Two people exploring the world, seeking adventure & unique experiences.
First hours in Cartagena
Our first couple of hours in Cartagena involved taking a taxi from the boat to immigration to pick up our passports. We then waited in the small immigration office for our passports to be stamped. We were told if there was a cruise ship arriving the same time as us it could be more than a 2 hour wait. Lucky for us we only waited about half an hour. We then took a taxi to find a place to stay and ended up at Hostel Viena. The hostel was full of Spanish speaking tourists instead of the traditional English speakers which made it feel a lot more local.
Exploring the old town of Cartagena
The city of Cartagena is the fifth largest in Colombia at around 1 million people and one of the oldest in South America. It served as a key shipping port for the Spanish and has a huge fortified wall for protection which is still mostly visible and accessible today. The old town is surrounded by the wall and is heavily aimed at tourists. We still spent a couple of hours walking around on the walls and through the narrow and colourful streets.
The mud volcano of Cartagena
The next day we booked a tour for El Totumo, otherwise known as the mud volcano. It is a difficult exercise to get to via public transport and involved walking a couple of kilometers in quite hot weather so we opted for the easier organized tour option. Our tour included pick up and drop off from our hotel, entry to the mud volcano and lunch at the beach for 45,000 pesos each ($22). It was only 10,000 pesos / $5 extra for the beach and lunch option so we chose this.
The day started off with pickup. In Central America this normally means driving around the block for an hour or more until the bus is overflowing and everyone has been picked up from their hotels, only to start back at the place you were first picked up at. When we boarded the bus, it was obvious from the start that we were in the minority by being English speakers. The majority of the group were actually from Columbia as it was a national holiday (May Day), so the whole tour was in Spanish, meaning we could practice but it sure is tiring after a while.
When we arrived at Volcano it looks pretty small and we wondered how we were all going to fit into it. The mound itself is about 15m (50ft) tall and has a couple of staircases built into the side of it so you can access the top where the mud is.
We were then asked to leave all our belongings on the bus and only take a camera and your shoes. Our cameras were then given to our “bus photographer” (3,000 pesos / $1.50 per camera) who took everyone’s camera and took photos of all of us. We were actually surprised that the photos were so good.
We then all climbed the steep staircase up and formed a line to enter the mud volcano. You could instantly see from the top the fun everyone was having bathing in the mud. After a small wait it was our turn, and we climbed the ladder down into the mud crater. Wow, what a weird sensation of thick dense mud on your body. The instant you enter the crater you can get a massage from one of the many waiting male masseuses. You can also politely say no at this point as it does incur another 3,000 peso charge. The weird thing is the instant you jumped in you floated even though you couldn’t touch the bottom. It’s described as a zero gravity feeling such as being in space as you don’t have any control of your movements as you continually float with legs kicking all over the place.
We spent about 20 minutes in the mud pit cramped in with the rest of our bus. When we got out of the volcano, there was a man waiting for us to help wipe off the extra mud stuck to every piece of our bodies. What an interesting job he has all day wiping mud off people.
We then were told to go to the lake and this is where we washed all the mud off. There are ladies at the lake that help bath you, to get rid of the mud, again for a fee. They are a bit older and on the bigger side so it was funny to see Toby’s face when they went straight for him as soon as he entered the lake. Straight away he hid behind me (which doesn’t really work). Another friend of ours had the mud bath experience and said the women actually take your swimwear off and wash them for you before giving them back. The mud really does stick to you and I don’t think my swimmers will ever be the same colour again, but definitely a worthwhile fun experience. After the mud bath we went to a beach for lunch and a swim, before we headed back to our hostel. I noticed after my swim how soft my hair felt, thinking maybe the volcano mud did have some special powers.
Plenty more to explore. Keep following the blog and our Flickr account for updates. http://www.flickr.com/photos/toraadventure/