I did a Workaway at Chakapata Ecolodge, Yanque in the Colca Canyon, Arequipa, Peru for two weeks in January 2016. It was so beautiful, I didn’t want to leave.
Paradise is a house on a hill in a valley by the canyon.
Paradise shines. A lot. It’s always Sunday in paradise.
Paradise greets you with a straw hat and pants hanging low, or sometimes it’s a brown girl running barefoot over cactus plants and little wooden bridges over ancient Incan canals, whose long black hair is turning blonder from the sunshine.
Paradise is a stone cottage with a thatched straw roof, itchy blankets and a dreamcatcher.
Paradise forgets to turn on the water to your house sometimes, but always comes back, grinning sheepishly.
Paradise never wants to go home. Paradise is home.
Paradise has fairy lights hanging by the straw bar, a couple of skulls, a guitar and an Incan warrior chess set.
All the lamps in paradise are made of dried out cactus husks, like the arms and palms of an your great-grandfather.
Paradise has a few blushing geraniums, yellow, orange, pink and blue walls and rainbow mosquito-net door-curtains, like the entrance to a blushing Indian bride’s bedroom.
Paradise has vases and books and a fireplace and a cat and gets dirty. A lot. Paradise is always cleaning.
Paradise has a waist-high stonewall border and a wooden gate. Paradise always leaves the doors unlocked.
Paradise speaks French and Spanish and English and Dog and Cat. And sometimes Llama.
Paradise has a giant alfalfa patch and oodles of dung.
The road to paradise is a disaster. It’s the most hair-raising death-ride in a little red tuk-tuk that splutters and heaves and stops and scares the living bejeezus out of all of you. It’s better to walk or take the horses to paradise.
Paradise makes your heart fold in half every second of the day you look out its windows. Paradise boasts a far-away small town, hills and mountains and valleys and green. And sometimes, she bleeds over the dancefloor of the sky in the evenings, just for you.
Paradise forgets what day of the week it is. You don’t get much 3G in paradise, and it’s bliss.
Paradise has hot water.
In the afternoons, paradise is always huffing and puffing. Paradise is eating your hair when eating a late lunch on a bridge outside, grinning at the soon-to-be-vegetable patch and compost heap.
Paradise probably has a hundred baby trees that take ages to water if there’s nothing in the creeks.
Paradise showers every three or four days, if she feels like it.
Paradise has big, pretty-stone floors and wooden furniture. Paradise eats breakfast outside.
Paradise is blissfully, absurdly silent. This is why the road to paradise should never be paved.
Wonderful people accidentally stumble on paradise and get barked at. Get used to it. Those buggers will also probably save your life if you get lost on the way back from the hot pools in the dark, just 300m from paradise down the winding path to the gorge.
Paradise has a mattress in front of the fireplace with exotically patterned blankets.
Paradise has a flash deep blue pool table and a chalkboard. And a freakin great sound system.
You can’t fall in love in paradise. You are love in paradise.
Paradise gets real cold in the evenings, even in summer. But paradise always sleeps soundly, rugged up and comfy warm.
Paradise has toilet paper and towels. The acoustics in paradise are always fabulous for singing practice but if you hum from chest-voice so deep your teeth are rattling, you will call up the spirits. The cat will start howling – the cat always knows when you’ve entered the next realm.
Paradise shows off her distant mountain peaks to anyone who’s watching.
Paradise has an adobe mud shed hut with spades and wheelbarrows and gardening gloves.
Sometimes, the cactus plants in paradise are a-flowering. Somehow, paradise thinks that’s a good omen, she doesn’t quite know for what.
Paradise has maps and guidebooks and ideas. Paradise can tell you about just about any path or track or trail, if you stay long enough and look hard enough and ask around enough.
Paradise has giant metal pots and wooden spatulae. Paradise likes to offer you breakfast and other things.
The hummingbirds in paradise are fat and colourful. In fact, it makes you wonder if they are hummingbirds at all, they are so huge.
When paradise starts gurgling, she looks greener. Her running creeks should be like music but are also like deep silence to fall asleep to.
