Trip to the Volcan de Lodo El Totumo
Our morning plans were to visit the Volcan de Lodo El Totumo early, before the bus crowds arrived. So we arranged for what we thought was a car to take us to the volcano, though the car was actually a van filled with 8 other people. It also didn’t arrive at 8:30 but more like 9:15. This was a little unfortunate since we wouldn’t have the mud to ourselves.
When the van arrived we got in, met two men named Gene and Robert, and realized it was not a private taxi ride. Then we picked a family of 4 from Orlando. Then we got a Brazillian. And then Michael from Del Ray beach. Apparently there are lots of Floridians because there are direct flights between Cartagena from Miami. But what wasn’t a private taxi ride turned out to be very fortuitous since we all enjoyed one another and Ji and I hit it off with our new friends Gene and Robert. Lilliana, our guide, summarized how the volcano mud-time works: we’d pay 1000 pesos each for a mud massage, a camera, and the mud-washing ladies. If we didn’t want any of those services then all we had to do was say “no thank you”. But we’d read up about the experience and knew we wanted to “go with the flow” – pun intended hah-hah.
Volcan de Lodo El Totumo
At the volcano there were two other buses already there, which was a bummer but a small price to pay. We stripped down to only our bathing suits and cameras. The Volcano is an unimpressive ant hit with rickety stairs that you climb steps up to to top and find that the hole is packed with bodies.
To get into the big vat of mud, you climb in backwards and they tell you “just lie back”. You immediately float. Gene went in first, then Heidi, then Ji, and Robert stayed out to take photos. The mud pit is organized into a massage area and a loitering area. We were guided on our backs to the massage area where we acclimated to this crazy buoyancy. When we decided against the massage, they pushed us immediately to the loitering area. It was amazing how buoyant we were. Attempts to stand were thwarted by the thick, dense mud. Lots of limbs around – which helped us bond even faster with Gene.
Gene, pre head-dunk
Gene, post head-dunk
Gene and Heidi, laughing hilariously. Robert said, “Heidi you are ALL BOOB.”
Ji and Me
Gene, Ji and Heidi – Mud Buds
Eventually we taunted/bullied Robert into coming in, which wasn’t hard because he had that “I should go in” look on his face. What followed was more mud buddy fun and accidental groping. We got to know each other very well and very quickly, prompting lots of jokes like “Whose leg is that?” or “Is that a potato in your pants?”. The mud was gritty, charcoal grey color and very thick. It was also room temp (not warm). We decided that since there was no bottom it “went down to the center of the earth”.
Ji, Robert, Heidi, Gene, and rabbit ears
When it was time to get out we sat in the mud on line for the squeegee, which was really a man running his hands down you to clean you off. This sounds disturbing, but was actually a non-event. We carefully walked down the stairs backwards since we were still slippery with mud.
We followed the path down path to a “lagoon”, which sounds exotic but wasn’t. The ladies ushered us in, pushed us gently but firmly into a sitting position and bucketed water over our heads. The water was basically dirty swamp water, but at least it wasn’t mud. They urged us to take off our suits and washed them off (also not a disturbing thing since we were all submerged and no one could see). I bullied Robert into taking his off too. Then, because it was getting crowded, they urged us to get dressed and get out of the water. No loitering for these people.
Path to the lagoon
Man washing in the lagoon
Muddy kid getting in for a washing
Ji and Heidi with a coconut
Decor and the hill
Gene, Ji, Robert, and Heidi – cleaning up our acts
The bus ride to lunch was filled with laughter and teasing since by now we were best “Mud Buds” with Gene and Robert. Like when Ji, out of nowhere, suddenly Ji wacked Gene on his shoulder. Though she claimed it was a bug, Gene was convinced it was some Korean thing. No need for propriety when you’ve been groping each other in the mud. The Orlando gamily in the back row laughed hysterically at us.
For lunch we went to small village fifteen minutes from the old city at a tourist lunch by the water. We all ordered fish except Robert, who had chicken, and for some reason we felt the need to name each plate.
Ji and Ivan
Gene and Fred
Robert and Foghorn Leghorn
My fish, Stuart, mangled.
A woman came around selling a coconut dessert. We tried it but all decided it was too sweet and a tad too smokey.
Back at the hotel we showered and showered and showered. Ji says she showered but apparently didn’t use shampoo since her hair was still turned her hands black. We waited for a while for Marelvy to take us to her husband’s art studio but she didn’t come. Instead we went to the Plaza where his studio was located. Still no luck. We waited for bit and then opted to do a little shopping in a store called Kia. The dresses were more expensive than we remembered from the night before, but Ji found a lovely blue dress with an orange stretchy belt. I bought a necklace and some gifts for nieces. Then it was back to hotel for siesta.
Gene and Robert had invited us to dinner that night and said they’d pick us up at 7:15. At 7:10 our front desk called “your friends are here”. Ji and I raced down the stairs to meet them in the lobby.
No Gene and Robert.
We looked in the library. Still no Gene and Robert. We looked at each other, we looked around, and then we opened the door to outside. There – in a horse-drawn carriage – were our muddy (now clean) knights in shining armor. We were beside ourselves. I’ve never been in a horse-drawn carriage. We took a quick drive around the town and then the driver dropped us at the Tcherassi Hotel and Spa so we could have drinks at Aquabar and dinner at Vera.
Robert and our carriage driver
At Aquabar, we sat over pool next to living plant wall with chirping frogs and running water. We tried practically every drink while we had the time.
Tree in Aquabar
Running water wall
Robert and Gene
Dancing in the Rain
We all rallied to go to local dance spot outside the city walls that Robert and Gene knew about. It was a bar with an open courtyard – as many of the establishments in Cartagena have – and we had drinks in the open are. The bar was playing videos on the walls and so dancing ensued. Our new group of friends all liked cheesy pop dance tunes, especially Lady Gaga. Eventually raindrops started to come down and Joe dove for cover. The rest of us continued to dance and the rain got harder and harder. That’s when Katy Perry’s “Hot and Cold” came on and the rain got very heavy. Gene and Robert ducked under the roof and this is how Ji and I found ourselves in the middle of the courtyard – all alone – and dancing like loons in the pouring rain. We were drenched but had so much fun. We hung out for another hour so and then called it night at 1:30AM. Rock stars.