Having arrived so late, the next morning, I didn’t feel like an early start. My bodyclock quite bizarrely seems to have completely overshot Argentinian time and ended up out towards the Galapagos Islands. Perhaps it’s wishful thinking! The bed had looked rather saggy in the mattress department last night, but actually was very comfortable. The bunks are made of rustic wooden poles – slightly unusual, but very practical and effective.
I have a leisurely breakfast with Sarah (a Canadian lass sharing my dorm), Marco (one of the owners), Petu (his wife) and a couple of Argentinians. Marco’s coffee is amazing – I don’t usually like coffee in the morning, but that was very pleasant and not at all harsh on the stomach. The kitchen is quite dark and cozy, with a huge gas-fired iron range in one corner – the breakfast bar is good for chatting while the toast (sometimes!) gets a little crisp on the griddle on the range.
Fernanda (Ferny) and her partner (I’m embarrassed to say I can’t work out how to spell his name – sorry!), the Argentinian couple, are heading to a pool nearby, and we’re both invited to join them. (Apparently swimming isn’t allowed in the Cuesta del Viento – I wonder what the authorities who invented that rule think we do when we get catapulted off the board!)
The morning is already getting on, and so the light is now quite harsh. And the images of windsurfing I’ve come to take need windsurfers to be out playing on the water – which won’t happen until later in the afternoon, when the katabatic (thermal/mountain) wind kicks in, and the serious folks come out to play.
So in the meantime a quiet relaxing dunk in a pool sounds wonderful. The temperature is fairly hot here – low 30s C – and memories of Oz once again return. Pools there were a lifesaver while I adjusted to the scorching midday heat, and although first thing in the morning seems a slightly odd time to go, the company seems fun – and I might even get to practice my (very limited) Spanish!
The pool (“pileta” apparently is a Spanish word for “pool”) is fed by geothermal springs. Result – piping hot mineral water pouring into a very shallow end, which becomes a very pleasant warm (not hot or cold) temperature soon after it mixes with the main body of water already in the pool. The pool is perhaps only 3/4 full – making the shallow end a unique place where you can lie on the bottom of the pool, be almost completely covered in water and still breathe! The deeper end is much better for swimming in – it’s still possible to stand up, but you don’t run the risk of hitting the bottom with every stroke.
Although the water appears just as clear as any conventional pool, it apparently contains lots of minerals which have been leached out from the rocks it passes through on its way to the surface.
The view is certainly amazing – snow-capped Andean mountains on one side, and smaller hills the other with a wide-open view of the countryside in between. The metal structure over the pool is rather strange – presumably it’s for a fabric roof in winter?
The conversation in the pool is a strange mix of English and Spanish – with Sarah and Ferny translating between my very poor Spanish and Ferny’s partner’s limited English. It’s a really good place to chat though – muy tranquilo – and I discover that Ferny is from near Rosario, and her partner from San Juan. They’re just up for the weekend – apparently Rodeo is a popular place for folks from the Cuyo region (Mendoza/San Juan/San Luis provinces) to come for the weekend even if they are not windsurfers, and they found out about this pool just by driving by. I later learn that it’s quite well known for its thermal waters, and is in most of the guidebooks! Although part of the “Hotel Termas”, day visitors are very welcome to come just for a dip in the pool – it costs 6 pesos, which is only just over £1, so hardly breaks the bank.
Nicely relaxed we get out of the pool and let the gentle breeze and heat of the sun dry us off. Just in time, the katabatic wind suddenly kicks in, and starts to blow furniture around. A large bench nearly gets flipped into the pool, and a small whirlwind blows sand everywhere. Cue our time to leave and head into Rodeo to pick up some food for lunch.
The village shop in Rodeo is quite small, but very well stocked for somewhere so out of the way. We pick up some steak, peppers, bread, pomelo (grapefruit) drink, and salad items. All comes to 42 pesos between 4 of us – not bad – about £2 each. Ferny’s partner is in charge of the steak – and even though he mistakenly assumes that being English I want the steak very overdone, its still extremely nice. Partly a better quality of steak than I think we get back in the UK, partly he’s a really good cook.
A really pleasant introduction to staying in the Argentinian “campo” – now just to wait for the wind to arrive so I can go and take those pictures of windsurfers that I came for!