Savannah Grace

Nazca, Ica and Paracas, Peru

We left Cusco on a night bus to Nazca. 15 hours of the windiest road I think I’ve ever been on. As our bad luck would have it we were sitting in the very front, maximizing the swing through each turn which seemed to occur at 10 second intervals through the entire night. Even drugged on Gravol sleep was hard to come by.

Stumbling off the bus and somewhat able to walk straight, we were immediately accosted by touts at the little bus station in Nazca. It actually turned out to be the most aggressive hassle town in all of Peru. Fortunately for us we were not going to be in Nazca long enough to need any services other than breakfast which we found across the street. The Nazca lines are something that most people have heard of. They are one of the favourites of alien conspiracy lovers the world over. The lines date as far back as 2000 years with hundreds of lines over a desert area stretching 80 km. Some of the more famous lines are in the shape of animals, trees and even a person. These figures are best seen from above and their purpose is still widely speculated upon, even in academic circles. Most visitors to see the lines take short flights in small planes zooming sideways at low altitude for the best views.
None of us were particularly interested in that but fortunately there is another, simpler (though not as thorough) alternative. Viewing platforms. It is possible to take a bus or taxi to a pair of viewing platforms between the towns of Nazca and Palpa where you can climb up and get a quick view of some nearby lines. To be honest the Nazca platform was not all that impressive with views of “hands” and a tree. I’m still not completely convinced that it isn’t just some 100 year old high school prank and until someone can tell me what they were for, I’ll mostly be put off rather than intrigued by the lines. The Palpa platform a little further away was more interesting. Unlike the Nazca lines which are newer, the Palpa people built their geoglyphs on slopes and often showed more human figures thus making them easier to see and relate to. After these quick cursory stops to say “been there, done that” we jumped on a bus another 2 hours to Ica.
The Nazca tree

 

The hands formation

 

The Palpa lines are more interesting. This is the royal family (great hair).

 

Waiting for the next bus.
Ica is a smallish desert city very much on the tourist circuit for the nearby Huacachina Oasis. This picture perfect oasis lies in the middle of some very impressive sand dunes only a couple of km from the centre of Ica. It feels like the middle of nowhere but is somehow just a suburb of a city, like if you take a shot of the Giza pyramids from the right angle you can pretend you are somewhere far away. Travel bloggers and tour agencies love to wax poetic about the oasis in their ads but the reality is that the water in the oasis smells terrible and the crazy locals that went in the water are probably still in the hospital.  There is nothing there but a few very touristy restaurants, hotels and agencies and we were glad we stayed in Ica instead. This doesn’t mean we didn’t enjoy ourselves. Huacachina is the easiest and cheapest place I know of where you can try riding around in a dune buggy and go sandboarding. None of us had tried these things before so we paid a few dollars and joined the masses and carnival atmosphere. The dune buggies weren’t small ones but sat 10 and it was fun to listen to other people scream as we went over bumps and down steep sections at high speed. For a few extra dollars you could upgrade to sandboards that were just snowboards with boots but most people are content to just use the simple boards given and ride face first on your bellies. Fun but I prefer the snow. Much easier to clean off after a wipeout…
Huacachina Oasis

 

 

Dune buggy time!

 

 

Another hour north up the road and we hit the coast at Paracas. Paracas is a small town great for accessing the nearby Paracas National Reserve. The reserve is often referred to as the poor man’s Galapagos for its rich and easily accessible wildlife which includes a colony of Humboldt penguins and sea lions on the nearby Ballestas Islands alongside huge colonies of sea birds. Unfortunately, Sasha was too sick to join the tour at Paracas but Bre, Dylan and I joined a 2 hour speed boat tour to the islands and back. The penguin colony was small but the number of sea lions and other birds was impressive. Later the same day we did another short land-based tour to the beaches in the reserve. It was nice enough but more of a filler. The highlight is definitely the boat trip.
Sunset at Paracas

 

Tons of pelicans

 

 

Playa Roja

 

Playa La Mina
Ammon

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