Caroline is an avid Amazing Race fan, and this season the show took the contestants to Cartagena. Of course, the competitors went to one of the most touristy and strange destinations Cartagena (and maybe all of Colombia) has to offer- a volcano of goopy grey-brown mud. Of course we had to accomplish a tiny piece of Caroline’s Amazing Race dream while we were so close.
Ramiro and I on the bus to the mud volcano
Time to reveal something to the blogosphere- I have a boyfriend in Colombia. His name is Ramiro and he’s from Maracaibo, Venezuela and living in Cartagena to make some money since the Venezuelan economy is on the edge of collapse. He’s charming and funny, and incredibly sweet. “I need to send my boyfriend down here to take some lessons!” said Anna. We met out dancing at a disco in the center at the beginning of April and we’ve seen each other almost everyday ever since. He’s the kindest guy I’ve ever dated and he’s making the decision to leave Cartagena a million times harder.
Anyway, it was thanks to Ramiro that we got a bit of a discount on our tour to the mud volcano called Volcan de Totuma. For 50mil, a coach bus took us there and back and provided a full Colombian fish lunch on the beach in La Boquilla.
After an hour long bus ride, we arrived at the famed mud volcano. Stripped down to just our bathing suits we gave Anna’s iphone to a man named Jefferson to take pictures of us while we were in the mud. We walked up a set of long stairs and stood in line to descend the ladder into the pit of mud.
I should explain some things about this strange tourist attraction. The volcano is only about 25 meters tall, a strangely pointy hill if anything. But the inside of the volcano is said to be over 2,000 meters deep. No worries about ending up at the bottom though, the mud is so dense that it’s difficult to purposefully submerge yourself, let alone sink. Locals have been bathing in the mud for generations, the minerals it contains has restorative properties and leaves skin silky smooth.
Despite all this, I had some misgivings about visiting the mud volcano. For one thing, it’s not that big and dozens of tourists all go in at the same time. It’s like you and 30 strangers are sitting in a large hot tub together, only the water is lukewarm mud. But when Caroline said she wanted to go, I put on a happy face and asked Ramiro to help us arrange to go.
I am so glad we did. Yes, it was strange. Yes, it was crowded. But it was also one of the most uniquely strange afternoons I’ve spent in Colombia. After a scary descent down the ladder men with baseball caps on floated us through the mud like noodles in the pool and gave us massages to really activate the beneficial properties of the mud. It was so relaxing and weird to be floating in thick mud and getting a leg massage. After the massage Caroline, Anna, Ramiro and I laughed at each other’s mud covered faces and squealed over the strange gloopy mud that now covered every inch of our skin.
And thanks to Jefferson, our handy cameraman, I have many pictures to share with you:
After we climbed out of the mud, covered head to foot, we walked down a little gravel path to be washed off. Women with enormous tubs of salty water sat us down on crates and washed us like little babies. Normally this would have felt invasive and immodest, but after the mud none of us were the least bit self-conscious. She washed all of the mud out of my hair and bathing suit leaving me clean and super soft from the mud bath. We paid our tips (3mil each) to the massage guys, Jefferson the cameraman, and the bath ladies. Then back to the bus and another hour long journey to La Boquilla for a dip in the ocean and a traditional fish lunch.
Fried fish, salad, patacones, and coconut rice with a coca-cola
Ramiro, being the sentimental guy that he is, photoshopped a picture of all of us post-mud/pre-bath and printed it to give to the three of us on Caroline and Anna’s last day in the city.
The photo Ramiro edited to give as a gift to Caroline and Anna on their last day in Cartagena