What would you want to do for your birthday, if the routine of your last 12 months was literally a nonstop madcap gallavant around museums, mountains, lakes, beaches, jungles, caves, churches, temples, hostels, houseboats, markets, farms, vineyards, and the best meals on a backpacker budget?
Truth be told, I wanted to do a bit of nothing, really.
With style, of course.
Termas de Cachuete (Cachuete Hot Springs) did the job perfectly. The hotel and natural-hot-springs spa complex nestled in the foothills an hour's drive from Mendoza, Argentina offers a ARS 220 (yes, that's a bargainous £35, folks) package which includes a day-pass for the spa, transport to and from your hotel in Mendoza, and a buffet asado lunch. All you need to bring is your swimsuit.
You start your day at the spa with a 10 minute soak in a warm indoor pool, then a 10 minute sweat in a steam room to open your pores.
And then you're given instructions by a spa matron to give yourself a mud treatment.
Photo on left by Jasmine Tiw
Let the mud cake and dry for 10 to 20 minutes. In the sun, preferably, if you can take the slightly nippy late winter air. Despair at the result of eating on the road for the last 14 months. When the mud's completely dry, or when you've gotten bored standing around, rinse the mud off with the spa's (strong!) multi-directional jet showers.
Photo on left by Jasmine Tiw
Once you've de-muddified, you're free to soak in any of the spa's steaming-hot and icy-cold indoor and outdoor pools. The spa matron recommends no more than 20 minutes in each pool at any given time.
The pools empty out very quickly at 1pm. We amble into the lunch-room and find out why.
Did I mention it was a buffet asado lunch? The bife al tira (beef ribs) was beautifully medium rare and the pierna de pollo (chicken leg) moist and flavourful, a very respectable feat for a buffet.
The best part? Just about everyone eats lunch in their spa robes (rentable from the spa at 15 ARS for the day) and flipflops.
Here's Babs making eating orange jello in his robe look like serious business.
After lunch: A nap on a deck chair by the pool in the gentle afternoon sunshine, while South America travel companion and longtime fellow foodie and gallantaver Jas goes off for her massage. I turned down a massage. The available slot was too close to lunchtime and I had no plans to eat sensibly.
In any case, those who know me well enough will know that a nap on a deck chair by the pool is quite possibly my all-time favourite Sunday afternoon activity. An activity that being on the road for 14 months has permitted fewer times than you'd expect, due to weather or simply the day's scheduled activity.
In short, the nap was quite the birthday treat indeed.
After Jas is done with her massage, we engage in another couple of hours of hot and cold soaks and drinking in of mountain-and-river scenery before it's time to dry up and be bundled off in a taxi back to our hostel, all loosened up and refreshed...
... and ready for a giant steak birthday dinner at Mendoza parilla institution, Don Mario's.
Many thanks to Trout and Wine's Muriel Altamirano for suggesting Cachueta, Jas for egging me on, Hostel Lao's Michael Elder for Robina for organising the day, and Babs and Dom for gamely coming along for the day.
Termas de Cacheuta
Ruta Provincial 82 km 38
Cacheuta, Mendoza, Argentina
+54 261 423 0423