I needed to get out of Dodge.
I'll skip the 'why'.
I hadn't been to Vilcabamba in a few years and even then it was only to deliver some personal possessions of a friend who'd passed away, then drive back to Cuenca.
Vilcabamba (Vill-cah-bahm-bah) is located 45 minutes from Loja (Lo-hah), plus another 4 hours to Cuenca. It's a town of about 7,000 nestled in a beautiful valley at about 5,000 ft (3,000 lower than Cuenca). The weather there hovers between 65 and 82 degrees. Vilca (for short) is also known for the supposed longevity of life of its inhabitants. Apparently, there are more people who live to be over 100 there than anywhere else in Ecuador.
Vilca also has a reputation of being pseudo modern hippyish attracting the kind of people who immerse into organics, yoga, zen, mother earth, and such.
Scattered about are a handful of resorts who cater to those who want to relax and turn off the world. I chose Hostal Le Rendez-Vous primarily because it was in the village itself, not requiring a long walk or taxi ride. Unlike the name might imply (a motel by the hour) the entire complex was a treat for the eyes and mind. Behind the high walls, the gardens were manicured to a 'T' with lots of exotic, colorful plants. Walkways weren't just bare concrete in straight paths, they were curvy and painted red or bricked.
Each of the structures were immaculately painted and maintained. It looked as if it had just been built in the last year or two, but it's been around for 14 years. Hammocks were strung between the natural timbers that supported the roofs.
I got there fairly late in the day, so after I plunked down my gear, I headed out to find dinner. I stopped in at Jardin Escondido where I could eat on the outdoor garden patio. As dusk turned to night, the patio was illuminated with clear Christmas lights strung from tree to tree.
After dinner and two glasses of wine, I walked over to the central park just a block away where, as in every Ecuadorian town, there's a church anchoring the plaza. It had been painted since the last time I was there and illumination added. What a differeence!!
|Fountain in the central plaza.|
|On a Monday night.|
|What it looked like 5 years ago.|
My room was large and immaculate. The adobe walls were painted pure white and the cathedral ceilings were finished in bamboo and timbers. Rainbow-colored curtains provided a little bit of privacy. Outside my front door was a small table with chairs and my own hammock. I sat there, sipping wine in the dark, trying not to think about the sh_t that happened back in Cuenca and got lost in the night sky and peacefulness.
|The walk-in shower (behind green wall)|
In the morning, a (free) continental breakfast was presented in the gardens. Coffee/tea, toast, bananas, juice and, if you wanted, 2 eggs for an extra buck.
All this for $28 a night...taxes INcluded!!
I decided to go for a drive to see what I could see.
A bridge near HLRV and a sign pointing to things 'that way' got my attention. So, I went there. Here's photos of what I saw along the way.
|For Sale. Anyone want a flying church?|
|There are soooooo many of these one lane wooden bridges in Ecuador!!|
|Hmmm.....take the bridge, or drive through the water to the other side? Which do you think I did?|
|LOVE these monoliths!!!|
|The town of Vilcabamba below me.|
|Property owners cut branches from trees and use them as fenceposts. Then, the posts become 'alive' again and new growth spurts from them.|
|I took this photo from inside my car while sitting on a one-lane arched bridge. The bridge below is pedestrian only. Out in the distance a small village.|
What the heck, what's the harm in trying it?
Omar directed me to a house in the countryside and he consulted with the man there. He was not able to 'receive us', but directed us to another place back down the road. There, the man instructed Omar to walk down the hill to a little tienda and buy one egg and bring it back. Okaaaaaay.
Omar came back with the egg and the Shaman motioned us to enter a 5 x 8 cinderblock barren room. Omar became my translator. The Shaman asked my name as he was preparing stuff. He instructed me to take my shirt off and stand before him with arms outstretched. He took the egg and rubbed it up and down my arms, on both sides, and the rest of my body, both sides. He also took a candle and did the same thing. He lightly thrashed me with a mixture of dried plants, then used a looped rope to lightly thrash me up/down/both sides as well. He drank, but not swallowed, a liquid and spit it out onto me as I rotated so he would get all sides. Now, this wasn't hurling loogies....it was a full on spray as if coming out of a jet engine fuel injector!!
After all this, he broke open the egg into a glass, then poured water in it. He 'read' the contents. The bubbly stuff on top was 'bad'. The hazy mixture between the yoke lying on the bottom and the bubbly stuff on top was filled with ghostly, spiritual-looking globs that were NOT GOOD. He explained to me what they meant and why they existed, which I will keep private.
He also instructed me to buy Agua Florida when I get back to Cuenca and essentially spritz the inside of my house with it to keep the bad spirits out. Okey Dokey!!
To end the cleansing ritual, he took the candle he had rubbed all over me and lit it. I presume it was to burn off any of the bad spirits collected by the candle during the rubbing.
How much, I asked? He said it was up to me. GRRRRREAT!!!! I told Omar I had no clue what to pay as I had no reference. Shrugs. So, I gave him a $20 as that was the only denomination I had anyway and off we went.
Omar asked me if I felt any different. Not really, but time would tell.
Hey, at least I tried it...better than not at all, right?
That night, I had the weirdest dream. I tend to have very vivid and VERY creative dreams anyway, but this was on the side of bizarre. A very large black serpent was exiting my body and kept exiting and kept exiting and..... Geez, how long is that sucker anyway? That's all lI remember.
So, I had a nice 2 1/2 day retreat to Vilcabamba in very nice, inexpensive accommodations.
Wellll...hold on. Half way back to Cuenca, the temp gauge in my car went up into Hot. I pulled over and checked the radiator. Full. Huh? After I let the car cool down, I decided to drive on. Less than 1/2 a mile and the same thing again. Rinse, repeat, rinse, repeat. I was in the middle of noooooowhere. But, near my last pull-over there were two houses and I saw some men working, so I walked over there and asked them if they knew of a 'grua' (tow truck) in the area. Yes, there was a rock further up the road that had a phone # of a grua painted on it. But, I didn't want to drive further, so two men hopped in their pickup and drove to where it was and called the number and told the guy on the other end I needed assistance.
30 minutes later, the grua showed up and I told him I would need to be towed (actually, my car put up on top on a platform) to Cuenca...about 80 miles away. I had no choice as I was in the middle of noooooowhere.
So, here's how my trip ended. Shoulda had the Shaman get rid of the bad spirits in my car, too!!!
|The view I had sitting in the drivers seat of my car on top of the platformed tow truck|
Video (above): Me, sitting in my car, on top of a platform tow truck for 80 miles. Cost? $150.
Til next time.....