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Hot Spring Discovery!!

I’m making many new friends as I get to better know some of the longer term visitors staying down in Cotacachi. Bob Humphrey is one such guy. Bob is mostly retired now from a very successful career heading up a commercial diving operation.

Bob is one of those live wire guys who although his contemporaries are often putting on their slippers to watch tv, he is itching to do new things – great guy to have around to get me out from all the day to day running of the hotel and away from the laptop. Of course he needs a bit of showing around so here we are with Bob Skinner, another reader of Gary and Merri’s who’s renting a vacation house just nearby El Meson, getting out there and doing it. The two Bobs and me. What a team we make.

Bob H is in great shape. I’m almost tempted to add ‘for his age’ but that would be doing many younger guys a favor they don’t deserve. He’s in shape so all we need is a challenge and Bob H is ready to head it up. This time, on Merri’s instigation, we went out to explore an off-the-beaten-track hotspring at Tumbiyacu; Quechua for ‘boiling water’.

Hire a taxi and just go! Guess what? We were 4 hours and many clicks of bumpy raods and it came to just $35. We headed out north of Cotacachi as if going to our established hot spring destination at Chachimbiro. Then, at Urcuqui, or just before we slung a sharp left. Actually, the prevailing direction was up. Up though a well kept little village called San Blas that was strung out lineally along the route to Tumbiyacu.

I’d never been to San Blas before but have to say it’s one of the more picturesque villages in the area. Old folks just sit on their doorsteps or in the local square. Kids come out to wave and dogs greet our taxi with a torrent of friendly barking. Rural Ecuador!

Up, up we went. Looking back we see Imbabura in the distance. Incredible views. The canyon gets narrower and narrower. A mountain stream rushes downhill in the opposite direction. Andean meadows are covered with blue wild flowers.

We finally come, after what seems a long 8 miles, to the end of the road. There is a country cottage off to the right of the stream and looking up 100 yards there look to be some cabins; maybe the hot springs? Glad to stretch our legs me and Bob get out and cross over an irrigation trough and stride up to the cabins.

Turns out the guy gardening the grounds is Jose de la Cruz, the caretaker appointed by the local community to maintain the hot springs. Turns out also that for lack of finance (maybe an opportunity here?) there are only two pools and everything is just a little uncared for.

The ‘complex’ is open at the weekends but is aimed at the Ecuadorian market as there are two large pools and one is a swimming pool; deep. Jose insists that we accompany him uphill to the source of the thermal waters; and there they are in a rudimentary tank with a simple overflow and release valve (into the river) operation. Mondays to Wednesday evening they let the water run off to the nearby stream and Wednesday night they shut the valve and it overflows the tank to a run-off pipe and downhill directly into the pools. By midday Friday the pools are full up.

At the spring the water is probably about 100-105 degrees F. But by the time the pools fill up I dare say the water will just be warm because of the size and length of time to fill them up. Sunday evening the pools are emptied. With a little bit of investment some smaller pools could be built.

Bob says, and I agree, the whole head of the valley has a serene feel to it. About 45 minutes up hill are two tall waterfalls – so seems like we have to come back and explore the hiking opportunities here.

It’s a tough job but someone has to do this kind of stuff. It was fun to do this, and Bob kind of likes Ecuador more with every passing day!