Tuesday 2 January 2024

Tropical Green Christmas

Hello everyone! I know Christmas was a while ago but I took a little break from blog-writing so this post is about what we did at Christmas and how Father Christmas can even make it to the further reaches of South America.

For Christmas, we stayed in an eco-lodge near Vilcabamba, a small village in Ecuador "where life is long and all is calm" as the village moto goes. This is because apparently in the 1960s, Vilcabamba captured international attention when researchers announced that it was home to one of the oldest living populations in the world. It is said that Vilcabambians often live well over 100 years but some as old as 135! Although some people doubt the truth in this fact, there is still high incidence of healthy, active elders in Vilcabamba. Their long lives is thought to be due to a healthy climate, excellent drinking water, physical activity, diet and lack of stress. We didn't stay long enough in the village to test the theory but something tells me that Father Christmas might have a special workshop in the area :)

When we entered Vilcabamba, the town was alive and festive with paper flags flapping on the streets and people singing carols in the town square - it felt like the place to be for Christmas!

The eco-lodge was very beautiful in amongst the hills and with a splendid view over the village, which looked small in comparison to the tall, eye-catching green hills. As we walked through the lodge, leaving Ioanna behind to chilax in the hammock, Dan spotted a green snake that slithered quickly across the path. It gave him no chance to show us, which, I'm afraid, means we'll have to take his word for it. We reached a hill opposite from the lodge and called out Ioanna's name, but there was no reply and so we continued on through the tall grasses and back to the lodge just in time for a quick swim!

In the early evening, it started to rain but as we were in the tropics, we didn't feel that worried. That is, until the clouds covered everything in sight, and it started to thunder and lightning sliced through the thickening clouds! It was very dramatic and we realised...this was how it rained in the tropics!

Waking up on Christmas morning, I looked around, and although I didn't expect to find presents and stockings, to my surprise, at the end of my bed was a stoking from Father Christmas! At that moment, Ismene woke up and seconds later we were ripping open our stockings. We rushed downstairs to wake Ioanna and Dan with a loud "Merry Christmas" and opened our presents. Guess what? I got a Peruvian football shirt! That was my favourite Christmas present.

In our family, we have the tradition of going on a walk on Boxing day so we chose to walk to a nearby waterfall. We walked through the land of green, carefully avoiding the frequent cow poos, and pointing out unique and pretty flowers and numerous beautiful butterflies. It was a wonderful walk to the waterfall (though we didn't swim this time) but if there was one thing that could have been better, it was the weather. It was raining tropical rain again and we got soaked to the skin. But all this rain did one thing good. Through the clouds, the sun peeked through and slicing into the hill, there was a rainbow! But this was not any rainbow...it was so close, it looked like I could just hold my hand and touch it!

After Christmas, we stayed at another place in Vilcabamba called Rumi Wilco. Rumi Wilco is a small, private reserve and is the most biodiverse section of the inner valley of Vilcabamba. Rumi Wilco is also home to one of the rarest and most enigmatic trees in Ecuador: the Wilco. At the reserve, we stayed at the simple yet brilliant Pole House, a wooden cabin on stilts hand-built by the owners immersed in nature and surrounded by curious birds and butterflies of all colours and sizes. The Pole House is right next to a busy-flowing Andean stream, yet so close to the village centre of Vilcabamba. I think it was as close to sleeping in a tree house as I've ever got. 

The great thing about Rumi Wilco was that it was also near the Podocarpus National Park, one of the most diverse national parks in the world, starting in what could be called the furthest reaches of the Amazon and ending in the mountains. In other words, the park starts at 500m above sea level and ends at 3500 meters above sea level! It is also 14,628 sq.km big! WOW! The park is named after the only native pine tree in South America, the podocarpus tree. The whole park is particularly rich in birdlife and is a brilliant home for spectacle bears, like the ones we saw at Chappari Eco Reserve in Peru.

We went to Podocarpus National Park without Ioanna (she had caught a bug after Christmas) but still in high spirits. Our hopes for a dry walk were crushed as soon as we reached the park entrance as the rain poured down heavily on the green mountains. Basically, it was impossible to look out from the side of the mountains as they were wrapped in clouds. We did a 3-hour walk through the cloud forest up a hill! Though the rain drenched us, it was fun just walking through the clouds and seeing the small moss gardens and the flowers and hearing constant bird songs. It felt like the whole forest was alive! As we reached the top of the hill, we saw that in the path there was a bum slide. By that point, we were deliriously tired and started making up silly stories about what the bum slide might be and we concluded that it was a bear that was showing off for the tourists:):)

We descended the cliff quicker, the rain pouring down ever harder and were glad to reach the car and get back to the Pole House for a steaming outdoors shower!

I hope you all had a great Christmas too and got some excellent presents from Santa.

1 comment:

  1. great blog, Orestis. What a stunning rainbow, it must be worth putting up with a rain burst to see that. And I love the photo of Ismene hammocking about. Love to all, Sal