Risk at a Fantastic Tourist Site: Totumo Volcano (near Cartagena)

Photo 1

By Doyice Cotten

When traveling, one occasionally happens upon a truly unique site or experience. I experienced one near Cartagena, Columbia, at Totumo Volcano. This one-of-a-kind site is not really a volcano – as a matter of fact, I don’t really know what it is. Suffice it to say that it looks like a miniature volcano with a pool of mud at the top (See Photo 1). The mud is warm and bubbly and comes up from deep in the earth. It is unlike the usual mud bath in that there is no bottom, but not to worry, you can’t sink – it keeps pushing you upward.

I do know that it is an immensely enjoyable experience and would recommend it highly. One caveat, however, there is some risk involved. It is not a sanitized U. S. type tourist site run or regulated by the government with all of the hazards removed.

Care is required from start to finish. First, be careful as you climb a stairway to the top (See Photo 2). It is a little muddy and can be slippery in places. There is a locally made, wooden rail to hold onto. It does not seem or look overly study, but it seems to work.

Then, for the first time you are able to see what you are about to experience (See Photo 3 and 4). When we were there, there were between 20 and 30 people in the mud pool, a square about the size of a boxing ring. You are lined up around the top of the volcano with another wooden rail awaiting your turn to enter the fun.

If needed, someone carefully helps you to climb down the ladder into the comfortably warm mud making sure you enter safely (See Photo 4). Then a Columbian man will give you a brief massage while you are lying on top of the mud (a small fee to be paid later). Then you are free to enjoy yourself in the mud with the others (See Photos 5 and 6). While we were there, both Americans and friendly Columbians were enjoying themselves. And a bubble will occasionally rise to the surface and pop. As I said, you can’t sink and occasionally someone will have to push your legs down.

When you are ready to exit, you make your way (half swimming, half pushed by others) to the other ladder to climb out (See Photo 7). Care must be taken on the muddy ladder. It would be easy to slip if you are careless. When you emerge, you weigh about 20 pounds more than when you went in.

Then you encounter the most dangerous part – going down the steps to ground level (See Photo 8and 9). Again there are handrails, but this downward set of steps are covered with fresh mud from the previous parties who have gone down. This is very slick and MUST BE TAKEN SLOWLY and carefully.

Once down, you walk about one hundred yards to a shallow lake. A local lady will help you wash the mud off or you can do it yourself (See Photo 10 for 3 friendly Columbians we met in the volcano).

In summary, it is a truly unique experience; and if you take care and use common sense, it will be great fun.

Click to enlarge the photos.