Mud Baths and Fire Hoses During Carnival

The universe is an interesting paradox. It’s vast beyond comprehension – each of us an insignificant speck on a single planet floating in its infinity.

And yet, it’s small.

In addition to meeting the gentleman from Roswell on the plane here from Quito, last night we ran into the guy who founded the Theater on the Square in Marietta. John recognized him (and promptly went to talk to him) as we stood in the big plaza watching the carnival festivities. So weird to see someone you recognize thousands of miles from home.

Here’s what the plaza looks like during the day…


but last night it was packed with people listening to music, watching a fireworks display and squirting each other for hours with those cans of foam you buy for your kid’s birthday party. That’s right, carnival in Cuenca is like a giant birthday party for a 9-year-old. Good, foamy fun for the whole family. Debauchery remained absent…or hidden from view.

Today we’re headed to some hot springs located right outside of town. More on that later.

Later in the day…

Banos means “bathroom” in Spanish, but it also designates hot springs. We caught a local bus and, for a fare of just a quarter, headed in the direction of Banos, a small town southwest of Cuenca. We met a gringo couple on the bus who recommended Novaqua , a small, adult-only spa down the hill from this cathedral.


We thoroughly enjoyed our time at Novaqua and the price was hard to beat. For just $80, John and I enjoyed time in the hot springs pool…


then made our way to the mud cave carved out of a hill…

where we sat in a 105-degree pool before lathering each other with mud. We enjoyed a great conversation with two young ladies, one from Texas and the other from Australia, while the mud dried. Caked in dry mud, we showered off and headed to a steam bath after which it was time for a 30-minute massage.

The most unusual part of Novaqua was the “water massage” I received just before my regular massage. I was led into a shower room with walls of glass. Then, my masseuse opened a window at one end of the glass shower room. She was standing outside the opening holding a fire hose. Really. A fire hose. It sounds awful, but it actually felt quite nice as she proceeded to hose me, front and back, from head to toe, and then on both sides. Wonderfully weird.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been so clean, ” observed my spouse as we left Novaqua. I would have to agree.


Good thing we left Flat Stanley in our bag. I’m pretty sure the mud and fire hosing would have done him irreparable harm.

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