Stalled in Vilcabamba
Trip Start Nov 13, 2010
91Trip End Jul 20, 2011
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Where I stayed
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.
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.
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)…..my 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.