|Vilcabamba was our first taste of Ecuador and as we drove up the mountains from the north of Peru, we immediately noticed how lush and green the tropics were compared to the dusty coastline of north Peru. We arrived in Vilcabamba late at night after about 14 hours on the road. We were delighted in the morning when we woke up to explore a beautiful jade green valley high in the Andes.
It is known as the 'valley of longevity' because it has a high proportion of residents that live a higher than average lifespan. No one is certain of the reason why but the fresh mountain air, clean nutrient rich water and relaxed lifestyle are thought to be main factors in this phenomenom. While we were there we met a group of American scientists studying the water and filming a documentary on the area. We spoke to one of them about the water quality and he was amazed at how good the natural water source flowing out of the nearby national park was. He said there was only one other place in the world with water anything like it somewhere in the mountains of Japan. It is alkaline and super oxygenated and has a rich mineral content so we drank litres and litres of this water while we were there.
We had planned to be in this valley to celebrate Alisons 30th birthday and we splurged a little on a few nights in a private bungalow nestled on the side of a mountain overlooking the valley. The resort included free use of a jacuzzi and had amazing organic breakfasts and dinners so we were in heaven! Ryan spoke to the manager of the resort and told him why we were there and he organised a birthday cake which was delicious. It was a great way to celebrate this special occasion in the valley of longevity just hoping that some of it rubbed off on us.
One afternoon we went on a four hour horseride into the national park. It was a gorgeous day and our destination was a beautiful waterfall. Ryan had a really good horse and cantered for the first time ever and it helped to overcome his fear of horses. Near the end of the ride we crossed a bridge and Alison went to take a photo of Ryan and just as she went to take it the horses started moving again and the camera fell, 3 metres onto a bridge then bounced off the edge and fell another 5 metres into a raging river. The guide raced down to retrieve the camera but we knew there was no hope. There was water gushing out of it and it was definitely not a waterproof camera. The memory card contained all the photos we had taken since Macchu Pichu and we really hoped they had survived even though we knew the camera hadn't.
On our last day in Vilcabamba after packing the backpacks and getting ready to leave, Ryan put his shoes on and whilst brushing his teeth he felt what seemed to be a leaf in his shoe and didn't think anything of it. 5 minutes later it was starting to get annoying and he took his shoe off to investigate but there was nothing there. Taking off his socks he was shocked to find that a 10cm scorpion had crawled into his sock during the night. He was so lucky that it didn't bite him and it was a big reminder for us that we were now in the tropics and how important it is to shake out your boots!