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Peru- Part III beginning

Yap, this post is long, as was our day spent in the Sacred Valley. I should mention that El Valle Sagrado is full of pretty little towns, Inca sites, and markets (such as Chinchero). After visiting Chinchero, we slowly made our way to Moray. Here are some scenes from our drive to Moray.

surrounded by majestic mountains is the Sacred Valley

surrounded by majestic mountains lies the Sacred Valley

We went to take or photo, and cute Quechua kids joined us

We went to take or photo, and cute Quechua kids joined us

on our way, farmers with oxen are plowing. The old way

on our way, farmers with oxen are plowing. The old way

I had to stop our driver, as I wanted to see the oxen at close range, and the smiley young farmer

I had to stop our driver, as I wanted to see the oxen at close range, and the smiley young farmer

Moray is an impressive look-alike huge amphitheater. Different levels of terraces are carved into earth, each layer is at a different depth. The theory is that the Incas used the terraces as a big experiment for crop growing- each crop would be planed at a different level, as some researchers have established that there is a variation of about 4 degree C between each of the terrace levels. Don’t forget the Tourist Ticket bought in Cusco, to enter this site.

Moray from up above. Can you spot the people in the distance?

Moray from up above. Can you spot the people in the distance?

starting to climb down the concentric levels

starting to climb down the concentric levels

Once in Moray, you’ll sometimes notice small groups of people performing some “earthing” or “grounding” in the very center of bottom circle, as a ritual. It’s a religious Incan ritual “El pago a la Pacha Mama” (the retribution to mother earth), an Andean ritual where one thanks the earth for its gifts and asks for fortune.

and climbing down from one level to the other on special "stairs" carved by the Incas into the walls

and climbing down from one level to the other on special “stairs” placed by the Incas into the walls

And now, back on the winding road through the Sacred Valley, towards the Salinas.

A river view in the Sacred Valley

A river view in the Sacred Valley

gettin' close to the Salinas

gettin’ close to the Salinas. Wes started noticing those curvy cactus everywhere

wow, breathtaking view of the Salinas, from high above

wow, a surreal view of the Salinas, from high above. better click to see the large version

One of the most astonishing places to see, both from above- high in the mountain, and from ground level, are the Salinas. Thousands of salt pans that have been used to extract salt since Inca times. The pools are fed by a saltwater hot spring, which has been diverted into the salt beds where the water evaporates and leaves crystallized salt to be harvested.

beautiful Salinas

beautiful Salinas

Carlos, our driver, is trying to balance the path between the Salinas

Carlos, our driver, is trying to balance the path between the Salinas

a lump of dried salt at the Salinas

a lump of dried salt at the Salinas

kids near a stand selling salt from the Salinas

kids near a stand selling salt from the Salinas, and other chachkes

After lunch in the village of Urubamba, we headed to the village of Pisac, our final destination for the day. Many people arrive to Pisac on Sunday, for its BIG market. We went there for the spectacular views. After crossing town, we start climbing up hill with our car, up and up and up. As if we didn’t see amazing panoramas until now, the ones from the Pisac Inca ruins were wonderful. Temples, Inca tombs, stone ruins, and terraces sprawl on top of the mountain.

climbing to Pisac behind this truck

climbing to Pisac behind this truck

from 3353 meters (11,000 feet) the eyes can see far far away

from 3353 meters (11,000 feet) the eyes can see far far away

terraces of Pisac. One has to imagine, how did the Inca managed plants at this heights and in such a neat order

terraces of Pisac. One has to imagine, how did the Inca managed plants at this heights and in such a neat order

cute Quechua girls are playing in the ruins

cute Quechua girls are playing in the ruins

Pisac ruins

Pisac ruins

it's easy to get lost in Pisac

it’s easy to get lost up there (or down there)

at these altitudes it's getting pretty cold. Alpaca wool helps

at these altitudes it’s getting pretty cold. Alpaca wool helps

We got home (our hostel) quite late and tired, but it was a great day. The next day, we just took a break, and went… rafting.

Lior: Moray is supercool. Apparently, if you got to the center of the very last circle, it is really warm! There were some people crowding around the bottom, trying to catch its heat like a firepit. A lot of people really like the Salineras, but I thought they were just OK. One good thing about them is they show up really nice in pictures (“omg, not even edited!”)

The best thing, by far, was Pisac. I love love love climbing about and just exploring on my own. Unfortunately, we saved it for last, so we didn’t have too much time there. Also, a lot of people get altitude sickness there (like my brothers, I didn’t!), because it’s even higher up than Cusco! Anyway, the ancient ruins of Pisac are stunning, and overall so much fun! We met some kids there, whom I played with, and we traded bracelets. Overall, successful!

