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Welcome To Vilcabamba
"The Sacred Valley of Longevity"

This Is A Privately Circulated Blog, scribbled exclusively for Friends & Familiars, that peers into and pontificates about Expat life in the hinterlands of South America. If your eyesight is less than optimal (like mine), then just click the type size up a notch on your browser..

Here you will find a series of curmudgeonly commentaries that I've posted from atop my rickety old soapbox for the past few years. And yes, there are indeed political rantings, so place your seats in the upright position and fasten your seat belts .... it may be a bumpy ride.


Deja Vu All Over Again.

A couple of posts ago, I mentioned and highly recommended Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged to you. Well, here's an update.

CNN just reported that the 2009 sales of Atlas Shrugged, Rand's most famous novel, have already topped sales for the entire 2008 year. I can only wonder if perhaps people all over the world watching this unseemly dance between the Wall Streeters, the political sleezeballs and the increasingly fed up public aren't scrambling to see what eventually becomes of the socialist/fascist scoundrels and libertarian heros in Rand's classic.

If you haven't yet read Atlas Shrugged - you should. Rand does a masterful job of painting a vivid picture of why the RIGHT kind of capitalism works, why regulation weights it down, and what happens when the regulators begin to outweigh the productive folks. And in today's environment, where you can't turn on the news without seeing some political schmuck who could pass for one of Rand's antiheroes, this type of perspective is invaluable. Hey, forewarned is forearmed.

Let's see now .... who is John Gault?


The Great Watering Down

On a planet where weird weather has become the norm, there hasn't been much reporting about Ecuador's recent unseasonably heavy rains …. which were reportedly the worst in the past 30 or 40 years. Some Ecuadorians say the worst in 100 years.

Here in Vilcabamba, it might rain about seven days a month during what's called the "rainy season", and that usually at night. However, during the season just past, we had torrential rains that often fell day after day and night after night, sometimes dumping as much as 5 to 10 inches of water on already heavily saturated ground.

The result was huge landslides, especially on the road between Loja and Vilcabamba. That road is the one and only means of accessing the large provincial city of Loja, where we do our major shopping. But Ecuadorians are innovative, and got around the mudslide issue by stationing taxis on either side of the mudslide to carry passengers who walked across the blocked areas, and were then "ferried" on by the other taxi.

The famed waters of Vilcabamba's rivers were at flood stage much of the time, taking out bridges and washing out roads. Here at the Hacienda, we almost lost a portion of the road, as the retaining earth embankment went tumbling down into the river below. Quick response and hard work by the Hacienda staff kept damage at a minimum.

The skies appear to be clear now, and we are experiencing unusually windy weather. The windy season doesn't usually begin until August, but no one around here is griping. At least we are getting dried out. My garden is no worse for the wear, and the extra "watering" seems to have done the plants no harm.

So our unusual local catastrophic weather went unnoticed by the rest of the world. However, I for one could do without a repeat next year.


My Visa Has Been Granted!

While my visa application (my third) was wandering slowly through the bureaucratic maze, our newly re-elected president ended up firing all of the cabinet ministers just prior to the election, then reappointing another slate that he felt would be more popular to the voters. Once having won the election he then promptly fired the old (new) bunch and appointed yet another group of ministers .... these, obviously, his cronies and those he needed to pay off politically. So just the usual vanilla brand of South American banana boat republic goings-on. However, each time a new minister is appointed, he or she tosses out the predecessor's regulations and substitutes their own. And that means the way in which the old application and required documentation was done is no longer acceptable by the new guy (or gal). Small wonder that it's been nine (9) months and counting .... but. finally, I received good news!.

My Ecuadorian attorney has just called to inform me that my application for a permanent residency visa has been approved. FINALLY!

Just in time, too. In another week and a half, my current twice-extended tourist visa will expire, and I would have had to leave the country for six months .... bag and baggage. Then start all over again.

I'll have no comment about the costs involved or the HUGE amount of bureaucratic red tape that had to be cut through. The long process is finally at an end. I can continue living here in this beautiful Andean Mountain valley, enjoying a life of tranquility and healthiness .... for the years remaining to me.

Just thought everyone would like to know. Had you been here, you could have shared a glass of "bubbly" with me on the great occasion.

Oh, and if you are wondering how I'm spending "those remaining years", then let me direct you to a web site that I have been developing. It is a health-oriented site, which you might find of interest. Just go to:


You will probably be VERY glad you did, if you are at all interested in improving your health.

How This Financial Deflation Effects You!

For those of you who are still feeding your 401K "savings" accounts and "investing" in mutual funds, you are probably doing so because you feel there's no alternative. If not your 401k or money market funds, what?

Well, let's look at that for a moment. What if you had NOT invested in stocks for the past whole decade, from 1999 to 2009? In other words, just stayed out of the stock market. Interestingly, if you had just held on to the cash, earning no interest at all, you would be 26% better off. Had you put those 401K yearly infusions into gold, your holdings would have appreciated from US$285.00 to US$923.00. That's an increase of 220 percent! Here is the scorecard, as presented this week by "The Privateer", the much heralded financial newsletter.

They used $1000.00 as a constant:

* In Stocks: $10,000 on March 30, 1999 becomes $7400 on March 31, 2009
* In cash: $10,000 on March 30, 1999 remains $10,000 on March 31, 2009
* In gold: $10,000 on March 31, 1999 becomes $32,060 on March 31, 2009

Most of you who are dutifully keeping up with your contributions to a mutual fund or a 401K, which STILL allocates 80-90 percent to the stock market, will simply not believe these figures. It seems that most of my friends and familiars remain in denial.

Fortunately for me, during this past decade I was too old to continue contributing to a 401K. And thanks to "The Privateer's" early warnings, I got out of my mutual fund. I stayed in cash and bought a little gold. Take a peek above and tell me if I made the right decision.

So, if this is what happened in the past ten years, during a mostly booming market, what do think will happen to your 401K's and mutual fund accounts during this financial disaster we are currently facing …. and which is only going to get worse! Go on, look up at that scorecard again.