Saturday, May 15, 2010

Hot & Cold

The night of our amazing (and difficult) climb up Villarrica, we had booked a trip to one of the many thermal springs near Pucón, Termas Los Pozones. It was a cool, clear night as we disrobed in a Japanese-style wooden hut and slipped through a hole in the floor, down a ladder and into the first of six natural stone pools. The water felt wonderfully warm (it was about 43°C) and our tired muscles instantly relaxed, thanks to the naturally-occuring minerals.

After a little while, we tried the hotter pool nearby (about 47°C). The 30 loud Israeli youths who had taken over this pool were smoking pot and drinking - both not allowed in the pools, if you bothered to read the signs in Spanish. Despite the high temperature being the most soothing, the noise soon made us search out a quieter spot.

After the heat of the two pools, the air seemed bitingly cold to me as I followed Jace quickly through the complex to the other end where we found a slightly cooler pool which was blessedly empty of other humans. I managed to find the "hot spot" in the pool where the thermal water flowed in and we took turns allowing the healing heat to wash over our legs, arms and backs as we stretched out our tired muscles. All too soon, our time was up and we returned to our campsite tired but very happy after an awesome day.

One of the pools at Los Pozones

The rules of Los Pozones include no drugs or alcohol, no sex and no firearms... wait, what?!

Two days later we decided to hike the Lakes Walk through Huerquehue National Park. It started off easily enough, but soon we were climbing up what seemed like a never-ending slope - hadn't we climbed enough for one trip?! The 18km trail took us about 6 1/2 hours - up and down, past many beautiful lakes and waterfalls, through cool rainforests and warm, sunny groves of monkey puzzle trees.

Looking over Lago Tilquilco to Volcan Villarrica

Steam rising off the trail in the morning light

Very tall monkey puzzle trees

Alix nearly stepped on this stunning beetle

The next day we headed back to Los Pozones for another revitalising dip, only to find that 2 of the pools were being cleaned and the other 4 were each less than 1m deep. We quickly decided to walk 1km down the road to Huife, an up-market spa and hotel. It had 3 thermal swimming pools - hot, warm and cool -; a hydrotherapy pool with spa beds, massaging showers and a resistance training channel where you could walk against a strong current (or get swept away by it!); and access to the freezing river (Jace jumped in twice, I was happy with the cool pool). While it was relatively expensive to get in, the pools were great and everyone there, even the children, were relaxed and respectful - no drunken 20-somethings here! We also had fun testing the underwater features of our camera, as you can see below.

Alix in the "hot" pool

Testing the underwater camera

On the spa bed

Alix's new masseur, "Sven"

Jace jumps in the river for some cold therapy

Leaving Pucón the next day was sad for me. We'd had a wonderful time camping and hiking, enjoying thermal spas, sunny weather and the company of 3 fellow campers from the UK (Hi to Eddie, Lisa and Antony!), but it was time to cross back into Argentina and dash to Buenos Aires for our flight to Sydney to meet my beautiful niece, Poppy.

Our last night in Pucón with Antony, Lisa & Eddie

With Poppy, 5 days old

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