May 23, 2012 – Nazca Lines!
The sun’s gone, Orion’s long since set below the western horizon, and the Southern Cross is arcing its way through the southern sky as the bus stops at the Nazca Cruz Del Sur station and Rodney and I climb out. At the front gate, we’re greeted by name – “Rodney? Amanda?” – by a Peruvian who gathers us up and tucks us into a waiting cab and then waves goodbye to us through the dusty windows. We glance at each other and hope the driver knows where to go. He does. Five minutes later we pull up in front of the Nazca Oasis Resort. The driver honks, and a blurry eyed attendant lets us in.The older gentleman at the front desk greets us with, “It’s pretty late,” as if to chide us for arriving after nine o’clock. I smile and agree. He hands us our key and escorts us to the room. To save money Rodney and I are sharing a room. This arrangement provides others with plenty of strange ideas about the nature of our relationship and makes me wish that I’d done as my sister-in-law suggested afterwards and made up a different explanation for each questioning assumption.
“I’m his bodyguard.”“We’re Alien Intelligence sent to spy on you and your infamous lines.”
Or “He’s our leader.” As if I was part of a cult (or the whole cult itself) and Rodney the shaman.It’s been a long day for me, starting with the stress of the dentist and ending after a delightful and many-miled road trip adventure. I’m exhausted. With my head on my pillow, I close my eyes and listen to the silence. The city noise is left hundreds of kilometers behind me. All I hear is the barking of dogs. It reminds me of Cieneguilla. I put in earplugs and fall asleep.
In the morning, we’re up early and soon at the breakfast table. Food in my belly and coffee in hand, I go ask the desk clerk, Ivan (a different clerk than last night), what time I’m supposed to be at the airport in order to catch my over flight of the Lines. He has no clue. With my ticket voucher in hand, he calls several people to find out for me, including the agent who booked the trip and who doesn’t know either.“You have to be there by nine o’clock,” Ivan eventually tells me.
I check the time. “Can you have a taxi come get me?” He says yes. Then Rodney comes over and we arrange for him to go to see the Aqueducts while I’m flying, and then for us to go to the Cahuachi pyramids later that afternoon.When my taxi arrives I wave goodbye to Rodney who’s now reading in the lobby. Ivan introduces me to the driver, Orlando, and asks him to find out what time I’ll be finished so that he can be there to pick me up.
“It’s complicated to get a ride back from the airport,” Ivan tells me. “So if for some reason Orlando isn’t there, here’s my number. You can use one of the coin phones outside to call and let me know you’re finished and I’ll arrange a ride.”So long as I get there, , I think, getting back can be a worry for another time.
It’s less than a ten minutes trip to the airport.“You’re going to see the Lines?” Orlando asks in Spanish.
“Yes, I am so excited about this!” I’m like a little kid, hardly able to keep my seat.“Wow!” Orlando says. It’s his favorite word. “There are a lot of theories about the Lines. Some people say that extraterrestrials made them.”
“What do you believe?” I ask, expecting skepticism.“Wow!” Orlando says. “I think maybe there were extraterrestrials that made them. Because how else would they get here? Wow!”
I shrug. Yeah, how else? and wow.He comes inside with me to ask the attendant when he should come back to collect me. The attendant is busy checking passports and tickets of six other people who seem to be taking an inordinate amount of time to be helped.
“Can you please wait back there,” their agent asks me with a little pique when I step up to hand my own passport over to the attendant, thinking it’s my turn. Orlando and I exchange a “oops” look and both go sit down. When a break comes in the bustle, Orlando squeezes up to the counter.“When will she be done with her flight? When should I come back to collect her?”
The attendant shrugs. “It’s a thirty minute flight.”“But when will she board?”
“I don’t know,” the attendant says.That definitive answer made, Orlando waves goodbye to me and leaves. A bit later, the attendant motions me up, takes my passport, checks my voucher and tells me to go pay my 25 soles airport tax. So I do. The tax attendant gives me a receipt and then another attendant gives me my boarding ticket. Next step is going through security. No problemo.
