January 19, 2010 GMT
To Nasca

The second day of the coastal road through Peru was the same as the first. We rode on, more of the brown stuff to our left, and the blue stuff to our right. The road occasionally left the coast and we wound up into the mountains, where we totally surrounded by sand, rocky mountains, and more sand. It felt as if we were totally isolated from the rest of civilization. Nothing living around for miles; we didnít even get any insects splatting on our windscreen. There was just nothing...at all. It reminded me of Mad Max, post apocalypse, driving through the deserted desert.

After a few hours riding the gorgeous coastal highway, we spotted a carport with a few sand buggies parked underneath, and decided to investigate further.
Sure enough, we had happened upon a sand-boarding outfit, and for $10 , the owners would drive us up through the dunes in one of their VW sand buggies and then we could sand board down a couple of dunes before being driven back.
We swoppped our sunglasses for goggles, dumped our jackets, and jumped into one of the buggies.
Holding on tight in the buggy

We drove at breakneck speed over the dune sin the super light buggy, banking scarily on the sides of some dunes, and jumping right over others, Jacquie and I clinging on to the rails of the buggy for dear life, with ridiculous grins plastered on our faces, until we came to a stop at the top of a gently sloping dune.

The driver unloaded the boards, gave us about 2 minutes of instruction, and then pushed us off the top of the dune. Jacquie took to the sand boarding like a duck to water, I was a little more hesitant, but after the 2nd run, started to find my groove too. We then drove another 10 minutes or so to a much longer, steeper dune.

Jacquie went first, and glided down the steep incline like a pro, I made it about halfway before wiping out in a spectacularly flurry of sand, tumbling the rest of the way down the dune. Once at the bottom, we trudged our way back up to the top for one more run, before an even faster return to the base.
Re-invigorated from our adrenalin rush, we remounted our ride, and made our way back to the Pan American, to continue slicing our way through the spectacular desert route.

Another hour or so of winding our way through the desert and we reached the outskirts of Nasca.
We pulled over when we came to the observation tower, where , after a short climb to the top of the tower, we could see a couple of the world famous Nasca lines.
No one really knows when, why or how these amazing drawings were made, but they were quite spectacular. The view from the tower only showed us a glimpse of the lines, but it was enough to encourage us to ride into town and take a plane ride to see more.
20 minutes later, we pulled up in the town centre and were immediately surrounded my locals offering us rooms and plane tours. We took up one of the localsí offers, and went to check in to his recommended hostel. We had just enough time to check in, park up, and then we were whisked off to the small airport to wait for our plane.
After a short wait the pilot came to get us, 6 in total, and we were directed as to where to sit in the plane. And after a quick instruments check, we powered up , rolled over the runway, and were rolling along at take off speed. The planes reached take off velocity and the pilot pulled back on the joystick, and the tiny plane left the runway and climbed steeply.

The little plane was buffeted furiously by the winds, and we all looked at each other rather nervously. The pilot explained how these little planes moved around a lot more than larger jets, and pointed out the sick bags to us; nice.
After only a few minutes in the air, the first of the shapes was visible, the pilot banked sharply so we could look down the wing to the drawing in the desert, circled around, and then banked again in the opposite direction to give the passengers on the other side of the plane a view. We flew over the whale, the hummingbird, the spider, the dog, the monkey the condor, the hands ,and most unexpectedly a carving of an astronaut, etched into the side of a volcano before flying over some of the huge geometric lines.
The Whale and a section of the geometric lines at Nasca

The Hands

The carvings were awesome from the sky, but begged the question, why would anyone go to such trouble to create these incredible drawings, only visible from the air, hundreds or even thousands of years before anyone could fly, I personally go for the alien theory!
We bounced around in the so-small-its-almost-a-toy plane for 45 minutes before turning round and landing back in Nasca, where the 6 of us disembarked, happy to be back safe and sound on the land.
We returned to our hotel, which, thanks to an electrical fault was plunged into darkness. Not being able to do much in the pitch black, we went out for some local nosh and got ourselves a fairly early night.
Bright and early the next morning, we left the dull and dismal town of Nasca behind and made our way southwards once more towards Arequipa.

Posted by Dan Shell at January 19, 2010 08:48 PM GMT

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