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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Lines From Above

The Nasca Indians must have been really great artists.

So great that their artwork of heavenly proportions must be seen from heaven itself to be truly appreciated.

A standard 30-minute tour from the sky, if booked in advance, costs upwards of US$65. The more popular (and reliable) airlines like Aerocondor and Nasca Airlines tend to cost more. Having booked and completed an earlier tour of the Nasca Lines, our friend Ching informed that it was possible to bargain directly with the airlines at the airport for last-minute spaces on scheduled flights on the very morning that we wanted to fly. Useful reviews on Tripadvisor.com confirmed that last-minute spaces could go for as low as US$50, with some airlines even agreeing to pay the 20 soles airport tax. Plus, practically everybody gets to fly - it just depends on how much you end up paying, and how long you need to wait at the airport for that coveted spare seat.

Given the chance to save at least US$30 total on our flights plus the fact that it was not the peak tourist season in Peru, we decided to hold out for last-minute seats on the day itself.

Upon arriving at our hostel, Walkon Inn (haha, very witty), the night before, the hostel owner offered to book seats with Aeroparacas for US$50 per person, including the return transfers to the airport. Plus, the airline would inform him exactly what time we could leave for the airport, which would save us the inconvenience of rising early and waiting our day out at the airport for the next available flight. Hey, it sounded good to us. So we booked it! Yippeeee!

Unfortunately, Aeroparacas wasn't exactly a role model for good time management. They shepherded us into their stuffy office and sat us down before a DVD on the Nasca Lines, which promised to be interesting, but somehow managed to transform an intriguing subject into a lecture as dry as the desert itself. Before the video even ended, more than half the group was slumped in their seats, lost in their impromptu mid-morning naps.

Finally, at noon, 5 of us were shuttled to and squeezed into the tiniest airplane that I've ever seen. With our seatbelts fastened, headsets on and no safety briefing whatsoever (seriously, the plane flies so low over the desert that if anything were to happen, one can only pray. Hard.), we were off!

And where's the remote control for flying this toy plane?

All set to shoot a good video. We have yet to bring ourselves (and our stomachs) to view the footage.

Backseat pilot. Seriously, what busybodies some people/dolls can be!

We were all given a small card showing the flight route over the Nasca Lines. Within our first few airborne minutes, I quickly learned to memorise the sequence of drawings that lay ahead, as my stomach did backflips each time I glanced at the card for reference.

No in-flight magazines for this turbulent ride

Even before we reached the first drawing on the planned route, the bare beauty of the Nasca desert had us training our eyes on the captivating monochrome patterns that lay below us.

Tiny (yeah, right!) mountain ranges

God's doodling. He likes drawing squigglies!

The Nasca Lines were first discovered from a commercial airplane flight in 1927. Till this day, there have been numerous theories proposed on how and why these sprawling figures were created. Some say that they were all part of a calender devised by the ancient Indians, which helped them tell the day and time according to the stars. Some say that the ancient people had flying machines similar to hot air balloons, which they could ride in to appreciate their giant artworks from above. Others claim the presence of extraterrestrial life on earth - in other words, aliens! *cue twilight zone music*

With the discovery of strikingly similar (albeit on a much smaller scale) figures found on archaeological treasures in the same area, one thing is for certain - the Nasca Indians, creators of the painted earthenware, were the ones who produced the magnificent drawings in the desert. They chose living things as their subjects. In particular, those that were gifted with natural abilities that the Nascas admired. For example, the agility and intelligence of the monkey; the strength and power of the fearsome killer whale; the hummingbird's super-human speed; the stealth of the condor; the life-giving quality of trees.

Just don't ask me where the astronaut comes in.

The ballena or whale, aptly positioned by the (dry) river

The astronauta! See, I wasn't kidding about the astronaut. Who is depicted with his hand raised - as a greeting to... aliens?

The mono or monkey

The perro or dog

A fairly huge arana or spider (Some may be interested to know that Spiderman in Spanish is "el hombre de arana"!)

The Andean hot favourite - the condor

My favourite - the colibri or hummingbird

It's a tad hard to make out, but that's a faint drawing of an alcatraz (no, not the island prison) or heron

This is a loro. Seriously, I don't know what in the world it's meant to be.

The final two - an arbol (tree) and a pair of manos (hands)

The flight, although highly interesting, is no scenic flight. In fact, it is quite a nasty ride. In order to allow passengers seated on both sides of the plane equal opportunities to view each drawing, the plane alternates between banking left and right, at a full 90 degree angle each time. I tried to focus on the horizon and go with the flow, but after about 15 minutes worth of rabid swaying motions, I was fervently wishing for the plane to go faster and complete the flight pronto, even before the scheduled 30 minutes was up.

Thankfully, no one on our flight succumbed to regurgitating their breakfast into the plastic bags provided in the seat pockets. Our pilot was happy as a lark when he landed the plane back at the airport - no pukey aromas lingering in his plane! Ching, on the other hand, had a fellow passenger throw up - outside of the bag. Their pilot was understandably very disturbed.

Still, I emerged from the plane a whiter shade of pale and staggered over to join the row of green-faced tourists cowering in the shade from the burning desert sun.

Los Lineas de Nasca - an unforgettable experience. In more ways than one.


forex course said...

All shots are very nice and attractive. I like these very much. thank for sharing these.

Stephanie said...

love all these shots! awesome!

WeLoveRoy said...

I believe they were reaching out to the unknown.. and even at times like now, we are still trying to figure out the true meaning of being/life..

Other ancient civilizations have pyramids and stone edge etc...

Yah nice pics and I would have never gone up on that plane... would have puked my guts out!

Yi Lin said...

Thanks guys! I was all out to get the best pix ever at the start of the flight. Started feeling queasy after the first few drawings. Then it was SOP for the rest of the flight - snap 3 shots of each drawing n hope at least 1 turns out decent!

WeLoveRoy - yah. Those seasickness bands wld SO not hv worked this time!

Yi Lin said...

Oh I forgot to add for WeLoveRoy - you shd hv been interviewed in that pre-flight DVD abt the mysterious origins of the Lines. You sound more sound than some of the experts featured.

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