Off to a flying start

Off to a flying start

As we left Lima last evening, the Captain told us that the port of Paracas, where we arrived this morning, had just one pilot and as another ship was in port today, he was aiming to put his foot down a bit and make sure we arrived before them.


We were awake early and I stuck my head outdoors to see what’s what and, noticing we weren’t moving any more assumed Capt. Teo had achieved his goal.


A few minutes later, the Black Watch sailed past us and we watched her manoeuvre as we ate breakfast out on the deck. It was a beautiful morning, just perfect for the plans we had made.


We’d chosen an adventure very specifically here and had been looking forward to it very much indeed. 


Driving from the port, we were glad we’d made specific plans too, because the immediate area didn’t seem to be filled with much to see or do, even though it’s a National Reserve.  We’d giggled a bit at the description of Paracas in last night’s Passages as “a mishmash of half demolished and half repaired buildings that pepper a motley “resort strip”… On potholed streets still recuperating from the 2007 earthquake stray dogs bark, waiters hold open fish inspired menus and hungry pelicans stake out the harbour like vultures awaiting fresh carrion”


Well, I’m not sure I felt tempted to explore the streets too closely, even if it’s good to think that there’s something here to bring in some much needed $$$s.


I’m sure that every bit of income is needed to restore what appears to be a pretty ramshackle place.


We were heading for the airport, an incongruous facility just around the corner of a dusty, unmetalled road.  Right now, there’s just the one gate open


but there’s another twelve all finished and mothballed, awaiting the arrival of domestic and international flights “sometime next year”.  Maybe.


We checked in and instead of putting suitcases on the scales, were asked to stand on them ourselves, so that the loading could be balanced.  We were assigned seats and led out to our plane, all eleven of us.


As we did, we noticed our plane being pulled into place on a trolley.  Oooer!


Captain Carlos met us on the tarmac and introduced himself and his co-pilot Luis.


We climbed on board and took our seats.  Guess who had seats #1 and 2?


It’s not often we get the chance to look over the Captain’s shoulder as he delivers the safety briefing…


or tears down the runway!


Soon we were high above Paracas and the blue containers at the fish meal factory were clear to see.


Other familiar landmarks were easy to spot as well.


Soon we were flying high over irrigated farmland – 3000ft altitude we were advised.


During the next thirty five minutes or so, we flew over a range of different landscapes, each with a distinct pattern created by the wind and the weather.


It was hard to grasp the scale of the sand dunes but easy to see that this is not a particularly hospitable environment for anything to live.


But although it doesn’t rain here at all, the higher land to the east of here does have a rainy season right now and we flew over the occasional river valley like this one.


Way down there, too, we could clearly see the long, straight Pan American Highway which stretches from Alaska in the north right the way down to Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego. 


As I was admiring the curves and pattern in what looked like a dried up riverbed, Carlos announced our arrival high above the Nazca Desert.  Can you guess what we’d come to see?


We descended and got a little closer to the action, so to speak.  Sure enough, the previously plain, windswept surface was now covered with straight lines forming geometric patterns.


It was time to refer to the map we’d been given earlier with the key to our route.  We were going to begin with the whale in the bottom right hand corner and progress in numerical order.


As we passed each shape, Luis banked the plane to give first one side a great view, then turned and banked for the other side.  He grinned and was clearly enjoying this!


So, down there is the whale.


Can you see it?  The straight line goes right through it, its open jaw just underneath?  Alongside it are some more lines, though don’t seem to be part of an animal shape and are just some of the hundreds of squiggles and mysterious shapes which cover the desert in this area.


The astronaut is easier to see and identify on the side of this small hill.


As we tip first to one side and then to the other, I’m concentrating on trying not to think what’s going on!


Though I can’t resist keeping an eye on Luis’ screen and watching that horizon!


Here’s the hummingbird.  Like all the other shapes, it’s formed from a single line and can be drawn without taking the pencil off the paper.  I think the astronaut is the exception to this rule, though.


It’s hard to get the scale of these things, but here are the hands and the tree which are adjacent to the highway and have that observation tower in between them.  The hands, to the right, are easier to spot than the tree I think, but to get an idea of the size, those are cars parked on the opposite side of the road.


The last shape on our “tour” was the parrot, bisected by the elongated triangle shape which stretches right the way across its beak.  Most of the shape is enclosed within the triangle formed by the clearer straight lines – maybe you can spot the double wings running parallel to the bottom one?

With one last swoop and banking manoeuvre, Carlos turned for home.  We ascended back to 3000ft and felt rather relieved that our stomachs had held firm throughout that challenge!


Funny how the way back is never as long as the way out, isn’t it?


One last look over Carlos’ shoulder as Luis brought the plane down smoothly to a round of applause.


The next group were ready to begin their adventure and Luis was looking forward to another couple of hours’ fun.

Winking smile

Meanwhile, back on board, the travelling companions appear to have been having some fun of their own.  I think Rosemarie has been aiding and abetting

Arriving in Matarani

Arriving in Matarani

A strange kind of day

A strange kind of day