We piled into our bus early in the morning and then rounded up the other tourists from their ritzy high-rises in Bocagrande: some Italians, an Ecuadorian family, and another family from Venezuela. No one showed any interest in anyone else. Then we drove out to the mud volcano, yes literally a volcano that bubbles forth mud reputed for its skin enhancing properties.
You change into your swim trunks, kick off your sandals, then ascend the makeshift stairs up to the top, whereupon you hand off your camera to one of the many locals who have established an efficient little system for getting tourists muddy and happy. This dude stands there with 15 or so cameras strapped about his arm, and he seems to remember to whom each belongs to, and must have experience with every digital camera under the sun, as he snaps pictures of all of you individually having your wonderous bathing experience.
You climb down a little wooden ladder and step down into the liqueous mud, which has the consistency of chocolate cream, and suddenly, you are immersed in a pool of mud. It’s somewhat tricky to maneuver in at first. Some local dudes are sitting in the pool and will then grab you and attempt to begin rubbing you down, which is a little weird in my opinion, so we declined the rub-downand sidled over to the wall to enjoy our mud bath in peace. It’s really quite remarkable. I fantasized that I was bathing in chocolate cream, except that this fantasy was shattered rudely every time a large sulpherous bubble erupted out of the pool like a giant farting in a bathtub. You kind of just sit there floating in this mud-cream, and dunk your hair in it, slather it all over your face, swim a little bit, and just laugh at the sheer joy and ridiculousness of it all.
This is an experience not to be missed, I assure you. How often does one get to bathe in a creamy pool of warm mud? Some of the tourists that came with us elected, strangely enough, not to go in, and just dabbed bits of mud on their faces. I couldn’t understand this. Why drive out all the way out to this damn anomaly just to dip your toes in? Dunk into that shit, motherfuckers! While I may not have enjoyed slipping and sliding in the terra cotta-like clay in the jungle, this volcanic mud was different stuff. I don’t know about the beneficial properties of the mud, nor care—it’s just sweet to swim around in.
Then once you’ve had your fill of mud immersion, you walk out to the lagoon a few yards away, and you are then given a strange baptismal experience, as some old local women lead you out into the shallows, sit you down, and then begin to bathe the mud off of you. They have you remove your trunks, and then rinse and wring them out for you. You just sit there in the water trying to breathe as they splash water all over your head, and it’s almost as enjoyable as the mud bath. How often does one get bathed like a babe in the shallows of a lagoon?
At the end, before you hop back onto your bus with the other unfriendly tourists, you then tip the locals for their services; my guide told me that 2 mil pesos each was appropriate. That’s peanuts.
So my advice to you if you ever venture to Cartagena de Indias—definitely make the little side excursion out to El Totumo.