So I was all excited about taking the small plane flight to view the Nazca lines, but it ended up being kind of silly; we waited in the airport for three hours for a flight (we were basically on standby), and then I was so queasy on the plane that I couldn’t appreciate the images themselves, which were very hard to see in any case. So we got back to the hotel and I fell asleep for two hours and by that time it was 2:30 and I stumbled out to lunch and spent most of the rest of the afternoon wandering around town. And on the ride out of town we passed the observation tower where you can see two of the best preserved ones anyway. So if you go to Nazca, my advice is take the archeological and sand boarding tour and buy a little book about the lines. I mean, they are curious and amazing and all that, but the overhead was too large for the payoff.
Nazca itself is a bustling town, not tourist focused although tourism is a part of the picture there, but it’s the largest town in that part of the desert, an oasis if you will (but don’t generate pictures of palm trees and camels, it s pretty gritty) and serves market and transportation hub functions.
We were in another one of these magical hotels, where behind a nondescript wall is a beautifully manicured and calm place for restoration. So we sat around and schmoozed for a bit, then headed out to dinner and an early bedtime for the nest days 97 mile ride to Ica. . .
. . .Which turned out to have epic qualities all it’s own. The first fifty K or so were quite pleasant. Although we were on the Pan American Highway, at eight AM things were fairly peaceful, the road was smooth, and it seemed like we were in for a fast day. Hah. After the second control in Rio Grande, we had a relatively short climb and were deposited into one version of cycling purgatory. The shoulder turned very bumpy and grit-filled, traffic on the long, straight road much faster (although still primarily semi trucks and long haul busses), and to top it all off there was a steady headwind in the 15 to 20 mph range. Any two of those can be managed; all three require an exhausting depth of attention. You ride out in the road where it is marginally smoother, constantly checking the mirror for oncoming traffic, then move into the shoulder while it passes, disrupting your rhythm and getting the crap beaten out of you all while the wind is pushing you backwards. So you stand to escape the bumpiness. . .and of course that is the time when the wind gust hits you right in the chest. So repeat that about 300 times over the next 42K to get to the rest stop at a bus shelter in the middle of nowhere.
There’s a lot going on in this photo. First, the dust devil can give you a sense of how strong the wind was. Second, it’s is pretty darn barren. Third, you are seeing the beginning of a new Peruvian town. People are squatting in those tiny thatch huts. Eventually, enough of them congregate, the government provides electricity, and title passes to the squatters.
But back to the narrative–A rider can have two responses to this kind of condition, either yield or fight. First, yield to it, slow down, live within it. There is no less determination here, but you abandon your power and just endure. Self pity can become a part of your reverie. The second response is to try and kick the shit out of it, maintain power in the face of the unfeeling brutality of the world, which is the choice I was able to make. I basically rode tempo (80%+ of maximum heart rate) for about three hours, which felt fantastic after having been sick all week–to call down to Scotty and have the power be there was pretty cool. I hooked up with Bob at the bus stop and we rode the last 48K together instead of alone, which also helps. The conditions were pretty much the same–Although the shoulder got marginally better in places, we went through a series of towns so there was taxi, pedestrian and two stroke traffic as well, just to provide even more inputs for the frazzled brain. He had to stop at one point just to chill out for a couple of minutes. We finished a couple of minutes behind Lon; the rest of the group came in 45 to 90 minutes behind us.
Fortunately, La Estacion Restaurante was a comfortable place to hang out. We were met there by a panel truck Lon had hired, into which we loaded the bikes and bags, making room for us all to pile into Ronald’s van for an hour ride to peaceful Paracas, a pretty beach resort town on Pisco Bay. The road was rideable, but another 60K of that and it wouldn’t have been vacation any more. Of course, some would argue that cycling 800 kilometers wasn’t vacation to begin with, but we’ll have to take that one up over a beer sometime. But Paracas was real nice. Smelling the sea was great, reminding me of home, where I’ll be in 48 hours or so.
Thanks for reading.