|Rob Ennals > Travel > Around Peru in Seven Days|
Day 6 - The Sixth Fastest Rally Driver in Peru
I don't know whether it was the legroom, or the comfort, or just my extreme tiredness (I had barely slept in the park), but something worked, and, for the first time ever, I managed to sleep on the coach. It felt amazing to wake up in Nazca and actually be able to think coherent thoughts.
We had set ourselves two missions for Nazca. First we would see the Nazca lines, and then we would go sandboarding. We also needed to buy ourselves a bus ticket for Lima, since those had not been available at our previous stop.
Just as in Puno, we were greeted by a friendly tour operator who promised to provide us with the activities we wanted at reasonable prices. I was initially a little suspicious, but, remembering how well things had turned out last time, we decided to go with her. The lady promised us flights over the Nazca lines for $45, and sandboarding for $40. However, by the time she had driven us back to her office, these had miraculously transformed into $70 for the flight, and $80 for the sandboarding. We were suspicous about her claims, but didn't have the time or the energy to argue, so went ahead with what she was booking.
It is worth noting that these prices were in dollars. Although Peru's official currency is Sols, US dollars are also treated as a currency in many places. To make things more confusing many places will only take US dollars, or only take Sols, so in practice one needs to carry both. Often the currency that a place would take would be somewhat counter intuitive. For example the Peruvian government only accepts airport tax payments in dollars, while the Tourist board that runs Machu Picchu only accepts payment in Sols.
The Nazca lines are perhaps most famous for Erik von Daniken's outrageous claims about them. Between 200bc and 700ad, the Nazca people drew a collection of lines and drawings on the desert plateau. The drawings are so big that, to really appreciate them, one has to view them from the air. They are, however, not as big as many people believe them to be. Indeed a couple of determined individuals could probably made a new one in a day or two.
Since the best way to see the lines is by plane, that is what we did. At the airport, we were bundled into a small 4-person place together with the pilot and one other passenger. The other passenger told us that they had got the same flight from the same tour operator for $50 - demonstrating that we had indeed been swindled.
The flight was enormous fun, not just because of the lines, but also because it was our first experience in a tiny plane, and the nature of the mission meant that we spent a lot of time making tight turns and rapid maneuvers.
Next up was sand-boarding. The lying tour lady had told us that the sand dune would would be surfing down was only 15 minutes away, and that we would enjoy at least two and a half hours of boarding before it got dark. This of course turned out to be false. The sand dune was in fact well over an hour's drive away, leaving much less time for actual boarding.
However this was no great loss as the drive itself was quite an experience. Our driver told us that he was the sixth best rally driver in Peru, and he seemed quite keep to demonstrate this as he threw his four wheel drive around dirt corners and caught air going over bumps. Eventually we reached the edge of the sand dunes and our driver got out and let down the air in his tires so provide extra grip on the sands. Driving on the dunes was even more fun than on the roads. As we crested the top of a dune and went down the face we were sometimes driving down so steeply that it felt that the car might topple over its nose.
Eventually, we came to the first sand dune that we were going to ride down.
A sand board is rather like a snow board, except that it is much thicker and coated with a replaceable, stick-on anti-fliction layer. Before each ride it was necessary to coat this board with enormous quantities of wax, to ensure that the board was slippery enough to ride down the sand.
With my board waxed up, I got ready to throw myself down the dune. I strapped myself in, pointed my board straight down-hill, and tried to persuade my board to move. But it wouldn't. It seemed that I had failed to apply enough wax, or hadn't applied my wax the right way. A couple of additional wax coats later and I was moving down the dune at roughly walking space, while pointing so steeply down the hill that I was worried I would topple over. This lack of speed was all the more frustrating given that Simon seemed to be building up speed with ease.
By the third run I had started to get the hang of it. I needed to use the edge of my board to chew up the wax before applying it, giving a thicker coat, and I needed to keep my weight on the back of the board, to avoid the board submarining under the sand and thus getting stuck. On my final run I was pleased to see that I was finally faster than Simon, and was even starting to do reasonable turns.
Unfortunately the third run was our lot. The lying tour-guides claims of hours and hours of sandboarding had turned out to be a little far from the truth. It was getting dark and it was now time to go back.
As we drove back, we were surprised to encounter a man wandering through the desert carrying an enormous cross. He explained that he was going to some kind of religious festival, and needed to get to Nazca. We decided to give him a lift, and drove along at speed with the cross hanging out of the passenger window.
One of the many things that the lying tour lady had told us was that we wouldn't need to worry about booking tickets to Lima in advance because the busses ran every hour until 10pm and there were always spaces free. Given that everything else the lying lady had told us had turned out to be wrong, we suspected that this might be wrong as well and so headed straight for the bus station.
It turned out that the lady had indeed been lying to us. It was 7:45pm and the final bus of the day was about to pull out of the bus station. Fortunately, I had just enough money in by pocket to buy us some tickets and we managed to clamber on board.
Remembering our pleasant experience with our previous bus, we opted to go for the seats right at the front. However this turned out to be a mistake. Rather than having extra leg room, we found ourselves with less leg room, making it very difficult to sleep. Our sleep problems were amplified by the fact that we had to change busses around half-way, and the fact that both busses insisted on hooting continuously as they went through villages, in an attempt to pick up more passengers. Another no-sleep night.