Central Aust '09
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We arrived in Nasca at about 21:00, overall about an hour late. the bus station was fairly small and sad, it's better described as the car park out the back of a building. But, it was tidy and certainly safety was fine.
The bus station is surrounded by a wire mesh fence, and there were people yelling through the fence and also people out the front, asking if we need a taxi/hotel/hostel/tour etc. We said no to them all as we had already booked a room at Hotel Alegria. One of the people asked 'Alegria' so we followed them, along with a group of Canadian tourists. We were 5 mins down the road (with my daypack on my back, and carrying 2 heavy backpacks), when she asked to verify we wanted Alegria HOSTEL which is the cheap Backpackers' place, instead of the nice Alegria HOTEL that we wanted. Turns out we had walked 5 mins in the wrong direction. So we turned around and just as my arms were about to drop off from the heavy bags, we saw the hotel and went inside. The Canadians turned up 2 or 3 minutes later, as it turned out that the "Alegria Hostel" woman took them so some other hostel instead, she was a fraud.
Anyway after that whole exercise, we checked in and the people at the desk seemed to have no idea who we were, even though we had booked online. We got through that too, and went up to our room. The room was quite warm so we opened the window, however that made the room quite noisy due to the courtyard and pool below! There was a small fan in the room, so we put that on and went straight to bed.
Nasca - Day One
The next morning we woke, showered (which was fine), then went downstairs for breakfast. Breakfast was rolls + jam + tea/coffee + juice, and for an extra S/. 3 I had scrambled eggs, how could I resist? I should also mention that S/. 3 upgrade has three options - either the eggs, or ham + egg, or tomato + cheese on toast.
After breakfast we went went door to Alegria Travel, to confirm our reservation for their tours plus also book our bus to Arequipa (you have to book well in advance to make sure you get a (good) seat). We had travel arrangements with them for that day, so we had to get it all paid for. Not a problem at all in there, in fact the staff were great.
Once we had paid, we just hung around a bit until our driver came. First stop today was the airport of Alas Peruanas who operate tours over the Nasca Lines. Now when I say "airport" you have to understand this is a fairly small airport. Basically it's a runway parallel to the main road + a control tower, then a bunch of small buildings between the road and the runway, each building being the facilities of a different aeroplane company. Most of these companies are for tourism purposes but I guess they would probably all do light aircraft flights to other places too.
Once in the airport we watched a half hour video of the Nasca Lines while we waited for our turn in the sky. Eventually our turn was up and we got into a light aircraft with 2 other tourists. The plane used a single propeller at the front, and it was strange being in such a small vehicle.
After a few preparations the pilot started the engine and we were off. The take-off was no problem, and certainly no issues in the sky. The only strange feeling was the forces as the aeroplane banked from side to side. Basically the pilot would pull a very tight circle around one of the lines. When he does this, the aeroplane banks hard over to one side, affording the passengers on that side a good view. When that is done, he does a circle the other way so the other passengers can also see. We looked at probably 8 shapes in the desert, constantly banking from side to side, which feels weird but certainly we didn't feel sick or anything.
I haven't included many photos of the Nasca Lines here, as it's difficult to see anything in such small sizes.
After the tour was done, the driver dropped us in the hotel and we went for a walk while waiting for our next tour.
At about 3pm a 40-seater tour bus came along, collected some other tourists and we made our way to the Chauchilla Cemetary. This is an ancient grave yard with some bodies and artifacts very well preserved. It's been ruined in some regards by grave robbers in the past so some of the bodies are not originally from the grave but rather were found scattered in the open desert with bones, pottery, clothing and other artifacts. The archaeologists have put pieces together to represent what the graves may have looked like.
Overall, Chauchilla Cemetary was interesting to see, but it sort of dragged on a bit as once you've seen one grave, you've seen them all. Briony also was getting annoyed at one tourist that keps on pushing in front of everyone to get photos of the graves - I agree, she was annoying. At the end, part of the 'tour' was a visit to a pottery shop to see how traditional clay pottery is made, plus a visit to the gold shop to see a demonstration of how gold is mined and extracted. we didn't find either of these shop visits particularly exciting.
After the tour, we went in search of food. We (well, Briony) settled on a restaurant on Bolognesi (the street name) called LA CHOZA. It's a small place with lots of bamboo and soft lighting, and a waitress that is polite but does not say much! Briony had Spicy Vegetables + Rice, I had Vegetarian Pizza, and we got a plate of mashed potato to share. We vote the mashed potato as being very good! I ordered some apple pie at the end, and we saw the waitress dive out for 5 mins and come back with something in a plastic bag. Then my apple pie turned up. So we reckon she went out specially to get the applie pie. Nothing wrong with that, just a little different. The meal was S/. 43 and we we surprised that the restaurant could not give us change for a 50 (the staff went into their own pockets to get change). We hd experienced many small places not having loads of change, however we expected that a restaurant on Nasca's main street would have had change!
After dinner was time to write in the travel diary and get some sleep!
Nasca - Day Two
After getting up and having our usual bread + jam + juice + coffee/tea breakfast.
