After a very uncomfortable sleep (although any bed would seem fit for a king after the seat on a bus), we woke up, refreshed and ready for a day which would be spent relaxing. Needing bags of energy for this, we tucked into the included breakfast of beautiful home-made bread, delicious strawberry juice, exquisite coffee and some questionable scrambled eggs, and then set off to explore which was cut short upon the sight of a local market. Fruits and Vegetables twice the size of what you would expect them to be, or half the size judging by the papaya and watermelon, we found a definite treasure-trove. Local coffee and chocolate, which we bought without a moment’s hesitation, followed by herbs for a local infusion which Ecuadorians call Horchata (not to be confused with the Spanish drink made from tiger nuts) and for Silvia (Ada’s and my travelling companion, Katia’s mum) a flour made from toasted maize, something which would delight her, ever interested in different flavours for the kitchen!
One hotel stop for depositing our purchases and a trio to the Tourist Information Centre later, Katia decided to explore, and, ever the social butterfly, I offered to join her on what turned out to be a very beautiful walk through the surroundings of Vilcabamba. Crossing a bridge over the Vilcabamba river (which is said to bring life – someone should have let Nicholas Flammel know) we noticed people washing their clothes in the river, and the women obviously doing the cooking (we’re still in South America, remember). Stopping to take a photo, we spotted something that might not be one of the reasons for the river’s mystic status, and the reason we decided not to drink some of the water, a used nappy. Whilst we didn’t stop to check if it was used, I can’t help but question the judgement of someone throwing a clean nappy into a river. So obviously, coconut man came to mind, but I assume he’s still at the border, hunting for someone to open his coconut. Harrowed from that experience, but still eager, we came across what appeared to be a research centre, with people seemingly waiting outside. Asking them the purpose of the centre seemed to be a mistake, as we were subjected to five minutes of shouts and deliberating when one of them said confidently that is was a school, and another undermined the first, explaining that they were anything but local. More lovely surroundings, and extremely and unsurprisingly cheap hotel passed, we came across a man selling deck chairs and hammocks at $25 a pop. Declining his offer and walking away seemed to spur him on. No hard sell here, he lowered his price, and after more declining, we got as far as $15. Still uninterested, we kept walking, smiling to each other. Coming back into the village, passing more smiling faces (a testament to “smile and the whole world smiles with you”, something that seems to be forgotten in Peru) we arrived, refreshed and ready for the rest of the day, relaxing by the pool.
1. Don’t assume that people “waiting” outside an institution will know what it is for, or when you ask them will give you a straight answer
2. Instead of bargaining, a much easier way is simply to walk away and sincerely say you are not interested in the slightest. Note: this may only work on hammock salesmen in mountainous regions of Ecuador.