This blog looks to be about the last one until we get back to Arizona. We are back in Cuenca today and have lots of those just before we leave things to do. We head out on on Saturday for Quito and then USA on Sunday. Home Sunday night late.
Our last little jaunt was not one we had thought of till we got here and began talking with folks. Vilcabamba was on our original research list of places to visit but seemed to fall victim to the cities. Once here though, the cold and rain helped us to decide to give it a whirl. After all, it's only a 5 hour bus trip to Loja ( the driving is known as "careening down mountain roads and it fits our experience), a change to another bus (more careening)for and hour and a taxi to the hotel.
Vilcabamba is still known world wide as the Valley of longevity. For many years it was thought to have more people living past 100 years than any place else on earth. Much research has been done there to debunk that myth but it perseveres. Many think that the researchers liked the place so
much they decided to stay there, live past 100 and discourage others from doing the same. Interesting theory.
Vilcabamba is lower in elevation, 5,000 feet or so and therefore warmer...ah w.a.r.m.e.r
... It is also more dry this time of year than Cuenca (but almost anywhere is). But it is small. Our big question was, what do we do other than bask in the sun, read books, eat and drink some beer and wine? OK so that is a pretty good answer in itself. But where to stay to do all that. So, thanks to the modern miracle of google, we searched hotels in Vilcabamba. We didn't find any but we did find Hostelerias or small B&B hotels of better or worse caliber (usually found out when you lie down on the mattress).
But there was one place that struck our fancy because it advertised itself as a backpackers resort. Hosteria Izhcayluma (pronounced ishkiyluma) was developed by 2 young German fellows 12 years ago after they had backpacked a significant amount of South America and walked into the Valle Sagrado de Vilcabamba. Izhcayluma is the original Inca name for Vilcabamba. Thinking it to be the most beautiful and tranquil
View of Valle Sagrado
From Izhcayluma restaurant
place they had been in, they decided to stay and build a place that was in a special setting, away from noise, able to provide a respite for weary backpackers and reasonably priced. It now houses a central building with check in, and a restaurant, internet center, lovely quiet swimming pool, massage building full service laundry, bar open after 7pm, and over 30 beds in a combination of dorms, private rooms, and a couple suites. The water here is so pure you can drink from the faucet.
But the buildings are not the best thing. The best thing is the atmosphere, created in part by the owners, a great deal by the setting, in part by the staff but mostly by the mix of clients. Folks our age mix with young Europeans doing what we used to do (and still do in some respects...travel light and mobile), with Ecuadorans on holiday and locals (expat and Vilcabambans) to talk, watch sunset, eat and drink, lay back and read or meditate, and pet the 3 gentle dogs. To be sure it is a new age thinking place but one for everyone.
Vilcabamba is a small but vibrant little town, with
a bustling square, lots of tourist activities from trips to Podocarpus NP, mountain trail horseback rides, mountain biking, hiking and even a couple camping places. 3 massage places, a few bars with the norma loud music, lots of small restaurants and cafes, a real French bakery (La Baguette of course) owned by a French baker since 1996 and some interesting young and old resident expats. To say the least, it fit us better than any where we have been in Ecuador so far.
Simply said, we came here for three nites with a bit of trepidation and ended up staying 4...would have done more but the place was booked. We hiked a bit, Mike went on a 5 hour horseback trip up to 10,000 feet to see a waterfall (he was alone with just a guide) and Katy hit the massage building. Katy had tried to warn Mike that his legs would be killing him after gripping a saddle for 5 hours but the truth is, it didn't happen (even after a mad trot down extremely narrow and twisting paths that were only inches from a very long fall down the cliffs). What did happen is that the very
strong massage therapist made Katy ache for a couple days.
Mostly though we did bask in a lot of sun, went swimming, read our books and spent a lot of time swapping travel stories with other backpackers. It was just what we needed to finish our trip to Ecuador. Even our room faced east into the valley and we woke up to sun in our eyes. If we were to live in this country, Vilcabamba could be the place. It is small but growing, vibrant with activity and has a mix of people from all over the world and tranquil beyond our expectations.
Well we are now back in Cuenca. May go to Banjos tomorrow for the thermal pools and a mud bath but we will see. Oh yeah, it rained last night and today...damn!
Ciao amigos. See many of you soon.
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