The Journal  

28 January 2006


Author: Jeremiah

Photographer: Holly


Nazca, Peru

January 15-16

After leaving Lima , we planned to jump off the Pan-American Highway for a trip into the Peruvian Andes to visit the Incan ruins at Machu Picchu and the country of Bolivia before returning to the highway where it runs along the Chilean coast. The small town of Nazca, about 250 miles south of Lima, is where the highway to the ancient Incan capital of Cuzco starts, and seemed to be like the perfect jumping off point.

Leaving Lima early on a Sunday morning, traffic was surprisingly heavy, as Limeños packed themselves into small cars and headed to the beaches that line the coast south of the capital. As the beach towns faded into desert we ran into Lima 's landfill, vast areas of desert where the town's trash was dumped for burning. We rode through the refuse-strewn wasteland, plastic bags blowing across the roadway as the heat of the desert mixed with the acrid smoke of burning garbage.

About 15 miles north of Nazca we stopped to see the town's major tourist attraction, the Nazca Lines, a set of nearly 300 figures drawn into the desert surface. Anthropologists are still arguing over who constructed the lines or what purpose they served. Invisible from the ground, the lines were discovered by airplane pilots in the twentieth century. The only way to view the Lines is by taking a plane ride or by climbing an observation tower that sits beside the Pan-American. From the tower only two lines can be observed, a tree and a hand.


We pulled off on the side of the highway to go up in a tower to see the Nazca Lines.


An observation tower just outside of the town of Nazca offers a view of several formations.


Lines resembling hands or a frog are hard to see from the short tower. Plane flights could be chartered to see over 800 lines including figures, animals and plants.


Barbed-wire fencing warns visitors that it is unlawful to walk on the Nazca Lines.

The town of Nazca is a tourist center. Unlike Ecuador , where the northern part of the country draws the most visitors, it is the southern part of Peru where the gringos flock. Nazca is full of hostels and hotels. We found one near the center where would could park the bike in the lobby. The town's other main source of revenue is tour companies. We were bombarded by offers. Even our hotel owner hassled us the entire time we spent in his establishment with an offer of a $40 a person plane ride over the Lines, but disgruntled guests in the lobby who had just returned from the trip dissuaded us against the idea.

Nazca's popularity means that food and lodging are expensive, making Lima look like a bargain in comparison. We spent only one night in Nazca, finding a tiny restaurant down a side street, before leaving the next morning for the long ride to Cuzco.


All photographs © Holly Marcus / Page design by Robin Marcus