I love Portugal, it is the half of my heritage I am most in tune with and that my stomach absolutely loves. The food in Portugal is beyond anything you can imagine, rich, flavoursome and… More
Before I get into the experience of seeing the Nazca Lines in person, let me explain what they are. The lines are considered geoglyphs, which are huge motifs usually carved onto the ground, they are a somewhat similar concept to hieroglyphs but far larger in scale as if made to be seen by the Gods.
The Nazca lines are the largest collection of geoglyphs found in such close proximity to one another, currently counting at over 70 figures across Pampas de Jumama in Peru. It is assumed that they were made by the Nazca people circa 400 to 650 AD. The Nazca were known as the ancient people who were able to make the desert fruitful and were also skilled artists, which explains, somewhat, the intricacy of the geoglyphs and the people’s ability to design at such a large scale. On the other hand, others think that due to the dimensions of the drawings, it is impossible that the people could have potentially drawn at such a scale without an aircraft for perspective or alien aid. The biggest, discovered, is as large as 370 metres (1200 ft).
The only way to explore some of these incredible designs is by flying in a small aircraft and soaring through the skies looking at them. They are truly incredible and the images are fantastic to see. We flew with AeroNasca, but there are plenty of other airlines. It is quite costly, we paid 180$ (USD) each for a five seat air craft. I also have to strongly advise you, if you are anything like me and really get motion sickness, all the tablets in the world might not help you (they did not help me!) so make sure you are hydrated, avoid looking through your camera (this is why the photos are probably not very good!) and don’t eat anything that you are unsure of for breakfast. Trust me.
Given the terrain which the glyphs are found on, I was amazed at how clear they were once they were pointed out. In a way I almost feel like all the random lines are there on purpose to distract viewers from finding them!
I cannot suggest it any more! It was truly magical and I felt like I was peering through the eyes of a God on a canvas so beautiful and untainted, that I will never truly know if I believe it to be man-made.
Amazing dancing but lazy plot making.
When I watch a dance show I don’t usually mind not having a plot to follow. I would almost prefer it to be done in a series of small sketches, like a comedy show. However, if you want to have a story line at least make it visceral to the show. It killed me that in the midst of such exception dancing and choreography the plot failed to impress as much. Why oh why was it set in an airport? It just made very little sense and would have been far more captivating if it was set in the streets of Havana. The public wanted Cuba and that would have delivered Cuba. The idea was flawed and too complicated when the audience was craving the latin everything that the show could have potentially offered, setting and plot included. That being said, choreographers and concept designers are not authors, so I will forgive them for that.
Dance wise, what an incredible show to watch. It was fun, sassy and everything I imagined Cuban dancing to be like, both structured and dirty to the core. There was enough variation that the audience was always left wanting to watch more. For this reason I can only advise people to watch the show when it comes around again. It is reinvented by the company every few years and it is such good fun, followed by the dance class at the end which is just an absolute joy.
I don’t tend to consider myself an adrenaline junkie, however, I can be pretty fearless and willing to try things that I have never considered before. Caving was one of those things. Definitely not an adventure for claustrophobic people, I didn’t think it was something I would want to do. However, the opportunity presented itself and I leaped at the chance to explore the Mayan underworld, even though my superstitious self was terrified.
The caves in San Ignacio are very special, an ancient ritual site which can only be descended into through the mouth of a cave at the top of a jungle. Only 10% of these caves have been mapped out, and in order for you to visit or explore you need to be accompanied by experts with licenses that are specifically for these caverns. Only 20 or so people have these licenses, so we knew we were in expert hands, but also very aware that we were not in a very explore territory.
You start your adventure by hiking the jungle for 45 minutes to the entrance of the cave. Here you are given numerous warnings and instructions not to touch any plants, trees or rocks, as you can get cuts, infections and allergic reactions – what a fantastic way to freak us all out! At the end of ascent and muddy path, you are greeted by a large cave entrance into which you descend. Here the adventure begins, head torches on and ready to deal with the clay filled ground which makes this a very slippery experience.
Once inside you are welcomed by the most mesmerising formations of stalactites and stalagmites, endless paths into other chambers, crystalline cavern skies shining down on you and endless darkness. The whole combination is entrancing and exhilarating, leaving you feeling powerless in the Mayan territory and giving you an Indiana Jones adventure kind of feeling.
The caves are dark, and you crawl through some very tight spaces in order to get further into the site and explore more chambers. The soil is rich in clay and extremely slippery, it is easy to see that people might get lost, stuck or have panic attacks. We rest in each section, admiring the pottery, both intact and broken, that shows another story to add to the great narrative of the Mayan civilisation. We are also told of supernatural events that have taken place in this area. It is truly enchanting and terrifying. The cave system demands your utmost respect, as you step and slide through holy ground, sacred land, where many have died, been sacrificed and have prayed to their Gods. We are intruders, and therefore must not upset the balance of this territory. We continue on further deep before starting our ascendance back to the mountains and fresh air.
Sweat drips down our whole bodies. “Who knew you could sweat in darkness?” I think to my self. We take it slowly, one step at the time, as we are guided through the underworld, the land of the dead and the Gods back to where the living breathe. The experience is truly incredible, a gift from the Mayans to have let us find this site and allow us to wander and explore its caves. Here, you get the feeling that we are truly not alone in this universe, and that there are beings superior to us, it is almost palpable in the air, the presence of something more. Or perhaps, the exhaustion speaks too loudly.
We are rewarded at the end by a relaxing swim in a natural pool, a sinkhole. Yet, the strength and intensity of the location is not lost on me and I feel we are still somewhat subject to the location we just visited. A place touched by a force, Gods if you will, but curious, fascinating and intimidating. I have to say, caution is key when trudging in the underworld.
