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Quirky restaurant in Vilcabamba yesterday

Vilcabamba and Loja


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Edit from January 2019: Shanta's Bar still seems to be going strong!

I left Vilcabamba this morning and am now killing time at Loja bus terminal before I go on to the airport at Catamayo for my flight to Quito.

For dinner last night in Vilcabamba I had some pizza at the quirky Shanta's Bar. The place was filled with decorations and souvenirs; some hung from the ceiling, others were nailed to pillars and the side of the bar top, others stood on the bar or were stuck to the walls. These decorations and souvenirs included; starfish, small animal skulls, coins, banknotes (mainly US dollars, but there was a 10 Real note from Brazil and a 1 Lempira note from Honduras), handwritten notes from customers from around the world (Dutch, English, Thai, Russian, Arabic), old black and white photos, a giant dreamcatcher, a gigantic white candle that had clearly been burning for months if not years, a bowl of cacao pods, cacti in pots, a colourful wooden bird mask, lots of cowboy hats woven from straw or reeds, a big tarnished metal bell, sets of panpipes, very wide dried leaves, curled-up whips, a guitar, curved colourful wooden medallions hung on strings from a piece of wood, machetes, a two-man log saw, a poster showing a set of nine men with extremely elaborate curly moustaches, a thermometer and a wooden engraving of a rodeo rider on his horse.

On the kitchen door, which was behind the bar, there was a silver cross; next to the bar there were bar stools made of wooden posts, each with an old-fashioned saddle on top. Moths fluttered around the lights and the barman/waiter had a cowboy hat and a large curly moustache.

Unfortunately none of my photos of the place turned out very well:

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Posted by 3Traveller 12:58 Archived in Ecuador Tagged ecuador vilcabamba loja Comments (0)

Vilcabamba

Loja and Vilcabamba


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On Tuesday morning, a walk to the bronze statue of La Virgen at the top of a little hill in Loja and a look inside the cathedral was followed by a bus journey to a village called Vilcabamba.

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Vilcabamba is quite touristy, a contrast to Loja which is not particularly touristy for such a cultured and (in places) historic city. A few decades ago Vilcabamba became known for its unusually large amount of centenarians; due to this, plus the extremely pleasant climate and beautiful scenery, lots of hippies then moved in. Although nowadays the number of centenarians is no higher there than anywhere else, Vilcabamba still remains known throughout the country for the longevity of its people. Several students have mentioned this to me, totally unprompted. There also remains a distinct New Age vibe.

I fly to Quito tomorrow. Over the last couple of days in Vilcabamba, I have;

- been on some lovely walks in the local countryside. The setting of Vilcabamba really is stunning.

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- relaxed and not done very much. The hostel I'm staying in (Le Rendez-Vous Hostal Guesthouse) has a lovely courtyard filled with greenery and colourful flowers. It also offers great homemade bread at breakfast.

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- looked inside the modern but still beautiful church in the main square

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- applied for two teaching jobs starting in September; one in Krakow, Poland, and one in Tenerife
- had quinoa soup for the first time in Ecuador
- been told by the American owner of the café where I had the quinoa soup that the idea that unpasteurised milk is dangerous is not in fact true and is something that 'the mainstream' would have me believe...

Posted by 3Traveller 12:09 Archived in Ecuador Tagged hostel butterflies andes ecuador vilcabamba explorations ecuadorian_cuisine loja Comments (0)

Loja: cultural capital of southern Ecuador

Catamayo and Loja


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First stop on my final tour round Ecuador before I leave the country at the end of the month.

I touched down at 6.50 am after an uneventful TAME flight from Guayaquil. The airport that serves Loja is actually in the village/town of Catamayo, some 30km away; there were no buses running from there into the city so I had to share a taxi instead. Four of us paid $5 each.

There was a very fine drizzle falling when I arrived at Plaza de la Independencia in the city centre. Occasionally the sun came out briefly, causing a rainbow to appear. Plaza de la Independencia is surrounded by historic painted colonial buildings hanging over the pavements.

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After a look-around there I wandered down the road to Plaza Central, popping into the Church of Santo Domingo on the way. An early morning service was going on though so I didn't stop to take any photos. Once I got to Plaza Central I went into the Cathedral briefly, but again I didn't take any pictures. There was a service going on there as well. I made a mental note to come back to both churches again later, once I had found a hotel and dumped my rucksack.

Next stop was a sorely-needed breakfast at a café. I tried a tamale Lojana, made of steamed corn like a humita but with shredded chicken, onion and a special reddish sauce in the middle. I think I will come back and have the same again tomorrow morning, because it was delicious. I had a humita and a cup of coffee as well.

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After that I decided to try my luck with a budget hotel recommended by my guidebook - Hotel Metropolitano. I had no problems getting a single room; the hotel seemed almost empty in fact - I seem to have it almost to myself. The first thing I did was have an hour-long doze; I really needed this as I'd had hardly any sleep the night before.

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The first place I went after that was the Museo de la Música, which I found on my second attempt. The first place I tried had the words Museo and Música in the title but turned out to be part of the University of Loja and did not seem to have any public musical exhibits... I wandered up some stairs which overlooked a courtyard, and looked at a selection of paintings. I looked into a room that looked open but there was a dance class going on inside it. I think it was the Arts department. Although I wasn't stopped from walking around, I got the unmistakeable feeling that I shouldn't be there, so I left and went two doors down to where the actual museum turned out to be.

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It was very small and was about famous Ecuadorian musicians from the 19th century to the 1960s. Within the courtyard one of the rooms had a lot of strings players inside practising a piece, so maybe that museum was connected to the University as well.

The next stop was the wonderful Museo de Historia y Culturas Lojanas, which contained a selection of fascinating black and white photos of the pilgrimage of La Virgen del Cisne (the Virgin of the Swan) which has taken place every year for over four centuries, the figure of the Virgin being carried from the village of El Cisne to Loja on foot. It happens in August so I will miss the boat on that one. I took a photo of two of the pictures and then paid the price for it when a security guard came over, told me I coudn't take photos and then followed me around the rest of the museum to make sure I didn't take any more. Oh well.

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I came across an empty but open auditorium with a woman having a piano lesson on a grand piano, and then a room full of information about and work of Lojana literary and musical figures. There were also two rooms showing off the traditional dress of Saraguro, a proudly indigenous town quite near to Loja; rooms of colonial religious art, which included a painting each of the Virgen del Cisne, the Virgen de Guápulo and the Virgen de la Merced; a room containing information about quinine bark and the Peruvian Jesuit who introduced it from South America to Europe in the 17th century as a treatment for malaria; an archaeological section containing pottery, photos of petroglyphs and some other things; and an exhibition of colourful contemporary paintings titled ´Los Colores de lo Absurdo´.

After that I had a late lunch at a grilled chicken restaurant, bought a chocolate bun to have later, walked along the oldest street in Loja looking at the colourful colonial buildings and then stopped in an internet café for a couple of hours.

The oldest street in Loja, Calle Lourdes:

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In the evening I went back to the church of Santo Domingo. The interior was beautiful; I looked around for a bit after buying and lighting a candle for Dad.

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I took some of the exterior too, along with the plaza:

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Then I carried on to a restaurant by the river where I had another humita and tamale before going back to the hotel for an early night.

Posted by 3Traveller 10:46 Archived in Ecuador Tagged art hotel airport museum cathedral dad andes ecuador ecuadorian_cuisine loja traditional_customs colonial_church Comments (0)

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