We can say we did it. That is about all that Roland and I got out of our visit to Las Piscinas de La Virgen, the natural hot springs in Baños. We made a valiant effort to like it. We really thought it would be fun. But it wasn’t.
Roland and I arrived at the Las Piscinas for the evening session. We waited in line for a few minutes behind families of locals and groups of young tourists, purchased our tickets, and headed in looking forward to a relaxing visit. The baths sit in the shadow of the Volcan Tungurahua, the source of the thermal water and the view includes some pretty little waterfalls and a statue of the virgin.
As we walked toward the changing area, there was a sign saying you must shower, with soap, before entering the pools. The next sign said a shower cap was required. The guidebook had mentioned neither of these required items, but luckily there is a little shop for the uninformed to purchase both.
After purchasing the necessary items, I walked over to the shower and was immediately greeted by several bare-breasted women. I suppose I should add at this point that the shower is co-ed and easily viewed from the pool deck. These women were unphased by any of that information, so I entered to rinse off. As I looked around began to appreciate the fact that even though these women were not entirely dressed for the occasion, they were in fact washing with soap. I wish the same could be said for the groups of crunchy backpackers who, although properly attired by American standards for public baths, were making only a cursory dip in the shower, if at all, before continuing on to the pool.
Our friends had prepared us for the water to be yellow. However, between the junk floating around in the water, the smell of sulfur mixed with sweat, and sitting shoulder to shoulder with strangers, we were tense. Not quite the relaxing healthy experience we were hoping for. The clean locals joined the smelly tourists in the tightly packed mid temperature bath. We sat in the murky water through which I was neither able to see my legs nor even my belly button. I was waiting for something to eat my toes while Roland was expecting a fungus to begin growing on his skin.
After about 7 minutes in the pool, we agreed it was time to go. We walked out of there and never looked back. That was one South American experience I can say I feel no need to repeat.