Fun in the Mud
Dan and I sat in the entrance of the hostel waiting for our bus to the Mud Volcano. All of a sudden, we hearing honking in the street and a man enters the doors asking for our slips. Dan hands ours over and we exit the doors to enter the bus. It’s a one-way road where cars are piling behind our ride, honking impatiently, waiting for us to get out of the way. A couple is right behind us and climbs on and then one guy gets on and says his friend is on the way. Well, we can’t exactly wait for your friend…
Our bus starts to leave and this guy is freaking out that we are leaving his friend behind. We had to calm him down and explain that cars need to pass. While he calls his friend to explain that he needs to chase us down, our bus is creeping in traffic trying to get out of the way. After a few turns, we are at the entrance of another hostel where one more couple comes to join, as well as our missing friend.
The eight of us had plenty of room to stare out the window and wait an hour until we arrived at our destination. I played some Candy Crush (don’t judge) and stared out the window, letting my mind wander.
I realized that this journey I am on, not the volcano journey… the traveling journey… is so unique. I am so fortunate. Yet, there are so many others doing the same thing. I am unknowingly becoming a part of a different community. A community of people who have seen things, experienced things, unlike so many others. It allows you to grow a different way. I feel content doing this for as long as possible. I don’t need a home base. I want to continue to experience this amazing journey. The ups and the downs and the stress and the excitement. I get to meet people – SO many people! From around the world! I can make new contacts and meet up again! The world is so large and yet it so small.
We finally arrived in this little village that surrounded one, large hill. Our bus parked and we were herded into a shack where a woman explains to us that there are changing rooms and lockers for us to use as well as showers around back. She points at one man and says he will take pictures on our cameras for 3,000 COP and points to another man and says we can buy beer from him. Then, she explains once in the mud, we can get a massage for 3,000 COP.
We then disperse into the locker/changing room and put our valuables in one, wooden locker where only this woman has the key. Some of our group changes while Dan and I stand there, already in our bathing suits, looking at each other like, “Now what?”
Our group then walks to this mound where we climb these janky1 steps up towards the mud pit. About half way, the steps get extremely steep, and I am gripping both sides of the handrails to pull myself up. Once at the top, there is a square of mud with two sets of steps. One set of steps, you climb down and the other, out.
A man is already in the mud and waving us over. Slowly, one by one, we climb down.
As I descend, the man is instructing me in Spanish to be careful. “Uno mas. Uno mas.” One more step that I cannot see helps me get into the mud. He instructs me to lay down, lay down. What? Lay down!
I don’t trust this. This is weird.
The mud is a grayish color and so thick that you can literally lay and not sink. He guides my body away from the stairs so Dan can climb down, and I am now laying next to the first couple. We are all giggling as this is such a weird experience and moving our arms around the mud.
I start bouncing my head up and down and I’m laughing because the mud feels like a pillow. Such an odd sensation.
Next thing I know, there are three guys climbing into the mud and one grabs my calf to massage me. “No gracias, no gracias!” The woman beside me and I both decline the massage. She says she’s ticklish, but I decline because I don’t want to pay for it.
After we are all situated, I sit up and sort of swim over towards Dan. We are laughing and playing in the mud; I scoop up some mud and pour it over Dan’s shoulders and he says, “I’ll do it myself!” I laugh. He’s so silly.
I swim over towards a group of people and we laugh at how you can stand straight up and be stuck. You can bounce yourself up and down and can’t get past your shoulders. We cannot believe that you cannot sink! You can be in any position and be stuck like that.
We are informed that the mud goes down about 11,000-11,500 feet!! WHAT! A little creepy.
The mud is slightly warm, but surprisingly not uncomfortable in the heat of the day. What’s that? A bandaid. Gross. That was a bandaid. I tossed it aside and Dan says, “Yeah, there’s some gross stuff in here.”
After about 30-40 minutes, we are instructed it is time to get out. I am the first to climb out and I am told to wipe off the excess mud before climbing down.
