To Build a Bath (or Plunge Pool)
How to Keep 20 Staff Busy During Quarantine?
Guests and friends often ask us “what’s a typical day in the life of Willka T’ika” like? Well, before the COVID-19 quarantine, the answer to that question depended on which groups were in residence and what their schedule looked like. Now, with no guests allowed in any hotels in Peru until July, every day is an opportunity to create something completely different. This week we decided to build a bath, or rather a plunge pool.
Like with any business, this prolonged quarantine provides a rare opportunity to take care of all the administrative things that we never had time to do before: updating our website, making a new video, writing an operating manual, creating inventories of all our supplies. We’ve now finished these tasks and are focusing our efforts on being prepared to welcome national tourists in July and international visitors this Fall. That means implementing a whole host of new health and safety standards, and developing a detailed “SICOVID Plan” (Sistema integrado para Covid) for the Peruvian Health Ministry.
But that still leaves many hours in the day to pursue other pursuits, and unlike most hotels, we are still keeping all of our 20 staff employed. As mentioned in our last blog on Essential Oils, several of our staff are busy harvesting, preparing and distilling our therapeutic oils made from lavender, rosemary, eucalyptus, muña, and ruda. And our gardeners always have plenty to do planting, pruning, and composting. Yet that still leaves most of our kitchen, office, maintenance and housekeeping staff with too much time on their hands.
Taking a page out of my mother Carol’s playbook, I decided that we should do what our staff does best: build. However, rather than building another guest room or designing a new garden (we have seven!), I wanted to do something that would offer a new experience for our guests. Next to our medicinal herb spiral is a large bird bath that looks out onto a spectacular view of the Pumahuanca mountains. The bath was built over a small creek from hand-carved laja tile. Although it is 6 feet long it is only a few inches deep — and it is also always empty. So after reviewing its structure in detail with our maintenance staff, we came up with an exciting plan: to build a bath where our guests could sit and watch the mountains. This plunge pool would also serve as a welcome complement to the Temescal sweat lodge that we planned to set up just a few meters away. What could be better than a cold plunge after a hot sweat!
During quarantine, it can be hard to find supplies. But due to the recent building boom, cement is still prevalent in the Sacred Valley. And the other materials: rebar, lumbar for molds, and cutting tools are all already part of Willka T’ika’s supply inventory. That just left the decorative stones that we would use to adorn the bath’s walls. Last Saturday, we took a trip to the Urubamba river and each of us carried about 10 kg of smooth river stones back home. Even Apu carried a few rocks in his orange doggie backpack. These colorful stones would serve as a perfect decoration.
This Saturday, we started work at 7AM. Once the mold was ready to pour, we needed all hands on deck to ensure that the stones were placed correctly on the sides of the walls. Fabian and Ivan instructed everyone how to place the stones and we all alternated between setting stones, mixing concrete, and hauling supplies to the work area (all while social distancing.) By lunchtime, everyone was exhausted so I wanted to make sure we had a special lunch to feed the hungry guys. I borrowed Leo’s motorcycle and after a “crash” course in how to ride it, managed to get myself to the Piscigranja Trout Farm about 15 minutes away. Normally I would ride my bike, but since everyone was famished, the motorcycle seemed appropriate. I also wanted to swing by a local Chichería that Fabian had shown me and make sure everyone’s thirst would be well quenched at the end of the day.
Mario, Tristen, and I cleaned a dozen trout and after a delicious lunch of baked fish in chinchu tomato sauce, we went back to finish the job. With everyone working together, we placed the last shiny stone at 2:30PM, giving everyone a half an hour to sip Inca Cola and a large glass of home-made chicha. After the staff left, my back was so sore, I decide that not only did I need to build a bath, but I badly needed to soak in one.