There we were, climbing to the peak of the mountain at 4800 metres in preparation for the exhilarating descent. The oxygen deprivation was slowly becoming visible as some of us panted for air at every word, others talked and walked slower to avoid exhaustion and some stopped every few steps to try and take a deep breath. We had been told never to try taking deep breaths in such thin air, but it’s the natural reaction. As we arrived we saw the two wheeled instruments laid out according to height, suits and helmets in front of them and most importantly a picnic of tea, bread and jam. We tucked into the marvellous feast before getting dressed and finding our allocated bicycles. We tried and tested them, looked at breaks, re adjusted seats and looked down at the long road that we were about to face. 56 km of road, downhill winding routes, meeting with other vehicles, waterfalls, narrow paths and cliffs so steep but beautiful that plunging to your death was not even a thought as we admired the breath taking views.
We straddled the two wheeled speed machines, posed for a few photos as we were poised and prepared for the descent. The guide started 10 metres in front of us. And off we went. The first section of road is smooth tarmac for 20 km which allowed us to reach speeds of nearly 50 km per hour on the bikes. The wind swept past each of us as we practically flew down the mountains. We didn’t show any signs of slowing down, not even for curves. It was seemless, it felt like we could go on forever on that road. Some of us howled in excitement, taking some of the paths with jumps, screaming in ecstasy, the adrenaline urging us to go faster and faster. It was freedom. At this point all the fear swept away. No one cared if they fell off the mountain, the only thing that mattered was the velocity that we could reach as we continued down the mountain.
The effortless ride soon gave way to the gravel path. The mountain bikes were more than prepared, good suspension and responsive breaks. However, the riders were tricked. We were comfortable on our tarmac descent only to be met by huge stones, landslides and a whole 36 km of road that made each of us sound like red Indians ahh-ing and tapping our mouths at the same time for effect. Our wrists soon began to ache with the continuous impact and struggle to break on the slippery gravel. The previous night’s storm began to show its remains, huge puddles, muddy paths, and all of us looked like we had an untimely accident on the bikes as the brown slime dripped from the top of our backs to the wheels of the bikes. We were not discouraged. This was going to be the most scenic part. We rode on.
Some of us started feeling aches on previous injuries, dislocated shoulders, bad knees, weak backs and broken coccyx, everything slowly but surely started to twinge as the suspension seemed to do little each time to ease the pain. Many couldn’t get up for long periods of time on the bike any longer. Others kept hitting big rocks which swerved the bikes slightly. Yet we were determined, all damned if we were to give up now so close to the end and so close to the buffet lunch and swimming pool we were promised at the start of this adventure. We continued, riding through waterfalls, getting absolutely drenched and dry within instants. We took each corner carefully this time, as the unpredictable nature of the road made us all slow down in pace. The last 10 km or so were flat, forcing us to pedal after all the hard work downhill. It was picturesque, sunny and the lush green mountains covered the path that was once upon a time brought death to many cyclists. Up until 2014 an average of 300 a year used to die on bikes and larger road vehicles. We paid our respects as we calmly made our way to the final stop. Exhausted and completely overwhelmed by the ride we stopped. We survived. We were death road survivors. 3 to 4 hours of cycling later and we were stood looking back at our challenge, a challenge we had overcome with sweat and what looked like shit on our backs. We did it.
Woah, this is a very different post to what I have written before, and even if you didn’t like it I enjoyed it thoroghly. Combining my love of travel and writing into a creative piece was quite fun.
I have to say, some advice as always: if you are not a confident cyclist this could be quite tasking and at points intimidating. So do your research and watch some videos and see some photos.
Finally, if you are but still want to try it, hell just do it!
Lastly, this is from personal experience, if you had a case of travel tummy and the runs the night before, either be sure you can control yourself and are hydrated enough for it, or don’t do it. I was so determined to finish it that even feeling like death on death road (ha!) I still carried on.
Towards the end of our travel time in Peru, we were gifted with the opportunity to integrate ourselves in the day to day life of the Aymara culture.
After visiting some of the floating islands, of which you will read later, we arrived at our home for the evening and were greeted by our host families. We then had a game of football against the locals which we lost and blamed entirely on the fits of hyperventilation caused by the altitude. We then put on our best traditional outfits to be taught and guided through a dance.
At the end of the day we followed our mother, Lucy, to her home where we had a wonderful dinner and helped clean the dishes. The room was simple but perfect for both of us and we had a restful night in preparation for the following day.
We were encouraged and excited to participate in the mundane tasks of the family, delving into their day to day lives. We helped feed the pigs and sheep, prepare breakfast and wash dishes as well as the laborious task of seiving through barley seeds. The experience was truly wonderful and enlightening as we learned about how this culture continues to live in the most simple way.
I admire their plain lives, dedictated to the day to day and what the earth can offer them. I must say, I did appreciate the beauty in the simplicity and how it must be peaceful to live like this. On the other hand, I was also able to gain even more appreciation for my own life, as I have the opportunity to dedicate my time and part of my life to a career I am passionate about and in many ways, the things I think are basic items have suddenly become luxuries that I am incredibly grateful for. I am in awe of Lucy, who runs her house, farms her land, cares for her family and still finds the time to host us ignorant and bothersome travellers in many ways. Yet she does it all with such patience and grace. What an incredible woman. She made me realise that although that is not the life for me, there are many things that I can take from it and apply to my daily life. I feel that overall the experience has influenced me to search for constant improvement in my daily home life. It seems all the little things can positively impact on your routine.
I would encourage you all to really delve into your home stays, even if they are short there is always something you can take from it.