Day 2 In Cartagena, Colombia: Enjoying Our Last Night In The City

After our afternoon excursion of mud-bathing in Volcán de Lodo El Totumo came to an end, it was time for us to return to our hotel and enjoy our final evening in Cartagena. During the drive back to Hotel Carribe, we came across multiple motor taxis. We were told that you can spot a motor taxi if you see a motorcyclist with two helmets—one on his head and one in his hand.

An individual would take a motor taxi if he or she doesn’t want to wait in traffic, or if he or she is in a rush. There are roughly one hundred accidents each day involving motor taxis, and it doesn’t help that they don’t have licenses to drive others or even insurance. The issue at hand is that the first rule in the constitution states that all individuals have the right to a job. Therefore, if the government were to ban motor taxis, so many individuals would be out of a job. This would lead to protests, strikes, and the blocking of streets. So, while motor taxis are not legal, they are socially accepted in Cartagena.

Similar to Bogotá, Cartagena has zones that classify residents according to socioeconomic standings. However, unlike Bogotá, the zones in Cartagena are dispersed and not in order. So, for example, a poor neighborhood can be located next to a very wealthy one, whereas in Bogotá, the nearby neighborhoods slowly progress into wealthier or poorer neighborhoods.

After arriving to the hotel, we decided to take a walk along the beach and enjoy a nice dinner before having to pack our things and get ready for an early morning flight. As sad as it was to leave Colombia, we had a great trip, and I hope I can say I’ll be back soon!

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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!