Charukesi Ramadurai flies over the Nazca Lines in Peru and discovers there is more to the country than Machu Picchu.
“Your fourth day in Peru and you aren’t yet in the Andes?” This from a friend who had been following my social media updates of a recent trip to Peru. What she really meant was, “Why haven’t you headed to Machu Picchu yet?” I knew she was not alone in thinking the only place worth visiting in Peru was the famous Incan citadel.
Of course, I was heading to the highlands and then Machu Picchu, but a couple of days later. That morning, I was in Paracas in the Ica region, 4 hours south of the capital, Lima. I was 3,000ft above the ground, in a 12-seater Cessna aircraft, peering hard at the arid desert surface of Nazca below.
In my hands, I held a rough map of the area over which we were flying, with 13 distinct images marked out clearly, starting with a whale and ending with a tree. These are some of the most famous geoglyphs that form part of the great Peruvian mystery called the “Nazca Lines”.
Sprawling over 450 sq. km, the Nazca Lines refer to a series of etchings of geometric shapes, animal images and mythical figures, apart from innumerable lines criss-crossing their way through this desert—more than 800 straight lines, 300 geometric figures and 70 images of flora and fauna.
As to when and why they were made, there are as many theories as there are questions. According to Unesco, which granted the site World Heritage status in 1994, these are from a pre-Incan civilization, created sometime between 500 BC and 500 AD.