South America

QUITO, ECUADOR/AMAZONAS RAIN FOREST, ECUADOR/GALAPAGOS ISLANDS CRUISE, ECUADOR/GUAYAQUIL, ECUADOR/LIMA, PERU/CUSCO, PERU/ MACHU PICCHU, PERU.

OUR SPECIAL GUEST: RABBI LORD JONATHAN SACKS

Monday, June 05

Arrival in Quito, Ecuador

Lunch

Half Day Tour of Quito:

We will navigate the streets of the La Mariscal financial neighborhood and take in the   extraordinary views from sky-high vantage points throughout this, one of the world’s highest capital cities. Wander through the old world streets and make a stop at Independence Plaza, where locals and tourists gather for street performances, conversation and entertainment. We will make a visit to the Presidential Palace and the Government’s Palace, as well as La Basilica and San Francisco Churches, whose ornate décor and impressive architecture can be marveled.

Finally, we will make our way to Panecillo Mirador, Quito’s most famous hill. Wonder at the juxtaposition of colonial and contemporary as you look out over the capital city.

Throughout the tour we will begin to learn from our expert guide the history of Ecuador in general and Quito in particular.

Return to our hotel for dinner and a good night’s sleep.

Our Hotel: Hilton Colon Quito

While in Quito we will eat all our meals at the hotel in our own private dining room. All meals under the strict supervision of Rabbi Uriel Tawil, the Rav of Chabad, Guayaquil.

Tuesday, June 06

After Shacharit and breakfast we will begin our journey over the Andes Mountain Range to the Amazonas Rain Forest , through some of Ecuador’s most awe inspiring scenery.

Lunch on Arrival after a 15 minute mechanized canoe ride to get to our lodge.

After lunch we will take a 10 minute canoe ride which will take us to Anaconda Island where around 50 indigenous families live. Our guide will explain about the different cultivated crops and their importance to the Quichua families of the island. We will visit a traditional house where one of the women of the family will show how they prepare “Chicha”, the traditional manioc beverage. Afterwards we will participate in a blowgun target-shooting contest.

A canoe will take us back to the village of Ahuano where we will visit two indigenous workshops where river clay is transformed into a ceramic pot and a piece of balsa wood is carved into a bird.

Back to the lodge for dinner.

Our Lodge: Las Casa Del Suizo….one of the Amazon’s beautiful lodges.

We will eat all meals at the lodge…Again under the strict supervision of Rabbi Uriel Tawil

Wednesday, June 07

Our morning activity will begin with a 20 minute canoe ride that will take us to Misicocha, one of the rainforest reserves. There we will take a hike through trails crossing secondary forest. Our native guide, whose knowledge about medicinal plants is amazing, will show us the secrets of the tropical undergrowth. We will use two hiking trails, one of between 1and a half and 2 hours, and the second between 2 and a half and 3 hours. Choose your own comfort level. Those on the longer trail will have extra fun by crossing a ravine in a hanging metal basket.

Afterwards we will experience the building and navigating of a wooden raft. Our guide will show us how to tie balsa logs together, so those of us who wish can float down the Napo River in this ancestral vessel. Finally, canoes will pick us up from the raft and take us back to the hotel and lunch.

There will be a choice for our afternoon activity.

For those wanting something less strenuous, we will visit the Butterfly Farm….a 15 minute walk from the lodge in the village of Ahuano, where we will see 18 species of butterflies fluttering around the Flying Room. Our guide will explain about the different stages of these insects’ lifecycle….River conditions allowing, we will search for gold by taking a short canoe ride along the Napo River. We will stop along the shore where our guide will show us how to use a wooden pan to find the precious metal.

OR….

An afternoon to the Canopy Adventure Park. This park is located in a hill near the Pangayacu River….a 15 minute car drive and then a 30 minute climb through the rainforest. The Canopy Adventure Park is a ropes course. We will be required to wear a harness that will connect you to a zip line that will enable us to cross a series of games or obstacles between the trees. There are two circuits, each with increasing difficulties…in short you will need to be in good physical shape.

Back to the Lodge and dinner.

Thursday, June 08

Our morning activity begins with a 25 minute canoe ride downriver to the Arajuno River, where we will visit the animal rescue center…AmaZOOnico. There we will be able to see different animals that have been wounded or displaced such as felines, caimans, monkeys ans birds, some of which wonder around freely.

Next, we will take the canoe to Cosano, another of our rainforest reserves. We will hike through secondary and primary forest while observing the towering trees of the tropical jungle. There are 2 trails, both an hour long..one with a low difficulty, the other with a high difficulty.

