We are back and I hoped to share our Cartagena experience. We were able to get a taxi to take us to the volcano from the pier.
Cartagena Columbia -
This was our first trip to Columbia and to South America. We loved it. I couldsee a land/ future visits to this port. We didn’t have any safety concerns. We were docked in any area that seemed just for cargo. We had to walk a ways just to get “outside” the port. I did notice that the HOHO was waiting right at the cruise ship to pick up passengers. How convenient! Once you get past the cargo zone there is almost the equivalent of a “petting zoo”. Many species of birds, anteaters, turtles, deer, monkeys, peacocks, flamingos. We spent time going through here on the way back to the ship. We wanted to go to Totumo Volcano. I had read about the mud baths and wanted to visit. Our cruise line didn’t offer this as a tour option so we had no choice but to find an alternative plan.
We hired a taxi cab driver (Leo Perez 321 5312217) for the day to take us there. It was about a 50 minute drive to the volcano. The roads were in good condition. We arrived about 11am. There were about 15-20 people in line ahead of us. I would suggest that you exchange currency if you plan to do this. They took our US currency but they did not want to give me back the correct change. At first he tried not to give us any change,but when I translated in Spanish he realized that we weren’t going to fall for that. I didn’t understand everything he said, but they didn’t want to give the going rate for conversion there. Hindsight it would have been easier to have their currency. By the time we finished haggling for our change we were shown to a changing area.
A guide was provided to usher us through the process. We ended up giving him our stuff to hold while we were in the volcano. I was uncomfortable leaving our things in the cab and there really is no secured storage locker there. The attendant stood right next to us the entire time and even took some photos. I’m glad I had my swimsuit on underneath,because I didn’t really want to go into the changing area. FYI- wear an old swimsuit. This mud does NOT clean out of swimsuits well. We read about that prior and brought old swimsuits that we disposed of once we were back on the ship.
Onto the volcano…..this was AWESOME! Talk about a unique experience that you don’t usually have. This was it. Our kids were reluctant to go in at first and then once they got in, we had to force them out. There is no “bottom”, but you really do float right up. In fact you have to work to get to a vertical position. It’s gushy and thick, kind of like pudding. They tried to massage me. I declined,but the rest of the family got the mud “massage”. There was also a designated picture taker,holding a slew of cell phones and cameras taking pictures of everyone in the mud pit. Did we experience any perceived health benefits from its healing properties? No, but we had so much fun we didn’tcare.
After we got our kids out we were shown to a river to rinse off in. After looking atthe water, I told my husband we just might be cleaner now than after washing inthe river. It did really look polluted. There were ladies in the water who demanded that they clean you themselves. I tried to decline. Apparently not forcefully enough. I saw one couple who successfully got away from them. They kept walking past,about 20-30 additional feet and were able to bathe themselves. Keep in mind thatthere really isn’t any part of you they are uncomfortable rinsing, so if the thought of that bothers you. Turn down their bath.
Once we got out we were surrounded, literally, by the attendant, the picture taking guy, the bathers, anyone who remotely did anything for us while we were there. It was tip time. They are non-threatening but they are persistent. Think about the hairbraiders in Nassau and the people selling their wares at Dunn’sRiverfalls. If you’ve been to either of these places you know exactly what aggression to expect. I read the reviews, so I expected this but if you didn’t I could see why this could be pretty intimidating. My husband and I still think there was one guy who was in the tip line who didn’t service us at all. A dollar or two per person to each is all that is expected. A tip is expected if you use the restroom there too.
We left about 12:30 ish to make the drive back to Cartagena. Our cab driver showed us a bit of the island, stopping in a few places for photo ops. Then, we asked him to take us to the Old City/fort area. We walked around for a bit, very nice area. We shopped for souvenirs and did part of the walking tour on our own. Our cab driver was right where he said he’d be once we were finished. We returned to the ship about 3:30 to CHAOS. This is where I think the embarkation horror stories emerge. There was a huge parking lot of cruisers waiting to embark….outside in the heat, with luggage. I didn’t see any organization to the process. It just seemed like a tailgate party. Note to self…don’t embark here with Pullmantur. We literally passed through the crowd of cruisers waiting to get on board so that we could show our sea pass.