Enjoying Lisbon, Portugal: Part 4

Once we finished touring Castelo São Jorge, my sister and I had to make our way back to the city center, where we first began our excursion. From there, we would catch a local bus, which would take us back to the airport. As we walked through the Alfama once again, we came across another olden-day cathedral, but our best (and most delicious) find happened to be in the city center. We spotted Confeitaria Nacional—Lisbon’s oldest confectionery, dating back to 1829.

As my sister and I walked into Confeitaria Nacional, we were in awe of the assortment of pastries available on display. We had a difficult time making the decision of what to order, but one of the locals recommend that we try a Pastel de Nata—an egg tart pastry common in Portugal. It exceeded our expectations, and was the perfect treat to conclude our brief trip to Lisbon. As we savored every last crumb, the city bus arrived, and it was time for us to return to the airport and continue on our trip to Barcelona, Spain.

Day 2 In Cartagena, Colombia: Mud-Bathing at Volcán de Lodo El Totumo

We had an hour or so of down time in between seeing Casa Azul and an afternoon excursion. For our afternoon excursion, we drove to Volcán de Lodo El Totumo, which is a mud volcano located in Santa Catalina, Bolívar, in the northern part of the country. The mud volcano is forty-five feet high, so it’s a small hill to walk up upon arriving. However, the volcano is 6,000 deep, but the catch is that the mud is three times more dense than one’s body density, so even though the volcano is so deep, you float in the mud.

Volcán de Lodo El Totumo has been around for between fifty to sixty years. Some individuals were claiming that the mud had healing powers, and since there was so much violence in the area, the government gave the land to locals and had the locals test the mud to see what was in it. Results showed that the mud contains sulfur and various other minerals, and it is said that the mud has helped people with different types of cancer, people with acne, and that it helps soften skin too. And if you’re concerned about the cleanliness of the volcano (as we were), there is constant circulation inside the volcano, so the mud used by a few individuals changes every few minutes with the circulation.

Companies wanted to buy the land and build hotels and restaurants in the area to increase tourism and bring in more money, but the community said no because it’s their land and they take great pride in it. The land in the area is all very natural, and only locals or relatives of locals are allowed to work here.

When we arrived to Volcán de Lodo El Totumo, we were quite skeptical about what we got ourselves into. We climbed up a small hill with steep steps and a wooden railing on the side that we held onto for dear life. Once we got to the top of the volcano, we looked down and couldn’t believe our eyes. We had to climb down a small, and also steep ladder into the volcano, where we drenched ourselves with mud. From there, a local who works at the volcano took us and moved us to the corner. While in the corner, we were passed off to another individual who works here, and received a mud massage, alongside fifteen other individuals who can fit into this mud bath at the same time. After our five-minute massage, we were passed off to a different corner of the mud bath, where we had ten to fifteen minutes to float and relax, while continuing to cover ourselves with mud.

Once we got out and climbed down the hill, we were told to walk to the lake behind the volcano. When we got to the lake, local women held our hands and walked us into the lake. From there, we were instructed to remove our bathing suit (while under the water), as the local women scrubbed the mud out of our clothing. They also helped get the mud out of our hair and from behind our ears. Once we redressed under the water, and returned to the bus to leave, I noticed just how clean my bathing suit now was, and was extremely impressed with the abilities of these women!

To say that this was quite the experience is an understatement, but it just goes to show, you can’t judge a book by its cover. Although we were iffy about getting into the mud volcano at Volcán de Lodo El Totumo, we ended up having a blast, and knowing that we were able to help support a local, hard-working community and participate in something they take much pride in, was great, too. Besides, we came out with a fun story to share with others!

Day 2 In Antigua, Guatemala

Our first morning in Antigua was spent at El Convento de las Capuchinas, the largest covenant in Antigua built solely by Capuchin nuns in the 1700’s. Unfortunately, after some destruction caused by an earthquake, the covenant was abandoned, but restored in the mid-1900’s for the pubic to see.

From there, we walked over to the Catedral de Santiago, which has ruins dating back to the 1500’s. Although the cathedral was destroyed twice by two different earthquakes, the ruins were still beautiful and it was a great sight to see with an abundance of history behind it.

Following our morning excursions, we took some time to walk around the city and explore a local market. While doing so, we came across a nice, small restaurant to have lunch at before beginning our afternoon explorations which will be continued in an upcoming post.