Today’s agenda was the Rio Celeste hike and the Baldi Hot Springs, both of which were amazingly exotic in contrasting ways. The hike to the river was a steep one, up muddy trails surrounded by ferns and lush foliage. The way up was, I’m guessing, 2mi, but took us nearly an hour because of the terrain and elevation. You could smell it before you could see it – not of some earthy, fresh, floral scent that you’d expect from something so brilliantly, beautifully blue, but of rotten eggs. Of sulfur. The chemical reaction between the two joining rivers, combined with the effect of the light and our eyes’ perception, is what gives the Rio Celeste its famous color (and smell). Aside from the odor, it was stunning. So vivid, like something you’d see in a fantasy movie. Actually, most things here have reminded me of Avatar so far – the brilliantly colored and diverse plants, the strange animals, the way the people make an effort to coexist sustainably with nature.
On the hike back the way we came, it started to rain. We were already fairly sweaty, so it actually felt pretty nice, especially after climbing the steps back up from the waterfall we stopped to see. At the top of the waterfall steps, a few people were gathering and pointing to something moving off the side of the trail. A coati. Basically a tropical raccoon-type animal, or something like a cross between a red panda and a lemur. Or a possum. It came surprisingly close before trotting away back into the brush. The wild mammals we’ve come across so far now include the three-toed sloth we saw yesterday, and now the coati. Of all the places we thought we’d find a sloth, this one was just hanging from a telephone line along the road.
After lunch at some casual restaurant by the trailhead, we all stopped at the hotel to grab our bathing suits and headed to the hot springs, which is kind of a misleading name because it’s not like a natural spring at all. This place is basically a resort – bars in the pools, waterfalls coming out of rocks into pools surrounded by foliage, caves you can walk into to find hidden saunas. Each pool was increasingly hot the farther up the hill you went, and despite the daily heat and humidity, it actually felt really good after our hike. I think the only “natural” aspect of Baldi is that it uses the heat from the nearby geothermal activity to heat the water. Everything else is man-made. Not like Rio Celeste, but still beautiful.