When you find yourself looking for things to do in Cusco, and you’ve done the touristy stuff (Machu Picchu, Inca Tours etc), you’ll notice the abundance of tattoo shops. You might have had an inspiring experience that you’d like to make a bit more permanent and find yourself looking at these shops thinking “How do I know which one is the best?”, “Who’s the safest?” and “Who’s not going to rip me off?!”.
I had the same thoughts, but luckily rather than spending days researching, talking with artists (many of whom don’t speak English), I decided to consult Dana for her advice. This is the story of how I turned a disaster of a tattoo, inked on my skin about 18 months earlier and treated with multiple laser sessions into one of the best coverups I’ve seen.
I was introduced to Julio from Willka Tattoos in Cusco by Dana…
His English was good and his ideas were genuine. He also listened to what I was after. Given that I already had some ink on my skin, options were limited. I told Julio I was interested in spirituality (but not in a religious way) and nature.
I had an idea of a dark black forrest style tattoo purely to cover up the mess that was on my arm already. Having spoken with numerous tattoo artists in Sydney, none of whom were interested in risking their reputation or investing the brainpower, creativity or time into helping design something for me, I was aware that my options were limited. How limited though, I had been slightly mislead. Julio explained that we needed darker colours to cover up the existing ink, and we got to brainstorming and opening tab after tab on google search, google images and Pinterest.
Julio found a design that I immediately loved, and we began the process of sizing it up to make sure it would cover the area. This was much faster than I thought it would be as Julio had a great understanding of what needed to be done to organise my coverup tattoo.
We started the following week on the main part of the coverup. It took about 5-6 hours and the experience was extremely comfortable. I still had space on my arm to cover up which we’d not picked designs for yet but as I had an Ayahuasca ceremony in Cusco the following week, I felt comfortable I would come back with some inspiration.
Among other things to do in Cusco, Ayahuasca is definitely something I’ll never forget!
Before leaving, Julio threw some ideas around animals, but I didn’t think that animals would suit me. Fast forward through my 3 day Ayahuasca ceremony (which is a whole other story) and I was definitely ready to look at animal designs; Anacondas, Jaguars and Panthers to be specific!
The Panther and the Anaconda...
One of the best things about working with Julio was his willingness to trade ideas and not get caught up in getting the job done and paid. He knew I’d been through a painful experience with this eyesore on my arm, and he was as patient as anyone I’d ever met; a trait I’d not found in other Tattoo artists I’d spoken with about coverups.
When I came back after my Ayahuasca Ceremony, we shared laugh about how after dismissing the animal aspect, I was now all for it. It’s something you’d have to experience to understand, but the themes present throughout the Ceremony resonated so strongly with me that I was ready to move forward with them.
The next session we got started on the Anaconda. It was a custom piece (of sorts) as Zambo from Willka Tattoo had designed it and it was hanging on the wall in the studio. I liked the fact that all elements for the coverup were coming from the one spot, so we moved ahead with it. This session was easy, apart from a few aches and stretches every half hour or so, we got it done pretty quickly.
After we’d done this piece, I had to leave for Lake Titicaca & Arequipa to do some filming, trekking and exploring. I had the whole route planned out by one of Dana’s Tours‘ amazing tour operators. This gave me some time to heal and ensure I had the right vision going into the last part of the coverup; the Panther!
When I got back to Cusco, we were ready to finish my tattoo...
After I got back, I hit up Julio at Willka Tattoo and we booked the final session. There are so many things to do in Cusco, and I knew if I didn’t get straight to it, I’d get side tracked!
We had the design ready, so Julio starts tracing it up, and we placed it on my skin to see how it was going to look size wise. Remember, this was a coverup, and if there was one thing I had learnt throughout this whole debacle, it was that coverups are different from regular tattoos.
You can’t just go over old tattoos like painting a wall, as the ink lives in your skin so the old tattoos will just come through as the new ink settles. I’d had some laser sessions to soften it, which gave us a bit more freedom, but we needed something dark, the right size and something I’d be happy to live with. We chose this…
The session itself took about 5-6 hours, with breaks in between. A local television station came in mid way through and interviewed Julio while he was doing my tattoo, I felt like a minor celebrity. On my list of things to do in Cusco, being on TV was never one of them **laughing emoji**.
Julio continually asked me if I was happy with how it was looking as we went on, which was great. He fielded any questions I had throughout the whole process and I couldn’t be happier with what he managed to accomplish here. I honestly don’t feel like the photos do it justice, as it’s hard to capture the image properly because it wraps around my arm.
So, after Machu Picchu, The City Tour, South Valley Tour, The Sacred Valley Tour, amazing food, amazing people; of all my favourite things to do in Cusco, I think that getting my Tattoo done here was my #1.
If you’d like its to link you up with any of the guys at Willka Tattoo or make an introduction, please get in touch via email of via the chat option on this page. We’ll always get back within a day or so, maybe even sooner!