Volcun De Lodo El Tormuno – (Colombia)

Although there are organised day trips to Volcun El Tormuno from Cartagena, we decided we would rather visit on our own and rented a car for the day. An hours drive north on a sealed road took us to the clearly signed turn-off. A further 1km down a dirt track Volcun El Totumo came into view.
Just as ‘the book’ had said, it was a perfectly formed cone of only 15m in height standing in the middle of a clearing, surrounded by a cluster of small huts/shops with a lagoon approx 100m away slightly downhill. There were two sets of steps running up the side of the cone and wooden fences surrounding the top of it.

We parked the vehicle nearby but were immediately instructed by a local to move it to flatter/higher ground as a downpour appeared likely (good advice as it turned out).

We were not entirely sure what to expect from the volcun but got a much clearer picture when 2 mud-caked figures, one male, one female, appeared in front of us. They were completely indistinguishable, save for their eyes, but were both laughing and were drinking a beer each, so we figured that the experience couldn’t have been too bad.

We were relieved of 10mil pesos (approx $20) each for a ticket and ushered towards changing rooms, emerging with swimming suits on (unfortunately in the gloom Jon had put his shorts on inside out but did not notice until too late).

We were then shepherded up the first set of steps towards the top of the volcano, not knowing exactly what to expect when we got there.

At the top we looked into the mouth at what looked like a small timber clad swimming pool of wet cement, with 2 ladders descending into it.
We asked some obvious questions: What is the liquid? Volcanic mud formed from decaying organic matter deep below ground; Is it hot? Only warm; and How deep is it? About 2000m…the last answer was slightly more than we expected but they seemed like trustworthy guys.

Jon decided not to dive or jump into this one for fear of never surfacing again and climbed down the ladder into the mud. Once at the bottom of the ladder he was encouraged to lie on his back and relax (difficult when you can hardly move) and joined by one of the attendants who commenced massaging his legs, then upper body arms and back. He was then left to attempt to swim in the treacle-like mud whilst Vanessa descended the ladder and received the same treatment.

Foolishly Jon attempted a total head immersion…fortunately the masseur was on hand to remove the mud from his eyes.

After our massages and few riotous minutes of attempted mud swimming, during which the other attendant was snapping away with our cameras, we both climbed out of the pool (several kilos heavier) and posed for some ‘monsters from the swamp’ photos.

We were then led quickly down the other set of steps and the track towards the lagoon, where we were instructed to immerse ourselves and to clean the mud off as best possible. A local lady, evidently keen for some income, assisted us in removing as much mud as possible (a little too familiar we thought).

Ironically the heavens opened at the same time in the way that only tropical summers can, so the walk back up towards our clothes and the car was treacherous.

The rain was incessant and did not let up for at least half an hour. The couple who were there when we arrived, struggled to move their car on the dirt track and we both stood in newly laid concrete mistaking it for just another patch of mud. Oops!

After half an hour the rain eased off enough that we could make it to the car without getting soaked, so we gave 20mil pesos to the masseur and asked him to split it between the cleaning lady, the owner of the shop in which we had been sheltering and any of the other people present who were after some reward for their services, and made a dash for it.

Summary – This is an easy half day excursion from Cartagena and well worth it for the unique experience and pure fun you will have. The price is very reasonable but expect to have to pay extra for services such as changing facilities/banos, shower, post-dip wash and massages, some of which are delivered despite not being requested. We hope that in the future those in charge will realise that visitors are happy to pay a higher entry fee rather than be hit by unknown extras.