Lisette left Holland for the sacred valley of the Incas in Peru

by Ron

Also available in: Nederlands

It has been a while since I posted the story of somebody that emigrated on the website. Personally, I think the story of Lisette was worth waiting for, and I loved her story. After reading and seeing the beautiful pictures, I added Peru to my bucket list. Who knows, I might meet her one day.


Who are you and why did you move to Peru?

My name is Lisette Verkerk; My husband Octavio Puma Cruz and I live in the village Urubamba in the heart of the Peruvian Andes, in the sacred valley of the Incas. We met in 2007 at Niños del Arco Iris where Octavio studied English, and I stayed in one of the small houses on the campus for a work period. It wasn’t easy to leave everything behind in the Netherlands, but I decided to follow my heart, and I moved to Peru in 2010. In Urubamba we live with our four dogs: Chico, ChiChili, Wayki en Ossi, the cat Michi and the Lamas Puka Nina and Munay.


What was it in Peru that appealed to you?

It was love at first sight. I love the high mountains, the grandeur, the peace, the energy, the bright blue sky, the warmth of the sun, the birds singing, the smell of the mountain herbs, living in harmony with nature, the gifts of mother earth, the simplicity, the wisdom of the Quechua, the thin air that makes you take a step back when you are rushing too much, the purity of Octavio.


What were the problems in the moving process?

The year before I moved to Peru I lived in Rotterdam on the Northern island in a beautiful light but also a small apartment. The apartment was just as big as my atelier was in Utrecht. That’s why I already sorted through a lot of my belongings and work, sold and gave away some before I moved to Rotterdam. In Peru, I wanted a fresh start, a lot of my belongings I just didn’t need for that. The process of letting go started right there. After I arrived in Peru, it was hard to get a residence permit. I spend years in Peru as a tourist. We got married in 2013 that’s why I can live here now in peace.


What kind of work did you do in the Netherlands and what are you doing now?

I am an artist. ( My life and work have dramatically changed after my move to Peru. In the Netherlands, I had my atelier in Utrecht. Also, as an artist in residence, I temporarily moved into residential- and workplaces in the Netherlands and abroad to do research, create new work or to prepare an exhibition. That is how I ended up in Peru where I stayed for five months in 2007 in one of the houses on the Niños del Arco Iris site in Urubamba. During that period, my project Las Manos del Peru – The Hands of Peru originated. A project in collaboration with local artisans. My question to them was to make hands as a self-portrait in the material they work with on a daily basis. The result was a collection of unique objects: hands of wood, wool, iron wire, and rope, but also a hand-shaped guitar and hand-shaped sandals. Once I moved to Peru, I worked as a volunteer for the first few years; I visited the patients in Salud Mental, the psychiatric hospital in the city of Cusco, I gave drawing lessons to the rainbow children of Niños del Arco Iris and photography lessons to a group of young people from FairMail Peru in Trujillo. Octavio is a guide and very proud of his culture and therefore enjoys helping people to visit unique places in Peru. His love for his country and culture you can feel in everything. Together with Octavio, I founded PUMA trekking in 2011. We organize cultural day tours, day hikes, multi-day walking tours, textile workshops, visits ancient sites of power and hold ceremonies for Mother Earth.


What is the most beautiful thing you experienced?

The best thing I have experienced is the flow in which our lives ended up after we got married. After that, there was peace and trust; everything started to run automatically. We found a beautiful place to live just outside Urubamba, a green area surrounded by the mountains. Here we built our house and studio and also a guest house so that family, friends, and guests can stay with us. Now, we are hard at work in the garden where we have planted fruit trees such as fig, avocado, mandarin, passion fruit … Hummingbirds fly back and forward for the fresh nectar.

We grow vegetables, and soon we will build a small greenhouse. There is also a campfire to enjoy the bright starry sky. There will be a drying room to dry fruit, and we also made a sweat lodge, a place for healing, spiritual growth, and cleaning. In short, our paradise is beginning to take shape.


Did you have any challenging experiences?

Of course, I have experienced less fun things. But according to a wise Tibetan saying, setbacks can turn into opportunities.


What do you miss from the Netherlands and what absolutely not?

What I miss about the Netherlands is running along the water and then after showering read the newspaper with a cup of coffee. Hear the mail drop on the floor in the hallway. (Where I live now they don’t deliver the mail at home. In the village, there is a small post office where you can pick up mail.) Drinking water from the tap. Rye bread with old cheese. And of course, I miss my friends and family in the Netherlands. Especially now that my parents are getting older, I find it difficult to live so far away from them. But luckily they come to visit us every year for a few weeks. In April I was in the Netherlands again after four years. So nice to see friends and family again, spending time together, chat, go to the sauna and the movies. I enjoyed it tremendously. What I absolutely do not miss about the Netherlands is the cold weather that goes straight into your bones. Horrible. It can be cold during winter overhere, but the sun always shines during daytime. Very nice.


What is the biggest difference between the Dutch and the Peruvians?

The Netherlands is an individualistic society. Every man for himself. Family is the most important thing in Peru. One takes care of each other. Not only for parents, brothers and sisters but also for cousins, nieces, uncles and aunts. Young people often live with their parents until later in life, with or without their family. Grandparents also often live with one of their children. Taking care of the parents is therefore seen as an important task for the children.