Once at the bottom, our group looks around confused. “I thought we were supposed to wash off in the water?”
“We were told there were showers, though. Maybe we go back?”
“I think we go towards the water.”
A woman comes up to us and waves us down the hill towards the water. We follow.
We walk in and the deeper we get, we realize the mud is too thick. We are instructed to sit.
This woman has a bowl and she is scooping up water and pouring it over two people’s heads. Two more women come into the water with bowls and start cleaning people. Dan and I try to decline as we don’t want to tip them. But, they did not accept our decline.
All of a sudden, one woman grabs my elbow and pulls me over and is dumping water over my head, over and over and over. I laugh. It’s part of the experience! I let go and allow her to bathe me. She is picking up my limbs and dumping water all over me and I find it difficult to breathe as the water is constantly running across my face. She instructs me to move over towards a different area. I realize our group is all sitting in a line facing the same direction and these women are bathing us quickly.
I feel my top loosen and this woman rips it off of me. Shocked, I cover myself, but I am laughing and thinking, “What a story this will be!”
She hands me my top and then asks for my bottoms. I take them off, staying in the water, and she signals for me to wipe myself. Oh my goodness, this is hilarious.
Once the bathing was finished, our group stands up. We are laughing and sharing our expressions of shock and enjoyment. What an experience! How funny! How great!
The eight of us walk up to our shack as street vendors are shouting for us to buy stuff. We were the only people there. We were there only source of income. We kept walking. Once at the shack, we rinsed off in the showers and gathered our belongings. I bought a beer and got onto the bus where we continued our stories about our time in the mud and the river.
As we bussed it back to Cartagena, Dan and I found ourselves in a conversation with the couple sitting behind us. They were from Canada2. Our conversation started about their curiosity about legalized marijuana in Colorado and then turned towards the dangers of drugs which led to a guy from the UK to join our discussion. We were then asked if we knew anyone who went to Iraq which led to their curiosity of what is America’s obsession for guns, which then led to our opinion of war and our government and then our view of our government and our military. Then we asked about their political views and their view of America. The conversation was so rich and so real. We entered into such meaningful topics of discussion that ordinary strangers would refuse to get into back in the States. It was wonderful!
We discovered that most of our generation, across the world, has the same outlook. It was incredible.
The rest of the day was ordinary: eat dinner and go to bed.
Fun in the Sun
Dan and I again found ourselves waiting the entrance of our hostel for the bus to Playa Blanca (pictured below) where we would stay the night and just be beach bums for a day and a half.
As we waited for our bus, the annoying British girl (mentioned here) was at the counter booking her last minute transportation to Playa Blanca. Dammit. We cursed ourselves.
The night before, we were talking with a new friend, Fidel, about our plans to visit paradise. Interested, he canceled his recent booking for the hostel in order to also visit the beach. The annoying British girl, Phoebe, was obviously interested in our friend. We could tell for a few reasons: (1) She intensely stared at his body while he changed shirts in the room; (2) She kept lifting her dress to show him she had to buy “children’s pants”3 that were just “too small”; (3) After hearing he was going to Playa Blanca, she also booked transportation to visit Playa Blanca…
We were agitated that this girl was going to be on our bus to and from our paradise getaway.
Around 10:43, we hear honking on the little street and someone at the front desk yells, “PLAYA BLANCA!” We exit the hostel and pile in only to realize, the silly British girl is missing. The bus starts to pull away from the annoyed drivers stuck behind, and her friend is shouting to stop. We, again, explain that the bus needs to get out of the way.
We looked behind us, and see the British girl running to catch the bus. She boards and immediately is complaining (please read this in a British accent): “He couldn’t even wait five minutes! Not even five minutes! I was only in the loo! How awful if I had missed it! Unbelievable!”
Dan and I rolled our eyes.
