Welcome to Nazca!
We’ve left Lima behind (for now, read the first post on Lima here) and headed south to one of the driest and most interesting regions of Peru. Don’t know why I’ve led with driest, but it is pretty damn dry.
The area is famous for, you guessed it, the Nazca Lines. Though the area boasts a ton of valleys, the Ica Desert (which will be covered in the next post) and is home to around 40,000 people.
In today’s post, we’re gonna cover the Nazca Lines, and more specifically, the flight over them. I only fully committed to doing this the day before taking flight whilst en route to Nazca. For full context I was watching Pitch Perfect 3 in Spanish with English subtitles on a bus. I hesitated doing the flight as I’d read a hell of a lot of Nazca Lines horror stories online. Before regulations were tightened, it was known for being a rather dangerous excursion with a fair few crashes. News hit the UK when four Brits died in a crash in 2010, in the same year a plane went missing, the pilots were found alive, but the plane and passengers haven’t been seen since. In 2008, a survey of Nazca’s Maria Reiche aerodrome showed that 90% of the planes were over 35 years old.
This is a quote which shows the state of flying above the lines 2010:
“If you take a flight over Nazca, you are putting your life on the line,” he says. “Safety standards have not kept up with demand. Flight companies use planes that are almost as old as the Lines themselves and have a history of cutting corners on maintenance and preparation. The Peruvian Government is inconsistent at best when it comes to enforcing controls.”
After 13 deaths in 2010, the Peruvian Government finally did something about this, and in the end only 7 of the 48 planes used to fly over the lines were deemed fit to continue. Regulations are in place, and it’s much harder to offer this service now, making it a rather safe excursion. However, 3 people died in 2015 due to a crash, and pilots are known to often take risks, like cutting the engine mid-flight, the latter of which my pilot may have done to let us experience free fall. INTENSE.
I’ll get into that later, and whilst I felt completely safe, these are things you need to know before flying over the lines. You are taking a risk, as it’s an intense flight and quite a wild experience in an only recently regulated field. Whilst I do recommend doing it, as I felt completely safe and consider it one of my best life experiences, it is something to truly think about before doing. There is a certain risk involved, 10 years ago you were waging your life, now not so much, but still, think about it.
The views are pretty wild. 4 of us were crammed into a very small passenger plane with 2 extremely friendly pilots who ran us through all the safety aspects, and gave us sick bags. Because there’s a good chance you’re going to vomit. A real good chance. The plane rolls from side to side near non-stop for the hour or so long journey, so that people on both sides of the plane can see the lines well. It is pretty nauseating, but I will say as someone who has suffered with travel sickness my whole life (London buses set me off, and one of my worst ‘sick feelings’ was in a cab going up and down hills in San Francisco), this wasn’t all that bad for me! Being able to see out of the window and being so distracted by the lines really helped.
I advise you eat little, drink some water, wear comfy, breathable clothes and take you travel sickness medication with good time. Just prepare, focus on the lines and taking your photographs, and make sure you have a sick bag insight at all times.
And hold onto your camera and phone, or just bring as little belongings with you as possible. If your pilot cuts the engine, like mine did, everything, including your head, will hit the ceiling. My camera did, so I spent that moment worried about my camera, whilst an American woman screamed and dug her nails into my arms. It was a wild moment, and I won’t lie, it was fun and a bizarre experience I never expected to experience, but it also probably isn’t the most legal and safe type of fun to have.
And here are some of the lines!
Above you’ll see the whale, one of my favourites, simply because it’s a giant whale etched into a desert for like two millennia.
The lines are amazingly fascinating. No one truly knows the purpose, how they were created, and when they were made, all we know is that it’s sometime between 500 BCE/BC and 500 CE/AD. The prevailing theory is that these were made by the Nazca people for the dieties above to see. Others have theorised some are fertility symbols or are part of rain rituals.
Most lines are only just over a foot wide! And yer the best way to see them is from 1,500ft! It blows my mind.
This nice looking chap is nicknamed ‘the astronaut’ and you can see just how huge he is.
The plane makes nauseating twists and turns so you end up taking shots like this. I can’t even begin to process what angle the plane must have been at right here. I don’t really want to think about it too much.
The monkey with the curved tail has become one of the most famous lines in the sand.
Look closely and you’ll spot the dog/coyote.
These lines are believed to be the influence for one of the coolest Pokemon designs, Sigilyph.
One of the more famous Avian lines!
This watch tower allows you to see three of the lines if you don’t wish to take to the sky. Apparently the plane ride looks horrifying from the watchtower, maybe don’t visit the watchtower before the flight.
The road sadly cuts through the lizard’s tail as at the time of construction, no one knew the lines were there! Only later on was it realised the road had destroyed one of the lines.
And back down! Contrary to popular belief, the lines aren’t in the middle of nowhere. They sit at the edge of the city in the Nazca Desert!
So some tips for the Nazca Lines
- DO YOU RESEARCH. You want to make sure you feel comfortable doing this before you’re in the air.
- Use reputable airlines and tour companies, check these with as many people as possible. I asked a tour guide to recommend one to us.
- Wear loose fitting/comfy clothing and bring only a few possessions, as you’ll end up leaving other things, including your bloody passport, behind someone’s desk in a public airport.
- Eat little, drink a little, don’t overdo it.
- Have your camera charged and ready and prepare to sit around as they get some flights back down and your’s prepped to go.
Thanks for following me into the sky and back down. Next time we’ll be taking a jaunt around Nazca, into the Ica Desert.
If you missed the last post on Peru’s capital Lima, and what to get up to there, take a nose here.