Thursday, February 21, 2008

BADEN BADEN YOU SAY...


It was Frogprincess's comment about TracyK's comment on 'swanning about in Baden Baden' that set me thinking.
I was travelling in Guatemala with my friend John in a VW camper back in the late '70's, and as is often the case in such situations we'd met other travellers and someone had recommended the baths at ...., I've stretched my memory and stared at the map but the name won't come. It was a very small mountain village high on the side of a volcano. The towns and villages of Guatemala almost all have a Saints name attached, I'm looking at my map and literally 80%+ are thus. The name doesn't matter.
We were not going anywhere in particular and we suddenly saw the name on our map, it was close so we decided we'd go. If I say road, you'll think of road; Guatemala doesn't have roads in that manner, there are lines on maps but usually they represent trails more suited to donkeys than vehicles. As we neared the village with the baths the 'road' was all uphill since we were on a volcano, Guatemala has many volcanoes. Suddenly we came to a clearing in the trees, there was a large flat area, possibly as large as a football field and within it there was a huge bath, about half the size of a football field, it was dug below ground level and was about 2-3ft deep. It was full of hot steaming water and there were hundreds of Mayan Indian families taking their weekly Saturday bath. Everyone was naked, dozens of kids, parents, grandparents, all scrubbing each other, the place was packed. The reason there was a bath there and the reason it was full of hot water was the volcano, there was a mountain stream that ran downhill alongside the trail that was steaming, they'd diverted it into their communal bath. As far as we could see it was totally free, anyone could come and go as they pleased, there was nothing formal.
We'd been told to continue up the hill to where we'd find a more formal indoor baths, more suited to gringos; we eventually found it right next to the stream alongside the trail. It was a single story stone building about 100 ft long, when we entered there were about a dozen private cubicles along the length, each one had a stone lined 'tub' sunk into the floor that was about 5ft square and 3ft deep. An attendant appeared and we paid him 50c each, he removed a 6" wooden plug from the side of the tub and it instantly filled with hot water; there was no adjusting the temperature but that was OK, it was perfect. We'd brought our supplies, two towels, a half gallon bottle of rum, a bag of limes, several glasses and a large bottle of coca cola. We asked our new friend if he like a drink and of course he would. We sank into the tub each armed with a tall glass and lay there, every 30 minutes or so the attendant would check to see if we needed more water, we always did and we always rewarded him. We spent the rest of that Saturday afternoon in there, I have no memory of what came later.
I have no photographs of that day but there's a good selection from our travels in Guatemala at my Picasa site:
http://picasaweb.google.com/goneforeign

2 comments:

goneforeign said...

Almolonga! That was the name of the village, no saints there and I don't think Ryanair flies direct, at least not from Stanstead.

Frogprincess said...

Wonderful post. I can only dream of things like that. Just shows you how different the "universal" experience of bathing ist...