Tag: water

:: hot relaxation ::

Relaxing in a hot spring with a light rain falling is truly a wonderful feeling. The extra steam that the rain causes and the mist hanging over the mountainsides make the setting feel hundreds of miles away from reality. Sitting in an area of volcanic fed hot springs, the little town of Papallacta is a perfect little escape from Quito. Only 40 kilometres up and over the 4,000 metre Papallacta Pass brings you to a place nestled amongst the eastern cordillera of the Andes.

The road is excellent and the views are stunning on the way up – with expansive hillsides giving way to the occasional view of the snow capped peak of Antisana – the fourth highest mountain in Ecuador. There are hiking trails to enjoy and the promise of bespectacled bears wandering out in the paramo, but we never saw any on our trips.

The baths themselves are well maintained and offer a truly relaxing setting. Spa treatments and lunch are easily at hand and for those that want an extra lengthy pampering session, you can spend the night and enjoy semi-private pools just outside of your room.  You can even take a break from it all and explore the short hiking trail loop above the spa.

The main pools offer a variety of water temperatures and sizes, perfect for everyone – toddlers included! Piper loved the warm water and fountains that would pour out on our heads. She even took to jumping in from the side the last time we went! For the truly brave there is a plunge pool fed directly from the non-volcanic stream. The sudden rush of near freezing water is not for the faint of heart – literally!

Whether you partake in all or some of these offerings, it is a wonderful experience to ease into the relaxing waters high up in the Andes. The peace and tranquility are hard to beat.

:: snorkelling in sodwana ::

We snorkel. We swim. We even windsurf. But unfortunately without a PADI, we don’t scuba dive, yet.  This prevented us from fully enjoying the marine life in Sodwana Bay, but we were still treated to a few lovely water and beach experiences.

Sodwana is known as a world class diving site, with a series of reefs just off shore that provide full time homes to a huge collection of fish, turtles, eels and dolphins, plus transient whales. This huge collection of opportunities sees numerous dive and fishing operators launching from Jesser Point Beach. We were there at a quiet time, but there were still several hundred people diving each day.  It must be almost claustrophobic during holiday seasons.

Even though Sodwana Bay is a dive locale first and foremost, we had heard from numerous sources that there were also excellent snorkeling options so we wanted to check it out. Unfortunately the reefs are all more than 6 meters deep, which means that snorkelers have to look through close to twenty feet of water. Even with good visibility, that isn’t really ideal and doesn’t give you those magical close encounters with underwater creatures.

After speaking to several people when we arrived, we figured that snorkelling might be a lost cause and wandered up to the restaurant for a drink and dinner. It’s a simple affair, very much a beach bar atmosphere, but with nice views over the dunes to the ocean beyond and a very friendly manager. Warren used to live in Johannesburg, but packed in his previous life and wandered down to Sodwana to do a bit of scuba instruction and other odds and ends. He wound up managing the restaurant at Mseni Lodge, but also has plans to operate a unique snorkelling operation.

At Jesser Point, there are a series of rock pools that are suitable for snorkelling at low tide. Within these pools are a nice selection of fish, eels and even a turtle at times. It isn’t the same as open water snorkelling and a bump and a scratch off the rocks is almost guaranteed, but with his suggestion we explored these pools on our own early one morning as the sun came up. It wasn’t the most amazing snorkelling, but it was certainly different and offered a nice opportunity for those left behind on the beach by the dive boats.

The nice thing about staying at Mseni Lodge was its’ location down the beach from Jesser Point. We were able to walk down the one hundred stairs and several paths through the vegetation and pop out onto a fifteen meter high dune with the ocean below. Looking left and right, all we were able to see were the tendrils of dunes jutting out into the beach. Some were mere meters high, whilst others rose thirty meters high or more, leaving us feel like we were in our own private little paradise.

We sat on the beach, ran up the dunes, caromed down the dunes and generally enjoyed the ambience.

One evening we went for a run on the beach in the shadow of the dunes and were treated to thousands of ghost crabs lingering near the surf. It was amazing how many of these small red coloured creatures were out. Looking down the beach it was like a carpet of them along the water’s edge! In our thirty minute run we must have passed ten thousand crabs! Although these are the same crabs who pick off baby turtles as they try to make the long journey to the water when they hatch, we couldn’t help but appreciate their presence. It was an experience neither of us have had and was a wonderful microcosm of our trip up and down this enchanting coastline.

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:: qiloane falls ::

Just before descending the small natural rock staircase, I turned back to look once more at our idyllic spot by the waterfall. The sun shone brightly on the enormous cascade of white water and a small breeze rustled the bushes that our dog Mosa had so unwillingly left moments earlier. It was a place of perfect peace on a sunny afternoon, returned to its natural state after twenty friends and seven dogs enjoyed several fun filled hours amidst its beauty.

Qiloane Falls is not on the tourist trail – if there is such a thing in Lesotho. It is an hour and a half drive up into the mountains east of Maseru and then a lengthy hike over somewhat difficult, and usually wet, terrain. There is a pony trekking centre for those who would prefer four legged transportation, though it would not be an ideal first trip for the complete novice horse rider.

The path to the falls is not marked, which is normal for Lesotho, but it’s easy enough to follow if you have some semblance of an idea of where you are going. The key is to find the river, which seems logical enough if you are looking for a waterfall, but it is especially important because the best way of reaching the waterfall is to walk up the riverbed.

There is a way to stay on dry land, but that is not as much fun as walking up a slippery, potholed river of freezing cold ankle deep water!  In the dry season you can walk all the way to the falls without getting your boots wet, but with the rain we have had lately, this was just not possible.

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The walk was amazingly beautiful with the soft sounds of water running over rocks nestled beneath soaring hillsides and the occasional bird overhead.  The last bend in the river takes you under a large cliff face striated with black rock where you can hear the roar of the main falls echoing above you. At the crest of a small ledge in the river the falls come into view, though still partially hidden by the mountainside.

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Only once you are practically right in front of them, can you see the full sweep of the last part of the falls which are roughly thirty meters across.  Above the largest section are a series of other falls even further up which you can see after hiking up the side – a bird’s eye view from across the way would be the only way to see the true extent of this waterfall.

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We stayed there for several hours and enjoyed the majestic beauty and nature of this special place.  Once the sun came out, almost everyone dared to take a dip in the dark and cold koeetseng, the place of a deep pool of water, to cool off and sit under the powerful roaring falls. Legend has it there is a large serpent living there at the base of the falls but luckily we were not privileged enough to witness such a creature or be impacted by its magical powers.

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As far as waterfalls go, Qiloane Falls aren’t the highest or widest or anything else, but the whole location is a truly special place of natural beauty worth experiencing.

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