Saturday, 5 November 2011

What does one do on a rest day in San Pedro - a trek and hot springs perhaps?

Sometimes on tour rest days can be more stressful than cycling days.  On cycling days the routine is clear - get up, pack up your things, eat, ride, eat, ride, eat, put up your tent, sleep.  On rest days people don't want to miss out on a trick, and in a place like San Pedro where there are so many things to do it can be a headache trying to sort out what to do, trying to pack in as much as possible, but not so much that you finish the rest day needing a rest day to recover.

Ten of us decided today to do a hike up a river followed by a few hours of R+R in the hot springs at the source of the river as our main activity.  The Guatin Punta del Inca hike was recommended by Ricardo.  We found a tour operator willing to take us at extremely short notice and left at around midday.  The driver dropped us off in Guatin and the hike commenced.  Most of the group were wearing shorts, tshirt and sandals, and drinking beer the whole way there.  Based on what we soon found it wasn't perhaps the best attire/ choice of beverage.  Firstly it was baking hot and we would end up spending 3 hours working our way up the river canyon, and secondly the canyon bottom was covered in pampas grasses.  Anyone who is familiar with pampas grasses knows that they cut you badly.  Hundreds of tiny paper cuts would soon adorn our bodies, more so the ones wearing shorts.

In places it wasn't clear how to proceed.  The choice was often get wet or try to climb up the rocks and risk falling in to the water anyway.  Some of the group were like mountain goats and others were not quite so comfortable on rougher terrain.  I went ahead and tried to find my own path up the canyon.  I reached a point where I didn't know how to proceed.  On my left hand side was a sheer rock face and on my right hand side were scores of 2m high pampass grasses to contend with.  I decided the sheer rock face was impossible and I either had to retrace my steps or try and fight my way through the pampas grasses.  I did my best to beat down the leaves before pushing through them, but I still got cut to hell.  When I emerged after 10 minutes of fighting my way through this veritable jungle of pampas I saw some familiar faces.  The rest of the group had found a nice footpath on the other side of the canyon and had managed to catch me up.  They laughed and said I looked like Indiana Jones fighting my way through the pampas.  I was not so amused, nursing my badly cut arms.

When we reached the hot springs it was not quite what we had expected.  The hot springs were pools of water in the river we had been following the whole way.  We had remarked earlier that the river had been pretty warm.  Well that is because the water originates in Tatio, where there are geysers and it is geothermally heated water that then travels underground before re-emerging in the hot springs at Punta del Inca.  The water in the hot springs at Punta del Inca is a comfortable 33 degrees Celsius.  We bathed in the water for several hours and the large majority of the group continued downing beers whilst in the water.  Some also decided to smoke a joint but for obvious legal reasons I can't name any names.  By the time the hot springs closed we were all throughly relaxed and everyone was happy.

The minibus couldn't make it up the hill with all of us inside, so we had to get out and walk several hundred metres.  A few people were only too happy to walk as sheer drops greeted us on one side of the minibus.  We arrived back in San Pedro sometime around 7pm and then we immediately went out to eat - I mean we are calories burning machines after all.  With a nice full belly I can now chill and write this post, catch up on the news and then retire early to my bed, ready for another "rest day" tomorrow.  Night folks.

Start of the day's hiking

Some take the high road and others take the low road

Climb the rock face or fight through the pampas grasses?

Hot springs

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