Photo. 600 feet tall desert sculpture on the Peruan coastline, similar to the Nazca lines...its artist remains a mystery! © Josh Cutler.
The road to Nazca
Coasting down Peru's Highway 1, the urban landscape of Lima melted away in our rear view mirror. In front of us lay the road to Nazca, one of the driest deserts on earth. Amazingly, the area hasn't received any substantial rainfall since the last ice age!
Rolling hills of tan and brown seem to stretch infinitely in every direction. The only thing breaking the endless landscape is the endless road stretched out before us.
Nestled in this barren desert are some of Peru's most fascinating and mysterious ruins. Three thousand years ago the area was teeming with an advanced civilization capable of creating an archaeological legacy that baffles scientists even today...
Straight out of a postcard, the sleepy desert town of Huacachina is a picture perfect oasis. Imagine this...A mineral rich lagoon in the midst of towering sand dunes...Palm trees and exotic flowers rim the diameter of the small lake. The town appears like a magical mirage created by too much Peruvian sun.
In Huacachina, Marna and I decided to test our adventurous spirit by renting dune buggies! By venturing off the main road and onto the massive shadowing dunes we would be able to experience the desert without bounds.
We strapped ourselves in tight and veered into the vast mountainous void. Our buggie zigged and zagged down the steep dunes like a rollercoaster without a track. Looking out the sunroof, it was surreal to visualize nothing but sand as far as the eye could see... It was an awesome rush to see it smearing by at top speed. I gripped the metal handle bars so tight I swore I left a dent!
The vehicle skidded along the slopes with nothing but fine sand grains for traction. At one moment I could've sworn the dune buggy was completely vertical! Another time our back tires totally caught air as we slammed along the desert floor...ouch!
This was the pure, unfiltered adrenaline rush I desired...but this was just the beginning...
We had a rare chance to sand board down the enormous slopes. Sand boarding is similar to snowboarding or sledding...but instead of snow, we would ride the steep inclines of the sand dunes. As I looked over the edge at the dramatic drop I couldn't believe what I had gotten myself into. To my amazement, Marna volunteered to go first...We waxed up the wooden planks and held on tight.
My heart dropped as I watched her silhouette disappear over the edge and fade off into a tiny speck. She picked up some major speed and kicked up sand in her path...that's my girl!
I was next...I held on tight and took a deep breath. The board coasted down the red hot sand gaining massive momentum and speed by the second! Wooohoooo!
Our driver swooped down to pick us up for another try. The dune buggie ride back up the sandy slope beats a ski lift any day.
On our third attempt I got a little cocky with my speed and had a MAJOR wipe out. I fell face first off my board tumbled down the slope unable to grasp anything but soft sand. I took a nasty spill...It was like an episode of MTV's Jackass. No major bruises or breaks...but miniscule grains of sand lodged into my mouth, nose and ears! I think I've been cleaning sand out of every bodily crevice since that wild afternoon. In retrospect...it was soooo worth it.
The Nazca Lines
Shrowded in mystery and wonder, the Nazca Lines eluded discovery until the mid 20th century. Monstrous etchings or geoglyphs litter the surface of the desert across coastal Peru. Huge geometrical figures and depictions of animals stretching thousands of feet long are intricately carved into the rocky substrate.
These enormous slabs of artistry can only be viewed from the sky, prompting scientists to question who these "crop circle-esque" sketching were made for. Dating back 2600 years, sand carvings of monkeys, condors, spiders and more have stayed intact due to the area's bone dry climate. One rainstorm would have obliterated these ancient zoomorphs. They survive here intact for the spirits above to see.
Archaeologists have no clue as to what these ancient geniuses were up to...Were these sand patterns a star chart? Some theorists believe they map out the mind of the hallucinating shamans on their spirit trip above the earth.
The most extravagant theory is that these lines (specifically, the owl eyed space man) were messages for Extra Terrestrials.
Photo. Nazca from above.
© Josh Cutler.
All of these theories lack any concrete truth. That is the beauty and wonder of the Nazca Lines...they lay in complete mystery.
To fully witness the immense scale of the ruins we boarded small airplane to take us on an aerial tour of the Nazca Lines.
By small, I mean miniscule! Marna sat next to the pilot while I stayed in the back to even out the plane's weight.
Photo. Our small aircraft.
© Josh Cutler.
The five seater plane felt like a child's toy as its light weight frame coasted down the runway for take off. Up, Up and away we flew staying low to the ground to witness the sand patterns.
I reached for my complimentary Nazca Lines barf bag as we veered sideways to get a better view of the enormous hummingbird pattern, dating back 2000 years old!
Photo. Hummingbird ....
Center Of The Pic. © Josh Cutler.
We flew onward to see hundreds of ancient sand trapezoid patterns...one resembling a modern day landing strip...but for whom???
These baffling etchings are right out of the Twilight Zone or X-Files. Why were they here? Who were the Nazcan Indians and why did they spend a thousand years creating patterns that no one would ever see...or would they?
After our stomach turning flight, Marna and I explored the quiet desert towns of Nazca and Ica.
We visited a 2000 year old aqueducts, most of which is constructed underground!
Amazingly, it still functions to this day, collecting agua from Peru's mountains and delivering it ice cold to the desert farmers below.
Photo. 2000 years old aqueducts.
© Josh Cutler.
I find it incredible how the stagnant climate preserved the aqueducts so well that local farmers in the 21st century never bothered to upgrade the system...wild!
This article continues in part 2. Read about great experiences and watch unique photos.
Click here: Read more on part 2.
Josh Cutler, 8 November 2004
Presentation of the author:
Josh Cutler has been interested in travel as far back as age 5. Growing up, he would spend countless hours reading and rereading the world atlas. While most other children played with Star Wars figures and Big Wheel Bikes, Josh's favourite toy was his globe.
Photo of Josh Cutler, a great adventure traveller from USA.
© Photo Copyright for all photos in this article: Josh Cutler.
E-mail address: NYCutler@aol.com
His first travels led him to Mexico and Central America. Then, at age 25 he quit his job and spent months exploring Western Europe and North Africa. It was a life altering experience to live out of a back pack for such an extended period of time. As much as he saw...his hunger for travel and exploration seemed to grow larger.
Josh's other passion was travel writing. He has had several articles published by Lonely Planet and Globe Trekker. "My greatest joy is experiencing different cultures, religions and lifestyles...then being able to convey my visions through words and description to those back home."
Josh has visited over twenty countries including Peru, Morocco, Thailand, Cambodia, Turkey, Belize, Guatemala and most of Europe. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.