I got out of the minivan and gaped in amazement. My friends had not been kidding: it was a mud volcano. The 50-foot Volcano Totumo loomed over the landscape, dwarfing the surrounding thatched-roof huts. The eco-tour took passengers just 25 miles outside of Cartagena to a volcano that produced mineral-rich mud rather than the usual lava.
Two flimsy looking stairways ran up the side of the dirt mound. Really it looked more like an enormous termites’ nest than anything else. People in bathing suits climbed up the wooden steps on the right and disappeared into the pit of the volcano. On the other side, a steady stream of golems, with more than just feet made of clay, picked their way carefully down the viscous, mud-coated steps. It was a sight to behold.
With a deep breath, I changed into my bathing suit and made my way towards the stairs. I was actually going to go swimming in mud. As I reached the lip of the volcano I started to have second thoughts. Sure, it was supposed to be good for your skin, but staring down into the seething pit full of people looked like a Renaissance painting of souls writhing in the pit of hell. And we were doing this on purpose?
After handing my camera to one of the volcano employees, I gripped the top of the ladder leading down into the belly of the volcano. Clutching the rungs with all my might, I slipped and slid my way downwards until my feet touched the lukewarm liquid mud.
I slid down into the mud with pleasure. The tepid mixture was a welcome relief from the 100 plus (40 C) degree weather. But try as I might, I could not sink any lower than my ribcage. The bottom may have been at the center of the earth for all I knew, but the mud was too buoyant to let me sink a centimeter further. I scooped the soft wet slop over the upper half of my body, relishing the novelty of getting myself utterly filthy on purpose.
I played, frolicked, and luxuriated in the mud, spreading it on my face, over my hair and slathering a thick coating on everything that wasn’t already submerged. And finally it was time for my massage. The masseuse helped me over to the far edge of the volcano and asked me to lie down. To my surprise, I could lie flat on the surface of the mud almost as easily as if it had been a massage table. In a gentle Swedish type of massage, using the creamy mud as lotion, the masseuse worked his magic easing the tension out of my shoulders, smoothing the hike-weary knots out of my legs, and turning me to jelly.
Getting a full body massage in the creamy mud was absolute heaven, but it was time to go. I reluctantly left my delightful mud bath and climbed the ladder. Transformed into another golem, I tentatively made my way down the steps, holding the railing to prevent myself from slipping on the ubiquitous mud.
The nearby lake offered its waters to remove the thick layer of rapidly drying mud from face, limbs, swimming suit and hair. And when the mud was gone, every bit of skin covered by the miraculous mineral dip felt softer than a baby’s cheek. I would definitely rate the mud volcano as one of my favorite gifts of nature. Pigs really do have the right idea.
Right after graduating from the University of Kansas’s school of Journalism Sally Kay hit the road and hasn’t looked back. She has explored Europe, Africa, South America and North America and has lived in Slovakia, Hungary and Argentina. She is currently traveling in South America. Her adventures are chronicled in her blog www.adventuressetravels.wordpress.com and her work has been featured on the travel websites Tango Diva and Tripeezy.
Cover photo by nedavanovac