Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Colombia: Mud Volcano!!!

Day 5: 

Well I certainly wasn't expecting to find myself sitting topless in a lagoon with a Colombian woman scrubbing mud out of my ears, but that's how today ended. I'm not even a little bit upset about it.

Our last full day in Cartegena started innocuously enough. I decided that after 5 days sans exercise I needed a run, so I headed out at 7:45 am hoping the days of buses and planes and taxis and hiking and hammock-sleeping hadn't maliciously meddled with my joints. I'm happy to report that though sluggish and slow, everything was overall ok! Until the heat really started to hit me a couple miles in. I was running along the beach. The breeze stopped. And all of a sudden I was inside an oven with now way to escape. I paused at a stop light, felt light-headed, focused hard on existing for a few seconds, and then headed home through the heat.

But within 15 minutes of returning to the hostel, after inhaling some watermelon and drinking a liter of water, my body temp was back closer to normal and I was happily sipping Colombian coffee and munching on toast with pineapple jam.

We spent a lazy morning wandering around the walled city, buying necklaces and paintings, and checking out Cartegena's modern art museum.

Ok so next up on the itinerary: Mud Volcano!

We booked a bus tour through our hostel for about $20 each, since the mud volcano is about 30 minutes outside the city. Honestly, we had no idea what to expect. We arrived at a gray-ish cone in the middle of nowhere that looked like a volcano if a child were to draw a volcano, overlooking a huge lagoon. We were shepherded into changing rooms and instructed to wear only our bathing suits, hand our cameras to a boy to document the experience, and leave everything else in a locker.

We climbed the volcano's stairs in our bikinis, the wind howling around us, giggling at the absurdity of it all -- an absurdity that only intensified when we arrived at the top and looked down into what was quite literally a pit of mud 10 feet across about 15 feet below the lip of the volcano.

The few Colombian men in charge of this experience waved us down the precarious mid-splattered ladder. I watched KatieHat slowly sink into viscous gray mud and then float, guided by the locals' hands, to the center of the pit where they began to massage her back and legs and arms as she lay on top of the mud.

Umm ok my turn! I backed down the slippery stairs and sank into the comfortably  warm and pleasantly smooth molten mud. My masseur told me to relax, and I was shocked at how completely buoyant the mud was! The massage lasted maybe five minutes (sure whatevs, it cost $1.50), and then he guided me to the side and told me to stand up. It worked! The tour guide on the bus told us that being in the mud volcano (which is 300 feet deep!) would feel like zero gravity, and she was right! The rest of our group (about 12 total) one by one joined us in the pit, and the camera boy snapped pictures from above. We slip-slided around like baby otters, or the Orc being born in Lord of the Rings, or like three girls in a warm and buoyant mud volcano bath of ridiculousness.

I'm not going to lie guys, it was a weird and awesome and unique experience that I highly recommend!

After maybe a half an hour, we one at a time climbed back up those slippery steps. A guy at the top used his hands to essentially squeegee the mud off, then sent us down the volcano stairs like a line of slow-moving Swamp Things to make our way to the lagoon.

So there we found ourselves. A woman with a plastic bowl in hand guided me into the lagoon, sat me down in water just over a foot deep, and started washing me like a baby in a bathtub, using the bowl to pour water over my head and scrub the mud out of my hair and ears. I squished my eyes shut and went with it -- she appeared to be doing a good job. Then she took off my top! Little waves crashing against my belly button, she washed out my top and put it back on me, then did the same with the bottoms. Unexpected, but ummm sure ok, me and my 12 new best friends are just going to have this experience together I guess!

We emerged out of the lagoon feeling clean and refreshed and a little bit baffled by the serious events that had just occurred. Clearly we bought egg arepas (again, Colombia = never not eating fried corn things) and then took the bus back to the city.

Our last night we went to a fancy restaurant/bar on the wall and then the next morning we walked all around the city one last time.

Now I'm back in the cold and work-heavy world of Boston and siiiggghhhh I miss Colombia!