Peru Part 1: Nazca Lines & Acueductos de Cantalloc
Apryle and I arrived in Peru after a series of flights taking us from Cleveland to Fort Lauderdale to Lima. Peru’s capital city was dark and hazy when we touched down. After customs we were herded out into the gauntlet of cab drivers, one of which transported to the bus station. We caught a bus that traveled through the night to the town of Ica and from here we caught a local bus to Nazca.
This bus stopped on several occasions, stretching out the travel time, but also allowing us a chance to observe the villages of the northern reaches of the Atacama Desert. As soon as we arrived in the town of Nazca we were swept up by a man wanting to sell us a flight over the famous lines north of town. Ultimately we accepted the offer and purchased our tickets with Air Majoro.
We were given access to a hostel near Plaza de Armas where we could store our things and rest for a while before a shuttle would take us to Aerodromo Maria Reiche. From the small airport we would board a small six-seat plane that would fly us about 2500ft above the lines. The shuttle bus was about an hour behind and the plane was running few hours behind as well, but we were not concerned about the time, just excited to see one of archaeology’s greatest enigmas. We were told not to eat for a few hours prior to the flight, and that was sound advice.
Although we had a tremendous pilot and informative guide; the banked turns and quick sweeping maneuvers caused me to dry-heave several times. I still managed to catch a glimpse of each figure on the tour and am grateful that we had the opportunity to see the impressive work of the Nazca civilization.
The Nazca Lines are geoglyphs that were created between 500 B.C. and A.D. 500. They encompass an area of over 450 square kilometers and were believed to have had astronomical significance. The lines that we were able to see on our fly-over consisted of the: Whale, Trapezoids, Astronaut, Monkey, Dog, Humming Bird, Spider, Condor, Alcatraz, Parrot, Hands, and Tree. Apryle’s favorite figure was the whale, while I was most impressed with the Humming Bird. The final leg of the flight was an aerial view of the Acueductos de Cantalloc, which was an impressive network of aqueducts not far from the lines.
After the undulating flight over the Nazca Lines, I took a quick nap in order to sleep off the nausea and dizziness. Our next move was exploring the town and surrounding area. We ran from our hostel through the city streets and across the slowly trickling Rio Tierras Blancas onto Paredones road, which led us to the ruins of the same name. Unfortunately we did not have the 10.10 soles to enter, so we ran back to the hostel, got the money and returned. The interpretive ranger at the visitors center was quite knowledgeable and seemed passionate about his job and recommended that we check out some other ruins nearby as well.
If my sources are correct, Paredones is actually an Incan built structure that post-dates the Nazca culture by over 1000 years. The structure was built as an administrative edifice for the area and it garnered its name because of the meticulously fitted walls. A trail led us around the ruins and offered us a chance to marvel at the stonework and starkness of the surrounding landscape.
After we thoroughly examined Pardedones we ran along Carretera Interoceanica until we reached a sign for Geoglifo El Telar. This sight was more akin to the Nazca Lines and featured a short climb up a ridge that afforded views of the geoglyphs below. After a short stop here (an anticlimactic sight after flying 2500ft above the Nazca Lines) we made our way northward toward the Acueductos de Cantalloc. This was the spectacular network that we observed from above a few hours earlier.
The aqueducts were impressive, created by the Nazca over 1500 years ago, and they still remain functional today. The stonework is unmatched; with no use of mortar these wells have stood the test of time. Apryle and I wandered down into the depths of some of them and were enamored with their precision and intricacy. As an avid stonewall builder, I was thoroughly impressed and enjoyed this destination the most of our Nazca adventure.
Stringing all of these places together was a challenge at times, though they were all pretty close, we were always concerned about the stray dogs and reckless drivers. Running through the town was interesting, many of the buildings were crumbling or unfinished, dogs roaming the streets outnumbered the people and appeared to loosely belong to certain families.
Many of the roads were dirt and lined with trash and feces, and it is no wonder that the water is undrinkable after observing the conditions of the river. There were sections where cars were driving through, people were washing their clothes and dogs were splashing about. Additionally trash was continuously lining the banks threatening the water quality.
Many of the destinations were on small roads with inconspicuous signage and required vigilant navigation. Geoglifo El Telar was only a few kilometers from Paredones, but required navigation through a densely populated neighborhood. Then from Telar, the Aqueducts were not far but after being chased by a vicious dog we were forced to cut through a small dirt path through a field of Prickly Pear Cacti.
We finally made our way toward the entrance, but it was directly across from a long driveway guarded by several dogs that came out to inspect us. I guess we were able to pass through, but on our way back from the Aqueducts we were chased by another pack of dogs. In this case a few Peruvian men were laughing and prompted us to think the dogs were not that dangerous.
After a dry, hot, dusty day navigating around Nazca, we made our way back to our hostel and relaxed for a few minutes before heading back out to explore the town markets. We also made the decision to purchase our bus tickets to Cusco, which would allow us to reach our next destination and have a place to sleep since it was an overnight ride.
Prior to leaving town, we had dinner at Restaurante Los Angeles and were fortunate enough to be a part of a three-person concert. The owner’s son was an avid Rolling Stone, REM, Guns N Roses, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Pink Floyd fan, so he played guitar while Apryle and I sang the lyrics. After a 10-12 song set list, we reluctantly left for our winding and precarious bus ride to Cusco, ending our one-day Nazca adventure.
3.46 miles Plaza de Armas to Paredones, back to Plaza de Armas and back to Paredones
.40 miles around the Paredones Ruins
1.28 miles from Paredones to Geoglifo El Telar Entrance
2.20 miles from Geoglifo El Telar to Acueductos de Cantalloc
2.28 miles from Acueductos de Cantalloc to Plaza de Armas
10.14 miles and three points of interest without spending a sole on transportation.