Health and Old Age Places with High Longevity: Vilcabamba, Ecuador Part 3

About the area of Vilcabamba in Ecuador which has a high level of longevity, about the possible medical reasons for it, visiting and tourism.


Diagnosis. Most foreign doctors credit the frugal diet and equable climate of Vilcabamba for the long lives of its inhabitants, along with their extremely quiet life. The natives sleep and awake with the passage of the sun. They remain active, have few worries, breathe the clear mountain air, and drink the sparkling fresh water from their 2 unpolluted rivers. When they do suffer from a minor ailment--there are no major ones--such as "slight asthma" or a common cold or an attack of arthritis, they go to the medicine man for a remedy of coca leaves. They also will trek 2 mi. every day to get to Sunungo, the mineral spring whose warm medicinal waters remove stiffness and pain. The village musician, Augustin Mendieta, aged 64, said he made this trip daily, in order to finger his mandolin without discomfort.

Vilcabamban longevity is a secret locked in the sacred little valley. Dr. Davies proposes that the valley should be placed under "protection" until it has been "completely investigated." Already there has been a small decline in the length of life and a slight upsurge in the appearance of disease and illness. Fewer and fewer of the local inhabitants are content with the lives of their fathers and great-grand-fathers, and many of the young are moving away. Jorge Vivanco, now a journalist for El Telegrafo, is one of those who opted for city life. He ascribes the longevity found in his birthplace to a "lack of ambition" in the people. "No trouble, no strain. That's their secret."

Guidebook. Ecuador is a hospitable country, eager for tourists, and pleased that Vilcabamba has become a mecca for both the curious and those who need its restorative and health-giving atmosphere. There is a certain conflict between doctors who want to isolate Vilcabamba and so prevent the encroachment of deleterious civilization, and officials who see a tourist gold mine in the valley. Meanwhile, a visa to Ecuador is easily obtained. Reservations are not required, since most of the farmhouses will also take a paying guest, provided he is willing to share the austere life of the valley's inhabitants. Everything in the valley is cheap, but any luxuries you require had best be brought with you since money cannot buy what is not already there.

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