Day 5

A day of fun!! Woke up early to join a group led by a cute guy, Noel, from Mayuc. It was cool, we all had great fun. Afterwards, we spent some time in a Peruvian style sauna, and got to eat warm lunch. Everybody later got their hands up on the zip-lines, and I got to take the pictures. We got home late, tired, and once again- very happy.

We all just seem to be paying attention before the rafting. We're actually very cold

We all just seem to be paying attention before the rafting. We’re actually very cold

Let the fun begin...

Let the fun begin…

we named ourselves "La Cucaracha" team, and we were very successful

we named ourselves “La Cucaracha” team, and we were very successful

viva la cucaracha !

viva la cucaracha !

and a glimpse of zip-lining

and a glimpse of zip-lining

Lior: Doesn’t matter how old you are~ GO RAFTING! This was just one of the most fun days, mainly because the adrenaline rush. Being in a river, you are at the bottom of a valley, and the view is simply amazing! It kind of compares to the Colorado River (what I’ve seen in pictures, never actually been there). After, when everyone went to the sauna, I skipped and went straight to the shower. Having gone to sleepaway camp for 5 years, I know that when it comes to hot showers, it is actually war. After, we went ziplining over a “raging river” (definitely a river, not so much the raging). Ziplining is so liberating, and everyone should do it, no matter how scared they are!

This day was so much fun, but also very energy draining. Make sure to get a good night’s sleep before, and make sure you have a bed to collapse on after!

Peru- Aguas Calientes

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Peru- part II

Part III- The Sacred Valley and rafting

*in this post, all photos can be clicked for a bigger photo

Day 4

Today- we determine our own day, pace, itinerary… After yesterday’s rushed city tour, we decided to hire a driver that’ll be with us the whole day, drive us where we want and when we want. We are, after all, a family of 5, so for $140 for the day, we had a driver and a car. And music 🙂

Today we’re exploring the Sacred Valley.

We started climbing out of Cusco, slowly. Just leaving the city in day light, allowed us to enjoy some sights of how people go about and live their normal life in the Andes.

We left, passing through Plaza De Armas. Surprise, surprise, the army was marching in the plaza, while pedestrians were crossing the street, cars were driving through, and it felt like it was an organized disorder…

left, left-right-left

Left, left-right-left

As we climbed up, we noticed that most houses were built from mud bricks. Some were covered with plaster or were whitewashed, and some were left as-is, thus giving the city a fairly red look.

Cusco suburbia

Cusco suburbia

mud bricks and plants

Mud bricks and plants

Hills surrounding Cusco

Hills surrounding Cusco

50 shades of green

50 shades of green

beautiful valleys and mountains

Beautiful valleys and mountains

Arriving at Chinchero, a small town. We picked this town for it’s Sunday market. There’s a way bigger one in Pisac, but we opted for the small, less touristic one. We also got to see the process for making alpaca wool at a small co-op.

two social alpacas in Chinchero, Peru

Two social alpacas in Chinchero, Peru

Dyeing the alpaca wool in the pot. All colors are derived from natural sources

Dyeing the alpaca wool in the pot. All colors are derived from natural sources

Colorful alpaca yarn

Colorful alpaca yarn

Weaving

Weaving

Chinchero market: recycling old shoes into sandals

Chinchero market: recycling old shoes into sandals

Chinchero market, selling.. something

Chinchero market, selling.. something

Chinchero market, buying small terracotta outdoor cooking pottery

Chinchero market, buying small terracotta outdoor cooking pottery

Chinchero market

Chinchero market

Chinchero market, locals resting, drinking their pink corn juice

Chinchero market, locals resting, drinking their pink corn juice

one of my favorite photos. 3 ladies eating their meal

one of my favorite photos. 3 ladies eating their meal

Chinchero market, selling musical instruments

Chinchero market, selling musical instruments

This girl was left to watch over the merchandise

This girl was left to watch over the merchandise

Lior: It was really good to be able to choose where we wanted to go with our driver. Just driving around the Sacred Valley is fun, because the road is very scenic! Stop at Chincherro, where they have a place to show tourists how their fabrics are made. Although, as I said, it’s touristy, its only on a small scale (and you get to see the process that all of the blankets go through). A bit down the road in the same town, there is a very colorful market, but not everything there is best quality.

