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Before coming to Nazca, I’ve heard many things about Nazca Lines on top of its already well-known shapes conjugated from their disarray of endless lines… Some people mentioned these lines must came from the ancient Nazca, now a group of people next to extinction. However most people focus their energy on guessing what do those shapes mean, and what are they supposed to do… I’m not gonna go into details of all the theories as they will certainly bore some people to death (myself included).…
Another thing about Nasca tours, the tiny Cessna planes have awful safety records. On top of that, those Peruvian Nazca Lines tour planes are famous for crashes due to its outdated maintenance among other things… and Peruvian government weren’t really giving a s*** to the victim’s family members and improvements on these operations for many years. Although from what I gather the government has been doing something recently to improve those planes reputation.
To get the best and the safest experience without worrying too much about my safety, I researched quite a bit for which companies should I ride the plane with. I tried a lot of different keywords but I could only gather limited information about the plane companies. Most articles complained about the Peruvian planes without going into the details on which companies responsible for these crashes. They seemed to lump all Peruvian tour companies into one category. Eventually I got 4 reputable names: Air Diana (they were said as the ones with the most modern planes), AeroParacas, Alas Peruanas (noted for their excellent service), Travel Air.
The bus dropped me off at the Nazca city center late at night so I took a taxi directly to one of the hostels suggested on my Footprint guidebook. A portly Inca-looking man opened the door and warmly received me. After putting me in a dorm with 4 beds and no other guests in the room, I was led to the lobby where he casually introduced the Nazca Lines plane tours. I was quite aware that travel agencies in the area often charge a lot more on top of the plane companies’ prices. Numerous travel forums suggested tourists to directly book the plane tickets with the plane companies instead of going through travel agents. So I wasn’t prepared to take him too seriously.
Maybe it’s late at night, maybe because he was too persuasive, “but you know, on top of airplanes, we also take care of your transportation, etc. There is another girl who is also going with you”. When he mentioned that he also works with AeroParacas, one of the four companies that I would ride the planes with. After quite a bit of negotiation, “Ok, I will give you this price, but don’t tell anyone, ok?” I decided to book with him. USD 65 sounded about right from what I could tell from my online research. “And this is the peak season” He assured me, “the price you get is very good”.
I met Barbara, a chubby and happy Dutch girl, the next morning. Since her friend isn’t coming with her, the two of us got picked up by a taxi driven by hostel owner’s friend and we were dropped off by the airport not far from the city. At the airport, we were picked up by a representative from the AeroParacas. However, this presumption soon vanished as I couldn’t recognized their name as AeroParacas as soon as we reached their registration counter. I looked around the room full of Nazca Line tour plane companies and found AeroParacas sign right above a counter right across the room from us.
“Are you guys REALLY AeroParacas” I asked the guy who picked me up from the taxi.
“Yes, we are.”
“But there is AeroParacas over there” I pointed to the counter right across from us.
“Don’t worry, we are also AeroParacas”
I wasn’t fully convinced, so me and Barbara walked across the lobby to the counter with AeroParacas sign, “are you guys AeroParacas?”
“Yes we are. How can I help you?”
“Are those guys AeroParacas too?” I pointed to the guys sitting across the lobby watching me.
The guy shook his head, “No they are not AeroParacas.”
“They told us they are AeroParacas.” I was quite surprised that I was lied to by the hostel agency this whole time. Then we told the manager at AeroParacas counter how the guys across the lobby wanted to fake his company. “Wow, I’m glad that you came over.” He said. Then he proceed to tell me that $65 USD was too much for their service. Their service was actually $35 today.
“I don’t know how are you going to get your money back from the agents in your hotel. But he didn’t book your flight with us today.” Said the rep from AeroParacas, “but if you are flying with us you have to pay us directly.”
Barbara did not pre-pay for her flight, and out of her good heart she decided to help me with getting back my prepayment after our flight. We paid AeroParacas staff right away and got the most courteous services I could found in Peru. We waited around for an hour watching those tiny Cessna planes taking off and coming in one after another; Then we were led in a 6 seat plane with the front seats occupied by a pilot and his co-pilot. They spoke very good English and were funny as hell. All of us cheered when we took off, and it wasn’t long before everyone of us get sick as they lean the plane from one extreme to another for us to take our pictures – amazingly no one threw up by the end of this journey.
The AeroParacas guys were quite sympathizing with us. Since we did not follow through our booking with our travel agency, they arranged us to share the taxi booked by the other two girls who were in the plane with us.
While on the taxi, Barbara told me that the hostel owner that I talked to was the son of the hostel owner. “Just talk to his father. He’s a real nice guy, and he will not tolerate this.” So we did. I was quite nervous to talk to his son when he came back in the afternoon, but he refunded me without speaking a word.
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