On the way to El Totumo Mud Volcano, the tour guide from Rutas Biologiques indicated that it was 2300 meters. We thought she meant 2300 meters high and mentally prepared ourselves for a long climb. Instead she meant it was 2300 meters deep, a bottomless mud pit.
Is El Totumo an act of Nature or God? Depends upon who you ask. According to legend, a local priest believed that the volcano was the work of the Devil and sprinkled holy water to expunge it. Instead he seems to have turned it into a muddy spa that now comes with masseuses, photographers and bathing attendants.
Our friend John Hovan on s/v Celtic Dream and his partner Dawnelle Clyne organized the trip which included Marcelle and Bruce on s/v Adventure Bound and two other couples who are traveling through Colombia. We arrived before the cruise ship passengers and large-scale operators showed up, and we climbed the stairs to the top of the 50’ tall mound.
The pit turned out to be smaller than what we had imagined, just as the volcano was. It was about 15’ in diameter and cozily held about 30 people—30 bodies covered in ooey, gooey, creamy, chocolate colored mud. Slick, but not slimy, it supposedly offers therapeutic benefits. Even if it doesn’t, there’s something salubrious about swooshing around in a mud pit. Since it was bottomless (the pit, not the people), the only way to navigate is to brush up against someone else and slide past. Or look to the masseuse to guide your body elsewhere.
It’s a bit of a stretch to refer to the Colombian as a masseuse. He covered us in mud and rubbed our backs and arms. It felt good and ended too soon.
Our cluster stayed in the pit for around 20 minutes. We would have remained longer, but our photographer, a half dozen cameras strung around his neck, urged us to leave. A turista bus had arrived and there were more bodies to dip.
About 30 yards away we stepped into a cool lagoon to wash off the mud. Before we could begin rinsing, a native woman grabbed each one by the hand and pulled us into deeper water. After claiming me, the attendant poured water over my head and indicated that I had to remove my top. She took it out of my hands, vigorously stirred it in the water and held out her other hand for the bottom. I couldn’t argue.
Back at the office where Rutas gathers its guests, slices of fresh-cut watermelon, water and coffee awaited us. The tab for the day was 40,000 pesos per person or about $20US. It covered the one-hour round trip to the volcano, the entrance fee to the park and a delicious lunch at a seaside village. The massage, photos and bathing cost 3000 pesos each, about $1.50US, paid directly to the person responsible for the task. And to think that some people pay hundreds of dollars for a therapeutic mud bath!