Bathing suit-clad travelers, anxious chatter about what lays ahead. A slow, bizarrely intimate ascent, bonding over shared uncertainty. Four steps. Three steps. Two steps. One. We reach the top of what appears to be a massive ant hill…
A small hole, more than 2,000 meters deep, we all clamber to get a peek inside, it’s filled with mud. Thick viscous goop and about ten faces of apprehension, fully submerged, peer up at us. Floating tin men. Slow shuffle, towards the ladder, it’s time to plunge in.
Five steps down and skin finally connects with mud. The first thing you notice is that it’s thick, thicker than you thought. A man behind you instructs you to relax, just lean back, he prompts, don’t worry about catching yourself, trust the mud to do the work.
Trust. How? The volcano is deep. What if you sink? What if the mud swallows you whole, filling your lungs with its dense goo?
Scrunch up upper lip, squint eyes, let out a tentative squeal and then lean back, submerging in this non-Newtonian substance.
Gravity is obsolete. Loose control of your legs and your chest shortly follows. No need for apologies as uncontrollable bodies bonk into one another.
A complete loss of self-control, social inhibitions removed, when you have no sense of body and space anymore all walls come down. Giggle with strangers, draw on each other’s faces, just float in a completely upright position, never again in your life will such a simple stance produce such a fantastic sensation.
It’s time to get out, you’re going to drip mud, your suit sagging due with the new load that it’s carrying. Slippery and covered with remnants of the alternative reality you have just entered you are dramatically brought back to the present.
Time to clean off you dirty thing you, welcome back!
How to get to El Volcan de Lodo Totumo, Cartagena
Cartagena’s mud volcano is one of the best backpacker experiences, and a must, while in Cartagena, Colombia.
Going on a tour is the best way to get there. The Volcano is about an hour outside of the city of Cartagena, arranging a private taxi will cost you load. Buses are not direct meaning that the journey will take three times as long and won’t cost much less.
Most hostels and tour companies in town offer a morning or afternoon tour option. The morning option costs 50,000 Colombian pesos, leaving around 9 in the morning the tour goes first to the volcano then to a stunning remote beach and includes a grand feast of typical Colombian food.
The afternoon trip costs 40,000 pesos and just goes to the Volcano, there is no meal or beach included in the day. Great for those not keen on rising early or for Backpackers who may have had a big night out at Media Luna Hostel the previous night.
Personally, we thought the morning option was a great value, turning the experience into a whole day event!