Mud mud glorious MUD!!!!!!

Trip Start Dec 08, 2004
Trip End Dec 07, 2005

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Flag of Colombia  ,
Wednesday, June 1, 2005

Our first country in South America was supposed to be Ecuador, avoiding Colombia at all cost, supposedly being the most dangerous country on the continent. However, after our experiences in Central America, and particularly El Salvador which turned out to be a real gem we were feeling braver. We decided to hop on a plane to Colombia from Panama City, starting South America from the top.

We had wanted to go overland from Panama but its virtually impossible due a small problem called the Darien Gap. It is an area of impassibley thick jungle covering the south of Panama and the North West of Colombia. Although it has been done, even by two men on mountain bikes, we didnt feel our machete handling skills were up to it. So we looked at boating it down the coast but this is pretty expensive, unless you want to spend up to 2 weeks on a cargo ship swinging about in a hammock suspended over a crowd of pigs and sheep and in sweltering heat and stink. Suprisingly we took the easy and quicker option and booked a flight from Panama City to Cartagena in the north of Colombia.

It was the shortest flight, no sooner had we finished climbing it was time to land, perfect! We shared the flight with the Colombian national football team, on their way back from the states and a 3-2 loss to good old England. We were hoping to get a photo with them all after landing, but they didn't get off at Cartegena, so you will just have to believe us.

Cartegena is a beautiful city, the old town is a maze of narrow streets and wide open plazas which we enjoyed exploring for a few days and sampling the fudge, a Cartegena speciality. The city is alive with historical charm and soaked in the vibrant latino flavour which we missed in the southern part of Central America. Latino rythms pump out from every house or shop and the streets are full of the bussle of people. Most evenings we sat with the locals outside the corner shop which also doubled as the local. You buy your beers from the shop, grab a plastic chair from the stack and sit out on the street watching the world go by while listening to guitar music and singing. We cant see this happening outside Spar.

Colombia is looking a good bet, the people are so friendly and helpful, and always looking to talk up the good sides about their country, as well as openly discussing the more serious sides. It seems you cant look at a Colombian without receiving a heart warming smile.

We took a day trip from Cartegena to the mud volcano of Totumo. The volcano is a perfectly formed cone shape mound about 20 meters high resembling a giant termite mound. Its small crater is supposedly 150m deep and is full of thick, warm and bubbling mud. The journey there was interesting to say the least, we took a chicken bus from the city through some beautiful countryside and got dropped off on a crossroads in the middle of nowhere. We then hired two motorcycle taxis, well moped taxis to be exact, to take us to the Volcano, about 5km away.

The race was on!!! Both riders determined to get there first sped off down the road at full throttle. Of course there were no crash helmets and half the ride was offroad so we had to just hang on our drivers and stay balanced while bouncing over and around potholes and avoiding sheep.

Keith arrived first, just for the record. Who needs adrenaline sports when you have a couple of mopeds.

The volcano overlooks a huge inland lake with a mountain backdrop in the background, quite the setting for a mud massage. Donning our swimmers we slipped in, well actually it was more of a squelchey plop. Coated in mud from head to toe we were given an all over, and I mean ALL over, body massage massage by the resident masseurs. It was a very surreal experience. The mud is so dense its impossible to sink although Keith gave it his best shot (see pics)

After an hour or so of our best hippo impressions it was down to the lake for a washing off. The idea of washing off in a beautiful clear lake was perfect but this wasnt to be the case. The lake was bright green with some kind of algae complete with a topping of brown foam. Ummmm having a wash in a lake didnīt sound quite so appealing now. Mouths tightly clenched and forcing a polite smile we were washed and scrubbed by two local ladies. Keiths lady even went to the trouble of de-bagging him to make sure every spot of mud was gone, she was very thorough.

We met a german couple while wollowing who are working and living in Barranquilla, Colombia. We shared a few beers them and they kindly offered us a lift back to the crossroads which we gratefully accepted, not wanting to risk another moped race!

Next stop Bogota....
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