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Flying the Nazca lines

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Hélène and I flew the Nazca lines with a Cessna from Aero-Condor on 15-05-2000.

In the picture above you see Hélène and the pilot, before take-off. We stayed a few days in Paracas and visited the Ballestas Islands and then went to Ica, where we stayed at the las Dunas Hotel. From there we made the flight to Nazca for the afternoon overflight of the Nazca Lines.

Location: Paracas and Nazca are two different places but located in the same state at South of Lima, in the central coast. Paracas is a beach so it’s at sea level, but Nazca is not so close to the coastline, it’s at 600 meters or 2,000 ft. above sea level.

Climate: It’s hot and dry during the day, but cold at night (10°C or 50°F). It almost never rain, but in Paracas drizzles are common in winter.

Landscapes: Paracas is a marine reserve, the only one in Peru, and the reason is the quantity of seabirds that stop there in their

Paracas is a marine reserve, the only one in Peru, and the reason is the quantity of seabirds that stop there in their migration from South to North, and the diversity of sea mammals and fish in the sea in this area. The species that can be seen all year around are sea lions, seals, penguins, sea otters, dolphins and almost 2 hundred species of birds, including Andean condor, flamingoes, pelicans, and of course, seagulls. It are many spots in the reserve, but the most famous is the Ballestas Islands.
It’s a group of small islands that shelter an enormous number of sea lions and seals. It can be reached by boats and you get very close, it’s common that seals and sea lions swim around the boats, great opportunity to take pictures. Another interesting spot is the Candelabro, a huge (120 meters long) etching in the sand on a hill that faces the sea. It was a signal used by pirates who hided theirself and their ships there.

History: These territories of Paracas and Nazca were home of two ancient cultures before the Incas. The Paracas was the first one (from 600 BC to 100 AD); but more interesting is the Nazca culture who left one of the biggest mysteries of ancient times, the Nazca Lines. Between the second and fifth centuries AD, it appeared the Nazca kingdom which developed new agriculture techniques and irrigation systems to convert the desserts into fertile valleys. They built aqueducts and dams that still work nowadays, and also a huge city, Cahuachi. Its remains can be visited, as the remains of its cemetery, Chauchilla. Both archaeological sites are very close to Nazca city.

But the most interesting spot is the Nazca Lines, a group of 32 huge figures carved in the ground of deserted plains with the shapes of animals (monkey, whale, fish, dog, llama, pelican, seagull, condor, hummingbird, lizard, fish spider, etc.) and plants, and even a human.

The best way to watch it is from the skies, and it are many airlines that do over flights at the Nazca airport. The picture on the right shows the Pelicano.

Nazca Lines are a series of ancient geoglyphs located in the Nazca Desert of Peru. They have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The high, arid plateau stretches more than 80 kilometres (50 mi) between the towns of Nazca and Palpa on the Pampas de Jumana. Although some local geoglyphs resemble Paracas motifs, scholars believe the Nazca Lines were created by the Nazca culture between 200 BCE and 700 CE. 
The hundreds of individual figures range in complexity from simple lines to stylized hummingbirds, spiders, monkeys, fish, sharks or orcas, llamas, and lizards

The lines are shallow designs made in the ground by removing the ubiquitous reddish pebbles and uncovering the whitish ground beneath. Hundreds are simple lines or geometric shapes; more than seventy are designs of animal, bird, fish or human figures. The largest figures are over 200 metres (660 ft) across. Scholars differ in interpreting the purpose of the designs, but they generally ascribe religious significance to them, as they were major works that required a vision, planning and coordination of people to achieve.

“The geometric ones could indicate the flow of water or be connected to rituals to summon water. The spiders, birds, and plants could be fertility symbols. Other possible explanations include: irrigation schemes or giant astronomical calendars”.

Due to the dry, windless and stable climate of the plateau and its isolation, for the most part the lines have been preserved. Extremely rare changes in weather may temporarily alter the general designs.

Scholars have theorized the Nazca people could have used simple tools and surveying equipment to construct the lines. Studies have found wooden stakes in the ground at the end of some lines, which support this theory. One such stake was carbon-dated and the basis for establishing the age of the design complex. Researcher Joe Nickell of the University of Kentucky has reproduced the figures by using tools and technology available to the Nazca people and which National Geographic referred to as ‘remarkable in its exactness’ when compared to the actual lines.[2]. With careful planning and simple technologies, a small team of people could recreate even the largest figures within days, without any aerial assistance.

The lines were made by removing the reddish-brown iron oxide-coated pebbles that cover the surface of the Nazca desert. When the gravel is removed, the light-colored earth beneath shows in lines of sharply contrasting color and tone. The Nazca drew several hundred simple curvilinear animal and human figures by this technique. In total, the earthwork project is huge and complex: the area encompassing the lines is nearly 500 square kilometres (190 sq mi), and the largest figures can span nearly 270 metres (890 ft). The extremely dry, windless, and constant climate of the Nazca region has preserved the lines well. The Nazca desert is one of the driest on Earth and maintains a temperature around 25 °C (77 °F) all year round. The lack of wind has helped keep the lines uncovered and visible to the present day.

Source: picture(s) Wikipedia: file(s) are from the Wikimedia Commons.
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