Ground shaking adventures in Nazca Peru

Strange, the ground is shaking. Looking around, I notice the airport staff fleeing out into the blinding desert sunshine. I should track down my boyfriend and travel companion – he’d be looking for me. He wasn’t. I found the Georges by Vida watching the distant dust clouds in the city and surrounding mountains.

We had just experienced a 7.0 magnitude earthquake at the airport in Nazca Peru. Conferring with airport staff, we learned there was thankfully only minor damage in the nearby town.

Half an hour later, we would be boarding our 7-seater prop plane to fly over the Nazca lines, a ancient set of extensive and mind-bending geoglyphs etched into the Nazca desert. The flight lasted about 45 minutes and took us over the majority of the lines as well as the agueducts, which are optional. Standouts for me were the hummingbird and “astronaut”. On the way back from the airport, our guide asked us if we wanted to have some fun. I knew immediately what he meant and stubbornly kept shaking my head since I was already very close to loosing my lunch. Mercifully, he got the message.

After the flight we paid a quick visit to some Peruvian ancients at Chauchilla Cemetery. Grave robbers had walked off with the treasures long ago leaving the remains exposed to the desert elements which has preserved them alarmingly well. Bonus points go to the many feet of preserved braided hair.

Some practical information about the Nazca lines:

The Tower

Driving toward Nazca, you’ll encounter a tower that overlooks some of the lines which you can climb for a small fee. If you’re planning to take the flight, the tower is definitely not worth the time or money. If you are not taking the flight, it’s debatable but will only set you back something like 2 soles.


Hotel Maison Suisse directly across from the Nazca airport hosts overlanders.


The Nazca flights have a terrible reputation of being unsafe. A friendly person in Huacachina filled us in on the history of the flights and the safety record. There had been a number of accidents (plane crashes) up until a few years ago when the Peruvian government moved in and shut down all the unsafe carriers. What remains are three carriers and a number of agencies that you can book through.

Flights & Fees

We flew with Alas Peruanas, but booked through one of the agencies at the airport. There seems to be no reason to book ahead. We also found after some price comparison that everyone is offering similar prices but the agencies as opposed to the carriers seem to offer more wiggle room in terms of prices when trying to fill a plane in our experience. Also keep in mind that there is an additional 20 soles airport tax.

Motion Sickness

Take the pills.

Sandboarding and a dune buggy ride in Huacachina Peru

I was only half listening when the Georges told me we would be going to a desert oasis. I imagined some hotel in the middle of the desert claiming to be an oasis for weary travellers, but the tiny village of Huacachina lived up to the claim. Huacachina is situated around a natural lake and surrounded by sand dunes.

There are only two reasons to visit Huacachina: you need a break from the harsh dessert environment that is the northern Peruvian coast and/or you want an adrenaline rush in the form of sandboarding and a dune buggy ride.

Unfortunately for the other passengers in our buggy, I snagged the seat beside the driver. The first crest that the driver came barreling up to and almost plummeting down elicited a high pitch wail from me followed by a lot of chuckling from the driver. The group quickly realized that the dune crests would be part of the ride. This didn’t stop the driver from continuing to try and make me scream though. We would ride a sand rollercoaster for the next couple of hours.

Between spins in the buggy, we tried our hand at sandboarding. Absolutely easier than volcano boarding, but we all still managed some pretty impressive bailouts with the exception of George M. who handled the dunes like a boss.


Bye Ecuador, hello Peru!

We left Ecuador in a hurry accomplishing one of the longest drive days on our trip (550 miles / about 900 km). After a forced two weeks wait for our tent parts to clear customs we had itchy feet. We din’t like much the human version of ping-pong between Fedex and Ecuador customs. The game is called “Overnight delivery (from the US) and over month customs wait”.

Finally here! For years I have heard legends for the amazing waves and kiting in Northern Peru. I was stocked!

We wanted to hit a few kiting destinations (Mancora, Lobitos, Pacasmayo), try surfing in Chicamas (this place claims the longest left wave in the world) and last but not least go hiking in the Cordillera Blanca. All this in the eleven days before a friend was coming to visit in Lima. The plan looked good. We just forgot one detail – the one thousand miles of driving from Mancora to Lima…

We started with two days in Mancora. Aaron and Linda, two of our overland friends, had arrived to Mancora the day before so we joined them. The first thing we did that day was work on fixing the tent. Man, was I worried if the parts were going to fit this time around… A month earlier we had received spare parts in Colombia only to find out they did not fit. Luckily this time with help from Aaron we managed to fix the tent! Hurray, Taj Mahal is working again!

Mancora turned to be a disappointment. It was crowded and a bit touristy. There was no wind and the waves were nowhere to be found either. On top of it all we had a mugging encounter which made us all feel uneasy about Mancora. We decided to move quickly to the next spot – Lobitos.

Lobitos delivered. It is a small village on the coast about an hour south of Mancora. Lobitos was created by the British as a booming oil town in the beginning of 20th century. After the oil dried up Lobitos turned into a ghost town. Now the only people who still live in Lobitos are a few fishermen and a hardcore group of surfers and kiters. A few hotels have started to slowly pop up here and there however you can still enjoy the place basically to yourself. Needless to say Aaron and I spent enough time in the water.

By this point five out of our eleven days have gone by and we still had a thousand miles to drive and so much more to see. We had to hurry. On the third day in Lobitos we parted ways with Aaron and Linda and headed south. The next destinations were Pacasmayo and Chicamas. Unfortunately there was no wind in Pacasmayo so we quickly moved to Chicamas. The day after we did not have time to fool around in the water so we just drove to the famous surfing spot and took a few pictures. The only sport I managed to do in the short hours we spent in Chicamas was oddly volleyball. I played for an hour with the local kids after dinner.

At this point we were super concerned about time and making it to Lima. We had to change plans. Teresa sacrificed (not for the first, and not the last time) some of what she wanted to do – Cordillera Blanca. We decided that it was too much of a risk to try to spend 3 days back to back driving to the mountains to hike for a day and drive another two days to Lima. We headed straight south.

Northern Peru looked very interesting. Sadly we had to rush through and could not spend more time. However I know that we will be back (at least I will kiting).

The harshness and beauty of Cabo de la Vela

Cabo de la Vela is a lesson in extreme existence.  There is not a single road to get there but many crisscrossing through the desert (GPS required).  Since I believe my brain actually boiled form the heat while there and am still wondering how people manage to scratch out a living in such an extreme environment (desert meets ocean), I will rely on pictures to document our time.