This post is basically a placeholder. Myung and I are living in Cuenca but I’m not ready to post on that yet. Besides, that wasn’t a sure thing till last week. In fact, it still isn’t a sure thing for the long term. Besides my needing one foot out the door to be comfortable about anything, Myung still has her throat thing and who knows how that’s going to work out.
As we suspected, the chronic frog in her throat didn’t get better in Vilcabamba, which is lower and warmer than Cuenca, Quito or even Cotacachi. She was also having headaches. Those went away in Vilcabamba and, thankfully, haven’t returned since she returned to Cuenca.
So, we’re in Cuenca. For two weeks or so, she was in Vilcabamba and I visited her there for a few days. It’s a nice enough town of about 5000 people, an hour southeast of Loja which is 4 hours south of Cuenca, not far from the Peruvian border. Pretty, like almost everywhere in Ecuador. Here’s where we stayed and the view of Vilcabamba from the dining area. This Izhcayluma Hostel/Resort is one of the nicest paces we’ve stayed.
It looks like a long way down there, but it’s only a pleasant 2 km walk. A taxi back up the hill is $1.25. During the time I was there and the subsequent days Myung was there, we looked around for potential places to rent long-term. The problem with that idea turned out to be the places were either high-end and expensive, or too rural to have internet. This is a developing country, so unless you are in a town, sometimes it has to be a city, the only way to get internet is with Direct TV, which is costly. Myung rented a place in town where supposedly she could get internet. Turns out, even in town, that part of town couldn’t be connected to the net. That, among other things, drove her back into my arms here. She got a refund on her rent and here she is.
Vilcabamba is famous for being one of those places in the world where people supposedly live to extreme old age. That myth has been debunked, though in the old days the perfect climate, air, water and growing conditions did apparently lead to somewhat longer life spans. The Quechua locals attributed it to the huilco trees common to the area. They consider them sacred. Huilco pamba in Quechua language would be Huilco plain or place, hence the town’s name Vilcabamba.
Vilcabamba would be a better place for us gringos than most pueblos because, though it’s basically just small town Ecuador, i.e. very pokey, there are many new age and hippie gringos there. This means there is at least one very nice bakery, a few restaurants with gringo food, and the shops (Forget about a supermarket) have a few items we miss when we’re in other podunks. The idyllic weather and beauty can’t be denied. I would be bored out of my gourd quickly, though. I think Myung would be, too, but she disputes that. If there was internet, she might be okay. The capital of Loja Province, Loja, is only about an hour and a quarter away. Loja is no Cuenca, but it’s enough for a big city fix and you can buy most of what you can buy in Cuenca.
Myung’s place was okay except for no internet, she says. It was noisy on weekends and there was a bothersome light outside her window. I never saw it myself, but here was the inside.
The place would have been good enough for us, and certainly cheap. Outside was nice.
Out of town is nice, as you would expect. She didn’t take many pictures while she was there, so you’ll have to take our word for it.
Anyway, for me there isn’t enough to do around there, especially compared to Cuenca. I came back to where we were staying and rented it for a month. Myung joined me and we’re going to make ago of it here. So far, no headaches. Her throat problem (diagnosed as meheke by a Korean doc she saw in Guatemala City) is still there. We’re going to deal with that using western medicine again when our government health insurance kicks in. Our three month waiting period, except for emergencies, is over in early April. If that doesn’t work, we can try again with private docs and pay for it off the shelf.
Cuenca is the San Francisco of Ecuador. Quito and Guayaquil may be Los Angeles and New York, but Cuenca is a jewel of manageable size, about 400,000. Ecuadorians and gringos love being here because of the eternal spring weather, sophisticated culture, hassle-free fun and low crime rate. Almost everything you could want from one of the bigger cities is here, too. Some say the gringos have driven up the price of real estate, but that’s not entirely true. Though there are about 5000 foreigners here, but most of the money is Ecuadorian. Many Ecuadorian expats return after succeeding abroad, and there must be more doctors per square meter in Cuenca than anywhere in the world. They want to be here, too, if they can.
I point this out because finding a nice, affordable furnished apartment took about three weeks of searching. Finally, I found a place we are both happy with. It’s $360/mo, big enough, in an excellent location, and the landlady is very nice. I think it will be fine. We move in on Sunday. My next post will be about Cuenca. I’ll put a couple of pictures of our apartment in there. I need to take some more pictures around town, too. Carnival is coming up next week. If I can keep the camera dry during that, there should be some good pictures besides the usual monumental architecture and parks.
So, that’s it for now. Be well, all of you.