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    Long haul with a baby

    Long haul with a baby

    Lake Maher_ Tanya's Cafe_ Kale chips Trying cashew kale chips for the first time  

    Funny flight story (‘funny’ because it’s behind us ;-))…

    It took 4 flights, 4 taxis and 43 hours to arrive at my parents’ Sungate 11:11 in Vilcabamba, Ecuador.

    The connecting flight to Madrid was a total dream with a 10 months old. I inquired both at Heathrow and at Madrid airport desks about a good seat for Lake and I for our remaining 12 hour flight to Guayaquil and was assured with great certainty that the flight is looking empty, that there will be no one next to us and that after take-off we will even be able to change to a four-seater row!

    Lake Maher long haul with baby

    Soooo we board the flight with confidence, find our seat and spread all the toys, snacks and bags across our isle seat and the empty window seat next to us. Then 5 minutes before take-off, people start piling in! PILING IN!

    And so many of them, some with 5 bags each, some with caged cats, some with caged dogs. It was like watching a movie, because that’s how surreal it all looked.

    At this stage, I’m still pretty optimistic about the extra space on this flight, I almost don’t notice the man telling a cat woman behind us that she’s seated in the wrong seat and needs to move herself, her cat and all four of her bags next to me and Lake.

    I start to panic trying to work out how to keep the baby happy while I gather aaaall of our belongings to fit in a tiny space underneath my feet (anyone with kids knows just how much you need for a 1 hour walk, let alone a 43 hour journey!).

    Lake senses my panic and starts to get squeamish, meanwhile the cat woman keeps saying something to me in Spanish. If you were to mute this whole scene, it probably looked a little like an over exaggerated version of charades, where she is gesturing for us to transfer to a window seat so that she and all of her stuff wouldn’t have to.

    Then as everyone is loudly fussing and climbing over each other to get to their seat and competing to fit what ever they could into tiny overhead lockers, the cat woman starts climbing too and in the midst of throwing her bags onto the seat next to us (I’m still collecting our toys), she manages to bang Lake on the head with her cat’s cage.

    Then the crying begins! By this stage it’s not only Lake crying either…

    I grab my upset baby and me, shoot over to see a flight attendant, she helps us find a better seat, helps us make the dreadful transfer and just as I start to settle, she tells us there’s an even better seat. I’m a mixed bag of skeptical, pleased, annoyed and hopeful, but I go alone with it. She is right, the seat is much better and there is now a whole empty one next to us!

    We are good to go at last.

    Long haul with kids

    We are buckled in, Lake on my lap strapped to my seatbelt, I catch a breather (and a few smiling faces that have just witnessed our musical chairs episode), everyone is in their seats, cabin crew have completed the prep for take off and are now nowhere to be seen as they disappear behind the curtains to take their seats. Relaxed in my seat, I’m about to begin my ‘take off meditation’ but before I close my eyes, I gaze over the tv screen:

    “Enjoy your flight to Quito”…  Quito?? OMG!

    I turn to an Ecuadorean man across the isle: “Quito?”, “Si, Quito” he smiles. “Noooooo!”

    I practically tear the seatbelt off of me and Lake, swing her over my shoulder and jump out from our seat like a ninja turtle!

    The “surreal movie” continues, except I’m no longer the one watching it, everyone is watching ME! In this movie, I’m the crazy woman with a baby over my shoulder, running towards the front of the plane yelling “excuse me, excuse me, I need to be on a flight to Guayaquil, my dad is there to meet his granddaughter for the first time!!!”

    A flight attendant pops out from behind the curtain, explains that two flights were combined at the last minute and that the first stop is Quito but I get to transfer there onto Guayaquil and still arrive on schedule. I walk the walk of shame all the way back to our seat with everyone cheering and smiling my way, but I tell myself it’s because I have such a cute baby and nothing to do with the entertainment that her crazy mother just provided for a plane jam-packed full of spectators.

    Moral of the Story?… Do not make fun of crazy people, one day they might be you. (And don’t call cat lovers ‘cat woman’, that’s not very nice.)

    Raw Food & Soul Adventures Retreat 2014 | Vilcabamba, Ecuador

    Raw Food & Soul Adventures Retreat 2014 | Vilcabamba, Ecuador

    This year. This October. It is happening once more. Vilcabamba is calling!

    Whether you are looking to recharge, cleanse your mind and spirit, renew your youthful glow, take your soul on an unforgettable adventure, breathe in the purest air, alkalise by marvelling at perfect nature, nourish your body with the most flavoursome and nutritious organic meals, learn how to prepare all the healthy raw foods or experience what the real Valley of Longevity is all about…

    …there is no place on earth, like Vilcabamba to satisfy all of your senses and dreams.

