Despite already climbing to over 4000 metres out of Santa Rosa, I have managed to end up – due to the road forbidden to me in Los Nevados – still on the wrong the side of the Cordillera Central. To arrive in Bogota from Villa Maria, I have no choice but to cross the mountain range. And to go to Venezuela and Amazonia, I have no choice but to go to Bogota since I need a visa to travel in Brazil.
However, the sun is shining and my belongings are dry so life seems promising. There are a series of hot spring resorts by the road but they are in the extreme water park mode – with slides and zip lines and other unappealing nonsense – so, as much as the idea of a long hot bath is tempting, I continue on my way.
Neither the sunshine nor the pavement lasts long but the road is good and the gradient manageable and I settle into a long afternoon’s drizzly climb.
As the sun slips behind the mountain range, I come, at the top of the valley, to an echoing empty building in the midst of a series of steaming vents. A hysterically barking dog strains at its chain in the middle of a broad expanse of concrete. An old and toothless man emerges from a dark corridor beneath a faded peeling sign which announces that this is the Grand Hotel de Termales de Ruiz. He says, “Enter, my child.”
Do I need to mention this is all kind of spooky?
However, I do enter and – after a tough bargaining session on the price of a campsite – I stay. The man turns out to be a far less menacing caretaker than Jack of the Shining but he does haunt my time here with constant unwanted attentions.