Friday, July 17, 2009

Mauricio, the Madman of Las Ruinas

Front path to Las Ruinas
One day I wandered around Vilcabamba, over a bridge by a river where women were slapping their wash against the rocks and then further into the bush where I discovered another hotel, the Las Ruinas de Quinara. I remembered the name because when I first arrived in Vilcabamba on the bus, the American fellow with whom I was sitting told me not to stay at Las Ruinas, but I never discovered why.

I walked down the overgrown pathway and up a few stairs to the front desk where I called out a few times. A housekeeper came out of a room and nodded that she would get the proprietor. The hostel was a jungle, filled with plants and flowers; hummingbirds buzzed around the open roof and brightly colored blankets covered the sofas. I loved it, so after looking at a room I said I'd be back the next day.

After I had been there for two days, I found it a bit eerie that I was the only one staying there, wandering around this huge, empty hostel, the only one at breakfast, no one in the pool, or checking in, until I heard the story of the hostel from Jorge over a few drinks at the bar the next day.

Jorge, who was from Spain, told me he would remain in Ecuador and run the hostel until the owner of the Las Ruinas finished his jail term. Trouble had occurred years before when the owner was accused of having killed someone, after which he left Ecuador for a few years to cool it out in America. Evidently, his rich family protected him. Now, he had been in jail for a year for not only having drugged and raped one of his hotel guests, but for having assaulted and almost killed a man who had talked about it afterwards. Jorge said the only reason he stayed was not because he liked the owner, of course, but because he loved the hostel and thought he could better protect people by staying.
'And when is dude getting out of jail?' I asked.

When I got up and went downstairs the next day there he was, fresh out of jail and drinking whiskey, sitting around the pool with an Ecuadorian woman; he wasn't wasting any time getting started on the celebrations. He looked up when I walked by.
'Do you want a drink? Anything you want,' he said.
'No,' I replied, 'but thanks.' And I left for the day.

When I returned that night he was in the hot tub with two women. They were screeching with laughter and drinking whiskey.
'Take off your clothes and get in,' he said when he saw me.
I ignored him and kept walking. The plump Ecuadorian woman was drunk, she'd been drinking all day with him. I sat with Jorge up at the bar beside the pool and he made me a drink.
'The owner only offers free liquor to women,' he said.

An American expat, who called herself a medicine woman and who was an old friend of Jorge's, was sitting beside me smoking and drinking red wine. After we had chatted for a while about all things spiritual, she told me that I was ready for the magic cactus ceremony. I was fascinated by her long dark hair and dark eyes. She wanted me to come over to her house the next night to try some, warning me of the pain I'd experience as my ego dropped away, but that I’d feel wonderful the day after.
'I'll only charge you sixty dollars.'
'Maybe,' I said.

Annie and Gustavo
At the same time, Mr. Hottub was stinking drunk and flitting back and forth behind the bar mixing drinks and getting cigarettes for himself and the ladies, a cigarette dangling from his lips as he danced around behind Jorge juggling all the bottles. We ignored all the screeching coming from the hot tub as we drank our wine. The medicine woman had gone through quite a bit of wine and was wobbling on her chair but finally, after falling backwards and almost knocking herself out on the flagstones, she left.

I said good-night to Jorge and headed up to my room, but as I passed the jacuzzi I hesitated and stepped back into the shadows when the Ecuadorian woman stepped out of the tub naked, her plump body glistening in the light of the moon. She wrung the water out of her hair and roared with laughter down at Mauricio. The hot tub overflowed with bubbles, and when I saw Mauricio's face as he leered at her body like a hungry wolf, I knew instantly that everything that had been said about him was true.

'Hey! C'mon! You over there! Why don't you come and join us?' he said, holding up his glass of whiskey and laughing.
'No, but thanks anyway,' I said, and continued on to my room.

The next day I checked out and paid the bill. The charge? Sixty-six American dollars for five days of room, breakfast, drinks and videos. The entertainment? Free.

Vilcabamba Ecuador
Pool tables/recreation area
Vilcabamba Ecuador
Breakfast area

Vilcabamba Ecuador
Annie doing the chicken dance

Vilcabamba Ecuador