A rather nippy start into the desert got us to the observation tower for the Nazca Lines – massive drawings and geometric shapes drawn into the desert sand – nice and early the next day. Bar the ticket guy, we were the only two people there as we climbed the rusty iron tower…which obviously explains why ticket guy climbed the tower five minutes later and minutely scrutinised our admission slips…jobsworth! Realising that it’s very hard to see drawings that are hundreds of meters across from a tower ten metres high, we bailed for Nazca proper to book a flight over the plateau. $90 for us both and thirty minutes later, having watched half of a pirated Discovery Channel documentary about the Lines, we were crammed into a Cessna and roaring out across the desert. The pilot was superb, making near-vertical turns over each picture etched nearly 3000ft below on the desert floor so that we could get decent photos – fifty quid well spent. Theories abound as to the origin of the lines, one fruitloop professor claiming that they’re the result of extra-terrestrial spaceships landing and taking off – a “theory awaiting evidence”, as it was politely dismissed by one of the blurred experts on the video. More plausible is the suggestion that shamen from the Nazca tribe would consume hallucinogenic drugs and ‘fly’ vast distances to fight battles and ensure water would appear for the villagers – thus the drawings were made to be visible from the air and portray animals whose characteristics the shamen would adopt in his battles…the cunning of the monkey, the aggression of the spider and so on. They are incredible, especially when one considers that they were made maybe six hundred years ago and have not been restored…apparently the complete lack of rainfall in the areas minimises erosion. Very impressive.
Heading out of Nazca past the world’s largest sand dune – it’s very tall (2000m) and made from lots of sand… – we climbed up into the desert, pulling over with amazement when we spotted another overland bike by the side of the road…it was Roland and Thea – a couple from Austria and Norway travelling on an old BMW RS100. Swapping bike stories and cruising through the mountain roads occupied a few hours – it’s great to meet other people on bikes – it turns into a massive geek session as we question each other about fuel consumption, luggage capacity, routes, equipment….you get the picture. Parting company after exchanging email addresses, we headed up into the highest areas yet – we finally topping out at 15,000ft – the bikes were most unhappy, but the scenery was incredible, blue skies above endless sparse grass stretching out across the massive plains to the snow-capped Andes beyond. Fingers rapidly numbing and feeling the effects of the altitude we made good progress across the thankfully excellent roads, hoping that we’d drop off the edge of the plateau before dark or rain started falling. Fortunately temperatures improved as we descended (well, they couldn’t get much colder) and we swung through superbly smooth roads into Chalhuanca for the night, grateful for hot water (after Will complained about false advertising) and more lomo saltado before bed.
Cusco beckoned the next day…jumping off point for Machu Picchu and also a large town to grab a few days rest after the last few marathon rides. Pelting past backpacker buses on the twisting canyon roads, we were going well until Will “Dog Magnet” Solomon struck again – this time coming off slightly better as the dog bounced off the heavy aluminium bashplate and up into doggie heaven – Will vs. Dogs score now sitting at 1:1.
Glorious sunshine accompanied us as we eventually learnt how to stop the bikes feeling sick at altitude – turn the fuel taps half off – brilliant! Despite the efforts of local kids to stop Will leaving (hanging onto his panniers after a photo stop) we made Cusco in good time, bullied taxi drivers out of the way and found a hostel about mid-afternoon…it was very, very nice to arrive somewhere in daylight!