We're still in Nazca after a couple of busy days. On the 5th we arranged to visit the famous Nazca Lines. We worked out with the help of the lady from the Nazca Lodge (our hostel) that the best way to do this is to get a taxi. The alternative is to take a flight over the lines but with 4 plane crashes last year and many dead tourists we decided against that option. For 70 Soles (about £16) we could get the taxi driver to take us both to the Maria Reich Museum, the Mirador Tower and a place were we could walk and view some more lines.
All taxis in Nazca seem to be little Daewoo Matiz and everyone else drives Hilux's. It was really hot in the taxi and with no aircon the driver also had all his windows open. We were a bit windswept! The driver was stopped twice by the police to check his paperwork but they didn't notice his illegal blacked out windows because they were wound down.
The museum was a tribute to Maria Reich who devoted her life's work to measuring and mapping the Nazca Lines and Pictures. It was interesting looking at all the old tapes and maps and the basic little room she had lived in. There was also her old split screen VW Transporter there, well what was left of it, was propped up underneath with logs to keep it upright. Some of the signs were quite funny with their poor translation! There was also an old mummy on display found in an old tomb in the desert.
The taxi driver waited for us outside and then took us to the Mirador Tower to see the lines. From up there you can see the tree, the hands and part of the lizard. The rest of the lizard is missing as the Panamerican Highway runs right through it!
The tower didn't look that stable and I don't think my Mum would have gone up it! Even though it said Max 10 People I'm sure there were more up there. There were some people who had caught the bus to the tower rather than get a taxi and they had to wait for the next bus heading back to Nazca. They looked a bit hot in the heat!
The tower wasn't very tall (about 13 metres) but we got a good view and some good pics.
Once we had finished there we headed for a small hill/outcrop of rocks which we could climb and get a good view of some different lines. The outcrop was actually higher than the tower but wasn't near any animals or interesting shapes!
Once we got back to town we looked around for a good company to book a sandboarding afternoon with. The desert around Nazca contains the worlds highest sand dune!
We found what looked like a good shop and tried to negotiate a price. We understood that the man was offering us 4 activities because he mentioned the aqueduct, cemetery, pyramid and sandboarding but trying to work out any more was difficult because he spoke very little English and we don't speak Spanish! After a bit of haggling, confusion and him sending someone down the road to grab someone who could translate we managed to get a good deal.
For dinner we couldn't decide on a restaurant and wanted to keep the cost down so after a bit of wandering we bought some drinks and went to one of the popular street sellers who was offering roast chicken and chips. We ordered and the lady invited us to eat inside because it was cold outside. It was probably the best meal we've had!
Yesterday we went for an Americano breakfast which Sarah really enjoyed because she finished before me! We worked out the Spanish for milk and took our own teabags because they only drink herbal tea here.
As our desert trip wasn't until 2pm we went to the main square to sit and watch the world go by in the sun. There always seems to be a Market on and loads of people wandering around selling balloons, toys and jelly to the kids.
When we arrived at the shop for our desert trip the driver was nowhere to be seen. We tried to talk to the lady there but she didn't speak any English and with our limited (but improving) Spanish we didn't get anywhere. She phoned a friend who told me in pigeon English to wait where we were. It seemed a bit strange and we both thought there was something going on!
We waited for nearly half an hour in the end (we had arrived 15 mins early as instructed) Cesar eventually turned up! I think that's Peruvian timekeeping!
He sat us on an old Datsun 4x4 type thing that had a roll cage and no shell and messed around with our seatbelts for a while and then we finally got going. Or so we thought.
We went to pick up 2 other passengers, first at the wrong hostel, but then we eventually found them. Two girls from Germany who spoke fluent English and enough Spanish to get by. Off we headed to the garage to get fuel and then a further 2 stops to let the tyre pressures down, they never seem to rush!
On the edge of Nazca we turned onto a gravel track and off we went! We tried to video the crazy driving but it was a bit shaky!
First stop was at an ancient aqueduct which taps into natural underground rivers. These were built 1500 years ago to bring fresh water from the mountains into the local settlements. Cesar tried to explain more but we had to get the 2 German girls to translate. When we got back we read up on everything we had seen to get a better understanding.
Off to the sacrificial pyramids next. There are 5 of them and the biggest one is being reconstructed although there was no sign of any work going on and no one there but us. The other 4 remain as they were found. They were built at a similar time to the Mayan Temples in Guatemala but were abandoned 500 years later following a natural disaster.
They were impressive, how was all this stuff built in the middle of the desert with no machinery? Some of them still contain original tombs that have never been opened and are believed to hold the secrets to the construction and meaning of the Nazca Lines.
Next stop was the raided graveyard. In between all these sights Cesar's driving was still mad, we were in the middle of the desert and apart from a few local huts and donkeys there was no one around.
The graveyard is just a few mounds of sand with bones and mummified body parts including skulls with hair and skin. The bodies hadn't decomposed due to the dry and arid conditions and also date back to the Nazca people of nearly 2000 years ago.
The bodies are all exposed now as the locals have raided the tombs and taken the cloth and pottery to sell. There are several of these cemeteries in the area and the largest has been reconstructed and turned into a museum. Where we were you could walk among the bodies and it was weird seeing Cesar poke them and turn them over with a stick!
Finally we headed towards the sand dunes to go sandboarding and Cesar stopped again to let yet more air out of the tyres, not much left in there now!
After some driving over the dunes which was cool as we leapt off some (I didn't realise they were so steep), a few screams from Sarah, we then got down to business on the boards. First lying down, then sitting and finally standing. We had to wax them with an old candle to make them go faster and it was really cool until I fell over! I didn't think sand could hurt! What cracking fun though and I would love to do it again.
We put our jumpers on for the race back to town and it was getting cold quickly as the sun went down.
We made one final stop about 20 mins later to take pics of the sunset which was brilliant and really bright, then back to the hostel.
Tired now and sand everywhere!! Off to bed then a day of lazing before we catch the night bus to Arequipa.