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Peru: Nazca lines

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Nazca lines | Peru | Americas

[Visited: October 2007]

When we arrived early on a sunny morning at the airport of Nazca, we hoped to be off soon. Not just because the light was perfect, but also because we wanted to have breakfast. We had postponed it to prevent stomach problems during the flight over the Nazca lines. One hour later, however, we were still walking around to find a plane and a pilot - the operators here turned out to be unreliable, trying to attract customers with all kinds of stories and excuses. Meanwhile, the first planes were leaving with people who had booked a flight the day before. Just as we were about to postpone the flight to the hazier afternoon hours, one agent shouted to us: we could complete his party. Within 10 minutes, we were airborne in a Cessna.

Picture of Nazca lines (Peru): The Hummingbird in the Jumana pampa

The very able pilot then gave us an unforgettable half hour of exploring the Nazca lines from the sky. Flying so low we could easily recognize the figures below us, we saw gigantic figures of animals, a tree, lines, triangles, and an astronaut. Some of the figures are simple, but some are quite elaborate. The pilot made sure to fly his plane almost vertically to give us the best possible view. The early morning light on this clear October morning was perfect to appreciate these enigmatic lines and figures. We were all glued to our windows, looking in awe at the unique view below us: geoglyphs made in this arid desert some 2000 years ago. Later that day, we visited the observation tower and a hill close by, and had a closer look at the two figures seen from here: the Hand and the Tree. Here, it was obvious how the figures are made: by selectively removing the top layer of loose stones, the lighter coloured soil becomes visible.

Picture of Nazca lines (Peru): The Whale is the geoglyph closest to Nazca

The figures were created by the Nazcans between 200BCE and 700CE in an area of 500 square kilometres; the largest figures are almost 300 metres long. They were discovered by passengers of planes in the 1920s who reported seeing "landing strips" in the desert. It has been proven that the figures are not very difficult to make - the real mystery lies in the motivation of the ancient Nazcans, since it is not likely they could see the figures themselves. Several theories, from markers for water sources, enormous astronomical calendars, religious rites, figures for the Eye in the Sky, to the lines being landing strips for alien spacecraft, have been proposed, and we might never know why they are there. Which, of course, greatly adds to the mystery.

Picture of Nazca lines (Peru): Hills and small rivers at the end of the Jumana pampa near Nazca
Picture of Nazca lines (Peru): The Astronaut can be found on a hillside in the Jumana pampa
Picture of Nazca lines (Peru): Nazca line seen from close, looking into the empty desert
Picture of Nazca lines (Peru): Nazca geoglyphs: the Monkey with a spiral tail
Picture of Nazca lines (Peru): Figure of the Dog: one of the many geoglyphs in the Nazca desert
Picture of Nazca lines (Peru): One of the most elaborate figures in the Nazca desert: the Condor
Picture of Nazca lines (Peru): A big Spider in the Jumana pampa
Picture of Nazca lines (Peru): Fault in Nazca desert with Hummingbird in the foreground
Picture of Nazca lines (Peru): Among the straight lines, you can see a Parrot here
Picture of Nazca lines (Peru): The Hand seen from the sky, also visible from the observation tower
Picture of Nazca lines (Peru): Tree, observation tower and the Panamerican Highway some 20K from Nazca
Picture of Nazca lines (Peru): One of the longest figures of the Nazca lines: the Pelican
Picture of Nazca lines (Peru): Whale, lines and dry riverbed: typical scene of the Nazca lines

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