Stalled in Vilcabamba

Trip Start Nov 13, 2010
Trip End Jul 20, 2011

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Flag of Ecuador  , Loja,
Saturday, March 26, 2011

] What can I say? I apparently am succour for a big porch, a comfy huge bed, a hammock and a magnificent view.  Vilcabamba has a way of reeling people in and holding them.  The valley is known as "Sacred Valley" and supposedly has a variety of powers.  To test that theory, all one has to do is deposit themselves at one of about six little cafes on the central square and wait.  When we first arrived we noticed a local phenomenon:   a bevy of colourful characters here in town could be seen at different tables at different times of the day and night.  It was if there was an orchestrated dance, or a 'musical chairs' type of game being played…..10 o’clock in the morning  the 6 people at the Indian place would break up and move across the square and sit at the Sambuca Café or the Hard Drinking corner.  The Sambuca gang would make their way to the Juice Bar and the Yogurt place, the hippies and the old dreadlocked units would saunter into town and sit on the corner near Charlito’s,  the Charlito crowd would have had lunch and would join the smooth movement over to the Mexican place…..  In total there are about 15 little tables of four, counting every table at all of the restaurants combined!  and from nearly every place, you can see practically every chair in town.   A dream town for surveillance!!!  Everybody can see everybody else and as far as unusual characters – this place is heaven for somebody like me who just likes to watch and listen.

When we first arrived I figured a week would be about right for Vilcabamba:   after all it consists of about 4 concentric streets out from the square.  You can shop (and I have) in every single store and be finished in less than 20 minutes – that includes the hardware, jewellery  and feed stores .  What could keep me entertained for more than a week?  My homeys and I were quite judgemental the first few days after hearing the daily gossip from each corner – some of the loud mouths trash talking about every person who passed by.  Fast forward nearly three weeks – yup, I have been here a long time and yesterday we realized that we had just spent most of the day moving from café to café – one place for juice, one for salad, one for soup, one for drinks etc etc…….we had become one of ‘them’!!!!!  ‘We’ started with my fellow amigos:  Sig and Tony,  later ‘we’ added Lynn and then that little group quickly grew to a fluid 8 to 15 characters, people coming and going,  but for every one that left, there came a new face the next day.   The common thread was that most of us were staying about a mile (uphill both ways) from town, at the pretty and laid back Izhcayluma Hostal. (Hostal spelled with an ‘a’ here.)  Hosts – German brothers  Dieter and Pieter have created an amazing place here.  Gotta love German details!    (Tony was wrong – they are brothers!)  The loose ‘group’ met each day for breakfast and planned some activity or another – hiking, riding, looking at real estate, discussing the future of the earth/USA/healthcare and aliens.  Really:  mostly just hanging out.   One day has run into the next and this weekend I find myself one of only a few left.  Tony left this morning with a truckload headed north to Cuenca, some really nice new friends left Thursday for the beaches of Peru and I am headed, Monday, to Peru and then south to Lima to meet my friend Josie on April 3.

As Tony and the gang pulled out this morning I felt a little sad and lonely……for only ten minutes.  I went back to my cabin, out to the deck and looked next door….a guy I met in Cuenca (Jay) was moving in……nice.

I do want to reflect on a few things about Vilcabamba because it is a place that I want to remember and at the rate my memory is going,  I will need notes soon to remember to make notes.  The photos tell the story of the incredible physical beauty here – the lush green rolling valleys that look like the velvet on a deer’s antlers,  the unbelievable diversity of plants:   so many species per square foot, amazing gigantic flowers, and the pretty little town itself, nestled between the mountains with many little old men and uniformed school kids cruising around.  I saw a bunch of high school kids on Friday hauling home little cases with small portable typewriters – the kind we used to have years ago.

Anyway, beyond the breathtaking physical beauty,  there is something else happening in Vilcabamba that is just plain weird.  What stands out, in Vilcabamba, is the high percentage of gringos:  expats, and the similar diversity amongst them.  One just has to sit for a few minutes at an empty table and one of those ‘new locals’ will come and join you.  It is one of the friendliest places I have ever been – no traveller ever has to be by themselves here if they don’t want to.  Back to the diversity…..and the ‘unusual’ characteristics of this valley and this town in particular.  Depending on who is telling you their story, this place has been identified by supernatural powers as a place that is ‘special’.  The ‘doom and gloomers’ (mostly American) – I think I will write a whole piece on this sect as I have found them in every expat haven I have been this trip – Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama and now here in Ecuador, are here because it is cheap and there is a better chance that when the world ends…… in 2012 (maybe),  being on the equator,  will help for those wanting to hang on a little longer????  I am no expert on the end of the earth but, after a number of conversations related to this discussion, I picture the coming Judgement Day like this:   the Earth as a big Tilt-a Whirl spinning out of control.  It does make a little sense that if you are in the very center you might get to hang on a little longer……..not really sure how much longer or if my personal schematic is off base in Doom and Gloom theory.  It is my personal picture so I get to keep it.  Then there are the Breatharions.  I know I can’t be the only person who was unfamiliar with this group – but I definitely am in the minority here.  Who knew?  This group does not eat or drink – anything.  They get all their nutrition from the sun.  I tried it a few times when I wanted an ice cream bar – tilted my chin up to Mother Sun and tried to just suck in those carbs and melty chocolate taste but nada nada – didn’t work for me.  As you can see from my pics and my ever expanding girth, chocolate is winning over sunbeams.  One guy did tune me up -  telling me that you just can’t take any sunbeams – you need the special ones early in the morning and I have been just too lazy to get out of my fantasic  big wide bed to test that hypothesis.  One of the café owners ratted out some of the Breatharians to us….he reported selling them pizza and beer late at night.  Maybe it was cloudy that morning…..

