A Series of Fortuneate Mishaps: Termas de Queñi Day 2

The next day we got our stuff packed out, and he brought the tires to us.. Much to my dismay, the brand new tire was on the front, as both tires were unattached when he took them so the bike shop had no way of knowing that the *back* tire had blown. I certainly didnt feel like swapping them out now - we still had to make up the distance we had planned to ride the day before to make it to the springs in time today.

We hit the road, which had turned into a puddle minefield and made our way to the information center at Hua Hum.  We chatted for a bit with the friendly information center attendant who told us about the border crossing hours, and how many kms it was to Lago Queñi campground, some weather forecast, the conditions of the road riding to the lago, river/stream crossings etc. She had ridden her Mountain bike from San Martin the day before, so we valued her advice about the trail ahead.

Our visas were due to exprire in April, yet we'd extended our trip till May, so at some point in our journey we'd have to leave Argentina to get them renewed.   Hua Hum happens to be right on the Argentine/Chile border, and we decide that we have enough time to hit the border crossing now as it seemed like the best place to renew our visas, so we flew across the border, dropped our luggage off at argentine customs, rolled into Chile, got a stamp in, a stamp out, (the Chilean seemed almost disappointed we werent planning on staying) and came back into Argentina, which added another 10km total to our ride.   It was the easiest and fastest border crossing I've ever experienced.

When we left town we had forgotten to grab a couple of crucial provisions - we like to put two bottles of wine into a 1.5 water bottle and bring that along for post-ride enjoyment - but alas we had no wine.  Even worse we have no money. I forgot to hit the ATM before leaving, and we'd drained the wallet down to 14 pesos (about $3.50 US), however that still might be enough to buy a cheap bottle if we can find a proveduria (mini-mart) that sells them.  One interesting/nifty thing about National Parks in Argentina is that there are a *lot* of little places to purchase basic provisions.  Some are at "organized" campgrounds, and others are just near the roadside.  

We were running short on time and the first place that looked like it might have a wine stock also looked like it was at the top of an undetermined amount of steep gravel road, so we decided to keep moving. We head in towards the campground and pass a sign for another proveduria.  Hoping somehow that the 14 pesos in our pocket would be enough to score a bottle of wine, we ride towards the sign, which is down, down, down, to a tiny little hut with a couple of sodas and a couple bags of chips. Very minimal indeed - and definitely no beer or wine. 2 Cokes it is and we slog back up to the top of the trail and continue on - wasting about 30 precious minutes of daylight.  This turns out to be a *steep* grind up sandy wet roads. Cursing the info center attendant who claimed it to be up n down but not too bad, we carry on until we finally get to the top of the hill.  At this point we have now ascended into a dense, wet forest that gets 4000 mm of rain annually (Portland gets about 950mm year by comparison). Full on Rain forest with mushrooms and fungus popping up everywhere. Its as if we landed in the Olympic Penninsula rainforest.  Having rained the day before was *great* for making the mushrooms pop out everywhere.. I really wanted to stop and investigate, but we were racing time to get to the campground in time to hike to the springs. But this Beefsteak mushroom growing out of the side of the tree *required* a stop. Best fungus ever.

Beefsteak Mushroom. Awesomely psychedelic
Delicious snotty beefsteak mushroom


We carry on through the watery ride, crossing several large mud puddles and running streams, only having to dismount and portage our gear across a river twice.  We finally reach the campground around 4pm, and cold and wet we throw up our tent, whip out some leftovers and saw up some sausage and cheese.  By the time we're done eating we're staring at each other in our tent shivering with numb hands and toes, trying to decide on a plan.  The hot springs are an hour walk away, and its 4:30 now.  It could get colder (we can see snow dusted on tops of some of the mountains nearby), and its going to get dark at about 8. But the next day we've got 57 km of ripio ride back to town, with some awesomely steep grinds and crap roads to deal with, so even waking up at 7, 2 hours to eat, pack up, and be ready, 2 hours of hiking in and out, plus an hour at the springs leaves us taking off from camp around noon, so probably not enough time to wait for the next day.

Im cold enough that the only way Im going to be comfortable is to heat up in the springs.We decide to jump and hustle up to the springs that night. We pass by one car at the trailhead that had passed us a couple of hours earlier on the ride up to here, so by my calculations we should be passing the group hiking down on our way up.

The hike there is one of the most awesome rainforest faery hikes I've ever taken dense bamboo, crazy fungus growing on everything - this place gets more rain than the Rainforests in Olympic National Park.
MacKenzie in the Faery Fuschia Forest
My toes regain feeling.  as  the forest seems to be much warmer than our campspot by the lake.  We pass by two americans with what we assume is an argentine guide - They assure us the hotsprings are awesome and well worth it (sometimes photos on google earth make things look better than they are.).  We move forward with confidence knowing we're the only ones up here now.
Um.. lots and lots of mushrooms.

   
We're giddy by the time we finally get to the springs and see the steam rising from what must be the pools. These hotsprings come out of a rock about 50 feet up the steep hillside and cascade down.  Some rocked together pools that fit a person or two make up the pools, and since they flow from one to the next, they are room temperature warm at the bottom and as you climb your way up to where the water comes out of the rock, 160 degrees.  We realized that all the cold rain that we had been cursing from the day before has transformed what would otherwise be scalding water into the most perfect hot shower water temperatures imaginable. If we had known it was going to rain like it did on Wednesday, we might have skipped out on this idea, as it was however, that planning failure was fortunate mishap #2.
My kinda park service sign!

The water flows down some steep surfaces, and in some places turn into a small falls.  Yes, they are hotspring showers. Best shower ever. The water splashes off several surfaces, massaging you from every angle with clean, hot water.  The water itself had no smell whatsoever -- none of the typical sulphur smells of other hotsprings (again, this could be due to the rain diluting it). Hands down this is the best hot spring I've ever had to pleasure to soak in.
Beautiful forest sprite enjoys the best hotsprings ever.

We stay at the springs as long as possible while still maintaining a plausible plan for hiking back with some light left. Warm, satiated with core heat we make our way back to camp and boil up some pasta and crash out after a long, fulfilling day.

 

Garmin GPX: 
Elevation Profile: 

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Fun trip!

Hi folks, 

It was fun reading about your trip this evening.  I'd love to go to those hot springs.  Might be possible on a weekend for us.  Hope all has been well for you.  We are still hanging in El Bolson, and feeling more settled in.  Colin is doing great in school, and Natalie is about to embark on a volunteer position in Cholila 3 days a week, helping out at a high school there.

Safe travels! - Natalie, Jerry and Colin

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