What happens when you combine a volcano, an infinitely deep pool of mud and chattering young men? The Colombian Volcán Totumo is born.
Looks good at night. Disgusting. I’m not going there. That’s what I end when I stand on the edge of a steep hillside and look at its hollow interior. It is an indefinitely deep pit with no visible bottom. Instead of the bottom – just five meters below the edge – you can see only a dark gray quadrangle. As well as a wooden ladder descends to the quad.
“Well, come on from there,” shouts a twinkling unknown Colombian young man who has just landed in the mud in his neck. “This doesn’t feel as bad as you think.”
I don’t know if it’s true because I try not to think about anything at all. I’m forcing myself down stupid. It’s as warm as 34-degree air, a little slimy, soft and thick like porridge. Drowning is impossible.
I still sink down to my armpits and immediately turn into a helpless, almost immobile clump. The young man pulls me back halfway to my back. I stick to it like loose cement. Then he takes a firm grip on my leg. Without asking anything, she begins to rub it with firm grips. What the heck?
The situation is so strange that I can’t help but laugh. But this is what is happening here in Volcán Totumo, the mutulant mountain. “Lower your head,” the man urges. Well not under warranty. My mud tolerance goes in my hair. He wraps me in my stomach.
“Relax now.” I submit to my fate, I try. I’m getting light – the mud is doing well. It no longer comes to mind as a porridge, but as a smooth pudding that smells almost nothing. I hear plöts plöts when I drain it between my fingers. Actually, it’s pretty lovely – definitely the most lovely mess I’ve ever been hanging out with.
“Your skin will soon become really soft,” the man promises and attacks his back. There are dozens of health minerals in the mud, he says. It comes from a depth of 2,300 meters. “Ten years ago, the mountain last erupted and mud flew everywhere.” Or so, it was nice to know.
A quarter later, the man hints that I could move aside. A couple of newcomers are descending the stairs. I don’t think so, right now? I have become quite comfortable. Even relaxed. Even with distress, I can move. I twist effortlessly into a sitting position.
Then I’m scared: how do you get out of here? The body is as silly as a ladder covered in mud clumps. Legs, arms, stairs and railings all slide in different directions. I make the ladder rise in the slowness of the world record. The benefit of this is that the mud dries the skin into a tight shell, and I am no longer so slippery on the last steps.
The sun is shining perpendicularly, starting to be unbearably hot. I can hardly wait to get to the shores of a lagoon a couple of hundred meters away for washing. I’m going there halfway through.
But no lagoon can be found, only a small pit from which water is lifted by bucket into the ravines. “It hasn’t rained in half a year, the lagoon has dried up,” explains the woman waiting in front of me and squeezing the first jug of water down my neck. “It’s then 10,000 pesos,” he says. I could have paid a million.
PS. 10,000 pesos is about 3 euros. The entrance fee is the same. It is up to the masseur to give tips. After good rains, the water mixes with the mud and the surface of the pool rises, at its best to the edges. Then it is easier to get to the mud bath.
WHERE? In Colombia, about 50 km from Cartagena on the Caribbean coast. It can be reached by tour buses or taxis. I myself took a taxi, right before nine in the morning, before the tour buses – then there was no need to wait and queue for anything, and there was no crowd in the mud pool.