Arriving at the beach, we pile out of the van (it’s not actually a bus by the way) and a girl leads us from the parking lot to the beach, through the crowds of vendors and visitors and explains that we will now take a boat down the beach to our hostel. Dan and I skipped the boat, as it’s a beach and you can walk anywhere, to find a different hostel for the night. We really wanted to avoid the British girl.
About 10-12 minutes down the beach, we came across Los Corales, which was a familiar name thanks to Lonely Planet. We booked two hammocks for the night for 15,000 COP each (about $5 USD) and put our belongings in our assigned locker. As we stood there, Fidel walked up! We were all surprised to have found one another. He seemed very relieved to have found us and decided to rent a hammock as well.
I stood by the lockers and was just about to warn him about his stalker when I hear (in a British voice), “Oh, hello!”
I look over at Dan and he has his hands on his hips, his head flung back and is doing the most obvious eye roll I have ever seen. I walk over to him and we talk about how she has a nose out for him or something.
When she leaves, Fidel says he is going to find some friends and Dan and I decide to continue walking the rest of the beach.
After buying a cold beer, we continued down Playa Blanca and observed all of the commotion. Vendors walked up and down the beach selling massages, jewelry, hats, fruit, and so on. There were jet skis cruising up and down the waters as well as many boats shuttling people or just sitting in the sand. Hostels and restaurants lined the beach with people lounging in the chairs and children throwing sand at one another.
After reaching the end of the beach, we turned around to find a place to eat. Our friend Andrea recommended we try Pargo Rojo — Northern red snapper typically served with coconut rice, plantains and a small salad.
20,000 COP and worth every peso:
This fish was quite literally, fall off the bone good. So tender and juicy, we scarfed it down and looked out at the horizon while we finished our semi-cold beers.
When we returned to our hostel area, we spot Fidel half asleep in the sand. I asked him if he wanted a chair and, without moving, “Yes, but you’ll have to bring it to me.”
The three of us sat in our chairs recapping our day and talking about this and that. We told Fidel about the British girl’s obsession and he laughed it off asking, “Are you related to Jim Carrey?”
The sun started to sink and we awed at the colors in the sky before we decided the three of us should go for a night swim before heading out for dinner.
The water was warm and we splashed around while watching the sky get darker hues of blues and purple. We talked about travel adventures and life lessons and watched the sky above gain more and more stars. I thought to myself, “What a great story this will be.” But it’s not a story. Just a beautiful memory of a shared moment. It was wonderful.
Funny story: Fidel was out snorkeling while the sun was setting and he looked up excitedly and shouted, “THERE’S EELS IN HERE! I SAW ONE!” He looks down again and back up: “I SCARED HIM!” And looks down again. Dan laughs and says, “He’s an excitable one.”
Then, Fidel is following around a local boy who has a harpoon gun and suddenly stands up and is applauding the boy. Dan and I continued to watch and laugh. This guy is great!
Just a few huts down, we found ourselves at a little table where we ordered some cervezas; the boys ordered pasta and I ate a pizza. It was all fresh and delicious. The topic of discussion ranged everywhere from politics to travel to relationships to popular (American) TV shows.
He told us that in his country, the government has American cartoons in English only so that kids will learn the language while watching. Incredible! Our country should offer something like that! Dan and I feel like such jerks because everyone we meet speaks two to four languages. It’s incredible. Anyway, Fidel apparently really liked the Powerpuff Girls. We high-fived over that.
As we sipped our second beer, who other than the annoying British girl shows up! She pretends to look at the menu next door, then comes closer and looks at the menu on the table directly next to us. When she realizes we weren’t going to acknowledge her, she steps up to the table and stares. Dan continues to talk and Fidel and I continue to look directly at him as if we were so involved in his story, we were unable to notice any distractions nearby. She finally left.
After dinner, we retired to our hammocks where we snuggled in for the night. It was fairly hot, but we were tired and we dozed off.
