Vilcabamba: Paradise

imageAt night fireflies twinkle in the trees. At dawn bright yellow canaries streak by. That’s just from the deck! As we walk to breakfast we notice flowers we passed by the day before. After breakfast we sip coffee on a bench overlooking the town. The sun is always overhead at the equator. The effect on the view is mesmerizing. The sunlight and the clouds are constantly engaged in slow seductive tango.

In Cuenca an ex-pat from Atlanta wrinkled his nose when we mentioned Vilcabamba. “The people there are from a different planet.” It’s true, but whatever planet they drifted in from feels fairly comfortable. I’m guessing there are at least three White Boy Blues Bands in town. Think Snohomish, Washington tavern patrons dropped in the middle of an Andean valley. Then replace all the antique shoppers with Ecuadoreans  and Ecuadorian culture. “Honey, this isn’t Snohomish!”  “True, but I’m betting you could swap the Snohomish and Vilcabamba blues band bassists around  and no one would even notice.” 

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Long and short term apartment rentals in Vilcabamba are running from $350 to $500 per month fully furnished. A couple from Illinois shared that nicer two bedroom houses are running $800 a month.

The ex-pats we met advise against buying.  “The rents are so low there is no advantage in buying. Besides people get sick and go home, or to Cuenca.  Then they can’t unload their place.” That said, a fully furnished place was selling for $144,000. A rustic hippy abode to abide in was going for $109,000. A beautiful long abandoned tear down next to the Chambra River was not moving at a half million.

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So, what would a person do in Vilcabamba? Outdoorsy types take on the many scenic hikes in the area. Yoga classes are offered at various locations around town. You can rent horses by the hour, or by the day. Restaurant choices are varied and plentiful. Although, the corner table outside Las Terrazas is permanently occupied by grizzled extra-pats. A $7.00 machete would keep you occupied fighting back the undergrowth that threatens to swallow everything whole. Getting bored in Vilcabamba appears to be a matter of choice. If that’s what you choose a $1.25 bus ride will get you to Loja in an hour. $2.00 will get you a shared taxi ride and you can be in Loja in 30 minutes. What’s not to love?

The truth is unless you’ve stayed somewhere a month or longer you don’t really have a clue what living there would be like. I recall a lovely house in a cul-de-sac we decided to sell after a year and a half. Then there was the foodie paradise where every menu in town was identical. Well, we did find a falafel stand. They slathered ketchup and mayonnaise on their falafels. Sheesh! So, I’m reminded of some lyrics I once wrote. “Paradise has a way of closing in on you. There’s snakes in the bushes, and piranha in the pool.”  Maybe not, but sometimes you have to create your own warnings. Otherwise you might jump right in!

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