    This October, a carefully chosen group of people will get an opportunity to experience the ultimate Raw Food & Soul Adventures Retreat, once again. Read on for more details…

    Vilca 2014


    Every year I head out to the majestic Vilcabamba in Ecuador for my own personal retreat. And every year, you begged me to introduce it to you too. In 2013, we had an incredible group of 18 individuals thriving in the energy of such a magical place for our very first epic adventure. In 2014, I plan to make it even more special and intimate for your ultimate experience.

    This incredible little village is entirely surrounded by mountains, it is known as the valley of longevity, the playground to the Inca and the capital of raw food. It runs on super charged living spring waters, provides the most healing organic produce, supplies exceptional air quality and has the potential to transform you forever. The vibrational frequencies of its sacred land are very high and not everybody is ready. If you feel drawn to experience a complete rejuvenation of your soul, body, mind and spirit, then I believe Vilcabamba has spoken to you. I know that it has spoken to me to invite you this year. I couldn’t be more honoured and thrilled for the opportunity.

    Vilcabamba 2014 tanya

    Hi, I’m Tanya Maher, a wellness coach, chef, author, Reiki do Satori master healer, and a renowned raw food and detox expert. I was born in Russia, raised in New Zealand and now live in London, where I’m super lucky to have been hailed by various magazines as the UK’s leading wellness coach. I’m the founder of Better Raw, co-founder of Tanya’s Cafe in Chelsea, creator of Amazon’s #1 best selling DVD ‘Raw
    Food 101’ and author of numerous eBooks, all available here on www.BetterRaw.com. This ‘Soul Adventures’ Retreat is my life’s work. I can’t wait to share the experience with you too.

    Vilcabamba 2014 Elena

    Elena Alekseeva, my clever mama, has a decade of extensive experience with Reiki do Satori principles and a unique gift to heal. She is connected to the information consciousness of the Universe, which allows her to perform incredibly detailed and accurate readings for thousands of people around the world, who all discover her somehow without any advertising or a website. Elena specialises in correction of the body, spirit, soul and etheric bodies to help a person heal from any past life karma, negativities brought on by others and self-destruction.

    Vilcabamba 2014 Vladimir

    Vladimir Alekseev, my amazing dad, is the Mr Fix-It and Make-It-Happen man. This retreat wouldn’t be possible without him and all his behind the scenes organising. You can be certain that you’re in good hands (with impressive Spanish!) when Vlad is around. Mum and dad made Vilcabamba their permanent home five years ago and together they organise a monthly sell-out raw living luncheon at their Restaurant ‘Sungate 11:11’.

    Vilcabamba 2014 Mona Heep

    Mona Heep is a gorgeous German, who currently lives in London, bringing inner peace to its many residents. Everyone who’s ever attended Mona’s classes fall in love with her energy and her sincere pleasure in helping you with movement, strength and injuries, while improving your overall physical and mental wellbeing. After beginning her practice several years ago, she quickly developed a passion, completing her teacher training, as well as a Masters degree focussing on food politics. Yoga enabled her to work with her thoughts constructively and achieve a level of acceptance and self compassion she wasn’t able to realise beforehand. Nevertheless, a big part of Mona’s interest in yoga also lies in the link to anatomy. Mona’s yoga classes focus very much on the essence of yoga, the relationship between movement and breath which calm the mind and the “mind stuff” that stops us from enjoying life to the fullest, cluttering our thoughts with the past, future and internal blocks that don’t serve us in the present moment.

    Vilcabamba 2014 accommodation

    El Descanso del Toro Hosteriais the village's most prestigious and luxury resort, which also happens to be authentically Ecuadorian, when it comes to nature, peace, creativity and beauty. I believe there is always a need for a little luxury in your life, however expect to be spending more time with the land, than in your room all day long and then retreat to your stunning nest for the evening. When you spend time at the resort, you will be treated to privacy, clean and spacious bedrooms, tasteful decor, your own bathroom, and outdoor lit up swimming pool, revitalising sauna, relaxing spa and the most stunning vast natural walks and gardens for resting, walking and bringing out  your inner Yogi. You'll be staying just a 5 minute stroll away from town square and a 10 minute stroll away from my parents' citrus garden where plentiful lunches will be held.

    Vilcabamba 2014 raw food

    If you’ve followed me for some time, you already know my standards, you’ve probably made my recipes and perhaps even tasted my raw gourmet organic meals, elixirs and desserts. Now this is your opportunity to indulge guilt-free and thrive not only on some of my favourite dishes for a full week, but have them all prepared from local, fresh, organic and most nutrient dense ingredients available to us on the planet. As you cleanse your palette and your level of consciousness begins to lift, your taste buds won’t know what hit them. What’s more is that Elena, my super talented mum and creator of 'Sungate 11:11' Raw Living Restaurant will be preparing some of her most raved about activated meals for you to experience. I say ‘experience’, because we will guide you to get food working for you, your digestion and any physical or spiritual ailment you may have, as well as excite and satisfy all five of your senses: sight, sound, smell, touch and taste. I’ll teach you how to prepare all the food and email you recipes to enjoy forever.

