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Locals and yokels, bohos and babas, hobos and bobos, there’s room for everyone in Vilcabamba

Vilcabamba, Ecuador is a small town nestled in a lush valley a crow’s fly from the Peruvian border. The Quechua word “Vilcabamba” means “sacred valley” and the area was once known as the Valley of Longevity because of the unusually high number of people living beyond their nineties.

The fountain of youth never materialized but this little Shangri-La does have something magical about it. Over the years Vilcabamba has become a popular landing pad for various tribes of international ex-pats ranging from new age seekers to true believers come to wait out the end of days. In between are the  colorful hippies who seem to photosynthesize and the conspicuously rich who build villas worthy of  Inca royalty.

Birds of all sizes and colors grace the ever-changing sky (though as the fancier birds arrive, the local species are forced to nest elsewhere).

Nearly self-sufficient in coffee, citrus, corn, cattle and cheese, the only essentials lacking are chocolate and yoga mats.

There’s room to spread out in the “Sacred Valley.”

We spent a few pleasant days at a German run eco-resort. Over breakfast on the patio we enjoyed chatting with intrepid backpackers, a pair of French wanderers who didn’t know Nôtre Dame had burned, a young Argentine family on an extended walkabout exploring the incredible heritage that Latin America offers.

When we escaped the gravitational pull of the hammocks, we hiked around in the hills above town and people watched while sipping local coffee in the delightful central plaza.

The weather was as warm and mellow as the people. Light refreshing rains were followed by warm spells that sun-drenched a gaggle of children kicking a soccer ball around the plaza. One of their parents, a dread-locked healer, practiced goal tending, juggling and detachment.

Vilcabamba seems too idyllic to be true but for the moment it’s far enough removed from the pages of “International Living” magazine and ravages of retiring gringos to survive.

No pink hotels or big yellow taxis here. Horses share the roads with SUVs in this mountain paradise. If you need a ride, a small fleet of for-hire 4-by-4’s is ready to roll. I suspect every other resident has a knobby-tired dirt bike.

Locals and yokels, bohos and babas, hobos and bobos—it seems there’s room for every flavor of humanity in this unpaved corner of heaven on earth. Let’s hope it doesn’t turn into paradise lost.
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R.S. Gompertz is a native of Southern California who currently lives and writes in Seattle. He recently completed a tour of Mexico and South America during which he spent several weeks in Cuenca. His most recent book, “Life’s Big Zoo,” is available on Amazon. For more information about his life, work and travels, click here.

11 thoughts on “Locals and yokels, bohos and babas, hobos and bobos, there’s room for everyone in Vilcabamba

  1. Does it have a gym for those who believe that the best prescription for longevity is barbell medicine?

  2. Ah, Vilca. I lived there for six months many years ago but I just couldn’t make it. I had a small tin-foil hat concession but the locals and visitors seemed to want to be exposed to the inanity thereabouts and they shunned my shop. I tried selling fruit, but that went awry when someone started a rumour saying that my produce had been sprayed by the chemtrails. What’s a guy to do? I left.

  3. yes, the famed valley of longevity has lost its luster….now simply the worst place in Ecuador, ruined by the ugliest of Americans

    1. The Americans did not ruin it; the Germans built up Vilcabamba way before the Americans arrived.

      1. Broad generalizations are a scourge to a meaningful discussion. Anyone who has had the good fortune to travel internationally has undoubtedly come across fellow travellers who do not understand or respect a different culture. In the past, owing to their relative affluence vis a vis the rest of the world, one undoubtedly encountered more Americans in foreign lands. That some of these travellers did not present themselves well is unfortunate. However, many of us do travel, respect our fellow global citizens and enjoy their culture without being brash or obnoxious.

  4. it´s a nice life here…THE best weather anywhere in the world. We have a very wide range of restaurants(one of which I run-Charlito´s) and a wide range of expats from everywhere. We integrate with locals, and live pleasantly. Sure, there are bound to be those who can be said to be “way out there”…but really, they can´t spoil what nature has given. Come visit us. We may not be where you want to live, but, we certainly could be where you want to come to “get away from it all”.

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