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Written on: Tuesday August 28th, 2007

A journal entry from: Bolivia, Peru, and the Galapagos!

Yesterday we took a 9 hour bus ride at night from Arequipa at an altitude of 2380 meters down to Nazca in the Peruvian desert at an altitude of about 600 meters (finally a significant approach to sea level, besides the brief trip to the jungle). The bus ride was miserable! While we traveled on a comfortable tourist bus with super reclining seats, they insisted on playing the TV for the first few hours of the trip and the temperature was not well moderated. Also, the bus swayed to and fro all night as it weaved down the mountain roads at high speed (this sensation was exaggerated because our seats were on the second level of this double-decker bus). Every time I dozed off, I was waken by the TV, or someone moaning about the temperature, or from a nightmare that we had driven off the side of the cliff. All in all, I think I only slept about 2 hours.

Once in Nazca at about 6am, we took a taxi bus to Hotel San Marcelo on the outskirts of town in the middle of a farm. The last mile of the drive was on a single lane dirt road, which worried us all. After we checked in, we all headed straight for our rooms to nap since nobody had slept much on the bus, then a few of us headed to the pool to sunbathe. This was the first of our hotels to have a pool, and it was also the first day that it was warm enough to lay around in a bathing suit (besides the jungle, but there was no swimming pool there). I was fortunate enough to get a sunburn because I once again forgot that I was not naturally dark skinned and needed sunblock. Sigh.

After the pool, I headed in for a shower, but discovered that there was no running water! But no fear, the hotel fixed it within about 15 minutes, so I was able to get cleaned up before heading into town with the group in a taxi. Our first stop was at an observatory where we learned about the Nazca lines, a series of shapes that were etched in the desert floor about 2000 years ago by the Nazca people and only discovered 100 years ago since they can really only be viewed by airplane. Following the observatory, we had dinner at a polleria, a fried chicken restaurant. South Americans really love fried chicken with french fries, and this was our first opportunity to try it as well. I thought it tasted great, but some of the pickier eaters in our group had other opinions. Following dinner, we all headed back to our hotel to get ready for our early wake up call this morning.

Today we woke early to take a plane flight over the Nazca Lines. When we woke, however, we learned that there was no electricity or running water (again) in the hotel. They assured us at breakfast that it would be fixed soon, and sure enough the electricity returned as we ate (and we assumed that the water had returned as well). After eating, we went directly to the tiny Nazca airfield to hop in six-seater Cessna airplanes. I had never been in such a small plane, which was a bit terrifying and stomach turning, but it was still fun. Unfortunately, the lines weren't as spectacular as I had imagined, but it was well worth the trip (and now I can say I've flown in a Cessna!). After viewing the lines, we visited a Nazca cemetery (also about 2000 years old) before returning to our hotel to lounge around for the afternoon.

Though, when we returned to the hotel, we learned that we still had no water and our tour leader had no motivation to find a new hotel for us. Finally, after a couple of our group members started to make scene that evening, the hotel agreed to refund us each $10 for the inconvenience and clear our room bill (for our pool drinks and internet usage). It was hardly a consolation for living without hot showers and flushing toilets, but it calmed us temporarily.

For dinner tonight, all but tall Sarah and Larissa headed to a pachamanca restaurant. At this special restaurant, the food is cooked underground for a few hours on hot bricks. Typically, this is only done for special occasions as a way of thanking the mother earth, but they also do it for tourists (and let us participate in the pre-feast ceremony). The food was excellent!!