    Vilcabamba 2014 yoga

    Every day as you slowly rise to bird song, you will have the opportunity to rejoice in Yoga. Mona has a true gift to glide through a group and help each individual appreciate Yoga for the immense pleasure, rather than a chore (if you’re in this space currently). You do not need to be flexible or experienced, we simply ask that you come open minded towards what movement and breathwork can do for your soul. If you are a long time Yogie, you will fall in love with Mona’s style and energy. And that’s only a start! Your days will be filled with nature walks, picturesque hikes and wild swimming.

    Vilcabamba 2014 meditation

    By now you may have gathered that your week in Vilcabamba won’t be short of meditation. It is a big part of my family’s spiritual journey and we will introduce you to various techniques, so that you can choose what works best for you and feel inspired to include it in to your regular regime for many years to come. The Valley of Longevity is home to many gurus and healers, and I’ve invited some very special guests to treat you to their incredible talents.

    Vilcabamba 2014 excursions

    I ran a survey of what may interest you the most in a destination retreat and from the hundreds of people who’ve responded, a trend was more than obvious. You are a nature loving spirit and you want all the mountain hiking, trail exploring, wild plant foraging, local veggie market visits, zip lining and water fall trips, which Vilcabamba has to offer. I promised you an opportunity to create your ideal
    retreat, so we’re including all of the listed excursions to our week together. Get ready for the most adventurous fun, while you satisfy your inner child’s cravings for joy and freedom.

    Vilcabamba 2014 a


    This is a retreat that requires investment in you. Anyone can visit Ecuador and enjoy its many resources at any time, but I insist that you are not here looking for a quick fix to your health concerns and that you apply only if you are truly willing to make the effort, are serious about getting involved and keep an open mind to new ideas. There is an application process, because it is very important to me that I choose the right group of individuals, not for me, but for you. If you are game, here’s what you need to know…

    We have arranged a special rate for any additional nights that you may decide to stay. We recommend that you arrive on Saturday 25th October and spend two nights on your own, adjusting to Vilcabamba’s energies. The retreat will kick off at 4PM Monday 27th October and conclude at 11AM Monday 3rd November.

    Your investment for a full week:

    1. Own private deluxe room with en suite |£900 after 1st August | Early bird £791  
    2. Shared double deluxe  room with en suite | £750 after 1st August | Early bird £651 
    3. Shared twin deluxe room with en suite | £750 after 1st August | Early bird £651

    *Pricing is in GBP and includes the following: (Please note the Ecuadorian currency is USD)

    7 nights lush accommodation
    (27, 28, 29, 30, 31 October and 1, 2 November)

    7 x daily nutrient packed raw food breakfasts, including organic local fruits, chia porridge, detoxing juices, homegrown fresh leaf teas, crunchy granola clusters, creamy nut milks, rawtella spreads on raisin bread and coconut water.

    7 x gourmet three course lunches, including multi layered lasagna, marinated and pesto stuffed mushrooms, creamy soups with onion bread, gazpacho with garden picked vegetables and fermented sauerkraut, sun burgers, energising snacks, decadent chocolate cakes and digestion aiding smoothies.

    Please note that dinner is your free time to explore Vilcabamba’s cafes and restaurants, which all have raw food offerings on their menus. This is a key time for you to soak in the day’s activities and learnings, as well as digest the vitamin rich foods that you won’t try any where else. Many people prefer to skip dinner and meditate, rest, sauna or enjoy a pampering session, while others take the opportunity to order a cooked vegetarian meal, so not to experience detox symptoms on their holiday. Soul Adventures is very much about you.

    8 x hours of raw food workshops

    1 x 60 min relaxation massage
    (more available at $30 per hr)

    7 x 90 min invigorating and enlivening Yoga sessions

    Gifts and surprises along the way

    2 x 90min taxi transfers to and from Loja airport

    (Please note that this is covered if you arrive no more than 2 days before your retreat and depart no more than 2 days after. Outside of these days the taxi is an additional $40 each way)

    7 x daily meditation sessions

    Local fees and adventure excursions

    Numerous simple, yet life changing techniques

    Hanging out and creating lifelong friendships

    …as you can see- it’s everything except your flights to Loja, Ecuador!

    *All rates are per person.

    Vilcabamba 2014 retreat


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