Then you have the alien people.  They look normal, some are very well educated – one young guy is a local architect, from Sweden – lives high in the hills a couple of hours walk from town, walks in each day to offer his thoughts and recruit others to hear his messages and partake in the healing ability he also has.  Speaking of which, per square inch, I didn’t think Bali could be beat on the Healer/Shamen ratio but eureka, think this place blows Bali and Sedona Arizona out of the crystal gazing, rolfing, reiking, NLPing and ceremonying….. I even attended one of the ‘ceremonies’ – kind of got tricked thinking it was going to be a ‘Full Moon’ party.  The other night when the record breaking ‘Big Moon’ was out (was supposed to be 30% bigger and brighter – next one in 90 years or 900 years or some long time from now ) ..…..still not great with details….so it was to be a momentous moon.  Por que No???? (‘Why not?’  in Spanish)… new favourite saying.

So…. I am at the center of the earth, the center of the Mayan calendar, the center of energy fields ,the center of more things I haven’t even heard about yet,  with a group of people who get newsletters on these things.  So off we went to town to meet ‘someone’ who would lead us to the ‘party’.  Turns out it was no party – but a ‘ceremony’ with an altar,  sound bowls, chants, tuning forks to ‘unlock’ your blocked Chakra, thought it was heartburn – who knew?….sweetgrass smudging  from Lethbridge (down the road from where I am from!!), Canadian aboriginal songs I am sure they don’t even sing  and a guided meditation to help heal  Mother Earth from the assaults we were guilty of .  I wondered about Mother Earth’s backlash the week before with the earth quake and the Tsunami in Japan….apparently she is really pissed and definitely getting meaner and could use the apologies I thought……the girl conducting the ‘ceremony’ is a Shaman-in-training:  having studied with Native elders in Alberta and more recently in Nelson BC (uh huh).  One of the songs she sang was given to her from an ancient cedar tree……really nice kid who had never heard of Ecuador or specifically Vilcabamba until a dream propelled her to Google Search and then to a an airline ticket office.  That story was told over and over – Vilcabamba:  found through a healer, horoscope person (can’t remember the name for them…see?), oh yeah, Astrologist, a dream, or for many of the financial refugees from the US, through International Living Magazines or conferences.  International Liars, as they are affectionately called down here,  certainly have put Ecuador on the radar of many new folks. The rest - Google.

So I ‘ceremonied’ and did not ‘party’ big moon night – what was so funny was it was really cloudy and a little rainy so no moon and the whole thing ended at 9:30 pm cause taxis quit at 10 pm in Vilcabamba.  Even with the power of the Andes, the Mayans, the crystals etc etc – one has to work around taxi driver schedules!  We are getting old!   Even so,  the ceremony was appreciated by most – I spent my time, when I was supposed to have my eyes closed, spying on the others……sorry mother earth…..but I did compost a lot of years….til I got damn slugs…..oops……more positive…..sorry about peeing in the ocean in Manta and buying Diet Coke in plastic bottles……OOmmmm.

So I am ready to go – have looked at property, listened to theories about how ‘they’ are poisoning the earth, how ‘they’ are conspiring to destroy the USA banking system and eventually all  democratic banking systems, how ‘they’ are conspiring to destroy the earth through genetically altered crops and/ or pesticides and/ or the poisons ‘they’ are putting in jet streams (chem trails……only over the USA), how ‘they’ have CIA agents right here in Vilcabamba doing something….not sure what but think it must be bad……

Always being the one to ask the annoying or hard questions…..I did follow up in my determination to ‘out’ those ‘theys’ , but, even after three weeks, did not come closer to identify ‘them’…..except to learn that Hilary Clinton is one of them. 

This ‘blaming and shaming’ perpetual exercise is exhausting to be around.  First, most of ‘these people” do nothing about anything to exact change other than find each other on the internet and leave their own countries to come and sit around and bitch about it all in somebody else’s country.  And I didn’t even get started about the aliens who are here already…….. aside from the irony of the negativity from the 'positive/healing/healthy' crowd, the place is enchanting.

So our little 'gang' has disbanded and gone on their way as travellers do, leaving behind the 'locals' and their new and old lives.  I am grateful to have come and stayed and met some really nice people - some great fun,  young kids who made me laugh a lot and some new folks who have become good friends.     

This is the best of travel - beautiful spaces, interesting characters and the time to embrace both.  I continue to so lucky.
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Yvonne on

Thanks, Debbie, for sharing your adventures with me. I actually feel as though I have been to these beautiful countries. Take care.

Judy on

Deb - you write exquisitly!!! Your English teachers would be so proud of you, I'm sure!! I do so look forward to each installment. Safe and more happy travels to you! You're living my dream!

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