At the market, make sure to taste quinoa juice! It is very warming and very sweet, and , well, it’s quinoa! Another thing I noticed, is that some people were taking pictures of me! A few local Chincherros had their cameras up, snapping “candid” shots of me… they’ve probably never seen anyone as sunburnt as me. Overall, this market is a YES!

sweet, warm quinoa juice in Chinchero

sweet, warm quinoa juice in Chinchero

cont. next page

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Peru- part I

Part II- Cusco and around

Day 3

We took our time waking up in the morning, stretching, yawning, reading, and finally, heading to some great coffee, and nice fresh fruits for breakfast. Oh yeah, breakfast is provided by our hostel. Once again, there is no “too much” Coca tea. It is always suggested to have more.

We booked a city tour of Cusco and its surroundings for the afternoon, so we had all morning to wonder around Cusco as we pleased. Of course, I already picked a brochure about the chocolate museum, so that’s where we headed. The choco museo is indeed a cute place. Small, humble, BUT you get to taste  some real good hand-made chocolate produced from the Peruvian cocoa beans, as well as some cocoa tea (not to be mixed with coca tea), cocoa liqueur, and enjoy the nice atmosphere in their tiny cafeteria, which serves…. all things chocolate. And… it’s FREE! Certainly something kids and adults of our family loved.

Fresh aromatic chocolate with Cusco views (and coffee, and crepes, and hot cacao)

Dahh, of course we ended up buying chocolates.

After we drowned in chocolate, we continued via Marques to Santa Clara, to San Pedro Market. What a sight! We love markets. Everything from clothes, bags, fruits, breads, fresh juices, meat, tailors, and what-not. This is truly a recommended market, as it’s not so touristic and one can find Peruvians dressed in colorful and vibrant clothes. These are the Quechua people, the ethnic group of the central Andes, taken to be the descendants of the ancient Inca. I could have strolled in the market for hours, just looking at people’s faces, at cute babies and kids, at the different vendors selling all kinds of strange stuff.

cusco, peru, market

All roads lead to Mercado Central de San Pedro

Quechuan women

Quechuan women

Mercado Central de San Pedro vendors

Mercado Central de San Pedro vendors

people of San Pedro Market

people of San Pedro Market

She weighed the figs that I bought, and I also got a smile

She weighed the figs that I bought, and I also got a smile

Bread Ladies of San Pedro

Bread Ladies of San Pedro

I just couldn’t get enough of all the market had to offer. Here’s more:

Cusco market

colorful abundance

fruits, free range eggs, decorated breads of all kinds

fruits, free range eggs, decorated breads of all kinds

Peru is known for it's Maize (corn). colorful, chewier, sweeter

Peru is known for it’s Maize (corn). colorful, chewier, sweeter

We scheduled a city tour, so by early afternoon, we needed to hurry back. We knew we’ll be back for Mercado San Pedro.

on the way back:

sittin', weavin'

sittin’, weavin’

cusco3

About tours: it’s good to have at least one general tour, to be able to understand who’s against who, in the long Peruvian history. It’s also an opportunity to ask questions, and to see certain things that otherwise, one would probably neglect. Having said all that, a guided tour, from our experience, is also rushed, and was tackled by some impatience on behalf of the guide. So, if you’re staying more than just a few days in Cusco, I would suggest to concentrate on the places you want to see and “feel”, and take a taxi over there, so you get as much time as you want, without being rushed.

Our tour guide was very knowledgeable, and spoke excellent English, which was a big plus. We visited the main archeological Inca sites around Cusco that included: Saqsayhuaman, that like many Inca constructions, is made of large polished dry stone walls, with boulders carefully cut to fit together tightly without mortar. How the Inca managed to fit the huge stones is still a mystery. I was very impressed with this place, the ruins and the scenery. Qenqo, a holy place where mummification took place. Tambomachay, a series of aqueducts, a tribute to water as a source of life.

Saqsaywaman huge stones, each carved like a puzzle piece

Saqsayhuaman, huge stones, each carved like a puzzle piece

Some of the huge walls held surprises in the form of hidden Inca symbols, such as the snake, guinea pig, condor, and more.

Saqsayhuaman. Can you spot the Llama?

Saqsayhuaman. Can you spot the Llama?

Saqsayhuaman ruins

Saqsayhuaman ruins

Alpacas grazing in Saqsayhuaman

Alpacas grazing in Saqsayhuaman

Cusco, as seen from Saqsayhuaman

Cusco, as seen from Saqsayhuaman (click for larger view)

We got back at night, hungry! We rushed off to this fancy-shmancy restaurant, that was really worth the climb up the hill (remember- we’re still under the influence of low oxygen) and the price. It was delicious, and one of the best causitas I’ve tasted.

