A former high school classmate and cherished old friend when reconnecting with Roger through Facebook quoted the old saying: "When God closes a door, he opens a window." The years have seen a number of life changes for us that make that adage ring true. After being blessed with good fortune, a wonderful son and great experiences, we decided to look out that window and prepare for more of what this wonderful life has to offer. We hope through our blog to share our journey from this point forward with family, with friends and with many others. Hopefully we'll make some new friends along the way. We hope you find our tales of some interest, even amusement and perhaps an inspiration for you to treat each and every day as an opportunity and an adventure to share with those who are an important part of your life.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Great Little Getaway...just what we needed!

 "It's pretty, but there's not a lot to do in Vilcabamaba", one of our Xpadorian friends told us.  "But you will see a lot of interesting people."  Actually, the prospect of hanging out in a quiet rural area with drop dead gorgeous scenery, eating good food, sipping a little wine, plus meeting interesting people from all over the world sounded like just the therapy we've been needing.  The past six months has been filled with returning to Ecuador, getting our temporary visa, getting our residency visa, getting our cedula, opening a bank account, buying a house, doing some remodeling, getting our container here, unpacking said container,  buying a security system for the house, etc. etc. etc. and so forth!   Whew!  who knew retiring could be such hard work!!!!!

The gate to the Loja centro, built mostly as a tourist attraction.
 Our van from Cuenca had its depot near here.
 So the day before Suzanne's birthday, we boarded the Elite Tours transport van to Loja,  capital of the province of the same name that lies just south of Azuay.  Three and a half hours later we were there and commandeered a driver for the one hour drive south to beautiful, gorgeous Vilcabamba, known as "the valley of longevity".  On the outskirts, nestled on a high ridge sat the resort of Izychaluma ( Izychaluma in the local indigenous dialect means "two hills").  The scenery was gorgeous, our nice private cabin was nestled along a rock walkway with a back deck complete with comfortable hammock and a view!  It had all the makings of a great 4-day retreat! It didn't disappoint us as the following photos will show:

It takes about an hour to get from Loja to Vilcabamba.  There were some washouts on
this mountainous trek during the rainy season so there is a lot of roadwork.  There is
 also a road being rebuilt south to Peru.  We were glad we hired a driver who knew the way.

Descending into the valley where we retreated for 4 days
from the cold and the "hectic" pace of life we had been leading in Cuenca.

Our cabin at Izychaluma Resort

Suzanne at the cabin
View from the cabin's back deck.

It didn't take long to make good use of the hammock! With Suzanne is
"Shotzie", one of our many stuffed bears.  One always travels with us on trips!

Looking downhill into Vilcabamaba centro from the resort.
Hosteria Izychaluma is owned and operated by two German brothers and offers a variety of different accommodations including dormitory rooms that are popular with backpackers.  We met guests from seven different countries during our stay.  One staff member spoke at least four different languages (we overheard her speaking to guests in Spanish, English, French, and German).  The town of Vilcabamba itself is very clean despite some major road renovation going on. It is quiet, laid back and filled with gracious people all seemingly bent on having a wonderful day.  We certainly did!

A town square park is the focal point of Vilcabamba

Downtown is neat, clean, with some nice sidewalk cafes ideal for sitting,
seeing the world go by and being seen.

A stylish church on the square.

It only took about 20-25 minutes to walk to the centro from the resort. It was roughly about 2 kilometers (a downhill mile and a quarter for you Arizona folks).  We treated ourselves to cab ride back (living in the Andes, you learn to do your walking downhill and save your riding for uphill portions of your day!)
Interestingly, all the local taxis in Vilcabamba were 4-wheel drive vehicles!

There are also accommodations in town. Just a block off the square is
Jardins Escondido (Hidden Gardens), a hosteria and also a pretty decent
spot to have a Mexican luncheon.
Leave it to the Ecuadorian Wine Guy to discover a wine emporium just
after arriving in the centro.  Some mixed reviews on our discoveries there.
Roger will be posting those reviews this coming weekend on "Roger's Grapevine"
The resort had nice affordable wines and a nice menu selection so we ate all but one meal on site (breakfast was included in the price of our accommodation).  We hiked, played cards and dominos.  Suzanne got acquainted with several of the resident pets (one new kitten in particular!) and we polished off our last afternoon with relaxing massages.  Our getaway was just what the doctor ordered!

Suzanne and one of her new friends!

Roger enjoyed the grounds as well as the wine!

View from the dining room on our last morning!

We saw this mural during a few hours spent in Loja before our return to Cuenca.

We took time for a stint of sightseeing, a little pottery shopping and an"almuerzo" in Loja before climbing into the van for our return trek to Cuenca.  We arrived back in town, glad to be back at "Casa Yazell" but filled with warm (both literally and figuratively) memories of our Vilcabama getaway.   

It was good, as always, to be "juntos en el camino de la vida".

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