|Vilcabamba: World Center for Geriatric Research|
Unlike Cuenca, Ecuador - which is a large city and can absorb the large number of foreign retirees without altering the city's equilibrium - Vilcabamba is being completely swallowed by foreigners buying up land to build their dream homes or to start their dream businesses. The locals understandably sell their land to developers for high prices and then cannot afford to live in their own village anymore or to have lunch at a restaurant on their plaza.
I heard an unsubstantiated rumor from another traveler that many of the old people have left Vilcabamba to the outlying villages. Essentially priced out of town. True or not, I do not know. But I can tell you that during my time people watching at the plaza we see only one really old looking guy. The rest of them might just be in their homes watching game shows.
|For Sale: In a new, posh gated community|
From my people watching I notice there happens to be plenty of older gringos about, but I did not notice as many as I imagined there would be -- maybe they´re in their haciendas watching game shows? I am quite surprised, on the other hand, to see a healthy sized contingent of New Age hippies (read: white people with dreadlocks and/or colorful baggy pants and/or handmade string bracelets). Of course this type of traveler is found everywhere in South America, but there seems to be quite a lot of them here. This could be because Vilcabamba has been deemed "spiritual."
Let me give an example. Besides the ubiquitous ads for tours, hotels and restaurants our hotel message board has the following posts for fee-based spiritual activities: The Center for Meditation; Sacred Valley herbal products; Bioenergist/Massage Therapist; A Sacred Medicine Journey; Yoga with Caroline.
I am not sure if this new found spirituality at Vilcabamba is connected to the indigenous residents' longevity, but I am quite positive that a 100 year old Ecuadorian never went to a bioenergist session or a reiki class.
|Mundo Ganesha restaurant|
In conclusion, I would have to say for a true traveler in Ecuador Vilcabamba is easily miss-able and I am even leaning towards recommending a harsher do not go at all. There are some nice mountain views, but where in the Andes aren't there nice mountain views. There is some hiking, but hiking is everywhere too.
|Mountains, Clouds and Vilcabamba|
The Chinese in New York, Indians in Kuala Lumpur and the British in Malaga, Spain are just three examples out of hundreds with immigrants searching for their "promised land" while simultaneously clinging to the bosom of their motherland. However, for someone like me just rambling through Ecuador to know the country a little bit better, Vilcabamba is pretty much exactly not what I am looking for. And for that matter probably neither is a really, really old Ecuadorian.
|No beating around the bush: Typical Gringo Bakery|