The last couple of days have presented more of the unexpected. On Friday, I went to Banos, (the suburb of Cuenca and not Banos de Ambato where I stayed a couple of weeks ago) with Paul, the American, who is also staying in the apartment. This Banos is renowned for its thermal pools and mud baths. There are a number of different ones but I had been recommended Piedra de Agua, which turned out to be a rather up market spa. It took some time to find it as there were few signposts and those that existed didn’t seem to point in the right direction. After asking a number of people, (giving us ample opportunity to practise our Spanish), we eventually found it and paid the quite large entry fee.
Whilst Paul went to have lunch, I was escorted to the Turkish steam bath to start the treatment. This involved two 10 minute sessions in the steam with a quick shower (supposedly cold) in between. Following this I had a red mud bath for 15 minutes, in which I had to coat myself in red mud, let it dry and then sit in the pool, which, not surprisingly given the amount of mud that was in it, looked fairly unappealing. (No photos of me with a mud caked face, thank goodness!) After cleaning off and showering, it was into the blue mud, which, disappointingly, was more of a pale green than the vivid blue I was anticipating. Each of these muds contained different minerals that are supposedly beneficial to the skin.
Next stop was a soak in an underground, candle lit hot pool for 10 minutes, 1 minute in a freezing pool (I declined this part) and then back into the hot pool, which actually became too hot for me once the other people in the pool had asked for more hot water. The last item on the agenda was the steam cabinet, also underground, in which my body was enveloped in a box filled with steam, whilst my head poked out of the top. It is possible to adjust the steam level to whatever you can stand. Ten minutes was quite sufficient in the box for me, although I could have stayed longer if I had wanted to. I would have to say that my skin definitely felt much softer after all this pampering!
On the way back to the bus stop, I stopped at a small cafe, as I was now starving, for a juice and something to eat. There was limited choice, so I ended up with 2 bananas (or rather plantains) that had been grilled (or maybe deep fried) that were cut in half and filled with a fairly bland type of cheese. I had seen these on street stalls many times and had been meaning to try them. They were surprisingly tasty and very filling.
Once back in Cuenca, the day was so beautiful (yes, sun!) that I went straight out again for a walk along the river front, where I admired the street art and the old houses. On the way back to the apartment, I zig zagged my way through the streets, discovering yet more plazas and beautiful buildings.