Leisure Chronicles: The Capitals of Peru-Lima and Cusco

I went ahead and mixed business with pleasure. For a chef, the two are intertwined.

In this instance, I was drawn to Peru for an Entrepreneur’s Organization Conference (EO). I became a member of EO in 2017. This is the community I need to support my role as an independent business owner. Having peers to learn from and evolve with is beyond helpful.

EO is designed for entrepreneurs who have exceeded one million in revenue per year-a tall feat for small businesses-especially for those owned by women. About 31% of small businesses are owned by women and of those, about 5% are able to exceed this revenue milestone.

Business ownership is demanding. In my case it has meant endless dedication to craft, long hours, challenging decisions, sacrifices, risks, travel, commitments and responsibilities. Over the years I’ve had business coaches, but I still craved peer to peer interaction, which arrived with EO.

When my friend Magaly told me she was attending the EO Leadership Academy in Peru, I got fired up and applied. I was accepted as one of 30 attendees for the week-long conference being held at the sacred valley of Urubamba. Magaly’s family lives in Lima and offered accommodation. I decided to extend my trip in order to soak in the culture and find inspiration.

After all, Peru is known to have some of the best food in the world. Lima is at the center of it.

Unfortunately, Magaly had a last minute passport issue and was unable to attend. As it was, I was going alone, and was grateful to stay at Magaly’s mom’s apartment in Miraflores Seaview. An upscale community in a country of economical extremes, it provided a base to explore from.

Lima was waiting. I woke up, put my runners on, and went cruising.

I fell in love with this ancient city whose highrises stretch upward from seaside cliffs. Below, a rugged ocean crashes into the shore and a nautical, pirate energy swirls in the salt air. Founded in 1535 and evolving still, I walked through as many neighborhoods as I could. I browsed grocery stores–my favorite thing to do–for fun food facts and information about what the community has access to. Sociology in action.

I found lists of restaurants, hunted them down, went into places, and discovered Barranco.

Barranco is a super cool neighborhood with design shops and people doing interesting things. Murals, eateries, chocolatiers, shopping, art, inviting courtyards and incredible views. If you visit Lima, the capital of Peru, you’ll find that you could linger in Barranco for days. I could have, but it was time to venture towards Cusco, a city considered to be the capital of the Incan Empire.

Cusco rests in the Andes at close to 12,000 feet above sea level.

If you travel to Cusco gradually over land, your body will slowly acclimate. If you fly in, as I did, it’s possible to be affected by hypoxia (or lack of oxygen) which can occur at around 8,000 feet. It’s common for travelers from sea level to experience fatigue and difficulty walking upon disembarking from the aircraft.

I was using all of the altitude remedies–-lozenges, gum, tablets and teas. Even still, on a hike from Cusco, I had to stop every few minutes to catch my breath. It was totally worth it. Machu Picchu towers above the Urubamba River valley. Built in the15th century with astronomically intriguing architecture, this ancient site is awe inspiring, magical, and makes a profound impact.

Sometimes the middle of nowhere can feel like the center of everything.

Every once in a while the geode of life cracks open and literally dazzles me with brightness. This happened at one of the most beautiful (and most remote) places I have ever been. We stopped in at the Mountain View Experience for tea, which was too short a visit. Truly, a lifetime might not be enough to soak in the golden fields which give way to the rugged skyline. Colorful woven blankets wave against the sky–which is so close you can practically touch it. I resolved to return here again, only next time to stay in the glamping cabins. I mean–llamas, hot tubs and rustic A frames all the way up in the thin air–how can that not be the stuff that dreams are made of?

It’s essential to have future adventures to look forward to…although they could never diminish the adventure I was on. Which, by all accounts, was pretty damn epic. Along the way we visited salt mines and went to traditional ceremonies. One of these ceremonies honored Pachamama, a sacred goddess of the Andes, recognized by indiginous peoples as an “Earth Mother”. Offerings can be made to deities by burying food in the ground and lighting a fire upon it. 

Coca leaves, highly valued in Peruvian culture, are burned to set intentions.

It was obvious that intentions had been set during our visit to a women’s co-operative. A market which started small but now plays on a global level, the undeniable success of this venture has created a space for role restructuring. Because the women of this co-op are the breadwinners, the men are educated on domestic knowledge, so that they can care for home and family.

The conference experience was not about how to grow your business. Rather, it was about how to become a more socially conscious person, self-actualized, and compassionate.

Business owners can be socially conscious leaders and create a positive impact on humanity. 

“Finding your purpose” requires a certain amount of social privilege. Positive impact can fluctuate based on the state that you’re in, but can remain constant with an effort to do the best possible with what’s available at any given time.

Social entrepreneurialism is a subset of this concept. For example, one woman created a non-profit for street dancers. This dance troupe, now sponsored by Nike, came to the conference and put on an astounding performance. 

Watching them perform made me realize how much bigger the world is beyond our daily bullshit. 

(Inspired by this, I found someone in San Antonio teaching this style of interpretive dance. We are now offering free ecstatic dance classes on Saturdays at 10 am in the garden at Ivy Hall.)

With all of the workshops, touring, presentations, and events, the pace of the EO schedule was consistently busy. This was on top of the altitude, which I was still battling. The fatigue was real. My five hour sleeping opportunity was plagued with insomnia and night sweats. Basically, I didn’t sleep for three days. In spite of the magical surroundings, I was experiencing panic attacks, massive anxiety, and night sweats. I couldn’t figure out what was happening to me…

Had I come all this way, only for demons and hot flashes to torment my nights?

Determined to participate as fully as I could, I drank the altitude tea that was set out in the refreshments area any chance I got. I don’t even touch caffeine at home, not even green tea, but the altitude tea gave me a small energy boost and I was trying to avoid mountain sickness. 

One night, after a fourteen hour day, I was walking toward our rooms with a peer when I stopped to get some tea. He looked at me, eyes wide, brows raised. He asked me what I was doing. Ahhh, hmmm, I was getting tea, right? But no…

He told me that drinking the tea was basically like ingesting a line of cocaine before bed. 

Holy light bulb moment! I was so relieved to hear there was a reason beyond menopause for how I’d been feeling. Truly, one of the curative properties of the coca leaf is that it remedies altitude sickness. However, this tea is illegal in the United States, due to the alkaloids that source cocaine base. And if you are sensitive, or drink too much, it’s a world of hurt! 

Even though I joked about needing rehab upon my return, the truth is, I didn’t touch the stuff again. And yes, the anxiety, panic, and hot flashes melted away. I started sleeping perfectly.

Sometimes we just need to hear the right thing at the right time, and the rest falls into place.

Tim The Girl Catering offers fresh and vibrant food for private events and corporate gatherings throughout the San Antonio area. Send your inquiry here.