El Totumo Mud Volcano is located in northern Colombia in the municipality of Santa Catalina, about 50 km northeast of Cartagena. The volcanic cone stands like a dirt hill about 15 meters tall. A wooden staircase leads to the crater, which is filled with thick, lukewarm mud having the consistency of cream. It’s a popular activity for tourists to dip and frolic in the mud, for its alleged healing properties. The crater has no perceivable bottom and it’s the density of the mud that keeps you afloat. Various locals will pamper you during your time here, holding your belongings, taking photos, offering you massages and even washing you and your clothes off the mud.
The locals swear that long ago El Totumo spewed real fire and lava and ash, but this was considered to be the work of the Devil. So the local priest sprinkled it with holy water, extinguishing the volcano and drowning the Devil in mud. Of course, this is folklore possibly cooked up by the locals and is all part of an elaborate plan to lure people into visiting the inescapable tourist trap.
Mud-bathing at El Totumo can be an unforgettable experience, but for different reasons. After you have climbed out of the crater and made your way down the slippery staircase, you will be pointed towards a nearby lake where you can wash yourself off. As you start to move towards it, you will be accompanied by a couple of women who will then, without warning, proceed to rip your bathing suit away from your body. Any protest will be ignored and you will pushed down into a squatting position into the lake with only a foot of water to cover your modesty. Buckets of cold water will be poured over your head and as your gasp for breath, you will feel hands running all over your body in an attempt to scrub. Fingers will be stuck into various crevices of your body including the ears. Meanwhile, someone else will be scrubbing your two-piece bathing suit. In the end, they will return your clothes and demand payment for the massage, photos, bath and everything in between.
It’s not known whether men are subjected to the same kind of violation, but visitors who have had the experience describe the final surprise more stunning than the actual mud bath.
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