It was hard leaving the comfort of Cuenca, Ecuador. We spent time with Bill, Darren's friend from his disaster response days, and Bill had loads of great stories and an enormous flat with a gorgeous view, at which he graciously hosted us.
But move on we must, so we packed our bags and headed to Vilcabamba, the last town of significance before the border with Peru, and where the road becomes unpaved. Oh by the way, Darren discovered an interesting route for us, one that would take us on backroads instead on the boring but reliable Pan-American Highway. Thus the next week would prove to be as rewarding as it would be challenging.
==Day Zero: Vilcabamba, Ecuador==
We checked into a hotel in Vilcabamba that appeared to be run by a 12-year-old girl wearing pajamas and bunny slippers. I thought it a bit weird, but she got us our room, toallas (towels), and wifi password, so I guess she knew what she was doing.
When we did a quick loop through the tiny town to scope it out and find food, we discovered some hippies mulling about in front of a tienda (convenience store). They were of the Berkeley street punk variety, complete with dreads and goofy clothes. Then we turned a corner and spotted some more young gringoes with unkempt hair near a bead shop. Then I looked around and had a realization: like suddenly discovering you are covered in ants, there were hippies everywhere! Darren would later find out that Vilcabamba is a center for peyote consumption, thus the hippies. We also heard that a policeman went into the peyote fields at some point and destroyed a bunch of the crop because the locals became (rightfully) tired of freaked-out gringoes running and screaming naked through the town square in the middle of the night.