Feeds:
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Peru’

Peru – part IV

Part V- Machu Picchu

Day 7

We woke up real early in the morning, in hope to see the sun rise from the top of Machu Picchu, the “Lost City of the Incas”, one of the new 7 wonders of the world. We made sure our backpacks for the day were ready (aka: water bottle, rain poncho, sun screen, snacks, hat, chocolate, tickets, and… passport!).

Some of us took the zigzaging bus up to the top (including yours truly), while others, braver, and better knee equipped, hiked up the steep steps.

Needless to say, at the top we discovered the many clouds that blocked the sunrise.

Good morning clouds of Machu Picchu

Good morning clouds of Machu Picchu

So, traveling with my son, until the rest of the family comes, we made our way on the trail that led up to the Sungate, on the western side.

Hello Alpaca

Hello Alpaca

With the thin air, and the narrow road at times, it took us a while to get to the Sungate, but the view was incredible.

The sun rising behind the clouds at the Sungate

The sun rising behind the clouds at the Sungate

MP5
At the Sungate one always meets people that have just hiked up the Inca Trail for 4-5 days to get to Machu Picchu. This is where we sat and rested, waited for the clouds to disperse and reveal MP with all its splendor, and waited for our food 🙂

meeting a group that just hiked for 5 days us the Inca Trail

meeting a group that just hiked for 5 days up the Inca Trail

After a little food (and energy). Lior and I started to climb down.

gotta be careful on the narrow road

gotta be careful on the narrow road

Can you spot the ruins of Machu Picchu ?

Can you spot the ruins of Machu Picchu ?

Short clip HERE

Glory Glory Hallelujah!

Glory Glory Hallelujah!

new friends

new friends

a must photo- unavoidable. Wayna Picchu in the background

a must photo- unavoidable. Wayna Picchu in the background

After we have hiked the trail to/from the Sun Gate, we joined an English speaking tour guide. Recommended!
From here on, I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. There are many (but many more were left behind)…

overall look of the village

Overall look. Close by is the religious center, behind are the residential and industrial sectors

the agricultural terraces

the agricultural terraces

MP20

Quechua Peruvians tour their ancestor's landmark

Quechua Peruvians tour their ancestors’ landmark

an ancient view

an ancient view

terraces

terraces

who spots

who spots Alpacas?

heading back to the bus, down to Aguas Calientes

heading back to the bus, down to Aguas Calientes

After we made sure that our passports were stamped with the Machu Picchu mark, we took the bus back down. We were so tired after a long and interesting day, and went straight to the local market, where the cheapest and best homemade food is found (not to mix with the touristic craft market).

The local food market for great cheap meals and fruit juice

The local food market for great cheap meals and fruit juice

We filled our bellies, and now we had to kill time until our train ride, back to Ollantaytambo, and from there, a bus ride to Cusco. The boys went their way (to the hot springs), and us girls spend the best time ever, at the Vida Spa on Yahuar Huaca street, with an hour long hot stone massage. What a great way to end this day. A word from my daughter:

Lior: If you decide to hike up Machu Picchu, like I did, make sure you are physically capable! I thought it would be no big deal because it is ‘just’ one hour, all stairs hike. On the contrary, it was one of the hardest hikes of my life because it was one hour, all stairs! The steps are made of huge slabs of rock, so are not all even, and are mostly very big. So if you still want to hike up, make sure to time your wake up accordingly to how long it takes you to hike!

Since we woke up at 5 am, we did not get the chance to see the sunrise. Still, the view is beautiful, and it is more appreciable on foot. When the clouds are blocking the sun, it is a bit chilly (think sweater weather), but when the sun comes out, it is in FULL FORCE! The Incas built Machu Picchu in accordance with the sun, so it gets the maximum amount of light possible, so it gets hot quickly; make sure to bring sunscreen and a hat! After finally reaching the historic site, we hiked about another hour up to the sun gate (easy compared to the initial hike), to see the famous views, and the sun. Just our luck, as we got there, the clouds came in and blocked the view. We ate lunch there, and after walking a bit down the path back to the main site, the sun came back out…

After the tour, which is really good because I learned some history (!), take some time to just explore on your own. Machu Picchu is huge, and it is fun to explore all the nooks and crannies of the place, and get to know the alpacas! By the end of the day, you will have been able to say: “I’ve been to Machu Picchu, one of the seven wonders of the world!” , and realize the enormity of the statement.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Peru- Part III

Part IV- Aguas Calientes

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

Day 6

Wow, we were so excited to finally head on to Machu Picchu, the crowning glory of our journey. We didn’t even care that we had to wake up very early in the morning, to start our walk towards the mini van at 5:00am. You can say that we got used to this kind of travel, we were trained by now.

