Tag Archives: ecuador

vilcabamba, ecuador – 2016

blog vilcabambaLast year’s travels in Ecuador took Celeste and me to the town of Vilcabamba, nestled in a valley in the Andes mountains in the south of the country, near the Peruvian border. We were only there for three nights – just enough time for us to know that we should come back, but for a longer time next time.

And here it is – the next time. Celeste is able to stay for one week, and after she left, I had the rest of February at my leisure to explore. Not that I did much of that, at least in the physical sense. I looked at other people’s photos of their hikes to the waterfalls, while I kind of just hung out.

I had so been looking forward to just doing nothing. I had spent the better part of 2015 in “go” mode, and I just wanted to stop. Vilcabamba is the perfect place to practice stopping. And I made the most of it.

Mostly in the hammock outside my room. My home for the month of February was Rumi Wilco, an eco-lodge about a half-mile walk from town. It’s not quite the jungle, but it feels like the jungle down near the Chamba River.

The walk into town was a daily event – there’s always something fresh in the tiendas in town that you can add to tonight’s dinner. There is an overflow ofblog drinks bounteousness when it comes to fruits and vegetables in the valley, and along with the clean air and the clean water, Vilcabamba seems to have it all. If you go into town, you can also get terrific smoothies made with whatever fresh stuff they’ve got on hand at the Juice Factory – we had the guanabana, which we were told would keep us clean, or at least clean us out, and it did – or a cappuccino at the Midas Touch, both great places to sit out front across from the town square and people-watch.

The town square was the main area of entertainment during Carnivale – at least the programmed part of it – parades, bands, jugglers, live music – and the town was out in full force and in full color.

Actually, the best part of Carnivale for me was that the Rumi Wilco folks had needed to move two of us out of our regular rooms and put us up in a pole house a little farther out in the jungle. A little slice of heaven, up in the trees. I barely left the place.

I did venture forth the last day, totally oblivious to what that might mean. The walk to Felicia’s house on the other side of town meant crossing the river twice, and at the river’s edge were young boys in a water bucket brigade, dousing everyone who dared cross the bridge. My puny can of foam was no match against buckets full of water – I came home drenched to the bone. But I had a very nice visit with Felicia, whom I’ve been emailing over the past year. She’s been helping me with my research on shaman religions and plant medicine, and my visit to Vilcabamba means I can go to my first San Pedro ceremony. I am very curious.

In the days leading up to the ceremony, I took to the hammock with caledonia gusto. I’d get my little pile of supplies set up on the chair, slide into the hammock and lie there for hours. Sometimes I’d stare off into the view, sometimes I’d meditate, sometimes I’d read, and sometimes, the best times, were when I was writing my book. I feel good about the book. I feel good about a lot of things.

The view from the hammock

Before we leave the hammock … those pictures are an afternoon view, of which I had many, but it was the nighttime view that was so enchanting. On moonlit nights, the ground would be bathed in light, a bird would begin chirping in the trees, there’d be dogs barking in the distance, and the sound of the river rushing by was a constant thrum. It’s easy to stop when this is what life gives you.

In the days following the ceremony, I spent a lot of time in that hammock, pondering some of life’s lessons, discovering bits of me that I wasn’t aware of, drifting about in happy thoughts of peace, love and understanding, and just generally getting in touch with myself. Talk about stopping!

Ecuador earthquake

Six days ago, a 7.8 earthquake occurred on the north-central coast of Ecuador … where it hit hardest, there was considerable damage and destruction, lost lives, and horrible injuries. If this were to happen in the United States, everyone would look around and ask when the government was going to get here and solve the problem.

But this is Ecuador. Here, people rely on themselves. In the aftermath of the quake, I have read so many stories of heroic people working tirelessly to extract people from the rubble, get food and supplies into the affected areas, and provide medical assistance to the many injured. This is a poor country financially, but in terms of its people, it is the wealthiest nation I know. I am always touched by everyone’s generosity and helpfulness, and now, in the hours, days and weeks after the quake, they are heroes.

