I never made it to Vilcabamba. When the shuttle stopped in Loja, the voice in my head, my guide through life, said, “Get off here.” I did and the moment I walked through the town entrance, I fell in love with the city. I was under the castle’s spell. While walking from one end to the other, I decided to say here for the night rather than continue on to Vilcabamba. Another great thing about travel, changing plans in midstream when where you are, feels like the place you need to be.
I followed the streets according to my interest in the names and saw two men working outside a hotel. I asked about a room for the night. After a brief conversation, I asked the owner, if he knew of any apartments for rent in town. He showed me two of his in the final phase of completion on the top of the hotel. He offered for me to stay in one for the same price as the hotel room. I was concerned about the noise from the disco and took him up on his offer as a trial run for a possible future rental. When the music woke me around midnight, I thought of the wonderful times I had dancing with a group from the school on Friday and the salsa lessons I took at the school during the week. Any apartment in the area would still be affected by the sound as music was all over town. In my head, I danced myself back to sleep.
So, while looking for a hotel room, I found an apartment on the edge of El Centro. It is on the top floor of a four story disco/bar (The Mills) which is opened on Friday and Saturday nights. From the outside it looks like a modern version of the Taj Mahal and would not have grabbed my interest at all, visually, as a place to live. Rather over done for my taste, modern and trendy, but as fate would have it, I saw the inside first. Otherwise I would not have stopped.
One of my favorite poets, Charles Bukowski, recommends all writers live above a bar. The more rough and tumble the better. So, it appears this is my chosen fate. Now I have a place to land when I return. From the roof top, I have a 360 degree view of the city and the mountains. Climbing the eighty stairs to my apartment a few times a day will keep me in shape. Legs don’t fail me now.
This morning I visited the various open markets in town. Fruits, familiar and unknown, filled the makeshift stalls. Salted fish piled high. Beans of every size and variation one might imagine. I stopped in the main square and listened to the Marine Band Concert, saw men and women on horseback parade around the town and kids playing jump rope and using a loading ramp as a sliding board. This is a town of happy people. I am happy here. This is where I am supposed to be, and for now at least, Loja is home.