Scenic Highway 8 West from Gila Bend, Arizona cuts through the Sonoran desert, bypassing the urban sprawl of Phoenix. There’s nothing for a hundred miles except the ragged Kofa Mountains in the distance, jutting from the desert floor. Dusty, raw, with shafts of light slanting on swaths of untrammeled desertscapes. You half-expect to see a lone caballero in mirage silhouette.
I was heading to a fasting and detox spa. Five nights and six days of pure liquid diet.
Call it intuition but something told me I would find more at this “spa” than your usual fluffy robed clientele and a few youthful therapists with smooth foreheads. I wasn’t looking for that. I was seeking some form of salvation. Or, at least myself, 10 pounds lighter.
Yes, the previous year did reignite some bad habits. Yes, it did involve a lot of red wine. But most of the indulgences were of the psychic nature and had something to do with longings for my former gypsy spirit.
Now it was time for some mental cleansing.
I passed the Border checkpoint in Blythe, California then wound through Colorado Reservation Territory; an hour later, past the millennial hotspot of Coachella towards Palm Springs. Exits bearing names such as “Bob Hope Drive” brought forth visions of men in green golf pants and white shoes and girls sipping designer cocktails at mid-century modernist hotels.
But still, something was in the air.
I got closer to the spa turnoff. On a lone road an elderly Native American woman wearing a red covid mask was selling flowers. I raised my hand in gentle greeting; she stretched out a bouquet and nodded. Around me were miles of windmills as far as the eye can see.
I recalled my friends’ response when I told him about my strict regimen. “You’ll be begging for a ride to the closest Starbucks…”
Then I met Susana.
The founder of We Care Spa is a diminutive Argentinian octogenarian, with the gracious wisdom of a woman comfortable in her skin. Her daughter, Susan runs the business — clad in black, wearing sunglasses with black hair cascading past her shoulders, she could be mistaken for one of the movie stars who frequent the spa.
Susana Blenan has perfected a holistic fasting and detoxing program that celebrities have sworn by for three decades. I asked a new arrival—a man in his 40s sporting a jazzy cap, Ray Bans, gypsy pants and flip flops— if he did the pre-fasting regimen before arriving.
“You kidding? I usually come hung over,” he said with a smile. “I’ve been coming here for 10 days every year for 10 years.”
The clients are mother-daughter duos, chefs, artists, models, television execs, tech gurus, couples. They come to this lush desert oasis for treatments that accelerate the detoxifying process, and for the alternative healers skilled in Shamanic techniques for the full body, mind, and spirit cleanse.
The spa offers Reiki, breath-work, yoga, meditation, hypnotherapy, classes for mental detox, and a Fire Ceremony where guests could burn off past grievances and traumas with handwritten messages put to fire under a desert moon.
I was a good girl and did my pre-fast before arriving. No caffeine, alcohol, bread, dairy, you know, the good stuff. Damn it, If I am going to detox, I have to be all in.
And IN was what it took to get it OUT. A four hydrocolonic treatment plan was scheduled, which turned out to be more memorable than watching Finals at Wimbledon. Having given birth twice, I figured it would be easy. But I quickly remembered how anything to do with your bum and a stranger brings Freud to the dinner table. There’s a visceral need to witness years of toxic “debris” emerge from a tube into a medium-sized fish tank.
Maybe the “System Recovery” treatment the day before, where I had my body covered in castor oil, then wrapped in an amethyst-weighted blanket while lying on a heated massage table, helped. Maybe it was Blenan’s daily regimen —a highly perfected list of organic vegetable juices, alkaline water, nutritional supplements, specially designed therapeutic teas and powdered plant concentrates made into juices that did the trick.
I was sleeping a solid 9 to 10 hours, and despite one day of experiencing some fasting “symptoms,” where my body started to purge itself every few hours, I felt great. My fellow spa goers felt the same. We had all become like a big family, sharing intimate reports of our “innermost secrets” every day when we showed up for the evening ration of pureed soup. Because of Covid, socializing was minimal and respectfully distanced.
On my final day, the sky was clear and the sun sharp. I felt the same. Sharp mind, clear eyes, radiant skin and 8 pounds lighter. I didn’t feel any longing for my past habits. I never felt hungry. I had made a turn.
Mari’s “Medicine Wheel” class was gathering at an outdoor area with spectacular views of the distant mountains. I joined the ritual when a White Heron glided behind us from out of nowhere; then a hummingbird hovered over a cactus bloom near our circle; then, the desert winds started to kick up and get wild.
“It’s the week of the Equinox and it’s the new moon,” Mari shouted into the wind. “Big changes are coming.”
I guess the spirits were with us.
We Care Spa, 18000 Long Canyon Road, Desert Hot Springs, California, 92241, 760-251-2261; firstname.lastname@example.org