If there is a source of natural heated water, a town or community will package it and serve it to tourists. They surround the area in tropical plants giving it a spa like feel, serve alcohol, and charge a fee. I have nothing against these facilities, and I quite like the idea of hot springs in theory. Lounging in heated water, sipping a cocktail, and relaxing the day away seems pretty perfect until I arrive at these locales.
I don’t know how to relax, so sitting in hot water gets boring quickly. I quickly realize that I’ve only been soaking for 5 minutes, and that’s when I begin to people watch. This favorite pastime is the only thing that can get me through a hot spring session, and there are usually some great sights.
Usually a fair amount of time has passed between trips that offer a hot spring, and I tend to forget my disdain for the practice. That’s exactly what happened when after completing a four day hike to Machu Picchu a few of us recalled reading about a hot spring in the area. Nothing seemed better than soaking our sore legs and relaxing.
The springs are located in the small town of Aguas Calientes, Peru the base town for Machu Picchu. The name literally means “hot water” so you would think they know a thing or two about thermal baths. After an uphill walk to reach the entrance and paying a fee, concrete pools of questionable cleanliness greeted us. In addition to dirty water and floating bugs, the luke warm water seemed to make it all worse. A slow cooker of filth. The smell, which is attributed to sulphur in the water, didn’t exactly help the situation.
The people were another matter. We seemed to be the only souls questioning our decision to visit these springs. Everyone else didn’t notice the creepy crawlers, and were quite content in their afternoon soak. Which made it all the more weird. Luckily, we were in great company to enjoy our cold beer and warm bath. After we ran out of jokes and were finished giggling, we quickly dressed and moved the party to a local bar. Not before the guys paraded their wet undies around the town. (I’ve blurred faces to protect the innocent.)
After it was all said and done, I have great memories from the pools, which don’t include a relaxing evening in a beautiful setting. Although I made it out without disease, I wouldn’t suggest a dip for yourself. Unless you like living on the edge.