I’m booked with Aerodiana, but there are probably ten or so different airlines that do the over flights. I wait in the little waiting room with all the other airlines’ passengers. As I wait, I watch the other tourists, listen to the melody of languages and accents, and wonder at the surliness in the posture of one girl who is standing in the corner as far away from her companion as possible. As the planes are readied, the pilots enter the room, read off the names on their lists and take their group to the little Cessna planes.Four or five groups get called. The seconds turn into minutes and then the minutes into an hour. My patience is waning and I’m more than ready for my own flight adventure. Finally an Aerodiana pilot arrives. Names are called. But I don’t hear mine. Until--
“Amanda Jahneee?”“Amanda White?” I ask, hopeful. I’ve never heard my last name pronounced that way before. I go to look at the sheet. Oh! He’s assumed that Jane is my proper surname as it would be if I were Peruvian. “That’s me,” I say. I gather up with my group of ten and we walk out to the plane with our pilots leading the way.
“You’re right behind the pilot,” an older man tells me as he takes his seat across the aisle from his wife.
“I know it!” I say. I buckle myself in to keep from flying away on my own.The pilot in front of me is the copilot (I think), he’s also our guide. The pilot to the right runs through the checklist in a book he’s got in his hand, talking quietly into his headset speaker. Then switches are flipped, the propeller comes to life, knobs are turned and the fancy screen in front of the pilot lights up like a computer game.
“Okay, friends, let’s go!” the copilot says, “Vamos, amigos! Then something in either Japanese, Chinese, or Korean that ends with, GO GO GO!”The Asians, sitting in the very back, yell along with him when he gets to the, “GO GO GO!”
We taxi down the tarmac. Take a turn. Then with gaining speed we rush down the runway and then we’re off!The ground falls beneath quickly. This place is beautiful. The mountains make me feel I’ve come to someplace that’s like a memory of what Home is to me. The stark desolation of the desert intrigues me. How would anyone think anything could grow or thrive here? The contrast of green and sand. The extreme variety of landscape. I’m totally in love with it all.
The pilot veers us over the first Line. I press my nose to the window trying to see. I don’t want to miss anything. I’m afraid I’ll be looking in the wrong spot or won’t know how to see. But no! There it is, The Whale.“Under the wing! Under the wing!” the guide pilot says to get us looking in the right place.
We all exclaim with joy and wonder.The pilot banks and turns and brings us around so we can view it from the other side. I pull my seatbelt loose and lean across the aisle trying not to get in the way of the grouchy lady sitting across from me, but wanting to see as much as I can.
The Giant is easier to see etched against the side of a dark faced hill. I can’t stop a laugh of delight from escaping my lips. It’s the best thing I’ve ever seen! What a figure! I’m seeing the Nazca Lines with my own eyes! I’m amused at myself for thinking in exclamation marks. But I can’t help it. And why should I? This is amazing stuff!
The Monkey. Its tail curves into an impressive and perfect spiral. I’m trying to take pictures and look at the same time and end up with a lot of cock-eyed photos. But it doesn’t matter.
When we’ve flown on the right side and the left, the guide asks, “Did everyone see it?” before we move on to the next Line.The Dog.
The Hummingbird.We fly over terrain that takes my breath away. The pilot loops around and I catch a vertigo that’s as thrilling as any amusement park ride I’ve even been on – only a million times better. Below me, the land is etched with thousands (it seems to me) of geometric lines that indicate water sources, ceremony sites, celestial occurrences, or the runways of an ancient airfield used by E.T.s. depending on the person I’m speaking with.
A final sweep. “That’s the tour,” the guide says.When the wheels touch down we all clap. It’s one of the times I can’t help myself. By now, I think even the grouchy lady is happy. At least happier. The pilots exchange an amused glance.
“A great landing!” the guide-pilot says.
We get out and have our pictures taken at the plane and with the pilots. I feel like an eager child and have to bite back the words, “Let’s do it again!”
As I walk back to the airport I don’t think my feet even touch the ground. I’m almost to the outside exit when I see Orlando. He smiles at me.“Have you been waiting a long time?” I ask him.
“No,” he says. He opens up the car door for me and drives me back to the hotel. “Did you like it?”
“Wow!” I say, using his favorite word. There’s not much else to be said at the moment.