The Nazca Lines (and a very lucky escape)

The last  stops had brought some real ups (trekking in the Andes, sandboarding in Huacachina) and downs (the Islas Ballestas). Arriving in Nazca it seemed to me that the Nazca Lines could easily go either way, and I was in two minds as to whether to bother with flying over them or not.

Eventually, I realised that while Huacachina and the Ballestas are hardly world famous, whereas I’ve known about Nazca since I was a kid. So I decided to give the flight a go, hoping the reason for that fame lay in more than just their mysterious origins.

The flight itself cost $50, which I suppose is quite cheap for a flight, but still a little pricey for a forty minute experience. The plane itself was tiny, with seats for just five passengers, and I got to sit right in the front, next to the pilot, which was pretty exciting in itself.

Co-Pilot Geoff

Co-Pilot Geoff

We were soon airborne, and within minutes were over the giant rocky plain that is home to the lines. Despite a lifetime of work by the archaeologist Maria Reiche, no one is quite certain why the lines are there, with various theories being espoused including suggestions that they pointed to water sources or were fertility symbols, or even left by extra terrestrials. Whatever the truth, the fascinating thing is that they can only be seen from the air, so flying over at around 200m is the only way to see them.

Ultimately, they are just giant stick symbols. I wasn’t expecting to see them all that clearly, but as soon as we were above them they stood out way better than I was expecting, especially the hummingbird.

The Hummingbird

The Hummingbird

My personal favourite was the monkey (probably because it reminded me straight away of someone I know), but they are all pretty cool.

The Monkey

The Monkey

Getting off the plane, I realised I was really impressed and I really couldn’t work out why. It’s not that they are ancient and mysterious – I just can’t manage to get very excited about all that for some reason. I think it’s partly because it was fun being up in such a tiny plane, partly because I was expecting so little, and partly just because it’s cool seeing giant animals drawn on the ground in such a way you have to fly above them to see properly. Whatever the reason, it was bafflingly good fun.

The Whale

The Whale

It very nearly turned out to be a bargain, too. When I went to pay the night before, I only had two 100 sol notes on me, and it cost 150. As per usual for Peru, they had no change, so I just paid 100 with a promise that the person collecting me would ask for the other 50 in the morning. What with it being an early start, I forgot entirely and no-one asked me for it. I didn’t realise until later when I was sitting in a restaurant and it suddenly hit me. At which point I was hit with a moral dilemma. Should I ‘fess up and pay? Or should I hide out for the rest of the day and hope I’d get away with it?

One the one hand, immoral Geoff was thinking what the hell, I know for a fact I’ve been overcharged for things recently (after comparing prices with other travellers), in one case by a fair bit more than 50 soles, so I’m due a bit of payback, and anyway, they’d probably never find me.

On the other hand, moral Geoff was thinking, they have costs to pay, tourism is down this year because of the crisis, it would be wrong to try and defraud them when I can easily afford it. Plus I’d had a very lucky escape earlier (jumping out of the taxi back from the airport my wallet had fallen on the pavement without me noticing, and I was lucky enough for it still to be there when I realised quarter of an hour later when I went back – I was in a real panic for a moment, as it had my only card in it), and if the locals were honest enough to not to steal from me, who was I to steal from them?

Luckily, my moral dilemma solved itself pretty damn quickly without me having to make a decision. Nazca’s a small town, and there are only so many cafes a tourist can hang out while they wile away the hours between the early morning flights and the late evening night buses. As I sat there pondering what to do, the travel agent turned up in the restaurant. Seeing her before she saw me, I realised the game was up and had the 50 soles in hand before she even got to the table.

What would you have done in my situation?

You can see the rest of the Nazca Lines photos here.

10 responses to “The Nazca Lines (and a very lucky escape)

  1. If you had left without paying would you have written about this? I think not –

  2. Aaah Geoff….loved your Mum’s comment :-), however I would also have had the internal battle….and moral Gill would have won!

    However, if it had been in a richer country (USA!) I fear that the bad fairy in me would easily override the good fairy :-)

  3. Me too loved your Mum’s comment. :-)
    I by nature, would have probably paid by going back.

    Well, the dilemma is apt. I think it depends where and with whom you are dealing. Also, it definitely helps decide if the person concerned is poor or looks like.

  4. MONKEY!
    Good boy Geoff, we can lie, cheat and steal next month if you want.. Just to make up for you’re honesty this month.

  5. always do the right thing

  6. you did the right thing. karma. karma.

    i just made it to Arequipa after being in Nasca. I was really impressed with the flight and lines too, not expecting much also. I was able to c0-pilot also!

  7. Hi Geoff,
    I’ve been following your blog for a while but I’m posting for the first time. I’ve had this dilmema before and you pose a really good question. While you should always do the right thing, I’m going to say that they were the ones taking advantage of you and even if you had held onto the money, would would have been okay as well. I was just at the Nazca Lines this past July and I too paid for a $50 per person for the flight. I thought it was expensive for a short flight, but we had been gotten off the bus at 3:30am, it was dark, we were tired, this guy was at the train station looking for tourists and was going to take us to his “office” (ended up being a hostel), had limited time, didn’t have any other offers to compare it to, and the price had been negotiated down from $75. Met people later on in the day…some paid the $75, one girl only paid $30 (she was an amazing negotiator though, got the lowest prices always). A difference of $45 on one person! Imagine how much they are making off everyone every day! All passengers got on the same flights to see about 10-12 figures, even though the people selling the flights said that cheaper flights would see fewer figures. Nazca is pretty much a tourist town and the people who work in tourism are are doing fairly well, even when tourism is down a bit. Tourist prices are almost always overpriced to begin with and the industry can make up the money on the next unsuspecting tourist. Sometimes I think that since I come from a developed country (USA) and can generally afford to pay more, it’s not that bad if you get ripped off here or there. I think that’s why sometimes people overpay/overtip (I’m talking to you fellow Americans) too. However, the problem is not just that we paid too much but that it only lines the pockets of those middle men and people involved in tourism. It doesn’t help the people in Peru who seem really need the money and it also doesn’t help the country in general because we (developed nations) start pricing out the locals and people from countries that don’t have the good fortune of have that kind of money. So yes, I do kind of regret paying for a $50 per person for the flight, even if I don’t regret the flight itself, because I paid too much and also perpetuated the cycle. I think it’s best if I try not to overpay. There’s nothing I can do about it at this point and just chalk it up to another overpriced lesson learned. I do think it is good that you lived up to your word and have a clear conscience, even if they should not have charged you too much in the first place.
    Gloria

  8. Oh yeah, keep up the good work! I’m enjoying your blog.

  9. Damn right Gloria! Damn Right!!
    Could i extend this past over paying and tipping to the mere act of tipping?? Did you know most of the world doesnt do it? Im from NZ and its completely uncommon even in restaurants. Why must i be made to feel like some kind of criminal for not leaving a tip? Sure when in Rome do as the Romans but why, WHY must i feel obliged to tip in countries that have only learnt this from American tourists?
    As for Peru it as a shame about the attitude they have towards tourists, I am only a dollar and it doesnt matter how they get it. After all we are all hopelessly rich and can afford all kinds of crazy prices! Point in case Hauchachina, food and accomodation at least doubles in that town. Strangely enough i only saw one group of national tourists, a very rich Peruvian couple. No one else in their right mind would put up with that place out of mere principal, why pay more for less? All in all Peru is an amazing country and i have met some really friendly genuine locals but another third smile and take my money any way they can fathom whilst another third are merely thieves.

  10. Pingback: Traveler’s Dilemma | you wish you were here

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