About an hour or so later, I woke up and realized how hot it was. It was unbearable! The mosquito net was in my face, the hammock was hugging my body and there was booming music down the way. I whispered to Dan, “It’s so hot!” He agreed.
I fidgeted around for a bit before I semi fell asleep again.
I continued to drift in and out, begging for the music to stop and the temperature to drop just ten degrees. It didn’t.
Around 3 AM, I got out of the hammock and walked towards the water to cool off. There was no breeze. It was still. It was hot. It was humid. I walked into the water, but it was warm. It felt the same temperature as the air. WHY!?
I sat on some steps until I returned to my hammock to try and sleep again. It was so, miserably hot that I couldn’t stand my own limbs touching. It was so unbearable. Words cannot describe how awful it was. I felt like I wanted to leave the beach, but I knew it wouldn’t do any good.
About 5 AM, I got out of my hammock and took a chair towards the water to wait for sunrise. I was exhausted, but I couldn’t sleep. My eyes felt like they were sagging down my cheeks. I decided to change into my swimsuit and splash around the water.
I watched the sun slowly rise and the sky change from pink to yellow to lavender to a brilliant blue. The clouds went from gray to purple. Birds flew overhead and people started stirring awake.
A guy came out into the water. “Hola! Buenos dias!”
“Hola. Buenos dias.”
That’s all I know. But he continued. He was talking so fast and I just stared at his face. What are you saying? I think he asked me a question. He is looking at me. Ugh. “Anglais?” He looked confused and replied, “Francais?”
“No, English? Uh. Je parle un peu francais. I speak English and un pequeño Español.” I pointed to my ears and tried to say I understand a little (which is a lie) and he continued to ramble off. He kept making his hands like googles and pointing down. So we walked around looking at our feet in the clear water. He suddenly reached down and picked up a pair of goggles and started to cheer. He put them up in the air and shouted towards his friends on the beach and they all cheered. He looked back at me and continued to speak and I continued to look blankly at him.
He then made a signal like the breathing tube that attaches to the mask and I said, “Oh, you don’t need that! Just use the goggles!” I’m an idiot. He was saying he lost it and I didn’t understand.
He handed me the mask and I put it on and stuck my face in the water. I started walking, looking at the sand and fish swimming by when I saw the snorkel! I dove down and grabbed it and handed to him. He cheered; “¡Gracias! ¡Gracias! Este era caro! Mucho dinero para mí.” I shook my head in agreement and tried to tell him I don’t have snorkel gear because it is expensive. We smiled and he went in to celebrate with his friends.
I finally walked back to the hostel area and sat down when Dan awoke. We grumbled about how little sleep we got but were so thankful to have stayed. Fidel was also awake and he offered us his snorkel gear to use before the water got busy.
The gear didn’t fit Dan very well, so only I got to use it. I had never truly snorkeled before. It was incredible! I floated about large rocks and reefs looking at jellyfish, eels, purple fish, black fish, and so on. It was beautiful. I returned to the beach an hour later and Fidel took a turn out in the water before the three of us grabbed breakfast.
Breakfast consisted of fresh eggs (from the chickens out back) scrambled with onions and peppers and served with a large, fried arepa that had a light cinnamon sprinkle. My coffee was piping hot and served in a small plastic cup and had too much sugar. But all in all, a fresh breakfast on the beach is like none other.
Being as tired as we all were, the three of us lounged in the shade until it was time to leave.
The rest of the day was average. The bus ride was long and warm, despite the AC and after a lovely, cold shower, we had some dinner and headed to bed. I fell asleep in my clothes I was so tired.
I’ll end it here. Sorry for the long post!
Next time, I’ll talk about the insider tour Dan and I had today.
1 (adjective) inferior quality; held in low social regard; old and dilapidated; refers almost exclusively to inanimate material objects, not to people — Urban Dictionary
2 We met a lot of Canadians here. Canadians are great!
3 “Pants” are “underwear” in case you weren’t sure.