Our days in Ecuador are growing really short, but we still had one last place to see before being cordially kicked out of the country.
Vilcabamba is a small mountain town in the far south that is famous for retaining really old residents. Growing over 100 years old is supposedly not uncommon here, which is why it’s nicknamed the “Valley of Longevity” (and why a lot of things like water bottles showcase really old men on the labels) It’s the town’s claim to fame that researchers attribute mainly to living a healthy lifestyle from eating all organic foods and drinking water with a high mineral content. That’s not really why we wanted to come though. We came because Vilcabamba sits in a valley surrounded by great hikes into the mountains. On the bus ride in we met a couple from England and another solo traveller, also from England, who we spend most our time with here, hiking and wandering around town.
I don’t like to label people, but the residents of Vilcabamba could really fall into just 2 categories: local Ecuadorians and ex-pat hippies from the States. The expat community stays pretty close together and all like to hang out at the same bars and restaurants, which are owned by their ex-pat friends. One night we all went to a salsa club and it seemed like every ex-pat in town was there. The next day at lunch we saw some of the same people at a cafe, gossiping about the night before. It makes for kind of a funny dichotomy in the people here and after a few days the ex-pat community reminded me a little of high school with how in-tune they all are with one another.
On our last day, with our English friends gone, Ben and I went on the most beautiful bike ride I’ve ever been on just outside town. Being in the mountains provided a few incidents of crawling uphill, dragging my bike, and heaving for air (I’m a little out of shape), but the blissful moments of riding downhill and enjoying the scenic mountain views made it worth the effort.
Sometimes being in Ecuador can feel like another planet and other times it can feel really close to home. One night at dinner, Ben and I met a guy living here that used to be the chef at Cafe Europa in Sarasota. It’s so weird where and how you run into these people, completely by chance.
Our travel visa is up this week so tomorrow are crossing the border to Peru. We don’t have an itinerary, but as usual will make our way through Peru slowly, one day at a time.