Saturday, August 11, 2012

Cool Memories

Another year has passed and it is monsoon season again in Banámichi. So far it has rained every night we have been here, and the air is tropical with heat and moisture. The countryside is lush and even the hills and usually brown mountains lie green in the distance. This is the time of year that is pleasant to be indoors and recall the cooler months of the year.

And so it is that I find myself returning to a post that I started last March and then did not finish in the confusion of life and travel that has been my year so far. So, if the rest of this post seems out of place and time, it is. Think of it as a cooling episode in a brutal summer!

Scene at Chena Hot Springs --think cold!!
At the new moon in February we were at Chena Hot Springs near Fairbanks, Alaska. Ever since I was a child I had wanted to see the Aurora Borealis, and this trip was the culmination of that childhood dream. We happened to be there right after a major solar flare, and so the aurora was a mind -blowing experience...horizon to horizon curtains and spirals of pulsating, changing light. Wow!

Pool at Chena within cold
Hoar Frost at Chena
The outdoor temperature never went much over 15 Farenheit while we were there, a relative warm spell we were told. It was practically beach weather! So of course we had to visit the outdoor hot springs. I love the idea of sitting in warm water with the cold all around me, but this experience was a whole new dimension of hot springing..The rock lake was shrouded in white mist so thick that at times it was hard to see the hands at the end of your arms. Hoar frost covered every nearby surface. The bathing suit clad run from the locker room to the water was more than daunting...but the water - oh, the water....what a relief! It was indeed hot. It comes out of the ground at 156 Farenheit. After awhile, the water seemed so hot that I found a rock to sit on, now only waist deep in the water. This was actually quite pleasant in spite of the fact that my hair was frozen into solid little icicles!

Hot pools at Feliz Estancia

Contrast this scene with two that of two weeks later, back in Mexico, at the full moon in February at the hot springs at Feliz Estancia near Aconchi. It was 80 Farenheit and we basked in the sunny warmth of the Sonoran Desert and the lovely warm water. It seemed like a whole different lifetime in a whole different world. One was interesting to visit, the other one felt like home.

Chino Tree at Feliz Estancia
These hot springs near Banámichi were one of the initial attractions of the area for us and I still love going there. Located in a natural riparian area, the pools are surrounded by high canyon walls and there are giant Mesquite and Chino (Mexican Ebony) trees. It is a natural paradise visited by all manner of birds. Once we even saw the elusive Elegant Trogon in the canopy of the trees. Since that time I am always on the lookout for another Trogon. Seeing a flash of red in a tree, I called to Dan, "Look over your head...there is a Trogon in the tree there." But it turned out to only be a Tecate beer can that someone had parked there.

We got to talking with Ramón, one of the Ejido(work collective) folks who run the place. An ageless sort of guy, he told us he was born nearby in Aconchi and that he had been working there many years. He and the other workers keep the site spotlessly clean, emptying and scrubbing the pools once a week, and collecting a small fee from visitors.

Ramón the Caretaker
The area is also a camp site....imagine how lovely it would be to sit in one of the tubs under the stars letting the beautiful silky water erase all the aches and tensions from your body, and then snuggling into a sleeping bag to the sounds of water and nature, for a sound refreshing sleep. Ahhhh....

On the property there is a cute little house made entirely of white quartz rocks. For as long as we have been coming to the springs we have fantasized about this house and how great it would be to live there. Were the quartz rocks translucent? Did they let in the light? Was there a pale glow inside the house? Ever practical, Ramon told us that although the quartz blocks were too thick to let any light through,  we could rent the house for 200 pesos a night. What an intriguing idea...maybe in the fall when it cools off...

The house became even more special to us when we learned that our friend Gerlinde Helge, a German expat who lives in Banámichi, helped to develop the hot springs and the house. She lived alone there for a number of years while doing the spiritual clearing work that allowed her to become a talented healer. (People who visit Banámichi can arrange for treatments with her. She is one of the great resources of our pueblo.)

Her story is incredible. Many years ago, she was hitch-hiking in Mexico and was offered a ride by a man who turned out to be a tourism minister in Mexico. He asked he if she wanted a job care-taking and developing the hot springs. At a transition point in her life, and open to new challenges and experiences, she agreed. As the house and pools were built, she described how people came from all over the world to visit the springs.There were great parties and intellectual discussions far into the night in that little house.

She also described how the dry wash that runs through the site used to flow freely. Sometimes in the rainy season, there was so much water that she could not cross from the house to the pools and was effectively trapped until the water went down. That's hard to imagine, as we've never seen even a trickle of water in the wash.

Along the road on the way home
There is a rough barbed wire gate at one end of the property which mostly is closed. Although we have seen people and cars drive through the gate we never dared to go through. We heard a rumor  that there were suspicious crops being grown behind the gate and we were foolish enough to let irrational fear control us. Ramón, on the other hand,  told us that it was fine to go through. When we did, we found another swimming pool under construction, and new campsites being built. At the very end of the road there was a beautiful canyon boxed in by high cliffs. Gerlinde told us that there used to be a great waterfall back there. Of course it was dry in February. With all the rain lately, it might be flowing, but it is too uncomfortable to go there.

The heat and humidity make the thought of hanging out in hot water quite unappealing. But it is already August. The summer has gone quickly, and soon it will be cool again. Perhaps we will rent the little quartz house or even camp at Feliz Estancia. The warm water will feel great on our aging bones and the trees will again raise our spirits high in their branches, Trogons or no Trogons!