I spent hours yesterday updating the diary part of the website having been justifiably chastised by my brother in law for being a bit slack!
We decided to skip Ica and head straight to Nazca. The only problem we had is that the direct bus from Paracas only leaves at 5pm and we want to leave this morning. We were assured that if we took a taxi to the PanAmerican we could get a direct bus there. Turns out this was porky pies as you have to change at Ica. After a bit of confusion about where to get the bus and which company to go with we plumped for Flores as they also do the Ica to Nazca leg.
To get the bus we simply had to wait on the side of the road by the red cabin (a coca cola shack). A few buses from another company went by before the Flores bus turned up. It was a normal, standard bus, no loo or in-flight entertainment but seats much more comfy than the Royal Class Ormeno bus we took to Paracas. It was also very cheap costing us the equivalent of £3 each for a four hour bus journey. This was a bus used by the local people and we were the only foreign travellers on board for most of the journey.
At Ica we had to wait a short while for our connection. Stef went off in search of lunch and came back with very simple but very tasty avocado rolls. A guy on the bus tried a couple of times to get us to book into "my hostel" but as we've pre-booked somewhere else we declined. Even so he was pretty persistent.
On the way to Ica the scenery was pretty much unchanged from what we had seen on the way to Paracas. The main difference was that we were above the coastal mist and into sunshine. From Ica on it was a different story. Here we started to climb up through hills and valleys, very reminiscent of Northern Chile. The floors of the valley had water sources so crops were grown and there were bright splashes of colour amidst the blandness of the desert.
The landscape here have me a real sense of movement. To me it looks like it was formed through glacial erosion because of the way the hillsides nest and mesh into each other. I have a real sense of seeing water streaming down the hills and running into rivulets across the flat plains below.
Full moon over Nazca
When we reached the plain at Nazca the effect for me was heightened. It is a vast, flat, open space stretching further than you can see with the naked eye (or with mine anyway!). At ground level there is no indication at all that this site holds great mystery which has been researched, discussed and debated for more than 60 years.
When we got to Nazca we were met at the bus depot by Freddy, who I thought was from the hotel. Turns out he was from the local tour agency that they used! Had we realised where the bus stopped we would not have asked to be met - it was about a 5 minute walk to our hotel, the Oro Viejo. This place is fabulous. From the street it looks like a simply house. The reception is cool and shady and the were very friendly. The hotel then stretches back through a courtyard and down into a lovely green garden. There is a small patio and lounge area with a bar, and tables and chairs are dotted though the gardens.
We asked Freddy to run through the tours he provides. He didn't try to push more onto us than we wanted to do which was a relief. We popped into his agency later to part pay for the tours but more importantly to get a written receipt (Lonely Planet has loads of warnings about people being ripped off by touts). At the Nazca Lines Hotel (another anonymous five star job) we booked our tickets for the hour long lecture on the Nazca Lines and then went to explore the centre of Nazca.
The main road is a trap for tourists with a number of restaurants plying their trade and trying to entice us in. Unfortunately the Plaza de Armas, usually the focus of people watching, is being renovated and is a big building site. I got the feeling that the area around it wasn't one of the nicer parts of Nazca, but I may have been quick to judge.
Back at the Nazca Lines Hotel, the lecture was interesting. It was held in a small planetarium in the hotel grounds built as a memorial to Maria Reiche, a German archaeologist who spent forty years of her life researching and investigating the lines. It ran through the various different archaeological views of the purpose of the lines. These include charting the stars, some form of map, religious and cultural use and the inevitable, that they are alien landing sites! The lecture was informative (we now know what to look for to see the Southern Cross) but unfortunately it was simply a tape as the usual lecturer is away in Cuzco. Stef has bought a topographical map of the lines - it would have looked good mounted in a frame and hung on a wall but its now got a few more lines added to it where its been folded up!
After the talk we went to check information for the buses down to Arequipa, our next destination. Its an 8 hour journey and if we want to go tomorrow the afternoon bus is already full. This means leaving Nazca at 10:30pm. We haven't decided yet exactly what we want to do here so we didn't book then. At 75 soles it is also pricey compared to the bus from Paracas. It is the price you pay for traveling tourist class with reclining seats but it seems to be the only option available.
On our hunt for somewhere to eat we passed a bar with a couple of familiar faces - Duncan and Jen who we'd met on the bus from Lima. We joined them and spent a really pleasant evening just chatting and sharing tales. A small world, they come from Maidstone not really that far from us in Croydon. Sounds like they are going to follow our route through Chile so I hope they enjoy it as much as we did.