Shacked-up in Vilcabamba…[29/50]

Vilcabamba, about 200 kilometers from the Peruvian border, was the last town I visited in Ecuador. It is a classic small Ecuadorian town, built on an orderly grid, lined with wobbly, white-washed adobe houses with a shaded town square in the centre (with the ubiquitous Catholic Church bearing down). But what makes Vilcabamba different to other Ecuadorian towns is that everyone has been preserved with secret herbs and spices and thus resemble Colonel Sanders. Apparently in the 1950s, the venerable Readers Digest wrote an article that claimed that Vilcabamba had more centenarians than any other place because of the climate or fresh air or such. And the individuals that read that article, who were possible already pushing a century at the time, came to live in Vilcabamba. And now they aimlessly wander the streets with their American dollars buying over-ripe avocados and 1 dollar pilsners then sit in cafés all day and yell at each other.

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Vilcabamba, adobe houses

But in reality, Vilcabamba isn’t just a retirement village for the feral-edges of the American empire, it is also a friendly community of diverse peoples from all over the shop. A mix of lethargic 1960s hippy-trail, meets Catholic Ecuadorian rumba, meets wholesome instrumental backpacker.

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Welcome to Vilcabamba where people live forever!

When I arrived in Vilcabamba, I checked into a well-designed, adobe hotel with a vast jungle – garden in the centre; a long way from my windowless room in Cuenca. And after swinging in the hammock for a century or two thinking of nothing, in particular, I decided to go for a walk to check out the local geography. But the map that the owner of the hotel had given me was extremely dated so after an hour or two, I was lost in a deep valley next to a rapidly flowing, muddy river. When I walked up a driveway to ask for directions, I stumbled upon a sign that said “cabins with kitchens for rent”. I followed the sign and met the proprietor, a gentleman named Charlie with an arresting Wolf Creek stare! We had a brief, nervous chat about the birds in the local national park (a whopping 6% of the world’s species), hiking and the lunacy of riding a 125cc moto to Chile. And the next day I moved into Cabin number 1.

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Cabin at Vilcabamba

It was a rustic cabin with a basic kitchen and a balcony overlooking the river (with hammock). And as I was a little afraid of my upcoming ride through the northern Peruvian desert, I decided to stay a while to let my itinerary germinate (and confidences build). A new friend came to visit from Cuenca for a few days and we spent long evenings discussing Ecuadorian politics, money laundering of US Dollars, and the South American drug trade (while eating over-ripe avocados and drinking Pilsner). After he had left, I spent a few days walking the excellent hiking trails of Vilcabamba, preparing the strong local coffee in the cabins kitchen, and reading a historical novel about the Dutch East Indies company’s outposts in Japan in the eighteenth century. Good times!

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Bridge near my cabin

When I left the cabin and climbed on my trusty moto bound for the Peruvian desert, I saw a very long line of empty beer bottles that I had left for Charlie. There seemed to be so many; I must have been in the cabin for a very long time. But then again, perhaps it was only a short period as time is measured in strange ways in Vilcabamba!

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Walking trail above Vilcabamba

One Reply to “Shacked-up in Vilcabamba…[29/50]”

  1. Hi Craig
    Checked out Vilcabamba on Google earth, an amazing journey on your moto as it looks very mountainous!
    All good here, take care.
    Karen and Ted

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