We hit the highway at 90mph. Wind rushed through the jeep from front to back and we flapped through the outskirts of Las Vegas like an apoplectic air sock. After 72 hours of neon-lit, coin-fed catatonia, we had to get out, even if it was five in the morning. We strapped our bags into the backseat of the jeep, like two plump children, and made north on Interstate 95 with a kidnapper’s haste. Clutching a book entitled Hot Springs and Hot Pools of the Southwest, we were seeking a solace in the Nevada desert purer than Wild Turkey and more magical than blackjack.
They were out there, somewhere. Over millions of years the primordial folding and faulting of the planet’s crust, combined with underground water and earth core magma, has produced a geothermal flow, dotting this desert with hot springs. Long before pioneer settlers “discovered” them, Native Americans had realised that the desert’s “smoking waters” were sacred places. They believed the geothermal source water to be a gift from the Creator, who resided in the earth’s centre. And the hot springs were His Big Medicine, and a neutral area in tribal battles where all could freely heal their wounds. After 72 hours in Vegas, as the local Evangelical radio station put it, we too were “lookin’ for some healing”.