After fearing for my health in Cusco, I decided to go down to a lower altitude and rest. I looked at the map and saw Nazca, a small desert city in southern Peru. It was my Tatooine. Small and quiet, away from big swathes of tourists and warm; the perfect place to lay low for a few days.
The Nazca Lines are these huge ancient geoglyphs that are kind of like crop circles, only they depict hummingbirds, monkeys and trees and are drawn in the rocky desert ground. No one really knows how or why they were made but researchers estimate that they were created between 500 BCE and 500 CE.
I didn’t pay to go up in a little aeroplane to see them, I just took a quick taxi out to the 3-storey-high viewing tower. The Lines were impressive but, coming from Sydney, simply being in the desert was a novel experience. About 1km away from the tower, there’s a small hill from where you can see more lines. In the baking sun, it was a long, slow walk and I wanted to capture that.
This is the view from level 3 of my hotel, El Mirador (the lookout). After mostly hiding in my room in my first 36 hours in Nazca, I slowly found the strength to, well, laze around on the benches in the Plaza de Armas just across the road. The sun was lovely on my neck and I quickly started recognising people.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is how the saying goes and you definitely get the feeling they’re not messing with the formula in Nazca. There’s a middle aged woman who pushes a pram around the Plaza de Armas all day selling jelly. Every ten minutes or so, children of five or six would excitedly run up to her with a few soles in hand (Peruvian currency). There’s also a candy floss man and a man who pushes life-sized dolls of Mickey, Donald and Goofy around for photo opportunities. Meanwhile, the teenagers amble about in groups of two or three and the women go around with their babies. Young couples take photos in front of the fountains and older gentlemen sit, people-watch, and talk occasionally.
As day becomes night the restaurants around the plaza fire up their rotisseries to make everyone’s favourite dinner, Pollo a la Brasa (charcoal chicken). In Australia, this might be the type of meal you get when you can’t be bothered to cook on a Friday night but, in Peru, it’s revered. It’s usually served with ‘cremas’ like a mayonnaise-style sauce, ketchup and ají. The best places also make their own Pollo al estilo “Broaster”. Delightfully devilish, Seymour!
At night-time, the temperature drops to less than 10°C and the plaza comes alive with young families. Dozens of kids are playing, roller-blading, convincing their parents to buy them giant novelty Tweety Bird balloons. Even the teenagers lighten up and you can see them running around too. I ended up spending four whole days in Nazca and I’m so happy I slowed down to do so.