Posted by: adventuressetravels | August 14, 2010

Soak Your Cares Away

Hot springs are by far one of nature’s best gifts.  Beneficial for the body and the mind, I try to visit as many as I can.  From staying up ’til all hours in the ornate domed grandeur of the Turkish baths of Budapest, Hungary, a snowy night skinny dipping in the steamy thermal waters in the middle of a field just outside of Bratislava, Slovakia, every experience is as unique as it is fabulous.

From the moment I heard about the thermal baths outside of Neiva, I knew that I just had to stop there.  Hot and dirty from the long bus ride from Armenia, I longed to relax in buttery-soft waters having my stress, cares, and tension all drain away.

I took the forty-five minute bus ride from Neiva after breakfast, and as soon as I’d found a hostel immediately got changed into my swimming suit and went in search of a mototaxi to take me to the thermal baths.

Many towns in Colombia use mopeds as taxis, they are less expensive than taxis, and really quite interesting.  As there is no meter, the passenger should be sure to ask the driver the price before the ride.  When a deal has been struck one just climbs on the back of the mototaxi and the driver takes their passenger where they need to go.  The other, less common, type of mototaxi is a moped with a little cart on the back.  This can hold several passengers, or passengers who do not feel comfortable on the back of a scooter.

I hopped on the back of the nearest mototaxi, half a block from the hostel, and I was off to the thermal baths.  The driver stopped outside of the two main thermal baths and asked me if I wanted to go to the more or less expensive one.  As I wanted to explore both of them I had him drop me off at the more costly of the two.

The larger, more luxurious spa was deserted other than a lonely security guard.  I walked around to look at the facilities.  It really did look like paradise, a room for massages, several pools, all surrounded by lush jungle foliage.  But I was not taken in.  After all, as my host in Neiva said, “it’s the same water.”

The splash of the cold water shower played in the background as the sulfery smell of thermal waters enveloped me.  Some hate that “rotten egg” odor, but I have come to adore it.  It is the aroma of soft skin, of warm water, of utter relaxation.

With a deep breath I stepped under the fountain of frigid water to wash off before the pool.  The shock of cold water hit me forcefully, taking my breath away.  That was it; I was ready for the comfort of the thermal waters.

I hurried over to the large swimming pool fed by thermal waters and gingerly poked a toe, then a foot in, unsure in the temperature.   Literally steaming, the water was warmer than I had imagined, definitely over 40 degrees.  With a contented sigh, I sank beneath the piping waters.  After nearly a week of cold showers I was in heaven.

Luxuriating in the giant bath, I submerged myself and let the mineral rich waters work their magic until I just couldn’t take it anymore.  Now, the formerly unpleasant shower of icy mountain water was refreshing.

As I have said, when traveling solo you are never really alone, and the spa was a prime example of this. As the day progressed a few people trickled in.  Four cyclists from Medellin, biking their way through Colombia talked to me at length.  The helpful young men gave me insider’s tips on things to do and see in the Paisa region around Medellin, and their favorite spots around the country.

When they left, a mother, grandmother, and their 14-year-old, all fairly bursting with curiosity, talking to me: Where was I from?  What did I think of Colombia?  We had a lovely chat, the boy recommended places to go and foods to try in Cali, where I was heading in a few weeks, the mother gave me glowing reviews of the countryside between Neiva and San Agustin, the next stop on my journey.

The most interesting piece of information I gleaned from this conversation was about Los Angeles, the third thermal bath, not five minutes from the other two.  It was, of course, the same water, but this bath had natural pools rather than manmade ones of concrete.   Mototaxis knew about Los Angeles, but one had to ask specifically to go there.  The mother and son preferred Los Angeles to its manmade competitors, but the grandmother liked the spa atmosphere better.  The water was warmer, and she felt it was cleaner so they had come here.

I was inclined to agree with the mother and son, but by this point I had had my fill of thermals baths for the day.  Also ready to head back to Rivera, the family offered me a ride into town.  Though I would have liked to see Los Angeles I was not going to look a gift horse in the mouth and gladly accepted their offer. If I make it back to Neiva or Rivera I will make it a point to get to Los Angeles.

I highly recommend these thermal baths as pit stop for the weary traveler.  These mineral rich baths are a fantastic way to rejuvenate mind, body, and spirit.

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