At age 37, with aches and pains from my ears to my toes, I can't imagine what life might be like 73 years from now when I would be 110. I'll be happy to make it to 80, but in the "Valley of Longevity" and in the town of Vilcabamba, Ecuador, the locals are reputed to live long lives and boast the oldest humans on the planet with some suggested to be around 120 years of age.
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Is it true? And if so why? Birth certificates are probably few and far between from 1887 and it would be inappropriate to cut an Ecuadorian in half and count their rings, but apparently some researchers have demonstrated that calcium and magnesium levels in the drinking water are such that they promote healthy bodies and longer life. I drank the bottled water anyway.
With the abundance of Coca Cola and fried foods, I wouldn't hold much hope in the local kids becoming centurions.
The area is also noted as the former royal retreat of the Incas who during their 95 year empire in the 15th century came to this valley. It is said that Mandango, the sleeping Inca protects the valley from earthquakes and other natural disasters and can be seen resting on the mountain above the town, arms folded and quite relaxed.
Our late arrival to town made an ascent of Mandango for that day problematic, but when we were offered a less than stellar alternative, we decided to climb the Incan anyway. We were told it would only take 45 minutes to climb the steep 1000 foot climb. I've learned to multiply all times by 2 to get a better estimate of how long we might need.
Half way up I stopped at this tree, covered with bromiliads, which I found strange for such an arid environment.
It's cool on top of the mountain, but insects abound including this lady bug-like insect being slurped up by a spider. We were told that the Incans or possibly peoples that preceded the Incans may have sculpted this mountain to accentuate the features of Mandango. Scale is tough to tell in this environment but from base to peak is about 20 stories tall.
Ma-Le descends the steep slopes.
All of the guide books say "climb Mandango to the white cross". From the peak it looks small, but it's actually a little taller than an above average sized Ecuadorian.
The hike took just about an hour up and another back down. A nice introduction to the town and Mandango and it gave us enough rest to prepare for the following days harrowing adventure.....
CLICK THIS PHOTO FOR AN AMAZING PANORAMA OF MANDANGO!