And for desert…….we will float downriver in one of the inner tubes in the tranquil waters of the Arajuno River. The canoe will follow alongside and then pick us up to take us back to the hotel and lunch.

Kayaking is our afternoon activity along the Napo River. Our guides will accompany us from Punta Ahuano downriver.

OR…….for those of you who want to relax…..an afternoon of leisure by the hotel’s beautiful pool.

Friday, June 09

After breakfast we take our leave of the Amazon Rainforest and head back to Quito.

On arrival back at the Hilton Colon, Quito, we will eat lunch.

Our afternoon tour of Quito begins with a trip to one of the colorful local markets to witness the hustle and bustle of locals buying the huge array of tropical fruits grains and vegetables. Next up is a visit to a traditional Quito confectionary maker to see their method of production of their delicious sweets. We end this short tour with a visit to the wonderfully restored La Ronda district in the Old Town where we will be able to see the various traditional handicrafts such as carvers and a hatmaker amongst other things.

All our Shabbat activites will be held at our hotel.

Shabbat , June 10

After Shabbat lunch we will take a short, guided walk in the vicinity of the hotel .

Before Mincha and Seuda Shlishit, we will learn about some of the history of South America in general and Ecuador in particular.

Since we are at the equator(ECUADOR), Shabbat ends at the same time for most of the year..at about 700pm.

We will head downtown after Shabbat, and experience a Saturday night in Quito

Sunday, June 11

Today we will take a full day tour to the Cotopaxi National Park and the Limpiopungo Lagoon.

The Cotopaxi National Park lies 53 kilometers southeast of Quito and is the second most visited national park in Ecuador.

Cotopaxi National Park’s main attraction is its still active volcano, which stands at a towering 19,000 feet above sea level, dwarfing the surrounding valleys, rivers and lagoons.

Referred to by the Incas as the ‘Neck of the Moon’, the volcano has had over a dozen recorded eruptions, making it the most volatile volcano in South America. That does not deter the many climbers who attempt to climb it each year. It last exploded in 1877.

A visit to Cotopaxi is not complete without a visit to the Limpiopungo Lagoon. No matter what the weather, you are guaranteed to see birds, small finches and wrens hopping up and down the trail itself and larger waterfowl and shore birds in the many small ponds and marshy areas. You are also guaranteed stunning vistas of the surrounding mountains and of wild horses on the paramo.

The trail around the lake takes about 1.5 hours. It is well maintained and practically flat, making it a perfect hike for those that are not handling high altitude well.

We will eat lunch under a shady gazebo about one third of the way into the trail.

We will return to our hotel and dinner.

Monday, June 12

We say farewell to Quito, and make our way to Quito Airport for our flight to Batra, the airport that serves the fascinating and unique Galapagos Islands.

The Galapagos Islands are located 620 miles from the South American mainland but a world apart from anywhere else on Earth. The archipelago and its surrounding waters, located where three ocean currents converge, are famed for the unique animal species that piqued the interest of Charles Darwin in 1835. Decades later Darwin drew on his experiences here when penning his landmark theory of evolution by natural selection.

The actively volcanic islands are home to fascinating creatures found nowhere else on Earth, including marine iguanas, giant tortoises, flightless cormorants, and a diverse variety of finches. Darwin noted that although the islands shared similar volcanic compositions, environment and climate, each isolated isle was home to its own set of unique species. Darwin suspected that these species had adapted to a unique diet and the microenvironment of their locale.

Most exciting for visitors is the lack of fear and even curiosity with which the Galapagos animals typically regard humans. Incredible, up-close encounters are the norm here. And while the islands are a living laboratory of evolutionary change, their ecosystems have remained remarkably unchanged. Some 95 percent of the islands’ pre-human biodiversity remains intact – a remarkable figure

We will be picked up at the airport by our guides and taken on a ten minute bus ride to the pier to board our boat that will be our home for the next 3 nights – the M/V Galapagos Legend.

All our meals will be served in our separate dining room aboard the Legend, and again, under the strict, personal supervision of Rabbi Uriel Tawil, who will obviously be with us during the entire cruise.

After lunch we will head for the Highlands on the Island of Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz possesses all of the various life zones present in the archipelago, with wonderful birding opportunities. Whether it’s the bright red feathers of a Vermillion Flycatcher or one of Darwin’s finches almost every land bird present in the islands can be found here. Santa Cruz also offers excellent opportunities for view wild tortoises, both roaming through pastures in the agricultural zone and in the Tortoise Reserve. We will be able to see the pond at El Chato, surrounded by a forest where short-eared owls, Vermillion Flycatchers, Yellow Warblers and many other species can be seen.

