After staying out late the night before, our group of 4 woke up about 8, absolutely dripping in sweat, but ready to go. Today was mudhill day! We piled into a van, and headed towards a volcano of mud called Totumo!
The bumpy 45 minute journey outside of Cartagena terminated near the edge of a lagoon. Facing us was a steep 20 meter high mound of earth. The volcano was a deep pit of mud. A rickety wooden staircase led to the top. We stripped down to bathing suits – I was in shorts and a tanktop – didn’t want to ruin my bikini – and climbed up. As we climbed we could see the mound of earth was built up from dried and cracked mud. An attendant stood at the top and collected our cameras for us, and several other attendants were already in the mud pool awaiting our descent.
The top of the volcano was shaped kind of like a square with rounded corners. There were some wooden planks erected along the sides, but these were encrusted with dried mud. There was room for about 20 people inside. You had to be careful climbing down the ladder, as it was really slippery. But once in the mud, it was like you were floating. The mud was warm, and thick, and heavy. I couldn’t touch the bottom, but I had no trouble staying afloat. You didn’t need to swim or tread the water, the squishy mud just carried you.
Once in the mud pit, the attendants slid you across the top of the mud to another attendant who proceeded to massage and cover every inch of our bodies with the thick goopy mud. And I do mean every inch. Face, ears, neck, bellies. Everything was entirely coated in the stuff, and it felt great!!! One by one, all of us and the other passengers were helped into the mud pit, slid across the top, and coated down. After a few minutes, every single person, male, female, young, old, black, white – all looked the same. Greyish brownish lumps laughing and squishing through the mud. It was awesome.
We remained in there for quite some time, until the tour leader shouted at us from the top of the volcano that it was time to get out. Reluctantly we followed orders. Mud bathing is so cool.
As we climbed out of the mud volcano, attendants helped scrape the mud off our dripping legs, but I could have used with a little more hosing off. As I reached the top of the ladder, a big glob of mud dripped from my forehead onto my eye. I froze – hanging on to the top rungs of the muddy ladder. I couldn’t see, and I couldn’t open my eyes, so I couldn’t keep taking the potentially treacherous steps out of the volcano. I couldn’t wipe my eyes, because my hands were muddy. Standing near was another attendant, but he hadn’t noticed my dilemna. All I could do was shout with one eye squinting, and the other eye coated in mud “Por favor! Por favor!” and point at my mudpacked left eye. Luckily the attendant understood my plight, and wiped my eyes for me. I do know the words for, “Excuse me, I have mud in my eye, can you please help me” Descupe, tengo barro en me ojo, puedes sorrento, por favor? But in time of desperate need, all my foreign language skills abandon me, and I am left to shout “please” and point at whatever it is I need or need escape from.
Anyway, covered in mud, we managed to climb down the side of the volcano and wander towards the lagoon. Awaiting us were village women, ready with their plastic bowls to douse and scrub away all the mud from our bodies. They insisted we take off our clothes so they could scrub those too. So here we were, about 20 strangers squatting naked in lake water in broad daylight while the village women washed us down like children. It was pretty awesome.
After that escapade, we loaded back into the van, and headed towards a small restaurant on the coast. Ronda’s maybe, or Donna’s. We were seated at outdoor tables right where the ocean waves crashed down and were served fish (still with the heads and skin and eyes), crabs from a bucket, plantains, and rice. The whole day, including transportation, tips, and lunch was less than $20. Very cool.