After breakfast we were met in the hotel foyer by our guide from Mystery Peru. The first trip today was the Usaka Desert Experience which is a three hour tour in a dune buggy. We were surprised to see the dune buggy which is actually a modified Hyundai 4WD) parked across the road waiting for us. We jumped in and began the 35Km drive to the sand dunes outside Nasca.
The dune buggy driver took us out on some back roads and across a dry river bed. We stopped for a second so he could let some air out of the tyres, then we proceeded further towards the massive dunes we could see. Once we got to the dunes, the driver showed his skills by driving almost straight up some of the dunes, until we got to the top of one of the highest dunes. At this point they stopped the car and got the sand boards out!
We had a 5 minute explanantion of how to use the sandboards, and were handed a stick of wax to rub on the base of the board to make it slide better. Then, we jumped on and did our best to stay upright - it's not easy! Once at the bottom, the next task was to walk up to the top. Problem was that the sand is so soft that we had to run to actually get anywhere, and still half our energy was wasted by our feet sinking into the ground. The guides showed us to lie down on the board and go face first - easier, faster, and still fun!
After doing another standing sandboard, and another face-first sandboard, we packed up and got back in the dune buggy. This time we were driving over sand dunes and going down very steep slopes, in fact from where we were sitting it was hard to get any sense of up/down and distance as the sand is all the same colour.
Next stop was Estaqueria, a yard of large tree trunks set into the ground, part of a larger structure which used to be a religious site. We only spent 10 minutes here before heading back to the dune buggy which would not start. We gave it a push and bump started it no problem.
We headed Next was the ruins of Cahuachi, an ancient pyramid-like structure. At the time of our visit they were undergoing restoration so there was not a whole heap to see, but still the chance to walk up a small hill, get some photos and appreciation of the site. Our guide told us that the restoration should be finished in 2011.
Final stop on this tour was We headed back to Nasca city, via an open aqueduct in the middle of some farming land, the engineering here was on quite a large scale considering its age!
After we were dropped back at the hotel, we went to LA CARRETA for lunch - we shared a vegetarian pizza and had some fruit juice, cost of the meal was S/. 26.
At 13:00 we met our guide from Mystery Peru again, this time in a normal car. He took us to visit the Cantayoc Aqueducts (entry fee S/. 10 each) which were only 10 minutes from the hotel and on the way we passed some Pricky Pear plantations. Our guide explained that the fruit is actually removed and the plant infected with a bug, and the bug is harvested for the production of a dye used in the make-up industry.
At the aqueducts complex were four or five circular excavations in the ground, which led to the aqueduct channel at the bottom. The idea of the circular excavations was to provide air pressure to drive the water faster, plus also provide for easy access to clean the aqueduct once a year, a tradition that is still performed today as the aqueduct is still in use!
There were a few sellers at the aqueducts site, so we bought some wind chimes (S/. 13), some Nasca coffee coasters (S/. 15) and some drinks.
After the aqueducts we returned to our hotel and arranged transport to the Nasca Lines Mirador (observation tower), which about 20 minutes from the city. This tower is perhaps 20m in height and provides a good close-up view of two of the Nasca Lines. It costs S/. 1 to climb. We had a look around, then headed back to the city. On the way back we passed a toll booth on the Panamerican Highway which cost S/. 6.50 to pass.
After the Mirador we sat in Hotel Alegria for a short while just to relax and collect our things ready for departuret that evening.
Once'd rested enough we went for a walk around Nasca, and Briony caught some views of poultry shops which had plucked chickens with their legs sticking up in the air, on benches right next to the footpath. We found a clothes shop and Briony bought a nice shirt for S/. 26, after whcih we headed to Plaza de Armas for some nig photos. We visited a small Internet cafe on the corner of Bolognesi just near Plaza de Armas - it was very dirty and dusty in the Internet Cafe, and extremely cramped, but they let me connect our own laptop so we just quickly checked our mail and got out of there. The connection speed was okay, and only cost S/. 2 for half an hour.
After using the Internet we continued our walk around and went to LA CHOZA again for dinner. Briony had Spicy Vegetables + Rice, I had a Chorizo (spicy sausage) Pizza, plus of course we had the Pura de Papas (mashed potato) and some fruit juice. The meal was S/. 43.
While we were eating we were watching the television in the restaurant, and we saw a whole news section (for about half an hour!) about a Nasca Lines "Aero Ica" plane crash earlier that day in which 5 French tourists were killed. The news was obviously in Spanish so we didn't pick up a lot, however the pictures on the screen spoke for themselves - the plane had crashed close to the airport and run into a wall. The tourists were dead and the pilot was in critical condition. We were also surprised that the images in the news were not censored like they are back home - we saw pictures of a leg sticking out of the plane, we saw the body of a male being put in a bag, and we saw the police lifting the bodies into the back of a car.
We actually wondered whether the five tourists were the group that had caught the same Paracas-Nasca bus as us, as they spoke French and there were five of them!
Anyway after dinner we headed back to the hotel via the main square for a few photos. Briony's eye was caught by a tourist shop on the way. We bought some Nasca coffee mugs for S/. 12 each, a tealight candle holder for S/. 16 and a Alpaca jumper for S/. 38. As for whether the jumper is really Alpaca, well that's yet to be determined.
At the hotel, we just sat in the lobby and waited for our Oltursa bus to Arequipa, which was about an hour late ...
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