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Willka T'ika Eco-Lodge

By Michele Gentille


The Sacred Valley in Peru has an unmistakable aura of mysticism about it. It makes sense that some clever person would build an idyllic retreat there, just a short drive from the astounding mountain city of Machu Picchu.


Willka T’ika, which means “sacred flower” in the Quechua language, is an eco-lodge. The property is located at the foot of the Andes and has seven beautiful gardens containing flowers, medicinal plants, organic vegetables, fruit and grains.


Carol Cumes is originally from South Africa and studied yoga, shamanism, flower essences and meditation in the 1970s. She started building the Willka T’ika Garden Guest House in Urubamba village after moving to Peru in 1995. She currently also heads a non-profit organization that raises money for new schools and libraries in nearby, isolated mountain areas. The lodge itself is staffed by locals, all Quechua-speaking neighbors, who grew up within a five-mile radius of it, and who seem to be as equally versed in the culinary arts as in medicinal herbology and local culture.


Rooms are spacious and beautifully decorated with garden views. On top of that, they are connected to solar water panels and have real working bathrooms—not something to be taken for granted when traveling through the South American countryside.


In the cooler months when you crawl under the comforter, a hot water bottle has toasted your sheets with warmth. When the morning sun glitters through the lush greenery at your window, all you hear are the twittering birds outside.


From early in the day you are able to help yourself to strong, blissfully organic coffee. The menu is totally vegetarian. Breakfast includes freshly baked whole wheat bread, scrambled eggs, fresh cheese, and beautiful platters of fresh fruit and avocado. Other meals feature dishes such as sweet potato soup, quinoa patties with romesco sauce, vegetable casserole and fruit cobbler. The majority of organic fruit and vegetables served are supplied by the gardens onsite. There is always hot water for tea in the main gathering room, along with a variety of teabags and a basket of fresh herbs and coca leaves. In Peru, coca leaves are considered a kind of panacea—good for altitude sickness for cleansing the blood, for use in poultices, or just as a tonic.


The grounds feature plenty of spots for quiet meditation, including an area where a 500-year-old Lucma tree thrives, “fertilized” by the large crystals placed at its base. There are also three outdoor solar-heated baths, a yoga studio, massage rooms, a crystal bed and an outdoor fire pit.


During our stay, we were treated to a prosperity ritual performed by two shamans, who also brought handmade goods to sell. They had walked three days to reach us and stayed for three days, until we left.


Willka T’ika caters to groups of five to 30 people, some of who are there for yoga or meditation retreats, and others who are simply touring local sights. You have to arrange a stay ahead of time since it is a guest house, and functions differently than a regular hotel.

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