Vilcabamba, the Valley of Retired North American Hippies


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I spent a few days in Vilcabamba to get some fresh air and go hiking. It’s a very weird little town – absolutely beautiful y muy muy tranquilo, but it is full of this strange breed of American. Poser hippies? The town is full of gringo-owned restaurants, shops, horse stables… hardly any Ecuadorian-run places, which means the food is a lot of sandwiches and pizzas and burgers and pasta. Quite disappointing to discover, actually, though the hiking trails are beautiful (and more or less unkempt and empty). There are a lot of old American retirees in Vilcabamba, similar to Cuenca but they seem even more clique-ish in Vilca. I met some wonderful interesting people who seemed equally put-off by the atmosphere, and having long talks with them was certainly a highlight of my time there.

When I was in Cuenca, I met a man one night who told me he was a shaman from Peru. I thought maybe I didn’t understand his Spanish, but he was also a bit drunk at the time, I imagine. We randomly ran into each other again in Vilcabamba while I was walking around for pictures around sunset, and he joined me briefly for a walk while he talked about the universe and tried to explain his philosophy of life to me. You can see him in the pictures above.

The hiking was fantastic and the weather was great, although a lot of the paths seemed more or less unchecked and had become very overgrown. I had approximately eight heart attacks along one particular trail because I almost walked (and once did walk) face-first into the webs of some pretty gigantic spiders. I just kept imagining Shelob or Aragog creeping along behind me, getting ready to feed/kill me as revenge for ruining the one spider’s web. You can see them and their webs across the path in the pictures.

It was a great few days: a lot of hiking, reading, and getting some much needed sleep.


3 thoughts on “Vilcabamba, the Valley of Retired North American Hippies

  1. I feel your pain. But poser hippies show up everywhere, and they’re not so bad, and retirees are not the idyllic foreign experience one goes looking for, but they hopefully at least have an interest in preserving the natural heritage of the place they’ve moved to. Better them than the oil or mining companies… I’m glad you made it down to Vilca, despite the burgers, I reckon it’s a special place.

    1. I do see your point. I liked Azogues for the lack of gringos. Unfortunately it did seem that the retirees in Vilca were remodeling the whole area… well… the buildings near the plaza, which is all “vilca proper” really is, as I suppose you know. The old buildings were being taken down to build new apartments. The whole place remains lovely… Safe travels to Myanmar! I loved your last post by the way; I was working in the Marolles with North African immigrants/Roma families this past summer.

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