High above Pucon, Chile
The final ski day of the trip was one of those occasional, strange days when your plans go to hell but what eventually happens exceeds your original plans anyway.
The day dawned gray and raining about 4 inches an hour. We soon found that the (sketchy) road up to Villarrica Volcano from Pucon was closed due to huge amounts of snow, white-out visibility, and the ski resort would not open. Since Villarrica essentially starts from sea level, we discussed the possibility of skinning up the (closed) road to the bottom of the ski resort and then proceeding upward from there, but since that would have amounted to more than 4,000 vertical feet of crappy, slushy, Whistler-wet touring just to get to the start of a real tour, and the real tour would be in a white-out blizzard, we decided to drop back ten and punt.
The usual backup plan for days like these are to spend the day soaking weary old skied-out bones in one of the plethora of local natural hot springs. There are all sorts of such spas in the volcanic regions of Southern Chile. Some are pretty nice, some are REALLY nice.
Gustavo, one of our guides, who has lived in Pucon for almost ten years, suggested a place called Termas Geometrico. I almost didn’t go. I was tired and thought about simply spending the whole morning in bed, then wandering around the town of Pucon in the PM, which I hadn’t gotten a chance to do. Gustavo is a very cool guy, but a man of few words. He winked at me and said “Trust me. Go”.
So I went.
We drove about 45 minutes, then turned up a terrible road, pot-holed dirt road. A sign read “Termas Geometrico – 17 KM”. The road was so terrible that I convinced myself that I must have mis-read it. It must have read “1.7 KM”.
For a nauseating half-hour, we crashed, bumped, and skidded down this horrible, flooded dirt road in the middle of nowhere. It was pissing down rain & sleet. My head hurt and I almost blew chunks about 10 times. I felt awful.
Finally the van skidded to a halt in the Termas Geometrico parking lot. I wobbled out and staggered over to the hot springs restaurant to order a Pepsi to settle my stomach. The lady handed me a menu, and I ordered a Coke. On the side of the menu was a map of something that looked like a small neighborhood. I asked her in Spanish what the diagram represented. She replied something which, I assumed, I must have mis-translated: “that’s a map of the hot springs”.
Hmmmm. A map of the hot springs? You average hot springs facility has a pool or two or three, either in a meadow or inside a building.
I walked outside and looked around. What I saw blew my mind. Termas Geometrico is a huge, neighborhood-sized facility built entirely inches above a raging river inside a canyon with sheer rock walls about 50 feet high. It’s about a quarter-mile long. Boiling-hot volcanic hot water seeps out of the canyon walls into catch basins. Freezing mountain snowmelt water rages out of other parts of the walls in huge waterfalls. Ferns and moss grow out of the rock walls. There are TWENTY-SIX (26) geometric soaking pools spaced along the canyon walls, inches above the river, most of which are built directly into the rock walls of the canyon. Each is a different temperature, a different elevation, a different shape. Each has its own name.
Each pool has a few different terrain features, such as an SUV-sized waterfall arching out over it, or a natural rock overhang under which you can hide from the rain.
Along the platform there are cabins in which you can change into your bathing suit. But do not drop your wallet or your keys – the cabin floors are also inches above the raging river, and are made of open slats.
Unfortunately, I didn’t bring my camera. A hot springs is a hot springs, right? I did manage to snap a few pikkies with my phone, but the pikkies don’t do justice to how amazing and unique Termas Geometrico is.
We spent the whole afternoon there, and I still only got to try about half of the 26 pools.