Paradise has little stone paths that connect up all its little cottages and huts, sometimes with the odd bridge to potter over.
Paradise has electricity but the night times could be candle-lit, the lamplight is so beautiful, for all you know.
Paradise begs you to sleep at 7pm and wake at 5am. Her pulls of night and day are too irresistible. Your brain will be a thick fog come 7:30pm and if you stay up past 10pm, you will regret it, trust me. Paradise will ring you awake at 5:30am, like it or not, dancing a jig of light and life into your room.
Paradise walks around with a $2 op-shop beige work shirt ripped halfway up one side and knotted up at the front and looks like a million dollars.
Paradise has beautiful skin. Always.
Paradise is 3600m up in the sky but doesn’t feel like it. The nearby hills are higher.
Paradise doesn’t ask for much. Paradise sings you songs, entertains you late into the evening and springs up in the morning to make breakfast for you with gusto. Paradise doesn’t even have business cards or fliers, lovable people just turn up at her doorstep, unannounced.
Paradise is spiky bushels of grass beneath bare feet hardened from days of running around outside half-naked.
Paradise tans. Fast.
Paradise has giant bags of pasta in her cabinets, some damn good olive oil and oodles of tomatoes. Paradise is always hungry after a day’s hard work.
Paradise wears hiking boots or nothing. She always ends up destroying her sandals from all the frolicking.
Paradise loves afternoon siestas in the blazing heat with an old t-shirt over her face. It’s paradise’s soul-time, she calls it, her connection-to-God time, her universe-talk. Don’t disturb her. She’ll get up when it’s time.
Paradise gets blisters and bruises on her hands and feet from working hard and doesn’t give a damn anymore. Paradise is happy.
Paradise is so beautiful she doesn’t recognise her face in the mirror anymore.
Paradise has thick plaster walls bursting with love.
Paradise has spiritual awakenings all the time, these days.
Paradise walks around in short-shorts and bare legs, full-sleeves and her midriff showing.
Paradise makes you forget your perfect offering. You forget what you came for, what you brought, it doesn’t really matter anymore. You pick up the broom, the painting brush, and earth with your hands and just flow.
Paradise asks you to work five hours a day, five days a week, but it doesn’t really keep track. It forgets sometimes. You forget sometimes. It feels like both a lot longer and a lot less. Paradise always gives you a good long break.
Paradise has coca tea, in case you get altitude sick, and chamomile tea, in case you’re so fired up by her gorgeousness you can’t sleep anymore.
Paradise thanks you for bringing that pawpaw healing balm.
There’s a washing machine in paradise.
Paradise nearly crashes the tuk-tuk on the hair-raising road to Yanque when she sees an ancient indigenous woman with a bowler hat and giant flowing skirts lugging thirty kilograms of cow poop home to make fire with. Paradise always has a little heart attack, stops the tuk-tuk and gives the poor woman and her cow dung a ride.
Paradise takes time out to do squats and shoulder rolls, but only when she feels like it.
Paradise looks like she should have an old wooden piano somewhere inside, but all you’ll find on the top shelf is a traditional wooden flute that works too mysteriously to learn all by yourself.
In paradise, young Swiss men with degrees in permaculture and a lifetime of gardening, couchsurfing, wwoofing, painting and sculpting turn up at the door with their mothers and with their dreams of living in the forest, and sometimes madly-in-love middle-aged Arequipan couples with Indian priests for best friends.
Paradise never has any phone credit but doesn’t really care anyway.
Be careful what you wish for in paradise. It has a funny way of coming true. Thoughts, dreams and feelings are powerful here, like energies. It’s why the shaman comes.
The horse-man who sometimes comes by paradise is like your unmarried, jolly uncle who’s always the life of the party and the wise storyteller at once.
Paradise listens to reggae and rap, like it or not.
Paradise sometimes has sass but mostly has charm. Paradise is the cutest place for a wedding or a honeymoon and will steal your heart before love even shows up from the shower.
Paradise doesn’t have a letterbox.