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Vilcabamba, the fountain of youth

Paul 2007-02-04

Having traveled most of the length of Ecuador, we're now resting near the southern border in a small town named Vilcabamba, meaning "Sacred Valley" in the ancient Quichua language. For ten thousand years before Europeans came, the shamans of ancient cultures have congregated in this place of bounty and natural energy. Here, surrounded by lush green Andean mountains, I sit by a waterfall thinking, writing and feeling the lasting spirit of men who have long passed, yet are ever-present.

Photo: IMAGE 037

We've just woken from our afternoon siesta sharing a hammock, resting after we summited Mandango, "Sleeping Woman", a peak of 2000 meters above the town's 1500 meter base.

Our "hostal", Madre Tierra, "Mother Earth", is outstanding: Lush terraced gardens of tropical and semi-tropical plants, waterfall, rocks built up seemingly organically into the mountainside, overlooking the sparsely populated green valley, where sugar cane grows. A soothing mix of soft music, birdsongs and the waterfall proliferates, oddly punctuated by the occasional donkey call.

The days start with pure, fresh mountain air and the aromas of tea and coffee, both grown here, mixing with the scent of Suzanne's oven, reeking of freshly baked goodness, including their famous cinnamon rolls and luscious breads. Ooof!

All the food served here is grown on their land organically and prepared from scratch for each scrumptious meal. We've never tasted lettuce, tomatoes, bread, granola, popcorn, fruits, pasta (home made too!) like this. Oh, and the horchata! A mix of 15-25 local medicinal herbs sweetened by freshly pressed sugar cane juice and topped with a garden lemon... Just perfect to quench the thirst of balmy summer weather.

The owners, Carol Rosin (a leader in the fight against space weapons) and her husband Jon Cipher (Chief Fletcher Daniels on Hill Street Blues, among many other roles) are such vibrantly interesting folks. Their stories and conversations varied and stimulate for hours at a time, whether about acting in Broadway plays, UFO spotting, protecting the land from overdevelopment or how they suddenly found themselves owning a hotel after passing through on a two day trip. Never a dull moment!

Other than the food and rich conversations, what has drawn us out of the dozens of hammocks littering the grounds is the daily yoga practice at sunset overlooking the pristine scenery that only a mountainside spot can offer, and the massages by Blanca, the valley's foremost healer.

Everyone here calls it paradise, we would have to agree. It's no wonder there's a freakishly large percentage of the local population living vibrantly well after they've crossed over 100 years old.

Maybe the name should be changed from Sacred Valley to Fountain of Youth...


Permalink by Gug   |  February 7, 2007 01:04 PM

Isn't it understandable that the American owners of this Madre Tierra Spa settled in the valley! Just in case you'd have "samers" idea, we would visit :)

Permalink by Sange   |  February 7, 2007 01:22 PM

You make it sound so wonderful, glad you discovered it and are living "large" in the spirits of this place.

Permalink by Ruth Bernhaut   |  February 7, 2007 02:02 PM

How absolutely mesmerizing! I need to be there, but thank you for getting me there at least in mind. Going through and yet another nasty sinus problem,I am trying to take refuge in your very soothing vistas. Maybe it will help if I keep reading your words over and over again? Yup..! I think I do feel better..

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