November 2, 2013
El Totumo is an interesting geological feature outside Cartagena. It is a large dirt cone with a pool of mud in its crater. It’s not just to look at though, you can climb down in and float around. It was obvious that we would be visiting it.
While waiting for our transportation, we visited the gold museum of Cartagena. It was much smaller than the version we saw in Bogotá, but still interesting.
After lunch, we loaded onto a bus and headed to the volcano. We were given a little talk about what to expect and the supposed health benefits of sitting in the mud.
The experience began by climbing a rickety set of stairs up to the top of the volcano, which looked like a giant termite hill. We passed our camera off to the photographer and then descended a very slippery and muddy ladder into the mud pit. A local man helped each person into the mud because there was no bottom. We were just floating in the mud and it was a little tricky getting used to the feeling. He would lay you back and cover your body in mud. Once covered, he would propel you with a little shove to another man who then gave you a massage. And by massage, I mean rub your legs, arms and back with a bit of pressure. Not bad for 3000 pesos or $1.50.
Once the massage was over, the man would help you sit up in the mud and move you over to your friends. It this point, Chandler, Kalyn and I sat or tried to stand in the mud. It was difficult to maintain our balance, and people kept tipping over and ending up floating horizontally. It was a very strange sensation to be floating in mud. The mud itself was slightly warm and not disgusting with hair or debris, but it supposedly had no bottom, or not one we could feel. As hard as you tried to shoot yourself to the bottom, the mud would never let you sink too far.
After about 15 minutes, it was time to get out. Somehow, we sort of swam our way to the ladder, where one of the local men helped squeegee most of the mud off our bodies. Climbing the ladder was a bit scary and took concentration not to slip. Once out of the mud pit, we were herded to the lake for a bath.
At the lake, there were a number of local ladies ready to help. They would grab your hand, sit you down and pour bucket after bucket of water over your head. They put their fingers in your ears and everyone’s swimsuit was removed so it could be pounded against rocks to be cleaned. I felt like a toddler getting a very rough bath. Once swimsuits were back on and the ladies deemed you clean, it was back to the bus. We were given a snack and headed back to town.
While we had known there might be inappropriate touching from the masseuses, we didn’t find that to be the case. The ladies were aggressive, but never crossed any boundaries. The experience was a little crazy, but we all had a great time and would definitely recommend the mud volcano.