Flying Over the Nazca Lines – Our Aerial Adventure
Our drive from the town of Pisco, in Peru, towards the town of Nazca and the world famous Nazca Lines of Peru took us away from the coastline and gradually entered an area of totally different terrain.
Our first destination was a steel tower in the Nazca desert called the “Mirador Tower”. Although we still planned to take to the skies to see the Nazca Lines from a small airplane, at the Mirador Tower, we climbed up to have a preview of some of the Nazca Lines etched in the desert sand nearby.
From the tower, three of the strange geometric designs are evident. You see here the smaller “manos” (hands).
At the tower, a local man were busy carving the designs of the various Nazca Lines onto rocks.
On the way to the Nazca airport, we pulled into the Casa-Museo Maria Reiche (museum), named for the German anthropologist who dedicated her life to studying the Nazca Lines. Maria Reiche was born in Dresden, Germany in 1903. She studied mathematics and geography at the Dresden Technical University.
In 1932, she came to Peru as a nanny and a teacher of the German children at the German consulate in Cuzco, Peru. When the second world war started, Maria decided not to return to Germany. In 1940, she became the assistant to American archaeologist Paul Kosok. Kosok had discovered the Nazca lines. In 1946, Maria started to map the geometric shapes that she found in the desert. She believed that the lines had been constructed as a Sun calender and as a means to observe astronomical sightings. She convinced the Peruvian Air Force to finally do flyovers and to help her undertake the first ever aerial photography of the Nazca lines.
Maria worked alone in the desert at her scientific center, pictured above. In her final years, she was able to persuade the government of Peru to protect and preserve the Nazca Lines.
Maria Reiche passed away in 1998.
Bob and I arrived at the airport, paid for our flight and boarded a little prop plane.
I loved the sonorous roar and speed of the takeoff as the plane raced down the runway. It was exciting! Once in the air, the panoramic view of the valley and surrounding mountains was breathtaking. Our flight was to be 45 minutes long, allowing time to pass over all the Nazca Lines as well as the aqueducts.
At first, it was difficult to spot the various etchings that make up the Nazca Lines of Peru on the hard sandy surface. With patience, however, each subsequent drawing was easier to identify. Some were more pronounced than others.
The lines, triangles and trapezoids are very intriguing because of the mathematical skills that would have been required to draw them on such a large scale and with such precision. Some are even designs of animals and human figures.
As the plane swooped over one area, Bob and I could pick out the Alcatras below. When we were at the tower, we saw firsthand that the lines are a result of someone removing the sunburnt reddish pebbles to the side and uncovering the whitish colored ground below. The resulting artistic trenches are only 10 to 30 cm deep.
The Humming Bird, is 93 meters or 319 feet long.
During our flight, it was impossible to miss Cerro Blanco, the world’s highest sand dune.
It is located at the end of the Nazca Valley and rises to 2,070 metres, or 6,791 feet. That is a lot of sand!!
From the air, we also had the chance for a bird’s-eye view of the Nazca Puquios and Aqueduct system. This is a unique system for tapping underground water sources that modern day researchers have determined existed in Pre-Columbian times.
As can be seen in our photographs, the local people dug horizontal trenches and tunnels deep into the ground to reach the water far below the earth’s surface. Given this is one of the driest places on the planet, it is no surprise that the aqueducts are still in use today.
All in all, the flight was very rewarding and left us wondering how these ancient peoples could have drawn such elaborate outlines of creatures without having a bird’s eye view of their work in progress. How did they have knowledge of creatures not native to the area? We will never know.
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