Monday, 23 December 2013

Days 273 to 276: Nazca Days

We arrived in Nazca at around eight in the morning, after a long but tolerable 15-hour bus journey. On a map, the distance between Cusco and Nazca doesn't seem so great, but Cusco is at 3400 metres altitude and Nazca is about 600 metres, with the terrain shifting from the Andes to the desert. Perhaps one day a dead-straight superhighway will be installed, but for now there is simply 15 hours of tortuously winding road. It wasn't designed for a deep and restful sleep.

Nazca is a desert town and is pretty much surrounded by not very much, except rocks and sand. I thought that this would be it, but it was a little more scenically set that I'd expected, with craggy sun-lit mountains all around too. Additionally, Nazca is packed full of archaeological secrets. It might be in a desert, but civilisations once chose this as home. The Nazca Lines are the famous secret, but there are also numerous pyramids packed into a small area and undergoing a slow excavation, thousands of ancient graveyards, and altogether 9000 years of history. There's a lot to do in Nazca if you enjoy digging really, really carefully.

Nazca gave its name to the Nazca Lines, but the Nazca Lines have pretty much made Nazca, and while it is more than just a tourist town, tourism is certainly the main industry. At the centre is a colourful square, with a garish church and usually quite a lot of people. Step away from the centre, and Nazca became a sleepy desert town with people lazing on doorsteps and sand blowing in the wind, but the centre usually had a bit of bustle.

Three days is probably an excessive amount of time to spend in Nazca, but only on the last day did we feel time begin to drag. We were fortunate to find a charming hostel, the Nazca Trails Hostel, which although had cell-like rooms (though very cool against the outside heat), had a wonderful shaded communal area which was perfect for early afternoon lounging or evening drinks.

My Nazca Lines review will deal with the experience of the Lines themselves, and its fair to say that all our tourist activities in Nazca dealt with the Lines in some way. Apart from the formal visits of the mini-flight and the viewing tower, we also wandered to a very straightforward (some might say dull) museum near the outskirts of town, and the planetarium in the grounds of a different hotel which gave an hour-long presentation about the Lines and the life of its primary investigator, Maria Reiche, and was an excellent introduction to the whole topic.

Otherwise... well, we lazed in the hostel and went out for food and drinks. Really, there's very little else to do in Nazca. It's a sleepy desert town with some world-class archaeology, and these two don't combine for a wild party atmosphere. Although maybe we were just looking in the wrong places. Because on the final night, a club seemingly very close to the hostel, pumped out thunderingly awful Peruvian music at thunderingly loud volumes all night until seven-thirty in the morning. I'm not convinced that the club was really the place to be, but our hostel that night certainly was not the place to be. It was time to move on and given the time of year, time for a short Christmas break. And so we went to the beach...

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