Lines In The Sand

LIMA & NAZCA, PERU: October 23-25

Leah: Having spent $44 each on overnight tickets aboard Cruz Del Sur from Mancora to Lima, we were resigned to spending 18 long hours on a bus after bidding our oceanfront oasis adieu. Well…our double-decker bus pulled up at 5 p.m. and our jaws more or less stayed on the floor for the next few hours. The bus attendants checked passports and tickets, as well as searched luggage and filmed everyone getting on board. Once nestled in our cozy (non chicken bus!) seats, we tucked ourselves in with the provided blankets and pillow and watched a movie, after which we were served a delicious dinner with our choice of drink, followed by more movies till it was bedtime.

We passed out and were awoken in the morning after a decent night’s sleep by a video playing soft music and relaxing water scenes, whereupon we were served breakfast and passed the rest of the time staring out the window (sand, sand and more sand, unless the desert ended abruptly at the ocean), reading and watching more movies. Hell of a lot better than flying and of course we were thrilled that we were fed twice and that they changed drivers every 4 hours (many of Peru’s bus services are notoriously dangerous and lax on safety).

We arrived in dirty, sprawling Lima around noon the following day (the 18 hour ride turned into 19) and both agreed that this was a get-in-and-get-out-stop since there weren’t many things of interest we wanted to check out in town ( had also been here 4.5 years ago with my sister and didn’t remember much of interest). Making like many tourists, we booked it to the enclave of Miraflores, a safer more developed part of town right on the ocean, where we checked in at the Casa del Mochilero ($30 for 2 dorm beds) and immediately set off to find a pharmacy. As it turns out, I had somehow managed to pick up an incredibly itchy and perfectly circular case of ringworm on my neck that wasn’t getting any better—I kept referring to it as my early birthday present and would repeatedly tell Steve to “lick my fungus” when he said something I didn’t agree with or made fun of me, so we definitely needed to get this thing gone!

Anti-fungal firmly in hand, we walked to the cliffs overlooking the rocky ocean below and reveled in the beautiful landscaping and chilly breeze blowing up from the water as we watched a few lone kite surfers and sun bathers enjoying the sun. From there we strolled to Parque Kennedy, a large expanse of trees and grass hedged by restaurants, shops and hostels on all sides and the hub of Miraflores. After a lovely lunch, we took advantage of an open air book fair to purchase some new brain candy, while also noticing the first Starbucks we’ve seen in months. But the best part of the walk occurred when I spied a shop selling my beloved boba tea, for which I’ve been pining for in earnest. For those unfamiliar, boba are dark brown gelatinous tapioca balls (basically like noshing on an eyeball) that originated in Japan and are placed in drinks or teas and slurped through an over-sized straw. I’m addicted and haven’t had a fix since the trip began; upon spying the store, we both knew this was going down in a serious way. Having thus procured my granadilla/cherimoya/mandarina smoothie with a heaping ladleful of boba, I deliriously gulped away while Steve refused to take more than a few sips (he’s not one for boba, preferring their cousin, yogurt eggs, instead).

After an uneventful hostel evening (well, besides the fact that something ate both sides of my hips during the night, leaving itchy red welts everywhere), we hopped back on an afternoon Cruz Del Sur bus for Nazca, arriving after 9 p.m. in this tiny, dusty desert town. Being too zonked and cranky to follow our normal rule of ignoring hostel touts outside of bus stations, we followed one to a nearby hostel, the Inti Wasi. The place was okay enough, but we soon discovered “Mikey” was a super sleezeball; he made disparaging comments about Asian guests in the lobby, quoted ridiculously high prices for tours, refused to give us the wifi password right away and generally gave off a slimey vibe. If it weren’t so late we would have gotten up and left, but the price was decent, the place was clean enough and safe and we couldn’t be bothered. After flat out rebuking his tour offers and satiating our rumbling stomachs with street food (salchipapas which is a healthful vegetarian snack of french fries, lettuce and a sliced hot dog drizzled in ketchup, mayo and mustard), we crawled into bed with no idea what the next day would hold.

