Story-time Request #1 - Willka T'ika, Peru

This is the first installment of my “story-time request series.” I asked readers to pick a country from my visited country list and agreed to share a story and pictures from that country that I have never shared before. 

I’ll admit, I am daunted by this story-time challenge I have set for myself with your help. Many of the countries on my list were visited literal decades ago. The idea of reaching into the mental archives to try to find the interesting stories has felt a little out of reach, which is why I decided to start with this one.

Visiting Peru, now a decade ago (this week is the 10 year anniversary of the trip), is always closer to the top of my brain file and within reach than other locations. You can read the few posts I have on Peru here. I’ve never written much about the Peru and Bolivia trip because it was so deep, so transformative and just so much. I mean this in the best of ways, but it was so much to process and I am still not sure it has all processed a decade later.

This wasn’t just the case for me. Just about everyone who took this group trip organized by a yoga studio in New Jersey, returned home and found themselves immeasurably changed. I’m not trying to be trite, but this trip was a blow the doors open of your life trip. People came home and their whole lives shifted in an instant. Jobs were changed or lost, businesses changed, people moved across the country and to the other side of the world, diets were up-ended, a surgeon discovered a side of himself that believed in UFOs, marriages changed, every life change that could happen did. Each month after the trip, I heard through the grapevine of another drastic change in our wider group and they got more surprising as time went along.

Oddly enough, over New Year’s this year, I went on a journal reading spree and my Peru and Bolivia journal was one of the ones I read from cover to cover. Even though this trip is often top of mind and heart, this reread (something I don’t do often or really at all) reminded me of little actions and events that I had forgotten about. It specifically reminded me of ceremonies I had been a part of but forgotten. It was truly amazing to look at those events through my real time writing and emotions back then and visit them with my present awareness and a further decade of knowledge of myself. There were things there that never made sense before that clicked reading them again. (This is why I don’t burn journals.)

This preface is all to share that the base of this trip, our strong foundation was Willka T'ika, a garden of the gods in the sacred valley near Urubamba, Peru. Though we didn’t know it at the time, or at least I didn’t, it was a sort of famous place, and that has only increased with time. It’s not the first place I’ve visited that I didn’t realize was “a thing” and I am sure it won’t be the last. (And I am sure it has changed a lot in the decade since I was there.)

Not only is the property lush and stunning with gorgeous accommodations, the place has an interesting journey of its own. From what I recall, the owner was on a trip with her husband from New Zealand where they lived (I think). They came upon this property, I’m not even sure if it was for sale at the time, but it had this sick Lucuma tree on it. The tree is thought to be nearly one thousand years old. The person showing them the area said the tree would die and nothing could be done about it. Something about that challenge, the earth beneath her feet and the energy of the place propelled this woman to upend her life and stay. As she told it to us, she told her husband that this exact place was where she was supposed to be and that she was staying. She left the choice up to him whether or not he would stay, he didn’t, and she created a magical garden retreat with the help of the community and a staff that is like family to her now. Willka T'ika does a lot of work in the community with the schools and specifically with the children of the staff and creating opportunities. These works once confined to their local area, have expanded to include charitable operations in other places around the world. They also now run their own retreat trips to various spiritual places around the world.

If I recall correctly, we arrived to  Willka T'ika at night. I remember a “tea station,” as a greeting. This tea station had hot water, and a basket of herbs for you to make your own tea. I fell in love at that moment and went straight for the mint. The mugs were a brown red clay, painted with different scenes and shapes on them. These mugs would become an anchor point for my friend and I (who was my roommate during the trip, who I am still close friends with, waves HI) during the trip but also after when we went home.. We both still have our mugs to this present day.

Photo Courtesy of KMD
Mugs from - Ceramicas Seminario

By some fluke, my friend (who I had known since college and was a part of the yoga studio running the trip) and I ended up with one of the nicest rooms in the place. I have no idea how this happened since we were the youngest two people on the trip by two and half decades. We walked into this huge open space with high ceilings, a shamanic looking painting on the wall and three beds ( a running theme for us in our rooms through the trip). It was also one of the rooms farthest away from the entrance and the dining area (I could do a whole post on the food at  Willka T'ika, so so good). It was all the way through the gardens and out by the Lucuma tree (which incidentally the owner saved and now flourishes).

I now know that this was no accident. We were meant to be in that specific area to support both of our experiences through our time in the Sacred Valley. We each went through something huge in that space, though I am not sure each of us would have had the language for it at the time. I know I personally had so much emotion and so much unexplained energy that I couldn’t express it, and a lot of times, I got real quiet in order not to spontaneously combust.

 Willka T'ika had a yoga space that dreams are made of. Very close to where we were staying, next door if I remember correctly. The space felt like a womb. This warm, inviting cavern for growth to happen...and it did. I had been teaching yoga for about a year at that point, and practicing six or seven years personally. Practicing yoga during this trip with the many different teachers that were taking and/or leading the trip, was eye opening. Up until then my yoga experience had been mostly confined to a few places and two particular styles. These teachers weaved in a thread of spirituality and philosophy that landed differently for me than it ever had. It opened up a whole new world for me. Maybe it was the place, or maybe the time was simply right for me to hear it and really HEAR.

Beyond being a sanctuary for all of us,  Willka T'ika also offered some interesting experiences you could sign up for. A chakra garden tour with the owner (we were the only group there and we got a lot of one on one interaction with the owner which was awesome), a crystal bed, healing treatments and the one I find most memorable, a steaming hot herbal bath under the stars.

Peru was my first time in the Southern Hemisphere which gave me an opportunity to see stars I had never seen before. The “Southern Cross” was a constellation that followed us on our trip and was referenced a lot by various guides. It wasn’t until we scampered cautiously over to the two stone baths in the ground with steaming water and shut off our flashlights as we slid into our individual tubs, that I got a really good view of the constellation.

This herbal bath under the stars was a reach for me, wildly out of my comfort zone. Though I knew the baths had just been filled, while we were standing there, and I could see the bottom of the tub with my flashlight, I was still terrified something was going to get into the tub with me, mainly slithering animals that I have trouble with. Donning our robes, we each sat on the side of our tubs, took some pictures and then through hysterical giggles somehow gained the courage to get rid of all light, drop the robes and hop in.

It was one of those surreal experiences that in the moment you can’t believe is happening and you’re almost out of your body observing yourself having the experience. The herbs kept brushing my body and made me jump every time. The stone baths were sloped like a pool that gets deeper at one end. What I remember most though, is the brilliance of the stars without light pollution and giggling so much that my stomach hurt. It was terrifying and so joyful. It was a moment in time that is etched in my heart, just like  Willka T'ika.

If you'd like to make a story-time request, visit my country page, and email ( or FB or Insta me the country you want to hear about.