A Dip in a Mud Volcano in Colombia

This is an article I wrote in 2006, after my visit to the mud volcano.

Senthil Ratnasabapathy

“Don’t wait outside, friend, come join us,” the masseur stretched his arms inviting me. From my location in the narrow, circular bank, I looked at him, and then around him in the ‘pool’. Some were being massaged by his colleagues while some others were just relaxing.

I looked again at the pool, just about 4m in diameter, and what I saw sent a yukky feeling through me. The pool contained nothing but mud; naked, creamy-spinach like mud. How could people enjoy being in it? I would rather bathe in the tranquil lagoon beyond it.

Just as I was contemplating to climb down the rickety wooden stairs that I had used to climb the 15 m to reach the top of the pool, the words of a guide rang in my ears. According to him, among the many supposed curative properties of the mud is to promote hair growth.



I have been running a sort of a no-win battle with male pattern baldness (MPB), and with the arc-like baldness of my forehead expanding to meet the circular baldness of the crown, I was prepared to try any non-invasive method to win the battle.

I was already down to my swim trunk, and gently climbed into the mess, and gingerly held onto a wooden bar beneath the top of the pool.

That was it; I was now officially in a volcano. A mud volcano.

Mud volcanoes are not like the destructive lava-spewing ones we usually hear about. Usually forming a conical shape, they can be very small, some just a few feet above ground level, and geologists say they are formed when mud and sand kilometers below the earth’s surface are squeezed and pushed upwards.

Azerbaijan and the Caspian Sea are home to about 400 mud volcanoes, more than half the world’s total.

The El Totumo mud volcano, whose bosom held me now, is located about 50 km northeast of Cartagena, one of the most important port cities of Atlantic Colombia.
The masseur took over. He laid his one arm on the back of my shoulders and the other on my back thighs, and gently lifted me up. I was now floating as he started his massage of my stomach and chest area.

But I was tense; the masseur had claimed that the volcano was just two meters deep, but something in me said it was a bottomless pit which I had no intention of reaching. “Just relax, you won’t sink,” he chided me as he applied gentle strokes on my belly. I looked around. Sure enough, almost everyone was getting massaged and no on was sinking. Gradually, I began relaxing.

The masseur turned me over and began massaging my back. I continued to relax, feeling his strokes reverberating in my belly.

About 30 minutes later, the massage was over, and I returned to a vertical position with spread arms. My feet were not touching anything, yet I was not sinking. I was floating vertically and I stood in that position with closed eyes, still feeling the masseur’s firm fingers’ strokes kneading through me.

Mud Volcano in Cartagena, Colombia

Mud Volcano in Cartagena, Colombia

Once we have had enough, we walk down a second set of steep wooden stairs to the ground and then towards the shallow lagoon where a group of waiting women take over to give us a good rub to get rid of the mud.

When I was finally finished, I was in bliss; my skin felt rejuvenated and I felt as if my body was pulsating with new energy.

And all this cost just 30,000 pesos (about 13 US dollars), and this included the transportation to and from the volcano, a visit to a nearby beach and a lunch of rice, salad, fried banana and fried fish (or chicken) washed down by a bottle of pop, and the rest as tips for the masseur and the woman.


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