Here is just one story about the hours following the quake in the coastal town of Canoa. I have fond memories of the time I spent in Canoa last year and the year before, but I just didn’t get a chance to go this year. A few months ago, I heard from a couple from my old hometown in New Hampshire who’d sold their house and moved to Canoa and were now the new owners of the Surf Shak on the beach. Living la vida loca! Cathy and Alan – who are mentioned in the story. Since the night they were taken to the hospital, they have both received surgery and are recovering slowly.

The earthquake was felt all along the Ecuador coast, but other than the immediate area around the epicenter, significant damage was limited to the two big coastal cities – Manta and Guayaquil. The southern coastal town of Manglaralto, where I stayed for six weeks this year, felt severe shaking, but nothing they didn’t recuperate from quickly. Before I arrived in Manglaralto, I spent a month inland, in the Andes mountains, in the town of Vilcabamba. They too felt the shaking, but nothing much.

It’s been 15 days since I returned to New Hampshire from Ecuador. I wish I was there now, but instead I’m up here … with a couple of blog posts to write about my time in both those places. Stay tuned!


Ecuador 2015 – part 3: Manglaralto

Manglaralto 2I wake up to the sound of Spanish music, getting louder as it makes its way down the street beneath my window. It’s sometime in the afternoon, and I’ve just woken from my afternoon siesta. This must be one of my lazy days in Manglaralto. I do have my busy days, but not really so much as you’d notice. I do like the lazy days. Continue reading

Ecuador 2015 – part 2: the mountains


Unos, dos, tres, quatros. Si. Non. Por favor. Graçias. ¿Cómo estás? Buenos días. Cafe con leche. ¿Dónde está el baño? That’s pretty much it; after that, my Spanish drops right off. So I get a lot of practice saying, “Lo siento. No entiendo. No hablo español. ¿Habla inglés?” (“I’m sorry, I don’t understand. I don’t speak Spanish. Do you speak English?”) Continue reading

ecuador – part 3 – cuenca

Our final three days in Ecuador are spent in Cuenca, the country’s third-largest city, that sits in the mountains in the south. We hop-skip-and-jump it from Salinas to Cuenca – three buses do the trick: from Salinas to Santa Elena; then another bus to Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city and its main port, where there’s just enough time for a quick bite of lunch at the Guayquil bus station before making the connection to Cuenca. Continue reading

ecuador – part 2 – the coast


We’ve carved out one week to see the coast of Ecuador – nowhere near enough time to see it all – all 1,465 miles of it. So we have to pick and choose. There’s not an awful lot to read, at least in English, about Ecuador, in terms of travel and tourism, and what there is to read leaves you wondering if what you’re reading is a hard sell or a really hard sell. In the end, choosing where to stay on the coast was a crap shoot.  There were a handful of towns whose names kept coming up – and there was one that sounded like a perfect combination – a quiet town (compared to others along the coast that are described as “party towns”), all the modern amenities, including good Internet, it’s right on the ocean, and it would be 81 degrees when we got there, according to weather.com. It’s Bahía de Caráquez, on the central coast, an hour north of Manta, where the flight from Quito is  taking us. Continue reading

ecuador – part 1 – quito & otavalo

It’s my first trip to South America, a continent that had been entirely off my travel radar until recently. Then, a few months ago, my friend Celeste sent me the link to a piece the ABC Evening News had done about ex-pats loving living in Cuenca – a city in the mountains in southern Ecuador – and how great the cost of living was down there. It looked like a match for me: a warm climate, Pacific Ocean beaches galore, a fruit-lover’s paradise, and health care that appears to work in a free market – or if not free, at least freer. Celeste and I have come to Ecuador for two weeks to explore this paradise and see if it really is our cup of tea. First stop, Quito, the capital of Ecuador. Continue reading