Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Piedra de Agua

Early this afternoon, Heidi and I headed to Piedra de Agua in an area called Banos, outside Cuenca. It was about a 10 min taxi ride from our house. I was especially cold in our house this morning and in an effort to get warm I thought about Piedra de Agua and thought it was a good time to experience it.

It is a thermal spa and resort built around volcanic rock that seeps hot water. We had a great few hours there and I finally got warm! There are two types of hot mud, red and blue, a cave with a hot and cold pool at its bottom, steam boxes that you sit in with only your head sticking out, steam rooms, swimming pools, and a restaurant.

Soak Time

Heidi and I got ourselves all mudded up. First we were reddish brown, then we were blue-gray. The concierge asked if the water was hot enough and I said no. The next thing I knew steaming hot water from the earth poured into the mud pool. Heaven.

We enjoyed walking into a cave, and then down some steps carved out of the volcanic rock into a lit pool of hot steaming water. After 10 min in that pool we stepped and submerged ourselves into the cold pool next to it, feeling the rush of blood as it leaves the extremities and heads to the body’s core. We sat in steam boxes talking to each other with only our heads sticking out, reminiscent of some form of ancient torture to any onlooker I’m sure.

Piedra de Agua entrance area

Entrance Area

Fountain View

Fountain View

Adult Pool Area

Adult Pool Area

Piedra de Agua Another View Adult Pool Area

Another View Adult Pool Area


After we dehydrated ourselves sufficiently through the many steaming therapy chambers, we headed to the restaurant for lunch. The menu was filled with appetizers, soups, sandwiches, salads, larger dinner platters, cappuccinos, and alcoholic beverages. The first thing we asked for was water! We had an enjoyable lunch after a couple hours of relaxing hydrotherapy.


Heidi and I at lunch


 Piedra de Agua

View from restaurant out onto main pool

Paper Placemat with cartoon of Piedra de Aqua layout

Paper Placemat with cartoon of Piedra de Agua layout

Don’t Be Shy

When we first arrived at Piedra de Agua, the concierge took us to the “spa” area which is separate from the swimming pool area. As she led us into the changing area I found myself in a co-ed situation in the overall space enclosing the changing and bathroom areas at the spa.

Bathroom stalls are labeled as men or women’s but they are lined in a row next to each other. Changing stalls, with doors, are generic and stand next to each other. The one shower I saw had a glass door that was mostly frosted.

Being in this different situation got me thinking about something. In the US right now there is a lot of opinion about whether it is right or wrong for a transgender person to use the bathroom of their identified, instead of physical, gender.

Just A Different Experience

As I was standing peeing into the toilet inside my bathroom stall, there was a woman using the toilet next to me. And as a woman in a robe carried her clothes and went into a changing stall, I went into the one right next to her to change; it really didn’t seem like this was a big deal.

Pretty much all my life experience has been men on one side and women on the other. Two completely different rooms. Today I experienced a common area that included individual stalls for bathroom and changing, but we were all in essentially the same open space together. It took some getting used to for me, but after I would say…a minute, it wasn’t a big deal.

So this makes me wonder, if a man identifying as a woman uses the stall in the lady’s room, or a woman identifying as a man uses the stall in the men’s room, is it really worth all the negative energy that is going around right now? And let’s face it, to think this has never happened before is naive. By the way, when it has happened, did anyone notice?

We Are All Human

I get that people want to feel comfortable, or rather they don’t want to experience discomfort by having to deal with different physical genders in spaces like bathrooms and changing areas. I would suggest instead of rushing to the rightness or wrongness of a transgender person using the bathroom of their gender identification, consider it no more uncomfortable (if it is at all) than men and women in a common space separated by individual stalls. This scenario seemed to work in the spa at Piedra de Agua without a problem. Ultimately we are all just humans.

My experience at the spa today started out differently from what I’m used to, and I had to adjust. It wasn’t painful though, nothing weird happened, and no one was harmed. If I had been raised in an environment where “co-ed” space was more the norm than the exception, then it wouldn’t have even merited my comments on this blog.

What we have always known doesn’t mean that something we haven’t known is right or wrong; instead, it serves as a reference to notice something different. I believe life is filled with situations to notice our differences. Life is also filled with opportunities to extend love and compassion into these situations and seek understanding of our differences.

Ultimately, we are all just humans.