El Totumo is a mud volcano near Cartagena City. As the story goes, it’s a natural volcano that used to spew fire, until a local priest declared that this was the Devil’s work and turned the fire to mud by sprinkling holy water on it.
THE MUD VOLCANO
I’m sceptical about whether or not the legend is true. In reality, it seems more likely that this 15-metre mound was designed as a gimmick to attract tourists. Either way, though, it’s a lot of fun.
WHAT’S THE DEAL?
You can book a trop to the mud volcano from various places in Cartagena. At the time of writing, a tour with El Viajero Hostel, including transport, was $35,000 COP.
The minibus picked us up at 2pm and it took about an hour to get there.
FACILITIES AT THE MUD VOLCANO
The mud volcano is a really popular attraction. There are changing rooms where you can get into your bathing gear, but no showers.
If you’d like photos of your experience you can hand your camera over to a staff member for £3000 COP and he’ll become your personal photographer.
WHAT DOES IT FEEL LIKE?
The mud is warm and thick, and very hard to navigate. The pool is also very small and you will find it impossible not to migrate slowly towards total strangers, accidentally putting your feet in their face in a desperate attempt to gain some control.
There’s no perceivable bottom to the pit. It’s the density of the mud that holds you afloat. This makes for the most comfortable bed you’ll ever lie in
MUD VOLCANO MASSAGES
For another $3000, you can pay for a massage from one of the guys who spends his entire day bobbing about in the mud.
Be wary of this. I met a fellow traveller who’d experiences wandering hands.
To get out of the mud volcano, you have to navigate some slippery steps. The mud slips off you in clumps.
Then it’s time for a bath in the lake.
If you thought the mud bath was the weird part of the trip, you’d be mistaken.
Any attempts to tell the local women that you can wash yourself are ignored. They chase you through the shallow water and then pounce. As they pour litres of water over your head, the mud washes into your eyes and you resign yourself to the fact that you will have to hand over another $3000 COP for the privilege of a thorough scrubbing.
Not only that, they whip off your bikini top without warning, as you desperately try to cover your modesty in about a foot of water. By the time they’re finished with you, you’ll be lucky if you’re not completely starkers.