The hostel at Vilcabamba felt more like a resort at times
I loved Vilcabamba!! Its easy to see why the myth, that the average Vilcabamba resident lives for over 100 years, exists. The weather is usually balmy year round, the mountains surrounding the valley are stunning and well, the people and life just doesnt move that fast.
We stayed in almost the best hostel of our trip. Called Izcayluma (spelling??), it is run by a couple of expat Germans and has awesome rooms, a pool, a restaurant with great food and what must be the best view in town, a great bar with table tennis and pool, loads of hammocks for relaxing, awesome gardens throughout and all for $US10....what a bargain!! Needless to say we lived it up there for a couple of days.
But it wasnt really the hostel that made Vilcabamba a definite highlight, it was a couple of adventures that were enjoyed while there:
- The Mandango Loop.
The Mandango loop
A trip into the nearby Podocarpus national park which fell through proved a blessing in disguise. Not wanting to sit around twiddling our thumbs all day we got some information from Izchayluma about a walk called the Mandango Loop. Taking about 4 hrs it initially rises steeply for 1.5 hrs until the summit of Mount Mandango which has a 360 degree view across the town and surrounding area. The scenery was just stunning and with a blue bird day we couldnt have asked for anything better. From there, it was 2 hrs of walking along a ridgeline roughly 50cm wide with steep drop offs either side, again the views were spectacular. After which we dropped down to the valley floor walking underneath the forest canopy and back home. The walk was made even more adrenalin pumping by the fact that the lady at the walks entrance told us not to carry large amounts of money or expensive cameras as there had been several robberies in the last year.
A tip for the young kids, dont look down!
Well I wasnt going to leave my camera behind so much to Annas amusement, I picked up a couple of stones which I thought would make a nice sound as I threw them into the would be robbers head. Carried them all trip without incident. It wasnt until a couple of days later that we found out the robberies were actually made at gun-point!!
- The Gavilian Horse Ride. An amazing amazing horse ride up into the mountains on the edge of Podocarpus national park. We went with Gavilian Horseback tours ($70 for 2d/1n) which is owned by a NZ expat (there are alot of those in Vilcabamba) called Gavin who has been living in Vilcabamba for 25 years. A top bloke, a real cowboy, and best of all he owns 250 hectares of stunning wilderness on the side of a mountain (paid $4000 for it!! Unbelievable) which he has built a hut and a bunk house on.
Smart. Sending Anna first in case of burglars
It would be our accommodation for the night!! The ride up to the hut was just brilliant. After my previous experience with horses in Chugchilan
I wasnt really looking forward to the ride but its amazing what properly trained horses will do, I actually felt like I could ride. We rode alongside an awesome river, we rode across the river, we rode along cliff edges and we rode up very steep hillsides. All the way the views were just unbelievable. After 4 hours we reached the hut, high in the mountains and looking back down the valley to Vilcabamba it had the best view of all....an incredible place and just as incredible was how he managed to get all the material up here to make it. That night we watched the sun go down drinking home made cocktails and eating auderves (chips with guacamole and olives.
You can see robbers coming a mile off
..class) before having an awesome fire cooked meal and some casked wine. Then it was down to some good old fashioned story telling by Gavin and Frank (a bloke from Quebec) which included tales about the effects of San Pedro (boiled cactus) and how to escape a bear.....I night I will long remember. And a trip I will long remember. Would definitely recommend Gavins tours in a heartbeat, he is easy to find, right near the main square in the middle of town.
Yep I loved Vilcabamba. And I loved Ecuador. Hopefully we will be back one day soon.
Hasta luego Ecuador. Hasta pronto Peru.