Nintendo Made Me Visit The Nazca Lines

November 3, 2013

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The Hummingbird

I knew about Nazca before I had ever heard of Macchu Picchu. It was 1994, and I was in the middle of playing Illusion of Gaia on SNES. It’s fair to say that game planted a huge seed in my subconsciousness, playing upon my desire to travel the world in the future; everything in the story was built around adventure: exploring the ruins of Angkor Wat, walking through undersea tunnels, and seeing the condor in the Nazca Lines from above.

Such began my quest to understand archeoastronomy, how ancient cultures demonstrated their understanding of the constellations and heavens in their creations. Angkor Wat is a prime example; its entrances are positioned for viewing of celestial alignments in much the same way as the sunlights in the pyramids of Giza.

I had originally thought, as in the game, there were stones between the drawings in Nazca marking the positions of the stars in the constellations they represented. No such luck. Although there is evidence the lines do point to astronomical phenomena, it’s merely theory and conjecture. No one is sure of the true purpose of the lines.

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The Monkey

Four days is really too long to spend in an area like Nazca, but that’s ok. Time to relax in a room with sunlight and no construction noises. I’m finally a tourist in Peru, and it feels different. Spending more money, plane ticket already booked – ten days to go – and staying in hostels. Although the city seems to have been around for centuries, it now seems to exist for the sole purpose of tourism, driving gringos and gringas to the airfield to fly over the lines.

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The Spider

The standard tourism route is to come in on an overnight bus from Arequipa or Lima, drop bags at a trusted hotel, catch the first flight over the lines, grab lunch, then take off for your next destination. No downtime. At most, tourists will spend a day or two here.

I chose the Nazca Trails Hostel. There are plenty of decent places around the city, but this one is quiet (three blocks from the main street), with a very friendly owner; he arranges tours of the lines and is happy to shoot the breeze and give travel advice in Peru. In fact, I’m sipping on complimentary tea he provided in my room.

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As far as the tour itself is concerned, it’s best to leave on the first flight out, around 8 AM. I joined a pair of Norwegian guys who had been living in Lima and Bangkok. Although you may hear reports that taxiing to the Nazca airfield and paying cash is the cheapest way to go (and, technically, it is), it’s definitely not the most convenient. Sure, show up with $80 cash, your passport, and 25 soles for the airport tax, and you can hop on board any small plane. But $90 will allow you to book a reliable tour from town.

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The Condor

When in Peru, do as the Peruvians do: coca tea and coca candy is often used to prevent altitude and motion sickness, and it’s not a bad idea before boarding a Cessna. The main collection of Nazca line drawings are just northwest of the town center, west of the Pan-American Highway. Thirty-forty minutes is all you need to see a dozen or so, and the pilots are extremely adept at tilting the plane to get the proper views (just look at my photos).

This will be the highlight of my Peruvian trip, I’m sure. Twenty years ago, I couldn’t have imagined I’d be in a position to visit the wonders I had learned about in a fantasy game, and now I’m sleeping on their periphery. Part of me regrets not being able to afford Macchu Picchu on this trip – hiking the Inca Trail is 500 USD, minimum – but I feel more than satisfied that that little itch that caused me to come to Peru in the first place has been scratched. Nintendo games have played a huge part in my evolution as a traveler. It’s very comparable to discovering that the triforce symbol in the Legend of Zelda was actually commonly used on shrines in Japan.

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One Response to Nintendo Made Me Visit The Nazca Lines

  1. […] ruins had been at the top of my list for some time. Like my mini-obsession with the Nazca Lines, my focus on Angkor Wat came from a childhood video game. The irony is, I probably would have […]

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