Well, it was Sunday morning and it was early, so we paid the
nominal $1 entrance fee, and were greeted warmly by several uniformed
folks who were obviously running the place. They were quite happy and
proud that we had come to visit this remarkable feat of nature.
Directing us as to how to protect our clothing from getting wet, they
told us we needed to shower before entering any of the pools. The one on
the far end was the hottest, the one in the middle less hot, and the
last one, over there, was a regular pool. All the rules were posted
downstairs at the entrance, the second most notable one being that we were not
to spit in the pools (!)
Looking around, we saw that the Cascada de Ulba was right behind the hottest pool,
dropping from a sheer 1,000 feet. We had climbed to the top yesterday,
and had seen the baths from above.
Some icy water from the Cascada was directed to the Baths below offering a cold
option for rinsing after having been poached in the hotter tubs.
CASCADA DE ULBA, 1,000 FOOT WATERFALL
It was still early, but already the place had 100 people; well
behaved children, and plenty of adults. We were the only non Ecuadorians
there, and we were a curiosity. That is why this man, my new friend in
the Baths, was talking with me.
“Cuantos ninos tiene?” he asked intently. Oh, jeeze.
I thought I had already dodged my bullet for the morning, but of course,
here comes the most frequently asked question in all of Latin America.
“Two. One girl, and one boy,” I lied. Any of you who have had experience in Spanish speaking countries know that
having children is as important to Latin Americans as being saved from
the fires of hell.
Over the years Billy and I have experimented with
several responses to this question. Sometimes we tease and say we
worked so hard that we had no time to make children. Women smile
amusedly and men roar with laughter. Sometimes we're honest and say that we don’t have any, or
different tack. This causes so much pain however, as seen in their eyes, and we
receive so much pity in response, that we have found it is much more
humane to fib.
My new best friend goes into a long explanation of his five children, 4
boys, 1 girl, the second oldest son having died in a tragic accident.
One is an engineer, (of which he is very proud) and the
daughter married an American and now lives in Tampa,
Florida with her baby. This is also a great source of
self respect. All the while we are soaking in these
natural hot baths overlooking the spectacular Andean
SPECTACULAR ANDEAN SCENERY AT THE BATHS
Meanwhile over at the side of the pool, one of the
guards, a Gordita, motions to Billy that he should try the natural cold
shower coming out of the mountainside. Everyone turns to look at Billy.
It’s the custom, you see. First the hot pool, then the cold rinse, and then back
into the pool. Peer pressure is intense, so Billy advances towards the
cold showers. When he gets close to the amiga gordita, he teases and says he wants to shower with her under the
cold water. She laughs uproariously, as well as everyone else within
THE ICY COLD RINSE FROM THE FALLS OVERHEAD
Under the freezing cold downpour he goes, making a lot of
racket and acting like he just can’t take it. It's a really fun show
with splashing and making screaming noises.
Then it’s my turn. Everyone encourages, and I think, "how am I going to
get out of this?" I pretty much do the same, except I try to escape
early. No good. I have to be thoroughly drenched from head to toe in
this crystal cold water. After the shock, it really does feel fabulous.
Back and forth we go, cold splash and hot soaking. After an hour or so
of simmering with the locals, we look like lobsters. We decide to call
it quits for the morning and say goodbye to all our new friends, get dressed,
and wave so long. As we descend the stairs to get to the street side, we
notice that several buses were unloading people who want to spend the
day here at these famous baths. The advice we received was right! Get there
early, and have the place to yourselves. It's worth it.
are open daily, 4:30am - 5pm, and the downstairs baths open from 6-10
pm. Bring your own towel, as none are provided.