A quick word on Termas, or hot springs.
The high concentration of volcanic activity in the area creates:
- Great hiking views of snowcapped volcanoes, sometimes spewing smoke or dust,
- Slight fear every time you see said smoke or dust (or large ash clouds) and take quick assessment of escape routes, and
- Lots and lots and lots of local hot springs.
The hot springs in the area range from expensive, built-up spa facilities to rock-lined swimming pools to steaming streams in the middle of nowhere. We explored several on the more rustic end of the spectrum and can report that they were fantastically luxurious.
Los Pozones. In Chilean vernacular, pozones means pool. Many of the termas have the word “pozones” in their name, and trying to find the one pool called “The Pool” is difficult. (Not that difficult – there’s a local bus that goes there.)
We arrived late morning on a weekday to find we had the place entirely to ourselves. We luxuriate about between 5 different pools ranging from too-hot to mildly tepid. We spend most of our time in the too-hot, with breaks to run down to splash into the river (frigid) and lounge on the grass in the sun.
Valle de Aguas Calientes. A spectacular day hike from Chillan, our next stop north from Pucon. The bus drops us off at the trailhead which strikes off into steadily inclined forest crisscrossed with bicycle and puma tracks. Soon we are passing steamy cracks in the earth with yellow, pink, and white deposits and strong sulfur smells. We reach the saddle just after lunch and are greeted with spectacular views.
Over the pass, we descend into a grassy valley crisscrossed with streams – and sure enough, these are, in fact, aguas calientes. The streams vary in temperature, with some being mildly warm and some being too hot to touch. The streams are small and not too deep, but we find several nice pools where the hot streams join with cooler waters and lie back in the natural hot tubs, watching the hot steam rising against our rocky surroundings and marveling at nature.
A few other people have camped here and we kick ourselves for not bringing along our tent. We can only luxuriate for a little while before we have to hightail it out of there to catch the last bus back to town.
That time that the nearby volcano suddenly spewed a huge cloud of ash and smoke. J ran a little circle in panic, but all the locals we passed on the trail seemed utterly unconcerned, so we kept an eye on it and continued on our way until it finally stopped.
Next up: Overnight bus to Valparaiso and on to Santiago!
Lots of Love,
C & J