The Nasca Lines can best be appreciated from the air, but Nasca itself is only reachable by bus (or charter plane). 8 hours from Lima on the 22 hour route to Cuzco (Machu Picchu, etc), many like The Rapid Traveler tough it out and make the route overland one way with a stop in Nasca, and then fly the Cuzco-Lima return.
Yesterday at 16:00 The Rapid Traveler entered Cruz del Sur‘s new dedicated terminal in Cuzco. Fortunate that he mentioned the trip to the German proprietor of quirky Hostal Royal Frankenstein or he would have been scratching his head at the main bus terminal. Cruz del Sur apparantly had a crumbling reputation until a few years ago, then rebranded itself as a luxury bus company, charging 4-5 times the prices of the other motley companies. Though with internet discounts on certain seats, like #37 that The Rapid Traveler got for 60% off and worried would be an obstructed legroom or something (thankfully not), the prices can be quite attractive. Even full price is nowhere what airfare would be and for much of Peru, like at Nasca, flying is not an option. Note that booking online, like Peru Rail and Machu Picchu, requires a card with Verified by Visa or MasterCard SecureCode.
The buses on the Cuzco-Lima route do not have the full VIP lower level seats, but the regular Cruzero seats are superb, not unlike US airline international business class seats of the 1990s-2000s before becoming lie flat or slide flat. They even throw in a quality pair of headphones to listen to the b-grade Hollywood movies (B ride Wars and something about US high school rugby, which purportedly exists). The meal is simple but best avoided except by those with iron stomachs, because improbable as it sounds, in 14 hours down the mountains from Cuzco there did not seem be a straight stretch of more than a hundred yards. The pair of drivers flip every four hours, but still, it must be awful to drive. Even the ‘welcome aboard’ video was amusing, especially the exhortation that “The lavatory is only for urination. Repeat: the lavatory is only for urination. Please inform the attendant if we need to make arrangements to stop for…” It then closed with beautiful scenes and a song about loving Peru.
Security is a big issue in Peru, theft on buses commonplace, so Cruz del Sur puts on a big security show, carefully checking IDs and photographing each passenger during boarding security check, then when every passenger is seated, re-photographing every passenger (and empty seat). The Rapid Traveler still, figuratively, slept with one eye open, but it was good to see effort to make the trip secure.
The other companies The Rapid Traveler has tried for shorter trips offer nothing special in the way of comfort or security. For a trip like Cusco-Nasca, the US$60 full fare or so is definitely worth it. Even if you don’t earn frequent flyer miles.