Choachí is the sort of small town just outside Bogotá that wouldn’t normally come up on your radar. However, it does have one attractions, as it’s home to the Termales Santa Moncica, and when we had yet another ‘Puente’ (long weekend) we decided an excursion was in order.
Public transport in Colombia is always an ‘experience’ and this trip was no exception. Busses don’t leave from the main Terminal de Transportes, but from a smaller hut which masquerades as a bus station in the south west of the city. It is on Calle 6, just after the junction with Carerra 15 and though not the nicest part of town, it’s ok during the day. If you’re walking, the recommendation is, rather unusually, to walk through the nearby park rather than walk along the street.
When we arrived, there were a few busses waiting, but you have to get your ticket before boarding – a first for me in Colombia. It costs $7500 each way (about £2.50) which is quite a lot for such a short trip (within the city limits, a trip of the same length of time would cost $1400 or under 50p). Tickets are for specific buses, so you need to ask which one you’re down for. We were the last 3 on, so it set off quickly, winding out of the city and up into the mountains. The journey is bumpy, winding and slightly nauseating but the view is stunning.
The buses drop you on the edge of town, and you then need to find transport to the Termales. The options are a boring regular bus ($1500 each) or a fun, colourful golf cart. We went for the latter and paid $7000 for the 3 of us but it was entertaining and worth it in my mind as we got a little guided tour of the town including commentary on the procession that blocked out way for a few minutes since we happened to be visiting on a special local festival day.The Termales have a hotel attached, but are open to the public too. Entrance on Sundays or holidays is $25000 per adult, $17000 per child (aged 2 – 12) so it’s really not cheap by local standards
, but for most visitors is not the sort of thing you would do every week even if you lived close. We paid and got little tickets which we immediately had to hand over (no souvenirs for scrapbooks). In exchange, they searched our bags (I thought it might be for food...but they let my bottle of water pass) and handed out swimming caps. First stop was the changing rooms which are unisex but include lots of individual cubicles as well as open areas. They have a bag check facility which costs 500 pesos (about 17p) every time you use it – so if you return to get out a book or retrieve your purse, you have to pay again. The good thing is, the price is per massive bin bag, so we stuck all our stuff in together and only had to pay once. We had to leave a name AND an ID number which seemed over the top, and in exchange we got a locker tag which would have been a lot more usable had it not been on a basic rubber band
. It fit round my wrist or ankle, but seemed nowhere near as strong as a normal swimming pool band.
The complex has a number of pools in two main areas.