Nazca itself is a bone-dry, achingly hot city of about 22,000, which only became famous in 1939 when a routine research flight unearthed large, puzzling designs on the desert floor spread across 500 square kilometers; the 2008 Indiana Jones movie plot also centered on their mystique. Essentially, many of the Nazca lines are astronomical markers in alignment with solstices and sunrises/sunsets, but many of the figures are depictions of animals and other odd shapes—nobody really understands what the 800 lines, 300 geometric figures or 70 odd animal/plant drawings mean. 

Because there’s no way I would get in a tiny 2-person plane and swoop along the desert if it were free, I certainly wasn’t going to pay hundreds of dollars for the privilege either! I told Steve he was welcome to check out the aerial version but that my feet were staying planted on tierra firma; in the end we both agreed it was a major expense for something we weren’t entirely geeking out on (Steve: as cool as the lines are I couldn't bring myself to throw down a ton of money to the aggressive tour agencies; to Leah's credit she really did tell me about ten times that I could take a flight if I wanted). Therefore, we opted for the cheaper but less spectacular land version and hopped into a cab with our new buddy/guide, Don Juan (I kid you not). He drove us about 20 minutes outside Nazca, chattering the whole way about the desert, the history of the lines, his grandkids and answering all our questions before stopping at a small hill from where we could see 80 of the lines extending in all directions. Because the top layer of stones littering the desert floor is darker than the sand and finer rocks underneath, the Nazca Indians simply removed the top stones, revealing the whiter sand and rocks underneath and thus etching the designs in the ground for all time. Don Juan explained that the whole area was considered sacred ground and therefore creating the lines, especially in the heat of summer when temperatures easily soared into the triple digits, was considered a gravely important penitence and offering. After journeying a bit farther down the highway, we reached the mirador (lookout); from the top we could just make out part of the lizard, the whole frog (or “hands” as some refer to it) and the roots of the tree. Our pictures don’t really do it justice, so we’ve linked to aerial shots of the region. All in all, we were glad we saw at least some of them and enjoyed Don Juan’s time and expertise, not to mention that we saved hundreds of $ in the process.

Nazca is built around tourism to the lines; nearby Cerro Blano (the world’s largest known sand dune) and a few other random museums outside of town that are all accessed through tours, none of which are cheap. Therefore, at 11 a.m. we found ourselves in a dustbowl town with absolutely nothing to do and nowhere to go until our bus left for Cuzco at 8:30 p.m. (I had flat-refused to stay another night). We started by doing what we do best-eating. We strolled the streets sampling $0.50 treats and snacks we had never seen (arroz con leche layered with chica morada jelly paste? Don’t mind if I do!), but there are only so many streets and so many cheap treats, so that lasted all of an hour. Then we tried the market-15 minutes. Then walking into every clothing store we found to see what they had-45 minutes. Did I mention it was sunny and oven-hot while all this was going on? Oh, and while there was a central square of sorts, none of the trees were mature enough to provide any real shade or respite from the heat, so there weren’t a whole lot of options of places to take a load off and stay cool at the same time.

We ended up sitting in a sliver of shade bordering the park eating granadillas and playing our favorite camp game (first person says a food, then the second person says a food that starts with the last letter of the first person’s word…example: Steve: gnocchi, Leah: Italian Ice). In theory a good plan, but then we just dove-tailed into naming foods we constantly miss from home—such torture. I don’t know how we did it, but eventually we had killed enough time to where we could sit in a cheaper restaurant with a balcony view and enjoy some sandwiches and beverages while watching the sunset (on my soul!). I couldn’t wait to get out of here fast enough, so by the time our bus pulled up (late!) for our overnight trip to Cuzco, I bolted for the sweet serenity of the Cruz Del Sur doors. Well…sweet serenity it was not, but that’s in the next post!

Random Blog Bonus, aka Foods We Miss From Home: 

Leah: Peanut Butter M&Ms, Greek yogurt, Boba, Cheetos, feta and spinach cheesy bread from Dominos Pizza, Dr. Pepper, cold pasta salad, Target sangria (I’m high class), eggnog flavored anything, samosas, green tea ice cream, crab cheese wontons.

Steve: Non-pee-colored beer

Both: In ‘n Out Double Double Animal Style burgers, Mama Testa (restaurant that catered our wedding) steamed tacos and salsa, California burritos, fish tacos, good (and cheap) sushi



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