“Why are you getting up at 6am?” asks Rich at 8am because he’s gotten his time differences wrong. “I had thought it strange that it was light at 4am” he’d replied once I’d explained. No one would think that we have five degrees between the two of us. After a very refreshing nights sleep we ambled into the breakfast room to find a feast waiting for us! Fresh raspberry juice, sweet cornbread, meringue tarts, hams and cheeses, jams and marmalades, fresh fruit, and most importantly, English breakfast tea. And yes, now is probably the time to admit that we take tea-bags on holiday with us. We’re certainly not like those people who refuse to try different foods and will only eat smoked bacon and cornflakes, but we have to have our morning cuppa, otherwise we get a bit grumpy. Actually it’s only me who gets a bit grumpy, according to Rich. We still seem to be the only guests but we’re loving the peace and quiet and so decide to continue the relaxation theme by spending the day at Termas de Cauquenes.

Alas the roads to the thermal baths are anything but relaxing – hairpin bends and lots of distracting views but at least I’ve accepted quickly that I just can’t drive as aggressively as Chileans and am happy for them to overtake. Christian, the Termas receptionist works part-time as an English literature teacher and whilst talking football with Rich he insists on giving us a tour of the buildings and grounds before leaving us in the bath house. This used to be a monastery and the stained glass and architecture is breathtaking. We feel honored to be allowed to bathe in the original marble baths but twenty minutes in such hot water (between 38 and 42 degrees C) was more than enough for both of us. Rich described his bath as a sarcophagus.

Christian had booked us in for the ‘light’ lunch, and three huge but delicious courses later we’re just about capable of strolling down to the thermal pool. Our little doggy friend is still following us. Apparently lots of pets get left at local campsites and make their way to the Termas because they can smell the food. I find it hard to understand how people can consciously abandon animals, but perhaps they themselves were hungry and had to make a choice, who knows.  The pool is much cooler than the baths, and would probably have been  shut down on health and safety grounds had it been in the UK because of fallen masonry etc, but we love it. Apparently day guests aren’t normally allowed to use the pool, but Christian decided that we’re discrete enough not to make a song and dance about it. We’re joined after 30 minutes by a group of very loud female Chilean librarians who strip down to their bikinis then lay back and light up fags. There’s certainly less emphasis on the body beautiful here. I like that, especially as I wasn’t able to get as fit as I wanted to before the trip due to repeat injuries, and so am feeling a tad conscious. That’s gone out of the window thanks to these lovely ladies 🙂 Why do we care so much about what other people think? The Chilean people we’ve met so far certainly seem to love life and appreciate the simple things. As Christian so rightly said, why does he need to travel, when he has Chile? And yet he still managed to know more about England than most English people.

After a walk through the grounds and over the 200 year old suspension bridge, along with quite a few lizard sightings – lizards don’t make me break out in a cold sweat like spiders do, we make our way back to the hotel. Next time, we’ve decided that it would be a good idea not to try and drive home at rush hour on a Friday on the road used to transport miners to and from one of the biggest copper mines in Chile. By the time we park up I’m shaking, but feeling proud of myself. For me, driving out here is a huuuuuge thing! As a new driver I’m certainly not confident on the road back home, but knew that this trip would be the making of my driving confidence. In fact we anticipate that as with all travel adventures, we’ll both be coming home with our heads held that much higher, and a little more fire burning in our bellies.

The hotel staff are busy preparing for a bank social event in the grounds this eve. Whereas work parties at home usually consist of bland, run of the mill food, here they have huge barbecues and serve whole chickens and gigantic steaks, along with pisco sours and fresh berry cocktails. We try to avoid staring and dribbling too much but soon busy ourselves eating beef carpaccio, chilean salad and creme brulee for dinner. The last two days have been the perfect introduction to Chile. We’ve rested up, dined like royalty, and we’re ready for day three…