A Flight Over Peru's Nazca Lines, by Ted Cookson

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by Ted Cookson
Published in October 2007
Hummingbird on Nazca Plain in southern Peru, 20-second video clip
Parrot on Nazca Plain in southern Peru, 30-second video clip
Spirals and trapezoids on Nazca Plain in southern Peru, 8-second video clip

On 25 March 2007 when my cruise ship, the 2,600-passenger Golden Princess, docked in San Martin, south of Lima, Peru , I paid USD 309 to take a seven-hour group shore excursion which included a flight over southern Peru's mysterious Nazca Lines.

The Nazca Lines, credited to the Nazca Culture which thrived in southern Peru between 200 B. C. and 700 A. D., consist of geoglyphs (trapezoids, circles, spirals, triangles and straight lines) and biomorphs (images of people, animals, birds, fish, lizards, insects and perhaps even flowers).   These geoglyphs and biomorphs are distributed over an area of some 200 square miles (500 square km) on the high, dry Nazca Plateau.  This region of Peru is one of the world's most arid; and, in fact, both the lack of rainfall and the lack of wind in the area have helped to preserve the figures.

The Nazca figures were created by excavating iron oxide-covered gravel from the plain.   The exposed, lighter-colored soil underneath contrasts with the darker color on the surface.  Because the giant figures are unrecognizable to anyone standing on the surface of the earth, naturally speculation has arisen as to the abilities and intentions of those who created them.  While it has been proven that a primitive culture could have created the Nazca Lines easily using simple tools and surveying techniques, the question as to why they were created remains a mystery.  

Many varied theories have been proposed, including the following:  (1) that Nazca was a giant astronomical calendar; (2) that Nazca was related to the flow of water from the nearby mountains to and through the plain; (3) that the Nazca figures were the tracks for races among men; (4) that the Nazca figures represent the patterns and yarns of the weaving done by the local culture; (5) that Nazca represents a map of the Tiahuanaco Empire; (6) that Nazca is a response to an unusual period when there were multiple solar eclipses; and, perhaps most famously, (7) that Nazca was the work of aliens or, at least, that the inhabitants of Nazca used hot air balloons to view these figures from the air.      

Our chartered single-engine Aero Condor Grand Caravan propeller-driven aircraft flew south 85 miles (137 km) to the Nazca Lines from the commercial airport at Ica, Peru.   Ica, which was in the headlines worldwide after suffering a severe earthquake in mid-August 2007, is situated some 50 miles (80 km) from the port of San Martin.  Although the total round trip flight required about 80 minutes, most of that time was necessary in order to travel back and forth from Ica.

Over Nazca itself I found it very difficult to take either still photos or video clips due to the pilot's continuous extreme aerial maneuvering and my lack of familiarity with the placement of the images on the plain itself.  Also, unusually, my stomach became a bit upset due to the pilot's excessive banking.  Luckily, however, I did not actually have to make use of the flight sickness bags which were available on the plane.

While I am glad I took the tour, I now wish that I had concentrated simply on viewing the Nazca Lines rather than on trying to photograph them from the continuously-banking aircraft. My group tour also included a visit to the regional archeological museum at Ica, which features artifacts and mummies from the Paracas, Nazca and Ica cultures.

Online at www.eptours.com/T0710-nazca.htm readers will find links to three video clips which depict some of the dozen or so images I spotted from the plane.   In addition to some 900 geoglyphs, the Nazca Plain is said to contain about 70 biomorphs.  Not only is one of the figures 1,000 feet (300 meters) long, but one of the straight lines is 9 miles ( 14.5 km) long!  For additional information on the Nazca Lines, refer to www.unmuseum.org/nazca.htm.

ABOUT TED COOKSON:  Egypt's most widely-traveled travel agent, Ted has been to every country in the world!  He has also visited 307 of the 317 destinations on the list of the Travelers' Century Club (visit www.eptours.com and refer to World Travel Club).  A travel agent in Cairo since 1986, Ted manages EGYPT PANORAMA TOURS, a full-service travel agency, at 4 Road 79 (between Roads 9 and 10, near the "El Maadi" metro station) in Maadi.  Contact Egypt Panorama Tours (open 7 days a week 9 AM-5 PM) at:  Tels. 2359-0200, 2358-5880, 2359-1301.  Fax 2359-1199.  E-mail:  ept@link.net.  Web site:  www.eptours.com

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