Hot Spring, Waterfall and Flash Mystery: Highlights of Ollachea

Ollachea is stunningly set amongst the mountains, large waterfall and ancient terraces. These surroundings along with the natural hot spring make the mining services town worth visiting. At 2,785 high, Ollachea’s elevation and climate lie between tropical San Gaban 54 kilometres north and tundra Macusani 49 kilometres south. Like San Gaban and Macusani, Ollachea is capital of its own district in Carabaya Province, part of southern Peru’s Puno Region.

In October 2016 Rocío and I came to Ollachea to relax in its natural hot springs and enjoy more wonderful trout. While visiting, my camera flash mysteriously failed. We also toured ancient sites nearby worth their own blog post.

Ollachea surrounded by the fog-covered Andes Mountains

A central Ollachea street with surrounding mountains blanketed by clouds

Sculpture in Ollachea town square, Peru

Ollachea’s main square (Plaza de Armas) features this sculpture with children on top, butterfly wings and heads of two important Quechua symbols: the puma and condor

Tamarillo growing in Ollachea, Carabaya, Puno, Peru

The tamarillo (sachatomate) originated in the Andes Mountains and grows in Ollachea

The Camera Flash Mystery

One day we walked past a town block that had been levelled ready for construction. The newly exposed rock was colourful so I stopped to photograph it. Wanting to highlight the colours on an overcast day, I opened the flash and took another photo. Bam. My camera made a weird mechanical noise and emitted a burning smell. To check, I tested a few more flash photos in the same vicinity. The flash was dead (although the camera’s non-flash parts still functioned).

After discussions with Rocío we concluded that radiation killed the flash. Uranium is found in the region and the yellow-coloured rock damaged my camera but provided a great story.

Colourful, newly excavated rock, Ollachea, Carabaya, Puno, Peru

This photo destroyed my camera flash; the yellow rock is likely uranium

Ollachea Natural Hot Spring

In pre-Columbian times Ollachea was probably first settled around its natural hot spring. Located at Aguas Calientes (Hot Waters), outside of the modern town, the spring now supplies a public swimming pool complex and an adjacent place for hand washing clothes.

The complex lies on a mountainside 15 minutes’ walk from central Ollachea past ancient terraces and dry-stone walls.

Natural hot springs pool complex, Ollachea, Peru

The green-coloured hot spring swimming pool complex lies between a mountain and ancient terraces and rock walls

Blooming plants front the complex and we loved watching hummingbirds feed.

A hummingbird feeding on snapdragon flowers, Ollachea, Peru

A hummingbird hovers, collecting nectar from snapdragon flowers

Paper daisy flowers, Ollachea, Carabaya, Puno, Peru

A bright red and uranium-coloured Australian-origin paper daisy

Naïve artwork on Ollachea hot springs pool complex wall, Peru

Naïve artwork on the pool’s external wall features a man handing a flower to a woman

With an impressive mountain setting, Ollachea’s pool complex contains a main outdoor pool, restaurant and several private baths.

Natural hot springs pool, Ollachea, Peru

The outdoor pool with private bath rooms at the far end

Entry to the pool cost adults only 6 soles (AUD$2.40) but private baths were the real bargain. For 10 soles per 30 minutes we had our own giant bath. And the baths were emptied and cleaned with each change of customer. Two taps controlled the water entry – one cold, the other blistering hot. The spring water felt silky soft and afterwards left one glowing.

Natural hot springs private bath, Ollachea, Carabaya Province, Peru

A private bath being filled with Ollachea natural hot spring water

The pool complex restaurant looked out towards the waterfall and served delicious juices and trout. On one of our two visits the cook had made pineapple jam which we enjoyed spread with evaporated milk on bread.

Fried trout at the natural hot springs complex, Ollachea, Peru

Fried trout, potato, rice and salad at the pool restaurant

Ollachea Waterfall

Ollachea’s waterfall drops an impressive 50 metres. The path to the waterfall goes from the hot spring, past fields and eucalyptus trees and over a concrete bridge.

Ollachea's waterfall viewed from a distance, Puno, Peru

The waterfall viewed from a distance with a river in the foreground

Ollachea Waterfall, Carabaya Province, Puno Region, Peru

The water has eroded and smoothed the surrounding rock

Rocío had the courage to bathe in the cold waterfall leaving her feeling liberated. However, she did not appreciate the virus that developed afterwards.

Rocio in front of the waterfall, Ollachea, Puno Region, Peru

Rocío standing near the foot of the waterfall

Video of the waterfall cascading and hitting the ground

While visiting, several teenagers also joined us at the waterfall.

Teenager in front of waterfall, Ollachea, Peru

A teenager posing for a separate photo with water dropping in the background

Despite Ollachea’s impressive setting amongst the Andes, beautiful waterfall and reviving natural hot spring, we saw no other foreign tourists during our stay.

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