Monday, March 3, 2014

Off the Beaten Path: The Thermals at Santa Teresa

At the conclusion of a Mission of Healing, we are always very tired.  Each year we try to dedicate one day to rest and recovery.  We call this our "tourist day" and usually we seek out a source of water.  We have found that floating in a pool or taking a boat ride or relaxing on the beach helps us to recuperate our energy after a week of absorbing our brothers' and sisters' stories, burdens and illnesses.  The Salvadoran members of the team have encouraged us in this practice.  Sometimes they join us, but often, they send us on our way so that we can enjoy the beauty of their country and can unwind together without the burden of translation.

I had heard about some hot springs from a friend, and when I asked the Salvadoran pastors about the possibility of going to some hot springs to relax, they agreed that the Termales de Santa Teresa was the place to go.  It was a pretty long drive out to Auachapan from San Salvador, and the final leg offered up some pretty extreme road construction, but once we turned into the driveway we realized the trip was definitely worth the effort.  Along the drive we could see steam rising from small lagoons and mud bubbling up along the roadside.  A dull roar could be heard every 20 seconds and we wondered if an airport were nearby -- but it was the sound of one of the big geysers venting steam.  The springs are surrounded by by a beautiful mountain landscape.

We paid our entrance fee ($10 per person) and took a quick tour of the multiple pools, bar, restaurant, changing rooms and comfy places to lay in a hammock or sit on outdoor sofas.  Some folks lathered up with mud and went right for the pools.  The series of pools which go from very hot to quite cool are perfect for relaxing and rinsing off the mud.  And that mud is really awesome for your skin!

Some of us headed out for a hike before swimming.  The hike is guided for safety, and it is included in the price of admission (though a nice tip is a good idea).  We walked through the area along the entrance road, experiencing hot spots and cool spots, bubbling water and bubbling mud.  Our guide had lived in the area for his entire life.  He said that when he was young, the biggest geyser had exploded and killed several families who lived in the area.  Some of the steam vents smelled of sulfur but overall the area smelled warm and fresh.  The guide said that the hot spring water flows down the mountain.  They built the pools where the water collected, so it is a naturally sustainable place.  We toured the coffee tree nursery and a full-blown coffee processing plant which is run by a collective of coffee growers from the sides of the surrounding mountains.  At one point on the hike we took a water break.  "Look over there," our guide said, "those mountains are Guatemala."  It was simply beautiful.

We had decided to eat a late lunch outside of the resort, on the recommendation of a Salvadoran friend.  The restaurant at the resort seemed very nice, but expensive.  The Termales de Santa Teresa does have a good web site.  It was very lovely to be there during the week when we were essentially the only ones there.  It does get a little bit more crowded on weekends and holidays, according to the guide.  With a little more business the resort could hire more people and better care for a few of the older pools and walk areas which have been somewhat neglected.  Our group said they would LOVE to return to this place every year!  I agree.  This is one of El Salvador's treasures!

Entrance to Santa Teresa
Pools which decrease in temperature as you descend


Steam geysers 
 
Children who live near the hot springs

Hot!


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