I’d been counting the minutes to have my week off in Vilcabamba. The place sounded very interesting, not only for the nature, but also for being known as the place where many people reach ages well over a hundred. Reading about this phenomenon, I found some information on how so many locals got so old: people apparently lied about their age. That’s that, mystery solved!
Still, it attracts lots of foreigners: retirees and tourists, some new-age folk and hippies. All in all, a pretty interesting mix of characters and ideas. The town itself didn’t seem too interesting and I only went for a short walk around to buy some supplies. It does reveal a beautiful sight, though: when standing in the main square, the surrounding mountains peaks can be seen all in all directions, which gives the impression of standing inside a cauldron, looking up at its jagged rim. Although this being a common sight in the Andes, it never ceases to impress and remains well worth one’s while to spend a contemplative few minutes.
My first thought had been to spend a night in Loja, then go to Vilcabamba. However, I decided against that, as what I really wanted, was to get out of the city and see some nature proper. The bus ride was an easy one, and five hours after boarding in Cuenca, I arrived at my destination. Now, I had to find my way to Rumi Wilco. This proved to be rather easy, as the town is so small one would have to put in some real effort in order to get lost.
Rumi Wilco is a Nature Reserve, just outside of Vilcabamba town, which is run by an Argentinian couple of biologists. They offer reasonably priced accommodation inside the Reserve. I’d arrived with great plans to hike around, and even go to Podocarpus National Park, but, as it turned out, I felt rather knackered. Therefore, my hiking became restricted to Rumi Wilco, which was fine. I really enjoyed the location and the weather – it was substantially warmer than Cuenca!
Every night I made sure to go out with my camera and comb through the scrub. At first, I felt somewhat disappointed, for the diversity I’d expected wasn’t quite there. For some reason, I had “Amazon Rainforest” imprinted on my mind’s eye. Wishful thinking… Once I pulled myself back into the reality of 1500m-above-sea level-in-the-Andes-biodiversity, I thoroughly enjoyed my bug-hunting, as I came across a number of interesting animals, such as, a beautiful bronze-coloured Funnel Web Tarantula (dipluridae), a huge variety of Butterflies (finally got some good open-wing shots of different heliconius species), and a Snail-eating Snake (dipsas sp). The best night was when a slight drizzle picked up and enticed different wildlife to venture out. After three days of photographs and hiking the Rumi Wilco trails, I returned to Cuenca with a very satisfying few hundred pictures to edit.