Sunday, April 28, 2013

Copahue Geothermal Complex and Spa

We woke up next day to a full blown Andean winter storm with gale force winds and torrential rain. I brave a walk with Winston and on the way pick up a brochure detailing spa treatments and a variety of therapeutic baths available. By the time we got back, Tom was up and after a quick breakfast, we left Winston in the RV and went back to town to the Thermal Complex. The complex like the rest of the town is part of Copahue Provincial Park, owned and operated by the province of Neuquen. Copahue thermal springs, according to the literature, are world renowned for the quality and diversity of their waters, whose therapeutic properties are guaranteed by the World Health Organization and recognized as one of the best three in the world. A group of doctors, nurses, professionals and technicians supervise all treatments and before being allowed to use the facility, we first had to see a nurse who after reviewing the lengthy medical forms that we were required to fill out, took our blood pressure. Depending on those findings, you may have to see a doctor or in our case, she will sign a release at which time we are handed over to a staff member who will reserve any of the treatments we want plus show us to the variety of thermal pools that are scattered around. As the Christmas song goes “the weather outside is frightful” and there is no fire only steaming, hot bubbling pools of water around us which works well for us. The mud pool, we are told is too cold to enter - which although it was something we wanted to try having tried them in New Zealand for the first and only time and loved it – was okay with us since that particular pool is outdoors and I have already mentioned how inclement the weather is. We also knew we wanted the full body massage and time in the immersion baths and I wanted a facial, any sort of facial that would involve plenty of moisture and hydration was fine with me. Our attendant suggested having the massage first, then the immersion whirlpool and following those, a facial for me while Tom would go back to the RV, walk Winston and start preparing dinner. She took us to another part of the complex where we were told to wait and offered some mineral water from the complex’s own, private source. The rooms we were then escorted to were clean and comfortable with the usual massage bed, plenty of towels, soft music and the tantalizing smell of potpourri, candles, oils and lotions. For one full hour the very well trained and skilled masseuse rubbed, kneaded and massaged from top to toe (leaving out the personal areas, of course), with a variety of those oils and lotions which left my skin feeling oh so soft. When we met up again, Tom agreed it was a great massage. It was then on to the immersion baths. We had elected to try the green algae one, for no good reason other than we had never soaked in green algae before, I guess. I am taking the following description from the brochure. “The green algae mud is extracted from the bottom of the lagoon and used in dermatologic treatments. The mud contains minerals and microalgae that give the water its characteristic intense green color”. Hey, sounds slightly disgusting but there you have it. We were taken to a private room with part of it a dressing area and the other part for the bath. In theory, after getting into the immersion pool, the attendant turns on the jets of the intensely green water, temperature very hot and you lie back, put your head on the padded headrest and allow the algae to perform it’s therapy on your body for 20 minutes. In theory. The reality was the “immersion pool” was little more than a low quality whirlpool tub so to “immerge” would require you to curl on your side in the fetal position and crouch below the water or only immerge parts of your body at a time, the “intensely green algae water” looked actually more like water to which green food coloring had been added (I can only thank God, nothing was floating in it), temperature “very hot” will be re-defined to hot which got to be tepid as the time passed and the jets churned it around (I am guessing the pump did not have a water heater attached), the padded headrest was cracked and uncomfortable and as for as its therapeutic quality I can only guess at since after 5 minutes I was only waiting for the time to pass and the attendant to re-appear so I could get out. After 5 more minutes as I lay there, all I could observe were the peeling paint, the cracks in the ceiling and wires hanging all around me. Then I got to thinking about wires, electricity and water – with me in it! I didn’t wait for the attendant. I got my clothes, quickly toweled off (there were no showers to get rid of the green water), dressed and was gone. Tom’s experience was the same and we both agreed, definitely not worth the time. As I walked with him to the main doors we talked about the two experiences, both so vastly different until we saw the weather. It is late afternoon and the wind was still howling but the rain had turned to sleet with a little hail. Tom, God bless him, offered to bring me back a warmer jacket while he walked Winston. Since I had time before my facial, I agreed and waited inside while he walked back to the RV, got Winston and my jacket and walked back. My facial restored my faith in the facility. Again, the room was clean and comfortable with a similar bed and plenty of clean towels. The aroma from the potpourri and candles was similar to earlier with only a slight difference in the smells of creams, tonics and lotions. For more than an hour, the beautician skillfully cleansed, scrubbed, massaged and oiled not only my face but my throat, neck, shoulders, arms and hands. After a warm herbal mud masque was applied and left to do its work, she went to work liberally applying and massaging first using a scrub and then lotion into my arms. After cleansing the masque from my face with warm, moist towels and applying a layer of lotion over which she placed another warm towel, she then worked on my hands. I felt the dry layer of skin being peeled away and moisturizers being massaged into the new. It was then back to my face with several rounds of lotions and creams and massaging. Ah, the elixir for wrinkle free skin, well that a good genes, of course! After saying a fond “ciao” and a good tip for her marvelous attention, I headed outside. The wind, the rain, the sleet, the hail, they had all intensified as the sun had disappeared. As I made my way up the hill as fast as possible I could feel the hail hitting my face, my fabulously exfoliated, moisture-laden face. By the time I arrived at the motorhome, I was exhaling as much steam from my breath as the volcano was belching into the night air, or so it seemed. My arrival was further announced when I opened the door and the wind instantly ripped it out of my hand and slammed into the side of the RV. Phew, that’s quite a storm out there, I told both Tom and Winston. What a great smell awaited me. We had planned on grilled chicken for dinner but due to the weather Tom had made a pot of chicken and vegetable soup which was bubbling on the stove emitting its own steam and great smell. “I should have brought you an umbrella too” he said taking a look at me. ‘With that wind, it wouldn’t have been any use”. I said as I got out of my saturated jacket and started to towel dry my dripping hair and face. “Like my facial?” I asked him. “You look the same to me but as long as it was worth the time and made you feel good then it’s worth it” he said. Worth it, well let me recap our spa day. One hour full body massages at $15.00 each – Fabulous. Immersion algae baths 20 minutes at $8.00 each – Terrible unless you have been camping and want to soak in a tub for 20 minutes and have a spare eight bucks. One plus hour facial at $12.00 – Fabulous. Total cost for the day - $60.00. Total cost for relaxation, harmony and rejuvenation - priceless. As we ate the soup we discussed our day. We had first thought we might spend another day here but because of the weather we decided it was better to leave. Snow has not fallen even at this elevation because of the warm, moist air however we are certain snow is falling in the nearby mountains and we don’t want to get stuck. Also as Tom plaintively said “I am tired of the cold. I want warmth. I want sun”. And as poor Winston braved the outdoors to perform his nighttime bathroom duties, I am sure he was thinking the same.

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