Volcan del Tumolo

Trip Start Sep 07, 2011
Trip End Dec 22, 2011

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Flag of Colombia  , Bolívar,
Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Cartagena area is home to several mud volcanoes, and one about an hour outside of town is quite eager to separate tourists from their pesos.   The actual sandbag and wood plank shored "cone" seems to be eroding quickly and I am waiting to read in the paper that dozens of tourists have been swallowed by a giant mud burp when this whole thing atop a hill gives way.  Volcan del Tomulo is one stop on the tourist trail definitely worth a visit and my search for all things off the wall paid off nicely this afternoon.

Who knows how deep from the bowels of the earth this mud flows but it is so bouyant that try as we might, chest deep is about as far down as one can sink.   The mud is like a loose cake batter with bits of crunch floating around and we all just sat there suspended in goop.   And I can say wallowing around like a pig is about one of the best experiences all of us have had in Cartagena!  

Locals standing around the edge will take pictures for a 3,000 peso ($1.60) fee and somehow they remember whose camera belongs to whom once everyone is rinsed off and presentable again.  Some random guy floating around in the mud aggressively tries to solicit 3,000 peso massages but his offers were very easy for me to decline.  A few nos is all he needs to rudely send people into a facedown spin as he shoves the non massage crowd away.

After 40 minutes of splashing around like kids, we did our slip and slide down to the river to demud and ladies offering their assistance for...yes, you guessed it...3,000 pesos hounded us to no end.   We declined several times but man are they aggressive.  In the end we were able to rinse ourselves off just fine without their buck sixty help.  One girl in our group had a slight bikini malfunction but who could tell when our entire bodies looked like some freaky dip into chocolate fondue gone bad. 

On the way to the mudbaths we drove past an advertisement for Subway and I really really wanted to locate the elusive stop where I can eat some processed meats on doughy bread.   Wow would something like that fill the taste void in my mouth.   Yes, my food quest has crapped out yet again today.  O.K.  I give up.   Googling the nearest Golden Arches may just be the only solution here.  Maybe if I Head to the Border something tasty and edible lurks.  You see how low I am having to reach to find some sort of satisfying meal.

Another recommendation led my group down the primrose path to La Mulata complete with a charicature woman befitting the name on a sign above the door.   For those of you who aren't espanol fluent, the name translates as The Mulatto Woman.   Could this moniker even grace an American lunch joint or would any semblance of political correctness just shatter into pieces?   The limited menu varies day by day, and I was hoping only four entrees on offer would yield a higher quality for all.  Today being Wednesday, I chose a white fish cooked in a dark sofrito sauce from today's column and asked the waitress twice if it's good.  "Delicioso," she beamed.    She shared the same enthusiasm for the seafood rice entree as well.

All hopes of delicioso ended when some tasteless bean soup made its way to our table.  Praying this watery mess was just an aberration rather than indication of food to come,  I openmindedly surveyed the square white plate carrying a nonfried piece of fish as it arrived moments later.  I hurriedly cut into the filet, and wouldn't you know it, the inside was a little on the raw side.   The rest was overcooked and the salty sofrito sauce just thickened my disappointment as I picked around the cold lifeless meat.   I kind of feel bad that fish met its demise just for this. My dish contained an ornamental sprig of rosemary, and now a bitter pine tree like infusion rubbed off on everything it touched and it's all I have tasted in my mind since.
Even the rice was a cold heap of bloated gummy grains.  How does a cook screw up freaking rice?  Hell, even Minute Rice tastes better.  Uncle Ben is rolling over in his grave for sure wishing that La Mulata would buy his boil in the bag which surely would lend more consistency.  
What I wouldn't give for a glorious bowl of rice steamed to perfection in Hanoi...A heaping mound of it with some sauce drizzled over it.  Yes, the perfect meal.   Rice is the blank canvas an Asian cook draws upon for inspiration.   That simple bowl of white rice kernels is an empty vessel seeking some rich flavors and Asians sure do know how to deliver.  Fresh ingredients mix and complement eachother like a work of art over in that part of the world.

Tomorrow morning I leave my new friends from the past couple of weeks to fly across Colombia in search of the Amazon.    My destination, Leticia, is right where Colombia, Brazil and Peru share borders.   Maybe their cuisines mix and match with some better prospects on the food front.   When I find some internet down there, I will let you know.

How I Got Herre:

35,000 Peso ($18.40) tour package offered by any hotel or travel agency in town - 4 hours

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