Going for a sauna, steam bath and Jacuzzi experience is like eating ice cream in three different flavors. The difference is in the flavour, but the ice cream is the same.
On a hot Friday afternoon, I decided to have a taste of these three different flavours of spa treatment. My spa of choice; Kigali Serena’s Maisha Spa.
So, past the crowds lounging and sunbathing by the pool side, I made my way to Maisha.
Alex Ruzindana, the spa attendant wasted no time in taking me into the locker room, where I had a change of clothing.
The section for men is different from that for the ladies, so stripping to the bare minimum did not present much of a problem. People just went about stripping and locking their valuables safely away in their wooden lockers.
The white linen towel that Alex handed me was so thick and heavy that I would not imagine walking in it on an empty stomach! I had to take a shower before hitting the spas.
As I walked to the showers, I stopped by a notice proclaiming the spa’s in-house rules:
No soap, oils or creams in the spa; no exceeding fifteen minutes at a go, no food, drink, drugs, etc.
The last rule stated that I had to consult a doctor before using a spa. As I walked on, I couldn’t help but wonder just how many people followed that last rule.
My first stop after a warm shower was the sauna. The sauna room had this studio-like appearance about it, from size to the acoustics used on the wall. The only difference is that, while you will find a music studio freezing cold, thanks to the A/C, the sauna booth permeated with hard, dry and hot air.
The heat in the room comes from a steel oven which is filled with stones and then heated. When one wants to turn the heat up, one simply sprinkles water on the stones, and they in turn release hotness.
The heat was unbearable, to put it plainly. The feeling was like the one you get when you sit too close to a burning fire, only with a little humidity. There is a way that the heat dances and bounces off the surface of your skin, leaving in its wake a mildly irritating but deeply satisfying sensation.
Sitting in a sauna is like basking in the sun on a day that is ten times hotter than what you regard as the hottest day.
Within three minutes of stepping in, beads of cold sweat had started dribbling down my face, following down to the torso and arms. The sweat steadily gained momentum, and before I knew it, I was emitting as much heat through my sweat glands as I was absorbing. My cough ran dry and rung hollow. Occasionally, I would take in a deep breath, only to inflame my throat with hot air. You had to breathe gently, just to avoid that gale of hot air assaulting you down to the abdomen.
I endured thirteen minutes in the sauna lounge, just three minutes short of the recommended maximum time of fifteen minutes.
The real hard cores only take short breaks in between several sessions in the lounge.
The steam bath was my next stop. Like I said already, it is a thin line that separates sauna and steam bath. The only real difference lies in the fact that while the sauna will burn you with hot and dry magma, the steam bath experience is more humid, with steam the source of heat.
For this reason, the steam bath is tiled and you will find some wetness on the floor. The feeling here is a little softer than the dry and hard air of the sauna, so I was happy that I had chosen them in that order.
I took eleven minutes in the shower and burst out like a petty criminal evading mob justice. It was THAT hot. And it is not on very many occasions that I sweat the way that I did. Or gallop as much water and whatever form of juice happened to cross my thirsty path.
When I headed to the urinals, the fruits of my efforts there made me think I was passing out medicine in its undigested form.
The steam bath was my last stop. It was also the most challenging –and rewarding as well. The facility comes in the exact shape of a children’s swimming pool, such that one actually just sits in the water. The water gushes from the sides of the pool in a vigorous spinning pattern, much like that at a natural hot spring. The sensation it gives off is not only relaxing, it is bouncy and tingly. Not as hot and stuffy as the steam bath and sauna, but definitely the most challenging.
Ten minutes of the steam, and I emerged from the waters, totally knocked out. It then begun to make sense to me that alcohol and drugs (or being under the influence of) are strictly prohibited in the spa.
And the sensation I got was the one you feel when you want to explode in sudden, intense laughter, yet you don’t have sufficient air in your lungs or energy in your muscles to do the laughing.
Was the Rwf18,000 spa fee money well spent? I think so.