SALTO, Uruguay - When state-owned oil company ANCAP began exploring for oil in Uruguay's northern Salto province in 1941, no one expected black gold to be found and now, 75 years later, residents and visitors are enjoying a different kind of liquid treasure - hot springs.
"They are said to have many properties," Norma, an elderly woman from Canelones, located 500 kilometers (310 miles) to the south, said as she soaked in one of the outdoor pools at the Dayman hot springs.
"I have arthrosis and the doctor recommended the waters to me. They are very good," Norma told EFE. "In the winter, I come here up to eight times. In the summer, I go to the beach."
Dayman is one of six hot springs in Uruguay's so-called Thermal Region in Salto and neighboring Paysandu province, both in the northwest along Uruguay's namesake river and natural border with Argentina.
The springs, flowing from the Guarani aquifer that runs under parts of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay, produce about 160,000 liters (42,270 gallons) of water from roughly 2,000 meters (6,560 feet) underground, with temperatures ranging from 38 C to 46 C (100 F to 114 F).
"It's good for anything related to rheumatism, the autoimmune bone diseases," Elisabeth said during a visit to Dayman. "The water is very good for me. They found it while prospecting for oil. They were drilling for oil and thermal water came up."
On Jan. 6, 1941, the Three Magi, instead of giving Uruguay the wealth of oil, bestowed this peculiar kind of clear gold on the South American country.
Salto Tourism Director Gustavo Chiriff told EFE that ANCAP teams were exploring for oil some 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of the province's capital in a military field near what is now known as Termas Arapey, when they suddenly spotted a burst of water on that date in 1941.
In the 1970s, hotels were constructed, making Arapey and the other hot springs more attractive as tourist destinations.
Now, all the hot springs have public and private facilities, offering a variety of services, indoor and outdoor pools, water parks and accommodations ranging from economy class lodging to five-star hotels.