Keys Disease

Keys Disease
Battling Keys Disease at the Futura Yacht Club in Islamorada, Fla. three years ago.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

What's Hydra Therapy? I Recently Found Out in Cancun

I'm not the kind of guy to pass up a serious pampering when offered. It was in this something-for-nothing spirit that I accepted the invitation of the PR director for the Fiesta Americana Grand Coral Beach where I'm staying in Cancun for something called Hydra Therapy in the hotel's spa.

The pool at the Fiesta Americana appears to go on forever.
I had no idea what hydra therapy might be, but I suspected it would make me feel better coming out than I felt going in. Mostly, I was right. I had been up since 2:30 a.m. to get myself to Atlanta for my 8:30 direct Delta flight to Cancun. Atlanta airport has a separate international terminal that involves a little more time and stress than the domestic one. I was tired and a tad cranky upon arriving at the hotel.

I chose to take advantage of the hotel's largesse late in the afternoon of my first day. I arrived at the hotel a bit after noon on Monday. There were no structured events on the agenda for that day. It seemed like the ideal opportunity to douse myself with some water.

Surf and cerveza at the Isla Contoy restaurant.
After consuming a wonderful lunch of coconut-fried shrimp and Sol cerveza at the hotel's ocean-side Isla Contoy restaurant, and about 90 minutes sunning by the hotel pool, I approached the spa check-in on the fourth floor.

Before I could embark on my hydra adventure, however, I had to complete a medical form more involved than when I last applied for major medical insurance. Ten minutes later, I was escorted to the men's locker room by Enrique, where I slipped into my swimming trunks and a spa-provided robe.

Hydra therapy, it turns out, is sort of the water version of the Stations of the Cross. It consisted of seven or so different water experiences, or tortures, if you will. Water boarding wasn't among them, but would have been preferable to the immersions in ice-cold water that followed a couple of the warmer events.

My attendant Enrique then walked me to a steam room where he left me to stew in my own juices. Well, not quite, but it was hot. I still managed to doze off after lying down on the tile bench. I did mention that I had been awake since 2:30 that morning, right? Thankfully he returned to lead me to a warm shower before I succumbed. The shower was relaxing and I really began to calm down and unwind. This euphoria was short lived, however. Enrique walked me to another shower. I should have suspected something was up. Why two showers?

“It very fria: cold,” he told me. No shit! It was 10 seconds of eye-bulging, ice-cold water. Big Jake and the Twins still have not come out of hiding.

From there we were off to another warm room where Enrique handed me a little paper cup containing some sort of paste that he identified as clay. “Rub on your neck and shoulders,” he instructed. I did as I was told and sat in the semi dark awaiting some sort of epiphany to take place. I'm still waiting.

After 10 minutes or so, Enrique returned to take me to another shower. I was already the cleanest I've been in decades. I toweled off in time for him to take me to the whirlpool. Now you're talking, Enrique.

I submerged myself in the foaming pool and closed my eyes. Let the relaxing begin!

Returning 15 minutes later, Enrique helped my limp form out of the whirlpool and into a warm pool of still water. “Dunk down,” he said, demonstrating his command by squatting a couple of times on the side of the pool. Mimicking his motion in the water my skin cooled a few degrees. He then walked me a couple of feet to another pool. “You go in and dunk yourself again,” he said. “It good for closing your pours.”

Oh, yeah, I thought, no way. Every orifice on my body was still puckered closed by my first bout with ice water. I waded up to my knees and ran back out, shouting, “On to the next station,” through gritted teeth as I sprinted past a startled Enrique.

Recovering his composure, he took me to a maze-like, water-filled trench that zigzagged like the line for Disney's “It's a Small World” ride. The bottom was lined with smooth river rocks. I stepped down into the tepid water and walked the course. I came to the end, walked out to find a smiling Enrique pointing to another similar course next to it. “This one colder,” he cautioned. I took two steps and bounced back out. “Not happening, my friend,” I told him.

The final station was something he called “The Sensation Pool.” Roughly the size of an Olympic-size, rectangular swimming pool, it contained several different water experiences from a laser-like focused water spout to a bubbling area that made the whirlpool seem tame by comparison. I moved from experience to experience, enjoying the peace and quiet of the place that I had to myself despite two dozen or more lounges arranged around its perimeter.

Enrique left me to enjoy this final station for 20 minutes or so. 

My room at the Fiesta Americana.
 When I finally returned to my room, I was a puddle, but calmed and relaxed.

It was a two-hour experience of trance-inducing pampering punctuated by heart-stopping encounters with water cold enough to be glacier runoff.

All in all, though, a terrific experience.

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