Drugs, guns, cheap booze, cheap land and a lawless expatriate community hell-bent on making it big on this little hamlet… there was always going to be trouble in the Andean paradise of Vilcabamba, Ecuador. But will the right people pay?
Kapow! .. pow! … pow! A single gunshot ricocheted, ricocheted, ricocheted… along one after the other of the grizzly eroded flanks that buttress the little mansion in remote southern Ecuador where fat Josh, the Danish guru, was home alone.
It was the crack in the night that had been coming a long time. A flash of fierce brightness across a horizon of dark magic, hell-bred schemes and violence that have been simmering in Vilcabamba for two decades.
Whoever shot the gun, in whatever circumstances, set free a little silver bullet that landed fair in the elbow of an obese Danish expatriate who was tussling with masked ‘thugs’, armed with metal bars and at least one gun, and had allegedly broken in to this rented luxury mansion in the fully-walled, policed, gated compound known as Hacienda San Joaquin.
This one bullet, according to gossip, flew after Joshua attacked the intruders. Which is easy to believe. Despite his obese condition, Joshua is well-known in Ecuador and his previous lairs in Thailand for boasting about his skills at Martial Arts. There are plenty of people who can confirm that fat Josh loves nothing better than the chance to spa some un-trained ass.
I’ve seen him at it myself, as a guest at his previous residence, where he and my boyfriend, Scott, would kick box about after heavy work outs in Josh’s private gym and sessions in Josh’s private infra red sauna, and business meetings on the lawn, about how to make it rich as online pimps and prophets.
On one occasion Josh, surprisingly agile for an aging fat guy, pushed things too far with Scott who is an exceedingly able pacifist, vegetarian athlete ex-lawyer, with an obvious but untapped potential to crack bones. Josh was landing hard side kicks to the face beyond what seemed fair ‘play’, and taunting Scott to ‘man up’. So Scott, losing touch with his pacifist steak, puffed himself up like the Hulk, picked Josh up, threw him to the ground, placed his fist in his face and warned him, “don’t fucking push it, mate.”
It took Scott about a month to recover from this incident. But Josh really gloated on it. He took a real shine to Scott after that – it was the start of some very sick business for me.
So yes, it’s not hard for me to imagine Josh ‘pushing it’ with armed intruders. He’s the kind of guy who relishes a fight. Who lusts for a fight, actually, and who has had one coming for a mighty long time.
He was constantly provoking trouble in his previous incarnation in Thailand, and here as well, in Ecuador, where he had allied himself with a dubious elite, and was among the most hated Caucasians on the valley.
There are people who moved to the valley on nest eggs fertilised by pensions, one-off marijuana crops in the US, internet scams, or dealing between the port cities and the Andes, and have come to escape the law, tax, misery.. whatever, loafing about in obscurity in Ecuador.
They drink a lot of booze. They smok a lot of pot. They take a lot of acid. They also indulge in public brawls, bullying, open drunkenness and all manner of behaviour that would be unacceptable (and unaffordable) back home, and causes horror and dread among the local Ecuadorians – who provide a quaint backdrop to a lot of what goes on in Gringo-bamba.
Others came here fat from online pimping. Or from making it rich on whoring plant medicines, spiritual workshops of one sort or another, and exploiting the powerful evil helix spun between the Anxiety Dollar and the internet.
The formula works something like this:
- pick a surging social problem; insomnia, obesity, shame, depression, a popular neurosis or fashionable curiosity, like Tantra..
- Discredit the established wisdom and offerings in this market – especially undermine medical, pharmacological, legal, social or moral constructs around it.
- Invent your own solution.
- Flog the hell out of it online, through viral marketing, meems, and thorough exploitation of social media.
- Locate yourself offshore to your native country, in a place you can hide from legal, tax and other scrutiny, and milk it till the next big idea.
A surprising number of people arrived in Vilcabamaba on this ticket since 2008, gorged on superfoods and supplements and cheap rent. The richest and most brazen became famous. The second best just stuck it out in the mountains, hosting parties where they could make friends and schemes with other scamsters, and providing free music, drugs and sex to the local youth – bored expat kids, and Vilcabamba kids who had never seen anything like what debauched gringos can get up to when they feel immune from the law, and far far far away from God.
But it’ s not these new-comers who get written up as criminals. No.
Even though people like fat Josh and his partner, Kacper Postawski have been implicated in scams which deceived, if not actually harmed LOTS – even thousands – of people, and got rich out of it, they have so far successfully dodged the bullets.
