Vilcabamba and the trek to Peru

The nights following my departure to Cuenca, I was filled with anxiety as to the best way to get from Cuenca to Vilcabamba or Loja.  I read some things indicating that bus rides could take up to 7 or 8 hours because the buses stop frequently to pick up other passengers.  I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to stay in Loja for a night as well.  Interestingly enough, the night before leaving Cuenca, I spotted a sign that stated that there now exists shuttle service between Cuenca and Vilcabamba leaving from my hostel, La Cigale.  Perfect.  Vilcabamba it is.

The driver was a bit crazy, only apologizing once for making the back of the vehicle slide while slamming on the brakes in the rain.  But, I put my faith in his abilities and tried to get some sleep.  The ride was mostly comfortable and only took 4 1/2 hours to reach my Hostel in Vilcabamba.  Izhcayluma is more of a resort than a hostel.  Dorm rooms go for $12 a night.  You can put everything on your tab including meals, drinks, and massages.  Bring money though, as I’ve heard the ATM’s in Vilcabamba are not always in working order.  Note that while there are plenty of backpackers here, there are also a good amount of American retirees and baby-boomers.  I enjoyed staying here, but I couldn’t completely get into the vibe of this place.

The next day, I booked a horseback ride.  My guide and his son, led me and 4 other individuals up into the mountains surrounding the city for a 5 hour ride.  It was a ride intended for more advanced riders, I feel.  There were times I was quite fearful, being on a horse with a thousand food drop and no railing right beside me.  If you can get past the fear, which I was able to from time to time, you’ll find the views to be spectacular.  The payoff came when we eventually ended up at an amazing waterfall tucked away in the forest.  Upon arriving back in town, I was thoroughly sore.  I had planned to stay in Vilcabamba only 2 nights, but decided on one more day before leaving.

The next day, I walked into town and had some lunch and purchased supplies before leaving.  I needed to plot my entrance into Peru and decided on taking the overnight bus from Loja to Piura where I will then take a bus to Mancora.  I’m ready for some beach time again.  I spent the next day mostly laying in a hammock and reading.  I have to remind myself that I can’t be running all the time, and that it’s perfectly acceptable to enjoy some days doing mostly nothing.    By 7:30pm it was time to leave.

I arrived in Loja at 9:00pm and purchased my ticket to Piura, Peru.  My bus leaves at 11:00pm.  I try to sleep, but the constant shift in gravity back and forth, due to the andean region the bus was traveling through, makes it difficult to sleep.  At 3am, we arrive at the border.  We first spend about 20 minutes signing an exit card and getting our passports stamped exiting from Ecuador.  After crossing the border, we are then required to fill out a card and have our passports stamped for our entrance into Peru.  All in all, the process went smoothly, except for the fact that it was the middle of the night and very little light.  I felt like a spy being exchanged at the border of Peru under very shady circumstances.  Luckily, the country accepted me and I was on my way.

After arriving in Piura at 6:30am, some other travelers and I get a taxi to take us to a bank and ATM where we exchanged our money for Peruvian Sole’s.  I am then dropped off at the bus station.  After a 3 hour bus ride, I finally reach my first destination in Mancora, Peru.