Now that I’ve finished Peru, let’s go to Ecuador, and more precisely Vilcabamba! A small town nested in the mountains in South-eastern Ecuador, populated by many retired Americans (rather the hippy-boho type) for its strong energy and enjoyable climate. Let’s explore Vilcabamba for a weekend before heading to a new volunteering experience…
From Peru to Ecuador
Friday 21st December 2018
After a long journey on the day before (Chachapoyas => Bagua Grande => Jaén => San Ignacio), I woke up early in the morning to cross the border. 2h later I found myself in La Balsa, Peru.
I crossed the border without any trouble and then took a direct bus to Vilcabamba, where I would start volunteering two days later. It was pure mountain road from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m…. once again I was happy not to be sick in the bus!
Most of the trip was among landscapes of tropical forest, endless banana trees, and cloudy mountains. After an epic moment passing a truck that had flipped in the middle of the road, we ascended into the mountains. For the last hour of the trip, we drove through high green summits, which made me feel at home. I could already feel that I would fit right in!
I finally arrived in Vilcabamba, and as soon as I found a hostel, I met Alejandro, an Argentino-American that had been volunteering at the farm where I was about to go. Such a small world!
Vilcabamba is a tight knit town, rather “boho-gringo”. Many Americans, mostly retired, have settled there over the last years. They are attracted by the place’s special energy and its ideal climate. It is said that the inhabitants’ longevity is higher than anywhere else in the world.
Of course this goes in hand with coffee shops and organic, healthy, vegetarian restaurants, a French bakery, organic markets and shops, yoga centres, shamanic ceremonies and other experiences of that sort. For this reason, the atmosphere is pleasant but is pretty removed from Ecuadorian culture.
The Cerro Mandango
Saturday 22nd December 2018
After a quiet morning and a stroll at the organic market (so glad to find some sourdough bread after such a long time only finding “fake” tasteless white bread!), I left in the afternoon with Alejandro to the mountain of Mandango, which overlooks the city.
The climb was pretty quick and offered a beautiful view over all the mountains around. We went on to reach the highest point of the mountain and then continued on the path along the crest. I wanted to come back via another trail in order to make a loop, but after several failed attempts (the path was overgrown and impossible to find), it was evident that we had to give up and go back the same way we came, so as to finish before it got dark.
We saw a magnificent sunset on our way back to Vilcabamba. The whole sky turned pink behind the silhouette of the mountains. The region had won my heart and I was already sure I would feel good there!
Cascada El Palto
Sunday 23rd December 2018
I woke up early in the morning and this time left for a longer hike, heading to the Waterfall El Palto.
After about 3 km on a nice road along beautiful properties and villas, I reached a path that climbed through an amazing landscape. Flowers everywhere, birds singing, mountains all around, a radiant sun… how could I not feel good!
I enjoyed every single moment of this hike all the way to the refreshing waterfall where I stopped for lunch. I wanted to return on another trail, but I would have had to cross a strong river and there was no bridge around. It looked a bit complicated! I ended up going back the same way, but I didn’t mind it, given the beautiful scenery.
I came back to the hostel feeling tired but happy after those 16 wonderful kilometres. One last evening practicing yoga and working on the blog and before beginning my new adventure!
To be continued…
Bus San Ignacio – La Balsa: 15 soles, about 1h30 bus-trip
Bus La Balsa – Vilcabamba: 11$, 7h-bus trip on pure mountain road. Not for sensible people!
Hospedaje Santa Rosa in San Ignacio: 20 soles for a very small room. Very basic and unpleasant hostel, with no kitchen available but the choice is limited in San Ignacio.
Hostal Pension Crucita in Vilcabamba: 6$ per night in a 5-bed dorm. Kitchen and bathroom (cold water) available. Very powerful wifi and comfortable beds; very close to the main square. Best quality-price ratio in Vilcabamba.
Cerro Mandango: free entrance, the trail leaves very close from the city center.
Cascada El Palto: 1$ to access the waterfall, the rest of the hike is free