We sat ourselves with 4 more passengers, and left Cusco towards the city of Ollantaytambo, a 2 hour drive. We were thrilled to enjoy, once again, the beautiful scenery. Of course, some of us preferred to just sleep.

Once in Ollantaytambo (seemed like a nice town worth visiting next time), we boarded the train, Peru Rail, to Aguas Calientes, for a two hour ride. And what a ride that was. Big windows on the sides and above our heads allowed a direct view to the amazing scenery during the ride, as well as a glance into passing by houses and farms of the locals. A nice stewardess was passing with some snacks and hot drinks. Coca tea was our choice. It was a fun ride.

Train to Aguas Calientes. Smile

Train to Aguas Calientes. Smile

towering cloud mountains and forests

towering cloud mountains and forests

raging river through the window

raging river through the window

spotting Aguas Calientes

spotting Aguas Calientes

Arriving at Aguas Calientes (meaning “hot waters”). The small town can only be approached by train or foot, and is the access point to the yearned Machu Picchu (unless one takes the Inca trail that lasts a few days). As this town serves tourists who come to Machu Picchu, there are lots of restaurants, touristic markets and stores, guest houses to cater different budgets, and… hot springs. Since we arrived early, and planned on hiking up to Machu Picchu the next morning (yap- early, to see the sun rise), we had a whole day to spend in town.

Aguas Calientes, to Machu Picchu, Peru

near the hot springs,where locals and tourists alike enjoy to bath, Lior seems to be the local attraction

Aguas Calientes, to Machu Picchu, Peru

tired from the long day, we found a place to sit and relax

Like a bridge over troubled water, I will ease your mind

Like a bridge over troubled water, I will ease your mind

more Aguas

more Aguas

local market

local market- the juicer. we came back for more

walking along the river, more Aguas Calientes views

walking along the river, more Aguas Calientes views

flowers of Aguas Calientes

flowers of Aguas Calientes

even a soccer field in this small town

even a soccer field in this small town

It was fun just walking around town. We found a french (!!) cafe’, a cute little bakery near our guest house for fresh tasty alfajores (on calle Chaska Tika), and stumbled upon a local school band that was practicing (short clip).

Lior: Getting up at 4am, I was expecting a bus to take us to the train station. Well, this bus turned out to be an old minivan, and we were squished in there for around two hours. It was all worth it for the long, scenic, and relaxing train ride, in which we got hot tea (or coffee) and snacks! Interestingly enough, there are two different trains that reach Aguas Calientes, but you are only allowed to ride one. That’s right, us tourists are not allowed to go on the cheaper train, reserved for Peruvians only.

Aguas Calientes is a really nice town, split in half by a river. On one side of the river, it is strictly tourist attractions, restaurants, shops, the market. The other side is where the people live, go to school, play soccer. The tourist half is expensive (more than Cusco), but they have nice things, good food. The less touristy half has less “nice” restaurants, and can be cheaper. Indeed, we found a bakery across from our hostel (we stayed in the non tourist half) that served absolutely delicious mini-alfajores! Be careful, we bought and ate way too many alfajores, and ended up with extra cookies, and no room in our stomachs (but lets face it, is there such a thing as too many alfajores?).

Peru, Part V- Machu Picchu

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

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

 

Read Full Post »

Part I- from NY to Lima to Cusco

I was toying with the idea of going to Peru for quite some time. Now back home, I can easily say it was a fulfilling experience both for us as a family, and as individuals. I encourage you to read this post because it’s unique. It is co-blogged by my daughter (Lior), who has a set of fresh eyes to explore the world, and a flowing language to describe it, and by myself.

Also- be sure to read the next parts of our journey, as it gets better yet!!

“Wow” is almost the only thing I can think of, as I am still in awe of our adventures in Peru. And it’s a good thing that I decided to sit and write as everything is still fresh in my mind. It will take a few days, though.

But first things first. We were lucky that the state of NJ has decided to let most teachers to go on conferences or conventions, or whatever, for a whole week at the beginning of November, which allowed us to enjoy the best time in Peru. Why? because it’s the beginning of the wet season in Peru, which means far less tourists, and cheaper prices. And yes, it does mean rain, too, but not as much. We have already enjoyed that weather in Costa Rica a few years back, so we already knew that we’re lucky to travel during the first week of November.

You’re welcome to read everything, including the small details, or just skip over to some photos. I think some of the tips may be beneficial if you’re planning a short visit.

So, it all begins in planning. Once you decide to go to Peru, start doing your homework. Get the kids involved. It’s fun. I checked out the Lonely Planet from our local library and it contained tons of useful info. Once I knew the dates, I bought plane tickets for all five of us via Kayak. It makes sense to shop around and “play” with dates and airports, until the best deal is found.

Day 1

We flew from LaGuardia airport in NYC, to Miami, to Lima, Peru. We left real early on Thursday, Halloween morning, with more than 4 hours in Miami, to arrive late at night in Lima.

