Covered in Mud: A trip to a Colombian mud volcano

After our rain soaked experience on the streets of Cartagena, we decided to spend the following day covering ourselves in another substance: mud! Helen and I had been eagerly anticipating the Volcan de Lodo El Totumo since reading about it several weeks prior, but poor Bea wasn’t such a fan. Her childhood fear was mud and she couldn’t think of anything worse than getting in a small lagoon of mud full of people intent on covering themselves – and her – with mud. She very valiantly agreed to go, although she didn’t really have much of a choice; Helen and I had talked about little else but the volcano in the days before we got to Cartagena. The volcano is around 1.5 hours out of the city and with very tedious travel connections connections making the journey much longer than 1.5 hours, we opted for a tour.

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The precarious way of getting down from the volcano

The volcano sustains the economy of the local village, and you can pay 3000 pesos (NZD $2) for services like having a local take photos on your camera, which means photographic evidence without sacrificing your camera to the mud gods in the process. They also offer mud ‘massages’ for another 3000 pesos, which I decided to forgo up until I got into the mud pool and found myself being pulled over, head forced down and told to relax. As it was such a small sum, I shrugged and enjoyed the nice local man’s idea of what a massage is – basically smoothing mud over my legs. As Lonely Planet said when describing the mud massages “the locals certainly didn’t go to massage school”.

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Helen enjoying the mud

Helen and I had the time of our lives smearing each other with mud, having mini mud fights and enjoying the sensation of trying to reach the bottom but being pushed right back up by the buoyancy of the mud. Meanwhile, every single photo of Bea taken during this shows her with pursed lips, a disdainful expression and eyes that say ‘GET ME OUT OF HERE’. She did very well putting up with Helen and I’s attempts to cover her in mud but beat an early retreat, awkwardly standing waiting for Helen and I. We very maturely proclaimed we were never coming out although eventually we felt bad about the line of people waiting so reluctantly bid adieu and headed down to the lagoon to wash off. Local women charge 3000 pesos for a ‘professional wash’ but none of us doubted our ability to clean ourselves and politely declined the service. The ladies did not take well to this and made it clear we were not welcome anywhere near them. Cast to the no man’s land part of the lagoon, we dunked ourselves and got rid of the mud which had gotten into all sorts of funny places.

After drying, tipping the little boys who had brought our shoes from place to place and laughing at every single photo taken, we headed to a beach we had a delicious fish meal, washed down with coconut treats. On the way there, we were treated to Marco Antonio Solis’ video hits, which were truly epic. One man can never wear enough gold chains according to Marco. We finished our delightful day off people watching in our favourite place in Cartagena, Plaza de Trinidad, sipping delicious freshly made juices made by a lovely woman who always gave us seconds for free. When I’m old, boring and have too many responsibilities, I’ll think nostalgically back to those days, sipping on passion fruit juice whilst lazily sitting in the bright yellow square in the sun, watching local kids play soccer.

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Life was pretty close to perfect…