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Published: April 27th 2011
Swinging gently in my hammock, I could be anywhere in the world, my eyes are closed, its mildly breezy and the motion is lulling me into another world,sleep.
Opening my eyes I am in a magnificent world, truly beautiful, numerous steep green slopes rise around me the numerous gullies in the slopes casting long shadows by the falling sun, creating hues of purple and orange, butterflies hoover around feasting on the vast variety of flowering blooms that fill the valley with their eye-catching colours and sweet aromas, My peace is only slightly disturbed by the chatter of the birds as they make the most of the fading day,I am truly aware of the vibrancy surrounding me to the point of having a "magic moment" We have arrived in Vilcabamba.
The journey from cuenca was fine, we got to Loja, a town which surprised me with its size, larger than I had envisaged and had an odd feeling of a coastal town, Easy going, pastel colored homes and that slow moving devil may care kind of attitude that the coast is famous for. Moving on we caught a late bus for the last hour to Vilcabamba arriving tired and dirty if
not a wee bit irritated and grumpy. We ate and grabbed a tourist taxi to our hostel 2kms from town. The taxies are numerous and have the odd characteristic of each being a flatbed four seated chevy, They are sponsored by the tourist authority and were no doubt used to seeing half beat tired backpackers just not in the mood to chat.
We stayed in Izhcayluma resort, It's a pretty little place but at this stage we just wanted bed. Walking the next morning we walked out of our room to truly breathtaking views this place is a wee slice of heaven. After a great breakfast we asked the desk about treks, they are very organized and gave us a well laid out folder of all the treks in the area arranged from the easiest to the most arduous for the more athletic, we choose one somewhere in the middle to see the cascada Palta (waterfall).
Since the trek was about 3-4 hours we just packed water and a few snacks and took off, the road on the other side of town leads you up a gravel road that leads you up along the river until you come
to a metal bridge, across the bridge the trek narrows to about a foot wide and after recent rains it was a mud bath and very steep for the first 45 minutes but as we neared the top the views became more and more impressive,I have never seen so many species of butterflies in my life and kept lagging behind to try and photograph them, pesky little buggers don't like cameras so most of my efforts were in vain. An hour later we came to the gate which would lead us to the falls, we had been warned that the trek down was treacherous and very steep, they weren't lying, we made it and it was worth the effort, Over a 50 metre drop fell thousands of gallons of water made all the more powerful by the recent rains, the power of the falls created a gust of wind that chilled us to the bone but very refreshing after our sweaty trek to get there, We washed our muddy boots, John had a little swim and we had our lunch to the deafening roar of the never-ending cascade. The climb back up got our lungs pumping and we were glad
to see the trail again. Walking back we met some local farmers on horseback and a few brahma cows who decided the path was theirs so we had to climb around them. We continued back to the gravel road in search of a cold beer, finding 1 we kicked back with the locals and arranged to meet some people for supper.
Back at the hostel we realized just how lovely a little place it was, beautiful gardens a lovely pool and such a relaxing atmosphere,
Back in Vilcabamba we met Rob an English chap who had set his sights on Vilcabamba as his new home due to its reputation as the valley of longevity, This village is known to have more centurions than most places in the world, at least it used to have, the decline the population growing so old now is blamed on pesticides, water pollution and generally its recent emergence with the outside world. Indeed over a beer and a pizza we met a chap named Gavin a colorful kiwi who has lived in the area for over 30 years, he had a book available which I bought, Its the ramblings of a man who
is observant of the ever-changing world around him, consisting of local gossip, tragedies, whichcraft, drug addition and the general shenanigans of a small town in the arsehole of nowhere. Its called the Valley of Rare fruits by the Kurious Kywi and whether you believe him or not I laughed out loud on a regular basis reading it.
John decided to walk the trail of the Mandango mountain the following morning, It's the most difficult of all the trails and the hostel strongly recommended he didn't do it after the heavy rains but off he went, leaving me a little worried about him. This is where the pool and that glorious hammock came in for me as I read about the valley that surrounded where I lay up like the queen of sheba. John arrived back before sundown and for one who treks often, this trek kicked his ass he was sore all over, his feet were in terrible shape, time for another beer (for medicinal purposes of course) and a last goodbye to new local pals, unfortunately town was dead so a quick wander around a bite to eat and home to bed, PoorJohn's tootsies!
Vilcabamba has recently
gained a reputation for an anti gringo sentiment, for the record we encountered nothing but the kindest welcomes, It seems this sentiment may be geared towards the ex pats who are buying up the land and businesses but to be honest it looks like this little place is thriving from the influx of that money………..who's to say, We had a ball and the surroundings are truly awesome (Those of you who know me will know how I hate the overuse of that word but I mean it in its true sense) One last gesture we thought was lovely was….when we went to pay the hostel the evening before we left because we were leaving a 6am, they insisted they make us a packed lunch for the bus as we had already paid for breakfast, such a pleasant surprise when a few hours later we opened our lunch to find 2 inch thick homemade bread sandwiches stuffed with all sorts of lovely things, a candy bar and fresh fruit and water, kindly folks in a lovely place, Pure Magic.
I have noticed reading some of the forums here that some people mentioned that they like to read blogs that give
prices for services
Taxi (2kms) $1
Hotel room with lots of hot water and very comfortable including breakfast $30
Meals in town $5-15
Meals in Hostal $5-$15 (very good food)
Bus from Loja to Vilcabamba $1.30
The majority of the treks are free but sometimes the owner of the waterfall charges a small fee, he wasn't there when we arrived.
The Valley of Rare Fruits can be purchased at Charlie's place for$10
Next stop sweaty Machala
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