LaGuardia Airport celebrates Halloween

LaGuardia Airport celebrates Halloween

on our way to Lima

Layover in Miami

I’ll admit, for a second there, the kids were starting to have have second thoughts after basking in the Miami sun, gazing at pastel colored buildings, and licking some dripping ice cream.

An approximate five hours of flight got us to Lima, where we were picked up by our hostel driver. Yes, there is a fancy hotel right at the airport, but it’s quite expensive. Though it saves time, and the hassle of a 30 minute drive into town, especially when we had to catch a very early flight in the morning to Cusco, we still preferred the hostel option as it saved muchos $$$. Our hostel, The Place, is located in a very good neighborhood in Lima, the Miraflores. We had no time to explore Lima, as we were dead tired after such a long travel, and had to get up at 5am the next day for our flight. Besides, it was late, where would we go? But we did return to this little, quiet hostel at the end of our trip, and spent some nice time walking around. The staff, especially Louisa and Gustavo were welcoming and knowledgeable, and Gustavo’s English gave us a sense of familiarity. Though we had to leave at 5:30am, they managed to prepare a basic breakfast for us: great coffee, hot chocolate for the little one, and toasts for all of us.

La Place Hostel, Miraflores, Lima

The Place Hostel, Miraflores, Lima

Lior:

The layover in Miami was super convenient (for me). The warm weather was a welcome change from the bitter October cold, even if for just a few hours! It brought back sweet summertime memories, so be careful not to fall into Miami temptation! You are still on a trip to a place way cooler~ Peru!

The drive to Miraflores is really enjoyable! Since Lima (and all of its 43 districts) are on a cliff, there is a highway that runs on the coast line. There aren’t many people on the beaches, as they aren’t developed yet, but you can see some daredevil surfers in the water. Besides, the fresh Pacific Ocean air feels good! I didn’t get to see much of Miraflores that night, I passed out for a much needed sleep instead.

Day 2

We started our day at dawn, rushing to get to our Cusco flight. It’s a short flight. Do try and sit by a window. Cruising at cloud level, you’ll notice the magnificent mountain tops all around, some are green, some snow covered.

Landed in Cusco, we were welcomed and picked up by Marlene of Cusco Hope Travel, who helped and eased our travel. Thanks to Marlene, whome helped us arrange the trip that we wanted, tailored specifically to our needs, things went smooth, or if there were any problems, they were quickly fixed. Traveling with kids, as well as the short time period we had for this trip, made us “round” or “soften” any rough edges that could have popped out, and that’s where Marlene came in.

Driving to the guesthouse, our 9th grader started chatting with Marlene in Spanish. How cool is that? Already a gain! the road took us through a bustling city, lots of people on the streets as well as… Dogs! Lots and lots of dogs. But these were beautiful, healthy dogs. Houses seemed to be half-finished, yet if zoomed out, it looks like a colorful fairy-tale village.

A cute guesthouse (La Rojas), located in a central location, welcomed us with coca leaf tea. We sat (fell) on the couches, drank our teas, and listened to Marlene’s explanations.

It is VERY! important to remember that Cusco is nestled between mountains, yet on itself is at an altitude of 3,400 meters above sea level. You must take it easy. Even the smallest step or climb, will shortly be felt by your heart. Well, not everyone is sensitive, but one never knows. See TIPS for the popular, energizing, stomach-calmer, altitude-fixer, and a remedy to just about anything in Peru: Coca Tea!

one family's journy to Peru

Coca Leaves Tea are offered immediately

Regardless of warnings, we felt so good, we set out to explore our neighborhood in Cusco, which is, by the way, classified as a world heritage site by UNESCO.

Cusco, Peru

Plaza De Armas, the main square

One family's journey to Peru

We had to shine our shoes. Actually, we just needed to sit down

Another view of Plaza De Armas (Plaza of the army)

Another view of Plaza De Armas (Plaza of the army)

Finally, after 30 minutes, back in the hostel, to take it easy, and have more Coca Tea

Finally, after 30 minutes, back in the hostel, to take it easy, and have more Coca Tea, and sleep

After some sleep, yes, even in the middle of the day, we got up for some food, and another lazy stroll in this fun city. There’s admission fee to many attractions in the city and around it, so it’s well worth it to purchase the one ticket that includes entrance to many of the sights, and it’s valid for 10 days. The tickets are 130 soles (~$47) for adults, 70 soles for teens, and free for kids under 10 years.

With the ticket, we found out about the traditional Quechua dances, and we headed down Avenda Sol to see them. It was nice, relaxing, and at times interesting (and even funny) to watch the dances. The costumes were beautiful.

colors, sounds, jumps at the traditional dance show

colors, sounds, jumps and chats at the traditional dance show

Lior:

The flight to Cusco was definitely memorable! From takeoff to landing, there is a perfect view of the Andes Mountains! It is so picturesque to see the top of snow capped mountains among the clouds.

