This is a travel blog for desktop travelers and other ramblers who want to know the world just a little bit better.

Right now I am living in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala where I'll be settled for a while. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Papallacta - Pretty Much Just Hot Springs

It feels like recently that I am blogging often about hot springs. Maybe because it is a thing to do in Colombia and Ecuador or maybe becuase it is a thing that we do in Colombia and Ecuador. I hope the blog isn't becoming redundant. Regardless, we find ourselves headed to another hot springs town. Carnival has ended in Ecuador, the captain has turned off the seat belt sign and we are free to leave Tena and move about the country.

Volcano Antizana
We now have a rough travel plan for the next couple of weeks which believe me is a big step for us since we are usually moving from one place to the next. We have already decided that we are going back to Quito for some shopping and then stay up in the Andes mountains. Our bus route to Quito takes us past Papallacta, a hot springs town so we make the obligatory soak stop.

Papallacta is a tiny little town sitting at roughly 3300 m ( 10,800 feet ) above sea level that pipes in hot springs from somewhere in the mountains. Just two hours by bus from Quito, the town gets many weekenders from the city. Even a day trip would be possible. There are several hotels of various quality some with their own hot springs tubs. Two km at the end of the hill from the highway sits the fanciest hotel with rooms starting at $129 without breakfast and just a piddly discount to their spa. I am not sure who is staying here but they are getting ripped off. This hotel also has pools for the general public which are the main draw to Papallacta.

Today, March 9, happens to be our sort of anniversary (official signing day, not wedding day) so we decide to splash out for $69 at a small hotel that has their own pools plus a private tub and fireplace in our room, breakfast included.
Our swanky pad
The next day and anniversary over we get back to our backpacker budget ways and move down hill to the only economical place in town. The Senora tells us that she has been in the business since the 80's and that they are 100% from Papallacta, a definite dig at all the carpetbaggers coming to town recently and opening new, pricey accommodations. She also has a very cheap restaurant.

We climb back up the hill to spend the day at the public pools run by the fancy hotel. Being a weekday there are very few people and very calm which is good. The hotel has eight or nine pools, with one tucked away in the corner of the property sitting by the edge of a river. Mika, much preferring a nature-based hot springs atmosphere to a YMCA public pool feeling, is very happy and we spend the rest of the afternoon lounging in warm water by the chilly river.
Hot Pool
Cold River
In other hot springs towns I have tried to write about other activities to do besides sitting in a pool of warm water, but in Papallacta there is really nothing else though people with cars might get to some interesting trail heads. We do manage to push ourselves into a giant trout farm for an impromptu tour. The farm was donated by Japan in 1996 and is now run by the Ecuadorian government which then sells small fish to other trout farms. The manager reluctantly acquiesced our request to visit the site, though he said no photos allowed. Protecting government aquatic lfe secrets I guess.

My logic is that since I have eaten trout for my last three meals in Papallacta, I might as well see where they are coming from. It is quite interesting. We see rainbow trout from orange egg - shown to us sucked up with a turkey baster - to really large ones sporting large pink stripes past their reproducing prime. By my estimate this trout fishery has produced millions of fish over the past sixteen years.
"Today Trout" and pretty much every other day also
We leave Papallacta. On the bus rides through the Andes we are always surrounded by big green mountains and the views never get tiring. Since it is a clear morning we have bright blue sky and perfect sight of the snow-capped volcano Antizana. As we wind down towards Quito we start to see the city and a thick pinkish gray cloud of pollution hanging over it. I actually do not have the mindset for a stay in Quito right now. Probably all of that mineral water has made me soft. So at the bus station instead of going into town, we cross town to the other bus station and go to Mindo. I'll deal with Quito later when the lingering affects of Papallacta's hot springs are long gone.

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