You can see Postawski being outed by Mike Adams here for his part in an ongoing scandal over a ‘detox’ product called Adya Clarity and then re-named as Water Liberty. This ‘miracle product’ is marketed by Postawski at over 4000% profit, according to critics, and alleged to be dangerously toxic. Serious safety warning over Postawski’s ‘decalcifyer’ led several of his peers toapologise for their part in the business and issue recalls and refunds.
But not fat Josh and Kacper. They openly exploit Ecuador as a hiding place from the consequences of their actions, a place to benefit from cheap labour and costs of living, while indulging in the spoils of their dirty exploits, and contributing a big fat nothing to any body.
So, when one of these characters is picked off, roughed up, challenged – I find myself wondering… if it’s not about time.
When violence began rearing up in Vilcabamba, the media reported that it was those who confronted the expatriate elite who were thugs and criminals. The Latinos, that is.
Everybody happily over-looked whether those receiving street punishment had in any way earned it. Either by their own repugnant, illegal, overt nasty behaviour, or, you know.. by way of karma.
I lived in this valley for three years and can fairly say that all is not anything like it first seems in quaint little Vilcabamba. The white guys are not all glowing with fair-play and country goodness – some of them are dangerous, and some are gloating from the sheer thrill of how much they have got away with.
My own experience with fat Josh was an instant, profound and terminal case of mutual revulsion. I immediately smelled a rat on him. And he took a strong dislike to me after I started investigating his and Kacper Postawski’s exploits in drug dealing, internet scams and excruciatingly flaky spiritual counseling from their luxury digs in Vilcabamba. You can read more about Postawski’s track record here – ouch!
As revenge, Josh used cash bribes, drugs and persuasion to undermine my relationship, smear my reputation and throw me to the dogs. He spied on Scott and I, would turn up at our house at odd hours demanding interviews with Scott which went on for hours, and eventually exploited a miscarriage I had in Vilcabamba in 2013 to engineer an extremely traumatic series of events for me.
He saw me at parties where he and others were supplying gringo and Ecuadorian kids with free drugs, where there was all manner of hell was going down, where the foundations for his own undoing were perhaps being laid.
But it’s not being told like this. Not so far. When fat Josh got shot after tussling with alleged intruders this month in Vilcabamba, it was reported as if he were just a regular guy, home alone in a gated mansion in the remote Southern Andes.
FROM FACEBOOK: Anubuddha LeeFebruary 23 at 2:29am
With a very heavy and shaky heart I share this latest tragic news. At 8;30 pm last night, Joshua’s rented house in the Hacienda San Joaquin was broken into by 5 masked thugs. He was alone, and found them in his basement where he exercises daily. They had a shotgun and metal bars for weapons… he got smacked in the head, but managed to get the metal bar from them… then they shot him in the arm (elbow very damaged) and fled the scene… without anything. Anasha and I were right next door, visiting Chris and Lily when we heard the gunshot… the loudest I ever heard. Josh was screaming, so we run and find him bleeding profusely. We rushed him to Vilcabamba hospital…..”
But there was not only one gun in the house. That is for sure.
Because Joshua, and most of his Vilcabamba mates, are part of a powerful, paranoid elite in the valley who have been preparing themselves for the End of the World, Alien invasion and attacks by other enemies for a while now. They boast that they have a shoot to kill philosophy in case of trouble, and as keepers of cache of food, ammo, porn and whatever else is required to survive Armageddon, are well rehearsed in what violence might be served to those who dare breach their maximum insecurity mansions.
A week after the crack of gunfire and all the squealing, reports of a crime wave in the remote Andes, of nasty indigenous thugs marauding the hillsides and bashing all the innocent expats were rife online. Ecuador’s President, Raffael Correa, re-routed a speaking engagement to appear in person in Vilcabamba this Saturday, a local Security business made a motza on surveillance gear and weapons, and Josh appealed to the world to please send high dose vitamin k2 to regrow his bone tissue.(mk-4 or mk-7)
“i cant wait 5-6 weeks for the mail to arrive, besides im in guayaquil now for surgeries.if someone has k2 and are willing to sell i can have my friend in town contact you to buy it and he can ship it to me ASAP,” he wrote. “im on bone growth protocol and this one is the missing vitamin. hope someone can help.”
This is exactly what you might expect from Josh who is, as it happens, a bit of a dark wizard at chemistry. His traceable roots lead to Ko Samui, Thailand, where fat Josh made quite the illegal, tax-free killing peddling the psychotropic drug ibogain to tourists.
