of arriving into Nasca (or Nazca), I had talked down the original quote of S/.350 (£83.10) to S/.260 (£61.76) and belted myself into the back of an eight seater airplane. Last flight of the day.
Following a designated route, we first spot la Ballena (the Whale), a cute looking line drawing in the ground, cute despite its length of 65m.
What struck me was how small the shapes looked and how difficult it was to spot some of them (I completely missed el Perro – the Dog). Said to have been created between 500 BC and AD 500, the largest of these geoglyphs (on this route) is the 300m Alcatraz.The smallest, la Astronauta (the Astronaut), is 35m in length, cartoonlike outlines etched onto a rock face.
La Astronauta was number three on our itinerary, followed by the one I had been waiting for: el Mono (the Monkey), a little shy of 100m in length and unavoidably a primate in its construction. Stories of how the these shapes were designed and scaled without the overview of distance and height abound, enigma surrounding their creation. Some say that the monkey´s tail, for example, was created by a central pivot point to which was attached a line of string that was gradually lengthened as they – the creators, whoever they were – circled outwards. It makes sense, but nonetheless it´s incredible how the people of the time managed to create such recognisable visuals; considered works of art solely for the eyes of the gods (the alternative hypothesis being that the Nasca lines are the work of extra-terrestrial beings).
Within 45 minutes the flight is over and I´m in a taxi heading to the bus terminal. I´ve never whizzed through anywhere so quickly. It feels strange. The experience feels rushed and I feel as though I´m ticking off something on a list drawn up by somebody else. Lesson learned.
There are many tour operators in the town who can organise flights over the Nasca lines but it is perfectly possible to arrange a flight yourself directly at the airport where it will be considerably cheaper (a bit of haggling is acceptable). Flights are often quoted in US$. There is an additional fee at the airport of S/.25 (£5.93) for airport tax. There are two available routes: the Nasca Lines or the Nasca Lines together with the older Palpa Lines.