Woke up to cloudy skies but the weather is delightfully warm. Last night the cacophony of noises finally subsided and I got some excellent sleep – what an incredible bed! Took a great shower – the shower stall is sided in stone wall – beautiful! And there was nice hot water that didn’t disappear after a few minutes! Divine!
Walked down to the Spa and had a superb facial that must have lasted a full hour even though it was advertised as 45 minutes. Totally professional and almost Asian in character with the sensitivity of music, lighting, touch and incredible ingredients that were on my face. During the treatment there were a total of 7 towels on my face – 6 hot and the final one cold. I think she cleansed my face twice, restored it a couple times, and left something literally silky on at the end. What an amazing treatment. And only $12.00. All organic and natural…incredible!
Caught a taxi downtown and tried to call the travel agency that I’m hoping can take me early next week on a Galapagos Tour. They didn’t answer and I finally learned that from 12 to 3 p.m. businesses everywhere close.
I decided to take a couple hour hike in a Nature Reserve called Rumi Wilco EcoLodge and Nature Reserve. It’s just a 10 minute walk from the bitsy town of Vilcabamba, so it was an easy adventure. As I followed the dirt road which became a dirt path down along the river, a guy with a big machete and a woman with a machete and 3 little dogs were ahead of me. The man walked slower and slower and even though I dallied and took my time, I couldn’t help catching up to him. He was eyeing me sideways a couple times and said something indiscernible in Spanish. And here I was wearing my purse slung across my chest, and camera hanging around my neck! Sheesh! I immediately imagined how I’d de-groin him with my knee, remove his machete with a sharp left arm move, and jab my right elbow into his esophagus… somehow we all ended up on the cement bridge together, with the woman with the machete in front of me, and he with the machete behind me.
Now, to explain the cement bridge. The Nature Reserve describes the bridge that crosses the river over to the Reserve as “Tilted but OK.” You will appreciate the word “tilted” by the picture to the left. At one time the river flooded and took the bridge off it’s shoreside braces and crashed it further downstream at a 45 degree tilt. The Vilcabamban’s have “fixed” it in their creative style, and now there is a new piece of arching concrete that allows you to cross to the beginning of the bridge, and on the other side it landed on the shore, so they just left it there. They have strung bamboo poles on the leading edge of the bridge across the span, so you have something to hang onto as you cross with gravity urging you into the river. Quite exciting, especially with machete bearing non-English speaking natives in front and behind you !
Now in fairness, I should let you know that I was never truly afraid. Had I been, I would have extricated myself from this scenario before it got to this point. But I sensed that it looked more dire than it was, and that proved true. I did allow the man who was behind me to go ahead, so ultimately I tailed them across the bridge, and the woman almost lost her beautiful little black dog into the drink, but rescued him by the scruff while he clung for dear life with his front paw toenails scratched into the concrete bridge. All ended up well and we parted ways on the other side of the river and I went on to hike the trails (actually much more treacherous) in the Nature Reserve.
When I got back to Vilcabamba, I met a woman named Daya who told me there are about 300 ex-pats who live here. She invited me to join a group that would be gathering for a movie at one of their houses this Friday night. So I’ve accepted. I’m looking forward to meeting these folks and learning more about why they moved here.
I had just finished my unsatisfactory phone call to the Galapagos travel agency when I bumped into Dennis again (the orchid grower I met yesterday) in town by the plaza that was so ravaged by shaving cream and screaming people and flying water and flour. It’s all cleaned up today and business is back to usual. Dennis had me come with him to a place just a quarter mile outside of town where he was meeting some friends for a sauna. While they sauna’d, I explored the area, then met back up with them. We took a taxi waaaaay out another valley, waved good-bye to the taxi-man, and walked another half mile to a little home Dennis is having re-done. It was beautiful – the greenery up there and the views – a whole different perspective on the Vilcabamba Valley. Lots of food growing up there and lots of folks giving Ecuador a try and living off the land.
We had a long walk back into town – stunningingly green valley views all the way, and I grabbed a taxi back at the Hosteria Izycayluma again. Dinner with my Oregon friends while gazing down upon the Vilcabamba valley was delicious. Afterward, I organized my Saturday massage and Sunday facial. Ahhhh, Life.