Last 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 of 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!