From the Highlands we continue to the Pit Craters and the Lava Tubes. Lava Tubes form when the top layer of a flow solidifies while underneath the lava still flows downhill quickly. The lava flow will eventually form a tube like structure that are usually five to six meters wide and up to ten meters in height. Once the lava runs dry a huge, hallow tube underground is all that is left. These are unique geological formations that can be found in very few places in the world

A pit crater is usually formed by the collapse on ground above an empty space,such as a lava tube or former magma chamber. The ground around a pit crater may overhang part of the hole when a pit crater has recently formed.

Puhia Pele and Luamakami craters reach more than 800 feet in depth. The Galapagos Islands have 2 large pit craters called Los Gemelos, or “The Twins”. The largest is nearly 1,300 feet across and 2,300 feet deep.

Tuesday, June 13

We begin our morning excursion at Egas Port on the island of Santiago. Puerto Egas, aslo known as James Bay, is where we will begin a hike on a dry trail leading to tide pools rich in sea life, where we will see Marine Iguanas, Sally Light Foot Crabs, and the shy but adorable Galapagos Fur seals. While making the short trek, be on the lookout for the Galapagos Hawk and one of his favorite meals…the Lava Lizard. Egas Port is a great place to snorkel off the beach.

After lunch we hop over to the island of Bartolome. Located two hours north of Santa Cruz by boat, Bartolome is home to some of the most breathtaking panoramas in the Galapagos as well as many of the islands’ most sought after inhabitants. From the summit of the hike, we can see one of the most recognized landmarks in the Galapagos – the Pinnacle Rock, an impressive lava structure that towers high above the water. We will descend for an up close look at the Pinnacle and the astonishing array of wildlife that calls this island home….Galapagos penguins, friendly sea lions, sea turtles and a huge variety of fish, that make this a fantastic snorkeling spot.

Wednesday, June 14

Our morning excursion takes us to Dragon Hill or Cerro Dragon, and is named after its population of land iguanas. The site offers a beautiful view of the landscape and two small brackish lagoons where flamingos and other shore birds occasionally feed. Along the trail we will cross the beautiful white forest of Palo Santo incense trees and Galapagos cotton plants. Excursion options include a high-intensity hike with swimming/snorkeling at the beach, high intensity snorkeling from a zodiac followed by a short walk and a low intensity Zodiac ride along the coastline with dry landings for animal observation.

After lunch we sail over to the North Seymour Island. North Seymour Island is a natural haven for the Blue-Footed Boobie. A nature trail meanders leisurely through large colonies of nesting Frigate birds and Ble-Footed Boobies. Depending on the time of year, this is an excellent place to witness the thrilling mating rituals these birds are famous for. You can also intimately observe the fascinating dynamics between a mother and its chick. Just of the shore you can witness the original Galapagos surf club members…the Sea Lions riding the crashing waves all the way into shore.

Thursday, June 15

Before our transport to the airport we will visit the Bachas Beach. Behind this beach lie two small flamingo ponds with iguanas, coastal birds, Darwin finches, mockingbirds and gulls. The beach is one of the main nesting sites of sea turtles in the Galapagos.

We check in for our flight to Guayaquil, where we will arrive at 1250pm

Since we have a few hours before our connecting flight to Lima, Rabbi Tawil will show us Beit Chabad in Guayaquil, and give us a brief talk about the Jewish Community there.

We will have lunch at the only kosher restaurant in Ecuador, opened by a local Israeli businessman, and under the hashgacha of Rabbi Tawil

We will return to the airport for our flight to Lima.

Check in to our hotel in Lima.

Our hotel in Lima is the deluxe Country Club Hotel, located about a 7 minute walk from the Shul, where we will be eating all our meals. All meals are under the strict supervision of the Rabbi of Lima, Rabbi Shlomo Cohen-Scali.

Friday, June 16

Our tour of Lima will provide us with a comprehensive historical oversight of the city, while visiting all the must-see sites.

We will drive along Lima’s first freeway, built during the 1960s and 70s, arriving in downtown Lima, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here we will be able to appreciate the impressive monuments and imposing architecture from the colonial times.

We will visit the 16th. Century Convent of Santo Domingo, one of the best preserved monasteries in the whole of Lima, where we view the magnificent old Lima from its tower. We continue to the Larco Museum, featuring the finest gold and silver collection from Ancient Peru, and the famous “erotic” archaeological collection.