Cusco had a very good first impression! First, the air feels clean, and fun to breath (I know coming from near New York). A lot of people get altitude sickness, but I didn’t! My theory is that because I play a wind instrument seriously, and do breathing exercises, my lungs are used to taking in different amounts of air. Go figure! As a treatment for this altitude sickness (and according to the locals, everything else as well), one can drink coca tea. As an avid tea drinker, this was definitely a plus! If you don’t like tea, they also sell coca candy, which tastes like cough drops.

 The city has cobblestone streets, with many plazas. Plaza des Armes is really nice, but I soon realized that it is the epitome of a tourist trap. Which is OK! That is, if you like tourist traps, which is totally respectable! There are lots of women and children walking around in traditional clothes and carrying sheep, wanting you to take a picture. Also, there are TONS of sweaters (perfect for the sweater weather in America). If you aren’t one for tourist traps though, just walk a little bit up the road, or find an cool looking alley. There may not be as many stores, but you get to look at the real life, and see how people live!

 As for the stores, they are a good chance for a cheap buy! Don’t take the initially offered price, bargain! There are nice shoes, sweaters, socks, and fuzzy leggings that you can buy for a good price. The sweaters may or may not be good quality, so be careful. If you want top notch clothes, you can buy in the official looking stores, otherwise, just buy from the people on the street market type shops. One particular alley off of Plaza des Armes, Procuradores, has a lot of neat stores and restaurants.

Tips:

General + Lima

  • If you’re traveling with children, most airlines will allow you to board the plane before the others, or at least right after first class. In order for that to happen, make sure the flight attendants at the check-in counter sees your kids, or better yet, hears them. Another good tip: we each carried a small back-pack that contained one set of emergency clothing, and a book. With only one small carry-on, airlines allowed us to board first, before others. Of course we each had our own suitcase that was already checked in.
  • once going through Peruvian immigration, you receive a little note/form per each passenger. Keep that note in a safe place. You will have to present it once exiting Peru. If you don’t have it- you’ll have to pay $$.
  • make sure you have a pick-up from the airport by your hotel or hostel, as well as a drop-off at the airport, for your next flight, and that its included in the price.
  • At Hostel La Place, be sure to ask for the better rooms upstairs, especially rooms 212 and 205, as they had newer showers. We always had 2 rooms- one for the kids and for us, adults.

Cusco

  • We did not have much time to spend in total, so we cut our stay in Lima to minimum. Try  to find a flight that leaves Lima asap if you’re like us. We ordered our flight to/from Cusco with Star Peru. We had very good experience with them.
  • Get a seat by a window, it’s worth it. Views are amazing.
  • On your way to Cusco ask for, and drink the coca leaf tea. It will not only get you used to the (almost) popular drink and make a true Peruvian out of you, but it will seriously  help you with altitude sickness.
  • If you’ll stay at La Rojas (our hostel), make sure to ask  for the rooms upstairs, especially the ones facing AWAY from the main street (Tigre) and the crossing little street (Teqsiqocha). Though they may seem pretty innocent during the day, those streets are very noisy during the night. There are discotheques and pubs not far, that are erupting all of the sudden in the middle of the night, and you’ll feel, like I did, that you’re surrounded by drums. Not a good idea, unless you’re a party animal.
  • A good, reasonable priced restaurant, that serves local Peruvian dishes next to some key western dishes (Pizza anyone?) is Pacha Mama located between Plaza de Armas and the hostel, on Saphi Rd (or Plateros). I had the best Ceviche here. Notice some streets have 2 names: one in Spanish, and one in Quechua.
  • First day in Cusco is a good day to take it easy and walk slowly to Avenda El Sol, to buy: tourist ticket (Boleto Turístico del Cusco) that allows entrance to many of Cusco and surrounding sights. Also on Avenda El Sol, are many money changers. To avoid high exchange rates and commission charges, only exchange a minimal amount of cash at the airport upon your arrival, and the rest- in Lima or Cusco. It is better you take small denomination bills or pocket money as vendors, shops and taxis do not often have change. Be careful with bills and examine that they are not old, worn or even slightly torn, as nobody will accept them. Finally, be sure to buy water bottle, and sun screen. Unfortunately, the tap water isn’t drinkable, and it is important to drink lots of water. Although the temps might not be too high, think that you’ll be at around 3,300 meters above sea level, so the sun hits pretty hard! Oh- also- the hostels we stayed in did not have shampoo (did have soap, though). So, we had a little shampoo sample we brought with us from the US for the first night in Lima, but bought a bigger bottle in Cusco.

See Part II- Cusco and around

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: