Saddle Sores and Visions of a Soothing Spa
Trip Start Jan 20, 2004
187Trip End Ongoing
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But not so fast - Santa Rosa was still a two hour drive away, and there were a couple of interesting towns to pass through along the way. With a population of only 3,500, Salento is one of the smallest towns in the Department of Quindío, and is also one of the oldest. The brightly painted buildings on the main plaza provide a perfect backdrop for the legion of Willys Jeeps - the transportation of choice for many of the inhabitants as well as visiting tourists. We climbed Alto de la Cruz at the end of Calle Real to get a birds-eye view of this colourful town, and to gaze back at the Valle de Cocora which was now fading in the distance.
Although a heavy drizzle was permeating the air, we decided to continue on to Filandia, since it was touted as the best-preserved town in Quindío. Perhaps our expectations had been too high, or possibly it was just the rain and cool temperatures that clouded our
Ah, but by now we were really anxious for a luxurious soak in the thermal springs. Several people had suggested we bypass the built-up, touristy Termales de Santa Rosa, so we opted instead to drive another 18 km on a steep and rocky road to Ecotermales San Vicente. And what a disappointment it was. The advertised 'camping zone' was not available due to heavy rains, the hot springs appeared somewhat murky, the prices were highly exaggerated - and what's so "eco" about hamburgers and hotdogs anyway, and we were the only visitors to the site. The continuing rain made us feel even more despondent, so we decided to move on even though it was now dark. Returning to a nearby junction, we thought we would quickly check out a reputedly more natural hot spring that was just one km up an even rougher road. Deep and muddy ruts made the road almost impassable, and after driving two km without seeing anything, we decided it wasn't worth the risk and turned back.
We had noticed a camping sign near Santa Rosa, so carefully made our descent towards the town and headed for Hospedaje de Cortijo. Yes, camping was written on the sign but no, camping wasn't permitted at this time of year. In spite of our pleas for simply a level spot to park the van inside the gates, the gatekeeper had no sympathy whatsoever and turned us away. But as seems to be the norm, the angels were watching over us - this time in the form of Sara, Oliva and Fabio. Owners of a nearby hospedaje, they kindly invited us in and showed us where we might camp for the night, offering us excellent toilet and shower facilities. Insisting that we accompany them to their own home, they prepared coffee and a snack and we visited together as if we had been friends forever. Yet another example of the superb hospitality of the amazing Colombian people!