From Permaculture to Yoga: Retreating in the Sacred Valley of Peru

Jorge and Ilse, a vibrant and incredibly visionary couple met through mutual friends in Zanzibar, an island off mainland Tanzania. Jorge, originally from Peru’s capital, found himself running a small guest house on the beach after six years of living in Zanzibar. Ilse, originally from the South African city of Pretoria, was freelancing, teaching yoga across the entire island. Developing a sustainable lifestyle project was a prospect that came about soon into their relationship. They began dreaming of a place to practice and inspire self development. Combining their own passions, they envisioned a space where they could use permaculture to grow and harvest organic produce, practice optimum nutrition and inspire others to do so, facilitate yoga, meditation and even arrange shamanic ceremonies with sacred plant medicines. They turned their dream into a reality in December 2018 and last month I got to interview them at their retreat centre in the Andean mountains, Kinsapacha, to find out how they manifested their ideas.

We try to inspire and encourage people to do a lot of self exploration, because the sacred valley is a safe place to do so.

Jorge and Ilse

At what point did you realise that you shared a sustainable and creative vision for the future?

[Ilse] Jorge mentioned that he had planned to go back to Peru and begin some kind of green, conscious living project. I knew I was interested, given that my background is in health and wellbeing. [Jorge] Ilse had mentioned she wanted a permanent space to host people, which could be specifically directed towards self exploration and healing. For me this was familiar. My background is in business hospitality and tourism, so combing both of our skills was a good match. I then completed a Permaculture Design Course in Kenya in because it was something I wanted to add to a future project.  

A view of The Valley

For nature observation, the jungle is incredible. But for living, it is hard. The ecosystem in the jungle is incredibly fast moving. When we came to the valley, it simply felt right here.

How did you materialise your green lifestyle project?

[Jorge] We started looking for suitable land. We initially visited the North of Peru, the Jungle territory, thinking we would prefer to live in the tropics. The realisation soon hit us with the amount of labour and resources that would be required to set up a permanent base there. For nature observation, the jungle is incredible. But for living, it is hard. The ecosystem in the jungle is incredibly fast moving and it therefore requires specific maintenance and a lot of hard work. Even the building materials need to be carefully selected and treated to ensure the structures are stable, for example, wood is prone to rot because of the humidity. We came to the Sacred Valley to check out the area and it simply felt right here, so we started searching for plots in April 2018. 

Kinsapacha at night

Why did you choose the Sacred Valley for your conscious vision to come into play?

[Ilse] We both really connected with it here and living in the mountains seemed like a practical idea for the long term, as appose to the jungle as we discovered. There is something about the energy of the Andes that feels quite protecting, it’s really magical. [Read their recent blog post: Mountain Life in the Sacred Valley.] The mountain soil is also great to work with. Maybe it’s something to do with the natural irrigation system. The plot we are now, was just baron land, the grass was unworked and there was no structure to the land. We had to imagine and create a vision and it felt possible to do so here.

A humming bird in the garden

How do your skills work in harmony?

[Ilse] We both resonate with the idea of conscious living through everyday practice. For me that involves being aware of the internal and externalities around my body and mind. For Jorge it involves working with the land and being present in the garden, which is a form of meditation. 

Ilse in her element

How do you feel you are practising sustainable living, both at the retreat and also as individuals?

[Ilse] In many ways really. We are one of twelve organic farms in the entire area of Urubamba. We aim to inspire other farmers and land workers to make the switch. The valley is a pretty huge farming region and would benefit from more organic methods. [Jorge] There is nothing that is wasted at Kinsapacha. We make sure to participate in a circular micro-economy. We recycle many of our materials, including food which is the soul of Kinsapacha. Food waste is turned into compost, using a vermincultre process, where worms help break down the food. We generally try to inspire and encourage people to do a lot of self exploration, because the Sacred Valley is a safe place to do so. We offer integration and advice, and can arrange plant medicine ceremonies and support if that is something that people are interested in exploring. Collectively we feel these tools are incredibly sustainable and conscious was of living.

The Kinsapacha logo: Condor, Snake, Puma

Kinsapacha Eco Farm Lodge and Yoga Centre offers 3 & 6 night retreats. To book yourself on one, visit their website: Kinsapacha