We visited Vilcabamba first time on a Sunday, which normally brings out more people to relax under the Sun, especially in Latin America. In North America it’s called shopping day, Costco is packed, Walmart is packed, The Real Canadian Superstore is packed. I never understood why people shop like crazy in North America on Sundays. We started with taking a taxi from our camping spot to the center of the town, which costs $1.50. Most of the taxis around here are 1/4 ton pickup trucks with extended cab, so taking Blaze in the back was not a problem. He actually loved the ride, I sat beside him. About halfway there was a police check-stop and the driver stopped and asked us to get in the cab, laws are changing in Ecuador and riding trucks in the back is not allowed anymore. At least not through check-stops. Once in ‘downtown’ we set off exploring the small village. Vilcabamba is known for its long living people. There has been several studies about this fact, not sure if there was any clear outcome of those studies. All I read that an old guy was asked how old is he and he said ‘110’ (let’s say, I don’t remember the exact number). One year later his answer was 124, or something similar. So much about that.
Now, fast forward to 2017. The village has just under 1,300 inhabitants and the number of um, gringos, who flocked to live and visit in the area is quite high. I would say it’s hard to look around in el centro and not to notice the high number of people who were not born here. The place is not exactly tranquillo, quiet and peaceful. Youngster hippies with Bob Marley hairdos banging the percussion loud on one of the colonial balconies. A ‘United Falafel Org’ restaurant hosted right on the central church’s building with a ‘Tripadvisor excellence’ certificate proudly posted beside the entrance catch my eye first, then the rest of the obviously not locally owned restaurants in the main plaza. I am looking at the picture of the end of an era. The come visit, take pictures, leave everything unchanged slogan does not fit this place. I’ve heard that they are mansions in the area pushing the $1,000,000 sales price mark. Am I looking at the San Miguel de Allende of Ecuador? This is how it started there too and now there are mansions selling at $ 8,000,000. Now how the good heavens a local indigenous inhabitant should not hate the gringos as sooner or later they cannot afford to leave in their own village? Pretty much the same as in Vancouver. I cannot blame the gringos in Vancouver though, it’s a somewhat different story. We swung by the small local market to pick up few things. The prices are reflected there too, not overly expensive, yet, but higher than let’s say Otavalo or Ibarra. Why Vilcabamba, why this small fairy isolated place? Sig Sig seemed similar to me, but there was no gringo invasion there. Does this have to do to the longevity story of the area? Are the Westerner riches moving in driven by the hope to live 320 years? Is this the end of the longevity story? Once the rich tourists with money show up and move in, there is going to be for sure a switch in balance. A new chapter in colonialism? The Spaniards were here first for sure, they made the first step in changing this continent, all the architecture, all the ‘traditional’ wear we see today, some of the food is Spanish influenced-imposed. I guess I’m 400+ years late to ‘discover’ the original South America. Everything I see has been already altered several times. When the Spaniards built a huge haciendas 100+ years ago they already altered the real estate market. Oops. Well, at least I arrived before Starbucks and McDonald’s in this particular village. Cuenca is already full of fast food chains.
Some photos from our first day in the village, if you go out a bit further from the popular central park there’s almost nobody on the streets, looks like most of the tourists stick to the main plaza.
Everybody is in the central park or eating in the restaurants. Lucky me, no disturbing people in my photos, almost like a ghost town.
Th bright colour are not that-that specific for Ecuador, but they started to show up.
There’s a good chance that Ecuador’s new president will be a guy called Lenin.
A small handicraft market just by the central park offers similar products as Otavalo.
Real estate for grabs.
Horseback riding through the village seems popular with tourists.