Finally we will walk around one of Lima’s oldest neighborhoods, Pueblo Libre. On the way back to our hotel, we will observe a hauca, a pre Inca site in the heart of the city, and the changing of the guards.

The afternoon is free to further explore Lima, for shopping or resting, or just preparing for Shabbat.

We will be spending Shabbat with the very friendly, but small, Jewish Community of Lima.

Shabbat, June 17

After davening we will join the community in their weekly gala Kiddush/lunch. After the Kiddush, Lima’s Rabbi will tell us about Jewish life in Peru…..past and present.

Shabbat afternoon rest and return to Shul for Mincha and Seuda Shlishit.

Motzei Shabbat will take us to the ultra modern shopping mall…Larcomar….wonderful stores at wonderful Peruvian prices.

Sunday, June 18

Farewell to Lima, and transfer to the airport for our flight to Cusco.

On arrival in Cusco we will transfer to our hotel, the famous and deluxe Aranwa Hotel. We will take a leisurely walk to acclimatize to the altitude, which is 3,400 meters(for a point of reference….Jerusalem’s altitude is 790 meters!!!).

We will eat lunch at Chabad….a short walk from the hotel. All our meals will be at Chabad during our stay in Cusco.

Our afternoon tour will take us to The Cathedral, the Koricancha(Temple of the Sun) and the nearby ruins…Qenqo(Ceremonial and Ritual Center where sacrifices were made…Puca Pucara, which was used by Emperor Pachacutec as a tambo, Tambomachay and Sacsayhuaman Fortress.

We return to Chabad for dinner.

Monday, June 19

Our day in Machu Picchu begins with an early transfer to the train station to board the Vistadome train to Aguas Calientes. This amazingly panoramic ride take onae and half hours. On arrival we will transfer to Machu Picchu by a bus shuttle service.

Machu Picchu is one of the most important archaeological site in the world.

Machiu Picchi is tangible evidence of the urban Inca Empire at the peak of its power and achievement – a citadel of cut stone fit together without mortar so tightly that its cracks still cannot be penetrated by a knife blade.

The complex of palaces and plazas, temples and home may have been built as s ceremonial site, a military stronghold, or a retreat for the ruling elites – its dramatic location is certainly well suited for any of those purposes. The ruins lie on a high ridge,

surrounded on there sides by the windy, turbulent Urubamaba River, some 2,000 feet below.

Scholars are still striving to uncover clues to the mysteries hidden here high in the eastern slopes of the Andes, covered with tropical forests of the upper Amazon Basin. Machu Picchu appears to lie at the center of a network of related sites and trails – and many landmarks both man-made and mountainous appear to align with astronomical events like the solstice sunset. The Inca had no written language, so they left no record of why they built the site or how they used it before it was abandoned in the early 16th. Century.

In 1911 a Peruvian guide led Yale professor Hiram Bingham up a steep mountainside and into the history books as the first Western scholar to lay eyes on the “lost city” of Machu Picchu. While indigenous peoples knew of the site, Peru’s Spanish conquerors never did – a fact which aided Machu Picchu’s isolation, and preservation, over the centuries.

We will spend approximately 3 hours at the site of Machu Picchu, and will learn much from our excellent guide. We will return to Aguas Calientes by bus and find a place to eat our lunch. Thereafter…the train ride back to Ollantaytambo and on to Cusco.

Tuesday, June 20

Our last full day on this tour will take us to Peru’s historic Sacred Valley or the UruBamba Valley. This valley is famous for its lush scenery, picturesque colonial towns and a magnificent Inca fortress.

Our first stop is the Andean village of Chinchero. Here we will take in magnificent mountain views, visit the main square and view and ancient church with unique floral designs. From there we will head off to the small town of Maras, which is well known as a former salt-producing center that dates back all the way to colonial times. From here we continue to the fascinating display of terraces in Moray, located about 2 miles from Maras. Moray boasts three amphitheater-like terraces made by the Incas. These terraces, which are carved deep into the earth in a bowl shape, were thought to be used ti determine the optimal conditions for growing crops.

We continue to Ollantaytambo, home to a magnificent Inca fortress that we will explore. This historic fortress was where the Spanish conquistadors lost a major battle against the Inca Empire. Before we head back to Cusco, we will have time to walk around the cobblestone streets of Ollantaytambo..

Wednesday, June 21

We will have some free time before our transfer to the airport for our flight back to Lima Airport, where we all head back to our respective countries and home.

Our wonderful tour has come to an end.

A safe journey to everyone.