Golden potatoes mixed with yellow pepper cream layered with avocados, smoked trout, and Andean lake caviar

Golden potatoes mixed with yellow pepper cream layered with avocados, smoked trout, and Andean lake caviar

Lior:

Since we scheduled a tour for later the afternoon, we had the whole morning free! First on the bucket list: the Choco Museo! Being a chocoholic, I can easily say that this was a highlight of my time in Cusco. It’s a really small museum tucked away on the second floor of an inner courtyard. Their small kitchen is part of the museum, and you can watch how they handmake the chocolates from scratch! This is so much better than going to a large scale chocolate factory, where you just see chocolate coming out of machines. The end of the visit concluded with a delicious mochaccino in their cafe, and many new chocolate bars.

    After leaving the museum, we walked a few blocks and reached the Market San Pedro. This market is huge, and offers everything from sweaters, to smoothies, to hot soup. It is very organized with big sections separating the produce. This way, you can walk down a cheese aisle, or a meat aisle of your choosing. All the booths in a particular aisle will all have the same exact thing, so you get people waving you over to buy their things, and there is a lot of commotion. One thing that you should definitely do in Peru is eat in a market. Usually in the back of the market, food stands can be found with huge portions of real local food, nice people, and cheaper than anything you’ve ever seen before! For example, our family of five paid S/. 23 for a meal (about $8). Its so much fun to interact with the local people, and eat the food they make right in front of us!

    Later in the day we took the CityTour, which has its pros and cons. The sites we visited (other than the church) were rushed, and its as if I wasn’t even there. On the other hand, I felt like I learned a lot! For example, did you know that the Inca were one of the first peoples to educate women? They had men and women universities, where the girls learned things like housework and nursing (obviously far from perfect, but also far ahead of so many other cultures). It also gives an insight to the history of the Incas, which is really insight to the history of the people! I can understand where much of the resentment for the church comes from, as it ruined (literally) the Inca empire.

    Finally, tired, we went out to eat. Highly recommended, Marcelo Batata is a fabulous restaurant, with fabulous food! Very filling, very delicious!

Peru Sacred Valley

 

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For a long time I’ve been planning to write about Tel-Aviv. Traveling to Israel, my heart fills with joy every time I return to Tel Aviv, the bustling city in the center of Israel. All five senses blend together and work over-time in the 100+ years old city. In 1950 Jaffa, one of the oldest cities in the world, became part of Tel Aviv, thus adding an even more unique taste to the general aroma one gets while visiting.

A must place to visit, is Shuk HaCarmel, a main market in Tel Aviv, and to my opinion – one of the liveliest in the world. Everything from shoe laces, to food, to pictures and clothes.

Pomegranate in the market

Pomegranate, or Rimon, makes a tasty refreshing juice

challa in the market

Challa heap, for Shabat dinner

loofa

loofa- make you skin squeaky clean- click for more info

cheese in the market

cheese from all over the world

rainbow of spices

candy in the market

candy, always a favorite

After strolling in the market, we usually head to Neve Tzedek, a tres chic neighborhood, where you’d find art, jewelery and fashionable dashing clothing from small designers to top of the line. Look around at the small houses to find hints for the beginning of urban Tel-Aviv.

stylish display window with stylish jewels

surprises in Neve Tzedek, a house covered with sea shells

a few miles south, we walk on the sea-line from Tel-Aviv and arrive at Jaffa. Jews, Muslims and Christians live together (not without tensions) but with the same interest in mind- live peacefully, eat well and sell. Jaffa’s flea market is one of the best for antiques as well as for its small eateries, coffee houses, pastries and pita breads and Sahlab.  There’s nothing like a warm Jaffa Sahlab on a cool night. White thick starchy sweet drink, topped with rose-water, chopped nuts, cinnamon and raisins.

graffiti on the way to Jaffa

graffiti on the way to Jaffa

leaving Tel-Aviv beach behind

arriving to Jaffa

Jaffa's famous pastries, pita, bagels, baklava, cakes

Sahlab, ho Sahlab

Jaffans playing SHesh Besh. click

typical Jaffa street

But Tel-Aviv does not end with that. Lots and lots of shops, Rothschild Boulevard, world-renowned buildings of the Bauhaus 1930’s trend (acknowledged by UNESCO as a world heritage site), museums, galleries, great food,  endless night life, and the latest fashion modes and craze.

White City of Tel-Aviv - the Modern Movement. see more by clicking

Rothschild Boulevard - see a fun YouTube about it. click

For more photos, see more Tel Aviv photos page.

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