Josh was a sort of Jabba the Mystic Hut out there in Ko Samui, where a steady stream of sick, suffering, questing Westerners were lured by his clever online marketing to pay considerable $thousands for the Danish snakeoil salesman to blow them out of their minds with heavy doses of this African heritage plant medicine.
He made plenty cash dollar on that enterprise, while harvesting a pretty sum in State benefits from his homeland, in Denmark, on a disabilities payment. He split when things got ‘complicated’ in Thailand. A string of complaints began to thread itself together. Unhappy customers began to whisper, greener pastures were required, a new harvest sought, and plenty of googling was no doubt done.
Over in Ecuador, things were looking extremely fertile for entrepreneurs hunting Spiritual Quest Dollar. The tiny South American nation was recently dollarized, a charismatic ‘people’s’ President was promising stability, growth, wealth and some extremely influential leaders of the New Age movement had already primed the pump for a major cascade of liquid gold out of Ecuador.
The so-called ‘Health Ranger’, Mike Adams, was one of the first. Founder, editor and writer for his own online title, Natural News, Adams was well ahead of fat Josh on the easy pickings to be made in Ecuador. His online power as educator, influencer and peddler of products to a massive following in the wellness, conspiracy, healing and expatriating markets can be measured in $millions.
It was Adams who was first in this pack of savvy entrepreneurs to set foot on Vilcabamba soil. I can see him tilting his chin to the sharp Andean sun, scanning the gentle local folk hunched quietly over crops of corn and potato, and sniffing dollars. Lots of easy, tax free, nobody’s watching … dollars.
He bought into a 600+ acre ranch for a song, gated it and made it famous as Hacienda San Joaquin. He and his partners worked up the land, sold plots to wealthy foreigners to build ‘dream homes’ on cheap Ecuadorian labor, re-valued the enterprise in seven figures, sold single plots for more than the value of the entire ranch, and started feeding out information to his millions of followers about how he had discovered paradise on Earth.
Adams took interests in land all over the Vilcabamba valley, and then set off to market the heck out of the place. In June, 2010, he wrote Top ten things to love about Vilcabamba, about the wonders of then little-known hamlet.
The piece reads like any other shallow travel whip, until you get to the bottom, where Mike helpfully provides access to his own real estate networks should you be so seduced as to buy the land in what he called the Valley of Longevity. Which many people did.
Natural News marketed events in Vilcabamba to its audience around the world, promoted tours and superfoods from there in which he had a vested financial interest, spruiked the culture and healthy lifestyle angles in a cascade of articles talking up his cheap as chips new paradise.
Adams set the stage for land hungry expatriates, looking for upward mobility and status.. “The cost of living in Vilcabamba, Ecuador is surprisingly low, even if you’re hiring a lot of help. A typical garden worker makes from $10 – $15 per day, and locals are always looking for more work,” he wrote.
Real estate soared. Expatriates arrived in droves. Foul-mouthed failed author, Nick Vasey, settled in from New Zealand to reap the benefits as a real estate agent. The Health Ranger moved out, and a new crop of spiritual entrepreneurs including David Wolfe, Matt Monarch, Kacper Postawski and fat Josh turned up take second lick at the honey pot.
You can see some of the world’s superfood millionaires positively having the best time ever, plugging Vilcabamba as the land of eternal youth on Youtube here -creepy!
Was any of this actually wrong?
No. Not actually. It’s just that what happened in Vilcabamba was not the result of natural growth or even a trend in lifestyle change. It was a carefully, meticulously, beautifully planned strategy that benefited a calculating, foreign elite who had the power of influence and absolutely no interest at all on the impacts on the culture or the people they were exploiting to make it rich.
That these people dress themselves up as crusaders for truth, freedom and happiness online as they exploit that trust the same as any other developers would is not illegal, it’s just .. err… treacherous?
For example, here’s Kacper, plugging himself and other North American entrepreneurs in Vilcabamba, talking about how much awesomeness is in his life, and selling that on to others, after having spent most of 2012 making liquid cash online about how to survive the end of the world at Silent Furnace, when he was cashing in on the (failed) 2012 Apocalypse.
Note how they claim to have unplugged from the Matrix in remote Ecuador, contrasting their paradise to a collapsing North American society, while failing to notice that there is indeed, crisis all around them for the dark-skinned impoverished indigenous who are now enslaved to … them! Oooo!!!!! What about their “soul essence”.. ey?
Most of those who made the first big cash dollar from the exploitation of the Vilcabamba valley are no longer there – which is interesting, isn’t it? I mean, you’re rich, you’re only going to get richer – you’re free, you’ve found your el dorado, so why would you ever leave?
