EXPLORING SOME OF ECUADOR’S THERMAL RESORTS, PART THREE (FINAL)
We have arrived into Papallacta and, after a long yet exciting day, a dip in the warm pools of our fine Hotel and Spa’s thermal complex is the ideal thing to do. We rapidly check-in into our comfortable rooms and, donned in swimming trunks and open-toed sandals we head for the pool complex, where you can shift from the steaming hot sulfurous waters to other pools with cold water and repeat the exercise a number of times. The Spa and pool staff is ready to advice you about the safety regulations and tips to enjoy to the fullest the soothing effects of the thermal waters. We spend some twenty minutes there, just before dusk, and then we make our way to the fantastic and even gardened indoor Spa complex, where in great comfort and in an ambiance of peace, relaxation and elegance, we take a session of Spa treatments. I choose a body and facial exfoliation treatment with oils and flower-baths, just perfect not only for the skin but for the mind and spirit. My companions opt for different kinds of massages or a “reflexology” treatment based on ancestral techniques working with your feet.
Feeling just gloriously relaxed, we get back to our rooms to change into “smart casual” outfits and head on to the cozy bar by a fireplace, to enjoy a cocktail before dinner. Again that unbeatable feeling of peace and tranquility elevated to its highest peaks…. Then it is dinner time and, feeling so good, we decide to pamper ourselves with a delicate corn soup, superbly grilled salmon steak with a garnish of Ecuadorian asparagus and baby tomatoes and a delicious strawberry mousse for desert. Of course the little “banquet” deserved a nice bottle of red wine which we sipped slowly, just enjoying the unique pleasure of ending one same day spent between two of Ecuador’s most outstanding thermal springs resorts.
The following morning, totally relaxed and well-rested, another sunny day welcomes us and, once again, the stunning views of the giant Antisana Volcano totally uncovered and showing all of its white beauty escort us across the scenic gardens into the dining-room for a bountiful buffet breakfast. Willy, our local guide is ready now to take us on a short tour of the area, which includes visiting the numerous smaller public and private pools and spas at the nearby town of Papallacta, located at close to 11.000 feet above sea level. Then we go bird-watching for a while at the eastern shores of the fairly large and scenically pretty Lake of Papallacta (the word translates from the indigenous Kichwa language into “land of potatoes”). We manage to spot some wading birds like stilts, ducks and some kind of heron, scouting the lake’s shores. Also a pretty Andean kite flies overhead, high above, with its white wings fully extended.
Then we take a nature trail leading us into a wilder area of the high moorlands that surround the Papallacta area. The vegetation is typical Andean moorlands and Willy shows us some pretty high-mountain flowers like the “chuquirahua”. More encounters with birds allow us, with the aid and trained eyes of our guide, to spot several colorful tanagers, dazzling hummingbirds and other raptors like one type of falcon, scouting the area from high above. Willy tells us that it is not unlikely to occasionally see some wild deer, wild rabbits and foxes in the area. The area is just in the borderline of one of Ecuador’s Protected Areas, the Cayambe-Coca Ecological Reserve and it exudes peace and tranquility, only broken by the whistling sound of the Andean wind that starts to pick-up force as it gets close to midday.
Fully happy with the short but fascinating nature exploration, we get back to our Hotel and Spa for one last visit to the thermal baths, arranged along a nicely designed maze of winding pools, cascades and grottos, which make the experience even more enjoyable. A cold shower and getting back to our outdoor clothes, set us ready for a light lunch of “palmito” (hearts of palm) salad; braised trout, a specialty of the area, accompanied by small potatoes and organic lettuces. A cold Ecuadorian beer is the perfect company for the meal, as we get ready for the one and a half hour ride over the modern and well-paved Inter-Oceanic road back to Quito, the capital of Ecuador, after two days filled with relaxing experiences visiting two of the country’s most important and touristic thermal resorts…. One more fantastic adventure and a new experience comes to an end but we will certainly return for more….