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!

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In the Face of Abuse

On the medical mission trip I attended this past summer to Guatemala, a young girl in her early 20’s asked if she could speak with someone. One of the volunteers asked me to go over and talk to her, so I sat down alongside her and began conversing. She explained that her uncle had recently passed away from alcoholism and his death had left her distraught because he left behind his wife and young children. His wife is not able to work since her children are so young, so his family was left hungry and without any money. This resulting effect had left the young woman in a state of depression, and she could not stop thinking about her uncle’s passing and what would happen to his family.

Upon inquiring more into her background, I learned that this young woman is married with a newborn. She and her husband live with her parents, but the issue at hand though, is that her husband has been physically abusive by consistently beating her. When her husband wasn’t abusing her, both of her parents would take turns beating her, and if she experiencing such severe mistreatment from either of her “loved ones,” her mother-in-law would verbally abuse her and put her down at any given moment.

While many young adults in the United States are in college and finding themselves at such a young age, this young woman was being abused by everyone in her immediate family. Regardless of the awful situation she was facing, she was still concerned about her uncle’s family and what would happen to his children and wife. Through her way of speaking and her mannerisms, you could tell that this young woman was such a strong, resilient, and caring individual. Unfortunately, it wasn’t possible to interfere with her situation at home, because upon leaving our medical mission, the situation could intensify and we wouldn’t be able to do anything about it back in the States. However, for the first time ever, this young woman was able to open up about her life behind closed doors.

While the concept of not actually being able to help her situation at home was painful for me to accept, together, we discussed what an incredible mother she has been and what an incredible mother she will continue to be. She alone will break the cycle of abuse when it comes to her child, and she will teach her child the right way to treat others. We were able to collect numerous nutritional pediatric drinks for both her baby and her uncle’s children.

Such stories are more common than we would like to imagine, which is why we must do everything we can to help prevent abuse and domestic violence here at home and wherever possible. No one should have to experience any form of mistreatment by others, and if we could come together to make this a point across the globe, so many lives would be saved and improved. But in the meantime, somewhere out there is a brave young mother tolerating awful abuse by her “loved ones,” but still continuing to care for her newborn baby and young, hungry cousins.

I will not be posting a picture of this young woman, but instead, I decided to post a picture of a sunset during the mission. Although the nights may be dark, a sunrise will always follow. Therefore, there is always hope for a better and brighter tomorrow.

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