Tuesday 5th November 1985
Woken up by the Aerocondor tout at 8 because the light is good for seeing the lines. Eventually get airborne in a six seater Cessna at 10am all thoughts of the good light lost in the need to try and fill the plane. 20$. Have a good flight over the stoney plain of Nasca. Hundreds of lines and many geometric shapes, and scores of figures. The surface stones are light brown and by moving them aside the ancient nasca and later the Inca after them revealed the paler sand underneath. The desert sand is very soft so they don't make good runways for aliens! The so called astronaut is more likely an owl headed man, featured also on the ceramics, and is one of the earliest figures. One arm points up, the other down, the owl says come at night, look at the ground to interpret the sky. An owl can look forward and backwards, a helpful skill for prophecies. Some of the lines are 9km long. The figures vary from 4 - 300m in size and were made by scaling up from a drawing. Many of the lines point to solctice and equinox events on the horizon. Maybe the figures are constellations. Maria Reiche thinks the monkey is Ursa major, it is not often visible in Peru, only appearing in December to foretell the coming rains. The figures are impossible to make out on the ground, although claerly visible form the air. Maria Reiche only worked out their shape by surveying them from a step ladder in the 1950s. Must have been exciting discoveries.
In the afternoon I take a taxi tour of some local sites with 2 other gringoes for 30,000. We visit the ruins of an old Nazca village, later occupied by the Inca. Adobe remains on the edge of a flat valley, hot dry and dusty. Numerous pits had something to do with their ceramics. Some more lines criss crossing with a spiral, perhaps representing weaving. An underground aqueduct still in good condition helped water the desert. It is about 15' underground with regular access pits for maintenance. It filled a small reservoir. Some kids were bathing in one of the access holes. Cotton was being grown.
In the evening, back at the Hotel Turistica (15$ a night), Maria was wheeled out. She stays here now courtesy of the Peruvian government. She is rather stiff with Parkinsons and has to be assisted to her chair and propped up with pillows and a shawl. She talked into a microphone, switching fluently between several languages according to the nationality of her audience. She kept us informed for 45 minutes. Her book sales pay for the salaries of 3 motorcycle guards who try to stop ignorant people driving their cars over the lines. Her legs were rather fidgety and her stockings fell down.
At 11pm catch the luxury bus to Cusco, 540 kms, about 30 hours and 216,000.