I leaned on the balustrade that lined the walkway of the oasis called Huacachina. The air is clean and fresh. The placid waters of the spring fed lake reflect the small area of green surrounding it. Small boats painted a myriad of colors float in the center. The sidewalks are empty, only the songs of birds interrupted my reverie. This is a place of opposites. The small lake is surrounded by royal palms, a mass of hostels, bars and restaurants. They fight daily to hold back the ocean of sand that surrounds them. Majestic dunes tower over the humble structures of man, waiting to reclaim the oasis. They act as a constant reminder of the power of Mother Nature.
A café opens. I order a café Americano and a fruit salad. The soft shifting of the sand keeps pulling my eyes back to the monstrous mounds. A lone man begins his trek up the dune, a dark speck on the brilliant surface of pale yellow. He struggles up the surface, his sand board tucked firmly under his arm. It is a battle of wills, for every step he takes, the dune takes back half of that. Time slows for me while I watch his fight to reach the crest. It could be fifteen; maybe twenty minutes later when he finally reaches his goal. He walks the crest, the rising sun finally basking his body with heat. He is looking for that perfect spot to take his ride down the pristine surface.
He slips his boots into the buckles. Standing with the board perched over the crest he takes one last look at the virgin surface. Then, tilting the board over the edge he begins his ride. Knees flexed, arms tense, he zigzags across the surface. A trail of flying sand follows in his wake. It only takes a minute, maybe less and the adrenaline rush is over. He releases his boots from the board and begins the long difficult climb back to the top.
It’s Monday morning and I am enjoying a few moments before beginning the long bus ride back to Lima. Amanda and I arrived in Ica yesterday afternoon by bus. A ten minute cab ride and we were at our hostel, The Curasi, in Huacachina. Before leaving Nasca we took one last tour early that morning. Vito acted as our guide again. I’m going to sing his praises one more time. Knowledgeable, enthusiastic and punctual; he makes you want to learn more about the things he’s showing you.
We loaded ourselves into his vehicle and headed into the center of Nasca to pick up another person. Marcus, a young German student, was touring South America on his break from school. We virtually flew down the Pan Americana Sur to arrive at the first of two observation point for seeing some of the Lines.
“I never go faster than 100 km/hr,” said Vito as a SUV whipped past us like we were standing still. “It’s too dangerous, you can’t control the car.”
I smiled and nodded, glad that our safety was foremost in his mind. The drive took us across the desolation of the Nasca Plain. Barren soil and sand covered with a dark crust extended all the way to the mountains in the distance. Some might find seeing this ugly, a waste of time. I am not one of those people. There is beauty here. Raw and dangerous, dark and unforgiving, it calls out to something deep inside me. The first of the two observation points was a cluster of small hills. Paths etched into them showed us the way to the top. First though, Vito pointed out several lines that stretched to the mountains as straight as arrows.
We climbed to the crest of the small mounds and looked out over the plains as Vito continued his explanations. Besides the Lines we could now see rectangles, triangles and broad avenue type structures. I metal pole sat atop one of the mounds.
“It’s for placing your telescope,” said Vito. “Many people come at night to watch the constellations.” Then he pointed out the two lines leading to the spots on the horizon where the sun sets on the winter and summer solstice.
Down the hills and back into the car, we headed a mile or so down the road to the tower. From the top of this manmade structure, a few of the figures were visible. The hands, the Tree and the Lizard were the most visible. Vito pulled a book of photos and went though each of the figures, explaining them in detail. A bunch of photos later, we climbed down, got back in the car and headed to the small village of San Jose that contained the museum dedicated to Maria Reiche. Maria in my opinion gets all the credit for bringing the Nasca Lines to the attention of the world. She spent most of her life studying them, dying at the age of 98. Most of her theories about the lines have been disproved but her dedication to their preservation should be admired by all. Naturally the locals thought she was crazy at the time. The museum contains artifacts, a mummy and is actually built as an extension of the one room house she lived in. Then it was back to the hostel to finish packing and catch the bus to Ica.
Once Amanda and I had settled into our room at the Hostel Curasi, we headed down to the front desk to make arrangements for the dune buggy experience. That will be part four and the last entry on my weekend excursion.