*Disclaimer: Though written during the COVID-19 crisis, this trip took place in the middle of 2019. Please stick to local guidelines in regards to the virus, but enjoy traveling virtually with this post.
We’re drawing to the end of our adventure. My family had a leisurely morning at our hotel on the beach, enjoying breakfast and then strolling along the water.
At long last we packed up and headed off on the road towards Cartagena, where we would be spending the last few days of our trip.
However, we did have one last little stop to make on the way there.
We had to go to El Totumo, the volcano.
Okay, well admittedly it’s not a real volcano. Not even close. I’ve seen a few real ones in my life, most dormant of course, and this is actually probably a man-made structure, though there are of course all kinds of legends surrounding it.
However, Totumo is in fact a large “mud volcano”, a huge mound of earth with stairs up to the top, and inside is this thick gooey black mud that they claim is good for the skin.
Now, I have plenty of people tell me I’m brave, but I’ll admit I can be kind of a coward in some situations. I initially was determined NOT to do the volcano. It sounded way too out of my comfort zone.
However, as we got closer, I began to realize that if I didn’t do it, I’d probably end up regretting it. And the last thing I wanted was to look back on the trip and have regrets. I didn’t know if I’d ever be back to Colombia. This was probably my only chance.
We pulled up and parked and headed towards El Totumo. We got changed into bathing suits before starting up the stairs towards the top. My mom waited at the bottom to take pictures.
I watched as my dad climbed down a rickety ladder into this huge pool of dark mud. There was already a couple in there, along with a local man who was rubbing mud all over them.
I took a deep breath and headed down into the mud.
It was surreal, like nothing else I’ve ever experienced.
I flailed at first, freaking out a little when my feet didn’t connect with anything solid, worried I’d begin to sink, but when my dad told me to let go of the ladder and relax, I realized that I in fact floated. I felt somewhat weightless.
We stayed in the mud for just a short while, all enjoying the strange sensations. The man rubbing mud on the other people tried to convince us to hang out so he could massage us as well, but I HATE having strangers touch me, so I insisted on leaving, and my dad and brother were willing to go with me.
The scariest part of all was going back down the steep steps. We had tried to scrape some of the excess mud off, but unfortunately it still clung to us and made the path very slippery. We hung onto the rails as we hobbled back down to the ground.
After getting safely down we headed over to a nearby lagoon to try to wash off. A large group of school children were playing in the water having come from the volcano. After dodging some local women who wanted to help wash the mud off of me, I headed deeper into the lagoon, sinking into the mucky water. To my surprise, the children soon were swarming us, practicing a bit of English and marveling at my brother especially who is 6’4″ (193 cm) and very pale (our family is pretty much entirely of northern European descent).
I just wanted to wash the mud off, and was not pleased with the attention, so I slunk off to the side and let my dad and brother get the most of it. My dad chatted a bit in Spanish, and my brother just laughed at all the kids gathered around him.
The water was shallow, dirty, and filled with reeds. It didn’t make for much of a bath, but we did our best.
Thankfully we soon managed to get a good amount of the dirt off and were able to head back to the car in our wet suits. We then took off for Cartagena.
We arrived in the late afternoon. I was still feeling pretty filthy and felt a little embarrassed as we turned up at a lovely little hotel housed in an old colonial house just outside of the old town called Casa Bustamante.
Thankfully the owners were very gracious and told us we should just jump into the pool to clean off.
We all headed to the back garden area and into the small pool. It felt very refreshing after the mud bath and the ride in the warm and humid car.
After some swimming we all cleaned up and then we headed into the old town to explore some and look for dinner.
We had some time to just enjoy the beauty of Cartagena since the restaurant we wanted to eat at wasn’t open just yet.
We enjoyed the historic buildings, the walls, and of course more fun street art.
At last the restaurant we wanted to eat at opened up, and we headed in to get something to eat. It was called La Cocina de Pepina and offered a number of local foods. I enjoyed some beef in a rich and flavorful sauce.
The food was delicious and we all enjoyed trying bites of one another’s plates.
After a bit more wandering we headed back to our hotel for the night. We were all excited to get some good sleep to be ready to explore more of beautiful Cartagena in the morning.