I spent the first half of the day in Loja on Monday. I wasn’t as charmed by the city as I thought I would be, but I did make my way to the botanical gardens, which were lovely and a great excuse to take lots of flower pictures with my DSLR. (Don’t worry, I’ll spare you.) After lunch and checking out of my hostel at 2 PM, I made my way to Vilcabamba, a quiet town an hour and a half south of Loja on the edge of the Podocarpus National Park.
Despite some on and off again rain, yesterday was a great day — I went on a two hour horseback ride into the hills with a beautiful view of the national park and the surrounding mountains. Pinto, my red- and camel-colored horse, and I had a lovel time, but we did lots of trotting and galloping, which has resulted in an inordinate amount of back pain. (Yes, I realize I sound like an old lady). After my ride, I had a quick lunch and then went on a walk through a nearby nature reserve. Regardless of the fact that I got horribly lost and walked for way longer than I should have in a gigantic loop (this time I couldn’t even blame South American maps, it was just my own, stupid fault), the nature reserve was beautiful, with well marked paths (who knew that was even possible in Ecuador?!) and beautiful flowers, trees, and plenty of butterflies to see. Afterwards, I lay in the hammock, finished The Lost Girls, read the copy of Vogue I’ve been hanging onto from cover to cover, and went to bed at 9 PM. It was a perfect vacation day.
Vilcabamba has lots of gringas and gringos who now call the town — which is approximately 5 blocks long and another 4 blocks wide — home. This morning after I checked out, I grabbed a smoothie and made/studied spanish vocab cards at a juice place on the main square, which apparently is the place to be if you’re white and speak English. There were at least a dozen older, clearly retired, couples with American accents talking about neighbor drama or their newest born goat (I kid you not… pun intended). Another four or five younger couples with kids under the age of 5 also joined the pack, letting their kids run around with each other as they chatted about what they were going to be for the big town Halloween party tonight.
Personally, I’m not sure I get the appeal of Vilcabamba, but I have admitted and confirmed my city girl nature, and this is yet another reminder of why I belong in a bustling city. That being said, I definitely liked Mindo more than I like Vilcabamba. And though my hostel is breathtakingly beautiful, you can only stay at a hotel for so many days. I guess if you’re looking for a tranquil – and cheap – place to retire, this is your pueblo, but I’m happy to be moving on.
Unfortunately, moving on means approximately 14 hours on 3 busses across the border into Peru and down to Chiclayo. Stay tuned for that blog post, and cross your fingers that I have uneventful ride(s)!