Fernando, Tere and I were driven out of San Pedro this morning to some hot springs around 45 minutes away. The Termas Baños de Puritama are at somewhat higher altitude, over 3,400 metres, so I busily chewed coca leaves at one point where I was feeling the effects of the climb – though they were nothing to complain about.
The series of pools formed by the hot springs are invisible from above, from where you can only see a jagged, linear rent in the earth. Having driven through cactus-dotted hills en route, the idea that there were would be verdant growth here seemed far-fetched.
The track in is probably the bumpiest track I have been on in two decades, but as we walked in it felt as though people had been there for quite a while. And they had: there were reconstituted stone ruins to show where their huts had been.
I read later that the Atacameño people used the waters for medicinal purposes – and they are now recommended for a range of complains, including stress and fatigue. No wonder I felt I was in heaven, though one had to keep a wary eye out for biting insects rather like horseflies.
Fabriola, our guide, walked us in and ensured we had a wonderful lunch. Before that, Fernando and I savoured several of the pools. They proved to be remarkably warm and the cascades give you a thorough massage, if you tuck yourself in underneath them. Disconcerting, though, to feel the earth (or at least the pond floor under your feet) move.
Nice to see little fish swimming around in the hot water, alongside a range of birds ducking in and out of the pampas grass and lunch tables. Plus a number of brilliant blue dragonflies – which I was told are called helicópteras in Spanish. When I looked them up later, I found a more common term is libélulas, or (more exotically) caballitos del diablo.
Was also fascinated by the hot spring algae. Recalled planning to write a novel decades ago based on the work I was doing as Editor of Biotechnology Bulletin. And intriguing, too, that Paula, our guide around the Valle de la Luna yesterday, was once a marine biologist who researched red algae for commercial applications. There’s something bubbling up in my mind here.