This form of society naturally also brings a lot of pressure and obligations. In the Netherlands, people think they don’t have enough things. Not have enough time or money or… They are focused on what they don’t have. Fear and dissatisfaction is part of society. The basis of daily life in the Andes in Peru is the Ayni. Ayni is giving and receiving: today for me and tomorrow for you. You provide consciously, and you give with the intention to do something for the world, for another. According to the Inka tradition, the energy eventually returns to you and is even strengthened. In Peru, I know families who live in extreme poverty. There is no money for food, clothing, healthcare and school but they do have time for each other, the food that they have they share and people are happy with themselves and the life they live. If you are willing to share, you live in abundance.


In what city do you live and what makes this place special?

I live in the village of Urubamba, in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. A good hour’s drive from the old Inca capital Cusco.
It is a lovely place to live. When I look out of the window from my studio, I see the mountains, the blue sky, I hear the wind blow and listen to birds whistle, my dogs run after each other. Or walk into the garden to pick herbs for a cup of tea or to harvest vegetables to cook some great food.


What are the things to see in the sacred valley of the Incas?

The Sacred Valley is a very fertile valley where the Incas set up many of their shrines and ceremonial centers. Because of the rich Inca history, this is one of the most important tourist attractions in Peru. Here are the Archaeological complexes of Pisac, Ollantaytambo, the terraces of Chinchero, the agricultural terraces of Moray and the salt pans of Salineras that have been in use since the Inca period. Impressive places where they made beautiful buildings centuries ago. The area is breathtaking, especially the view of the snowy peaks of the Pitusiray, the Sawasiray, the Chicón and the Pumahuanca is impressive. A large part of the population firmly adheres to the traditional ways of life, which is expressed in the language spoken (the native language Quechua), the clothing, the manner of land cultivation and the parties and processions. The most visited city in Peru is undoubtedly the old Inca capital city of Cusco. This was built in the form of a puma, the sacred symbol of strength and power. It is a wonderful city to explore: the lively district of San Blas, the streets with ancient Inca walls, the Museo de Arte Pre-Colombino with an impressive collection of Moche ceramics, the Plaza de Armas with the cathedral and the Iglesia de la Compañia de Jesús , the San Pedro market and the Koricancha sun temple.


Do think you will ever return to the Netherlands?

Never say never. But for now, I do not think about returning to the Netherlands.


What place do you have to visit in Peru?


Machu Picchu is the symbol of Peru. The Machu Picchu is located in the Ceja de Selva, the transition area of the Andes Mountains to the subtropical part of the Amazon, at 2350 meters altitude. Nature is fascinating: on the one hand, it is very mountainous, on the other hand, vegetation already consists of tropical crops. The Urubamba river flows in the valley. From here Machu Picchu cannot be observed; the reason why the Spaniards never discovered the city. This hidden city was discovered by accident in 1911 by the American Hiram Bingham. He was looking for the legendary city of Vilcabamba when local farmers reminded him of ruins on a hill that was overgrown by subtropical rainforest. Alternative hiking routes to Machu Picchu are the Inca Jungle Coffee Tour and the Lares trek. You walk on ancient Inca paths that are part of the extensive network of hiking trails that the Incas built to the far corners of the vast Inca Empire. Along the way you can enjoy breathtaking landscapes, beautiful flora and fauna, learn about the processing of the coffee and/or cocoa beans, discover the natural balance of the ecological fruit and coffee cultivation, taste a wide variety of fresh fruit and homemade chocolate or a cup of coffee, you can enjoy the warm water of the thermal baths, meet herds of llamas and alpacas and stay overnight with local families. Absolutely my recommendation!


What is the most beautifull or special place for you in Peru?

I love hiking and the hospitality of the local people. The most beautiful place for me in Peru is the high mountains. Octavio’s family is initially from the mountain village of Huacahuasi. I enjoy being with the Quechua; to live in their rhythm, to help plant and harvest the potatoes or to visit our herd of alpacas. The conditions in the mountains are simple, but the great hospitality of the locals, the feeling of freedom, the delicious meals and the experience of an entirely different life make this one never to forget!


What advice can you give people traveling to Peru?


The classic tour in Peru starts in Lima and continues via the coast to Paracas and the Nazca lines via Arequipa, the Colca Canyon and Puno, the Titicaca lake to Cusco. Beautiful and exciting places but Peru is about 35 times as big as the Netherlands. So the distances are vast. After two weeks of long days, full of programs and getting up early, people often arrive tired in Cusco. Unfortunate, because the holiday feeling is gone by then. We advise people to fly from Cusco to Lima and to travel directly to the Sacred Valley. Take the time to acclimatize and then enjoy all the beauty that our environment has to offer. One of my tips is not to do Peru in one trip. But to undertake activities from a fixed base location and sometimes take a day to do absolutely nothing. Just let it all sink in for a day.


What is your favorite Peruvian dish?


My favorite dish is Ají de Gallina. The recipe I use is from Gastón Acurio, a Peruvian chef, and ambassador of the Peruvian cuisine. As he says himself, it is a simple recipe that anyone anywhere in the world can make. As long as you can get yellow peppers. Aji de Gallina


Is there anything else you like to share with us?

We organize personal trips to the most beautiful places around Cusco. Do you have plans to travel to Peru? Please contact us. You can reach us at +51 990 021 095 or via or visit our website We look forward to meeting you in Peru! Greetings, Octavio and Lisette.


Read more stories? Have a look overhere: they emigrated.



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