Perhaps they knew that things were already going sideways in paradise once they destablised the economy and disenfranchised the ‘lovely local people’.
Canadian real estate agent, Glen Sanderse, was murdered in Vilca in 2013. A series of rapes and assaults on expats and Ecuadorians have gone on since 2010. Very recently a woman was bashed during a break-in at the residence of Postowski’s mother, Catherine, who, hitting 70, made herself infamous in this heavily Catholic town, for her open and well-advertised adventure in intimate relations with a local Ecuadorian, not yet 20!
The Ecuadorians, ancestral heirs to this remote river valley, who Adams described in 2010 as “exceedingly nice, polite and very friendly to visitors… who… go out of their way to try to communicate with you in simple words that you’ll easily understand… and spend hours chatting about various things: The climate, gardening, horses, tourist activity, politics, health and much more.” were getting pissed.
You could see them, bleary-eyed and staggering around the main square, drunk as newts and scowling into the biting sky as the years were rolling on, and the land was rolling over.
Every housing estate, luxury villa, permaculture farm and gringo mansion sprouting on the hillsides represented the dispossession of at least one farmer and all his dependents. Every new property, each gringo household, represented at least one actual Ecuadorian – usually more – now employed at poverty-line wages of around $3 an hour as staff.
At fat Josh’s house, where I was a visitor several times in 2012, there was a house keeper earning $2.50 an hour. She cleaned up after the kick boxing, the raw food banquets and the pot, ayahuasca and san pedro sessions for more than a year, had an inside view of exactly how the relatively rich new immigrants lived, and was never called by name at work because Josh and his Russian partner, Irina, never bothered to learn it.
She was one of hundreds of local people feeling more and more dejected, terrified, actually, about what the changes in their home town were leading to.
I interviewed Vilcabamba towns people and heard tale after tale of escalating poverty, sickness, misery and anger. One mother of five there drew her finger across her throat when I asked her how she was doing.
A Canadian professor came to town and undertook an official study of the impact of migration on Vilcabamba indigenous.He wrote in 2013 that what he witnessed among the Ecuadorians was displacement, depression, hopelessness and a climate of what he called moral panic.
What is moral panic? Wiki calls it – a feeling of fear spread among a large number of people that some evil threatens the well-being of society.
Were the locals wrong? What were they to do?
As a Western commentator wrote on this blog, having watched the scene in Vilcabamba awhile…
Maybe the increased crime on gringos in Vilcabamba could have something to do with the inflation in the little town causing poor Vilcabambans to demonstrate an act of desperate outrage against the problem. I’m sure their are an increasing number of poor Vilcabambans that may not even have enough money to feed their families because of the increase in food prices, what would you do if you could no longer afford to feed your kids because some rich selfish foreigners decided to ignorantly alter the economics of what used to be fair price. Dan
In the square one Sunday I was introduced to a miserable group of young men, dressed in shredded work wear, drunk on local brew, red-eyed and hunched over bottles swaddled in brown paper. They had finished their 6-day week, working 10 – 12 hour shifts on gringo building sites, with no access to proper tools, water, toilet, shade, food or protection, and were swallowing their weekly earnings of less than $100, blowing the poverty out of their circuits by getting utterly, gutterly, properly pissed – Latino-style.
These were the kind of ‘thugs’ polite society would avoid. Drunk boys. Powder kegs of hard muscle with sly eyes and a short fuse woven from humiliation and anger.
I liked them though. They were beautiful young men being treated like shit, with no other option than to take it.
We talked for ages while they coyly and gratefully smoked all my cigarettes. They were worried, they said, for their mothers. Who cry at night.
For their fathers, who are raging in the dwindling pastures, pecked at by real estate agents and bankers.
They are worried for themselves, about how the hell to pull out of the downward suck of becoming low skilled, landless coloured workers for white Colonialists in their own town! In 2015! Under a ‘people’s President!
They were angry, and they were right to be. When their stories touched raw nerve, they would swig and wince, and glare across to the grizzly hills that flank the gated Hacienda San Joaquin, and its clutch of armed gringo mansions.
“We know they have guns in there,” they would whisper. “And they have a man with a gun at the gate. And walls everywhere, surveillance. Ha! Why do you think they create a prison for themselves? Why here, in this place of peace and quiet – this paradise?
Do you think they know how much we hate that place? What it stands for. What they’ve done. Do you think they know how we dream of coming in there, over the walls, in through the darkness, and staring those men in their faces, making them see that we, too, are real. We too, are men. We too, are armed.”