We were excited when leaving Arequipa. We would be hitting the coast for the first time since Chile and thoughts of warm nights, sea breezes and fresh fish put a renewed vigour in our pedals.
It’s a wonderful feeling, freewheeling for hours at a time on a descent to sea level, and we finally felt we would be smashing the miles along somewhat flat coastal roads up to Lima and beyond to the Ecuador border.
The Pacific mist that barrelled inland at twilight on the day we reached shore did nothing to cloud our optimism. There would surely be bright sunshine come morning. And, being the Tropics, there must be lush tropical scenery: palm trees, exotic birds, bright plumes of foliage.
But as we clambered out the tent the next day, it became clear that the Peruvian coast at the tail end of the winter is as grey as it is monotonous. Hundreds of miles of featureless desert: monochrome brown rock slipping into green grey sea. The birds I was hoping for were somewhere else. Anywhere else. Not even a seagull on that easily forgotten stretch of land.
So when my rear and spare tyres both irreparably ripped on a typically uninteresting patch of uninteresting road, well, I can’t say I was too upset.
I had had two spare tyres (made by Schwalbe – the daddy of bike tour tyres) sent to Mala a few weeks back. There would be no point in me buying fresh tyres now, as Mala was just over 400 miles up the road.
So we hitchhiked. It took us two days to reach Nazca. Not bad for a distance that would have taken a week to ride. We arrived in Nazca safely, ready to take the bus on to Mala.
I’d been looking forward to visiting the mysterious Nazca Lines for months. I, like many others, had let my imagination off the leash in wondering about the huge figures that were carved into the desert floor all those centuries ago. Could they be astrological symbols? Images of deities? An elaborate calendar?
And how had ancient man created these wonderful scenes?
Mysteries are so much more exciting than the reality, aren’t they? We saw the lines. I was disappointed. Far from being a mystery, they are simple shallow grooves scraped across a veneer of small red rocks, revealing the whiter rock underneath. The arid climate has helped preserve the artwork.
And to me it is clear: it is simply artwork. Anthropologists have sweated for decades over what the purpose of the lines could be. But surely the answer is obvious – perhaps too obvious to be believable – the Nazca People wanted to create art. And in this case, their canvas happened to be the desert floor. They made images of birds, a spider, a human, a whale and hundreds more simply because they observed the natural world and wanted to recreate it in artwork.
Worth seeing? I wouldn’t go out of my way for them.
On to Lima!
Vida! Saúde! Felicidade!
As ever, if you’ve enjoyed reading these posts, or if you see value and a challenge in this trip, or if you’d simply like to support a wonderful cause, it would be great if you drop a little sum towards my fundraising goal for the Teenage Cancer Trust. Head over to https://www.justgiving.com/Mike-Edmondstone/ to get involved. Thanks 🙂