Vilcabamba Ecuador- How do I love thee?
“Is where we are headed lower down than here?” I asked Tom and Philip, feigning indifference.
“I mean altitude, like is it warmer than here?” I asked, failing even more miserably to sound natural.
I tried not to look at Rosie, even though this was definitely her cue.
She started out ok “actually I think it’s” the rest of the sentence “a bit colder” came out in a fit of giggles, intelligible only to Laura and I and only because we had worked out the script before-hand. Tipsily whispering to each other by the hedges outside of the bar.
“OK, you talk about how it’s cold in Peru” I said to her. “And I’ll talk about how we will have a chance to do one more hike” Laura chimed in.
“That’s right!” Rosie exclaimed, “Tom was really keen on doing that Mandango one”.
“And I’ll talk about how we are an extra day ahead of schedule anyway” I finished up.
We were ready for battle. We were hiding by the bushes at our hostel’s bar strategically plotting out how we were going to convince Tom and Philip to stay an extra day at the Hosteria Izhcayluma in Vilcabamba, even though we had all agreed earlier that day to leave in the morning for the Peruvian border.
And who would not want to stay here for as long as they possibly could?! Vilcabamba is a beautiful little town set in a valley in Southern Ecuador, surrounded by green mountains which (according to a Swiss girl in our hostel) closely resemble the alps. Vilcabamba is known as the valley of eternal youth, and has earned the bragging rights of having some of the oldest inhabitants in the world. Some attribute it to the water, and others to the proximity to the Equator. Several scientists have studied the phenomena, and it seems as though the consensus is that the longevity in Vilcabamba is due to nothing more special than the benefits of a good climate, exercise, a healthy diet and good treatment of the elderly by the community.
Well sign me up! Who doesn’t love perfect weather, great hikes, wonderful food and kindness to old people?! I think that some of the happiness of the inhabitants here may also be due to the abundance of spa treatments, such as massages, exfoliation and the like. Keeping with the region’s historical use, which was as a retreat for Incan royalty, the town has blossomed into a retreat from the real world.
Though the influx of ex-pat retirees escaping from the real world are bringing all together too much of the real world with them. Trailing it in on the bottom of their Birkenstocks, and on the ends of their batik scarves.
The hostel we are staying at advertises itself as “a backpackers resort” and unlike most hostels which claim the same thing- it really is! It is an absolutely lovely place with a lush garden sprawling out over the grounds, filled with trilling brightly colored birds, incredible views of velvety green mountains and a great restaurant. Not to mention a lovely pool, spa, bar ( with free Cuba libres an hour each night) and a garden chess set with 2 foot high pieces!
The best thing about the hostel is not it’s total luxury, or it’s loveable 2 dogs trying to get you to play catch all day long, or even it’s 13/night prices. It is the immaculate organization of any and all information about the area you could ever need. When headed out in the morning for a hike you are armed with a lovely topographical map of the area, with the hike drawn-out for you, as well as an idea of the length, duration and intensity of the hike.
Even better, when scrambling through bushes and over ridges 2,000 meters above sea level you are greeted by reassuring little blobs of spray paint on rocks every 8 minutes or so. Little blobs of red or blue, or yellow (depending on which trail you are on) that almost shout up at you “good job! you are still on some semblance of a trail. You will make it back to civilization in one piece today- hooray!”
Which brings us back to our utterly horrible performance in the bar. “What did you say?” Tom asked. Rosie gave a valiant effort to hold back her giggles and tried again “it’s pretty cold all over Peru” she manages to squeeze out between gales of mirth. Laura and I had a pretty hard time keeping it together by this point ourselves.
“Why are you all laughing?” asked Tom suspiciously looking at Philip who was just as confused as he was.
I think our idea of staying an extra day may have started at lunch. We had a bit of a girl’s day out in town going for some treatments and incredible Mexican food at a local restaurant. There is something about having a lovely afternoon out with the ladies full of chicken enchiladas and uber cheap beauty treatments that just really make a girl loathe to leave a place.
“Seriously” Tom said “do I have something on my face? What has gotten into you guys?”
I couldn’t hold it in any longer. “We really wanted to convince you to stay here an extra night” I admitted. And then it all rushed forth, the three of us chiming in together with “we can do that Mandango hike tomorrow”, and “you guys did not get to try that great restaurant yet” and “it’s cold in Peru” all coming out at the same time, the sentences tripping over each other and coming out in a mish-mash.
“You don’t have to talk me into staying here another night” Tom said pulling me to his side with a look that clearly said how silly he thought our elaborate strategizing was.
“What do you think Philip?” We all turned to face him expectantly. Hope shining out of our eyes like children hoping to keep a found puppy. “Well I guess I could stay another night too.”
And with that it was settled – our merry little band would stay in Vilcabamba for one more day, see one more ridgeline, one more golden hour from the mirador, one more end of the day rainbow. Because that’s how you roll in Vilcabamba.
Total rainbows, butterflies and picnics amidst swarms of dragonflies.