The moment of truth today would be if I was able to get my reserved car for the drive from Santa Marta to Cartagena. After a tasty breakfast, we hurried to the car rental at the airport. As it generally does, everything worked out. I started off driving a little nervous and wobbly, but eventually fell into my groove. The drive went by quickly because of all the new things to look at (and because you had to pay attention to passing cars and motorbikes). We drove through a small coastal town, lots of toll-booths, passed many people selling things at traffic stops and eventually stopped for lunch and a small no frills restaurant. It was the type of place with plastic Coca-Cola branded tables/chairs and a straightforward menu (chicken, beef or steak). We did our best to order and ended up getting most of the things we thought we ordered. The one exception was my soup, which I ate despite a big bone with meat hanging off it floating inside. They laughed at us when we ordered a coffee at 2pm in the afternoon, but I explained we were tired from driving! The woman working there was super sweet and it made my day when I saw her face light up with the tip. We also had free entertainment by watching her little girls playing hide and seek.
Back on the road, time flying by for someone who hates long car rides, the scenery became industrious and then eventually countryside. My maps app said we were only 10 minutes from the Volcan de Totumo, a huge reason I wanted to drive was to stop there. The next reason was because it was faster than flying. I was surprised because I didn’t see anything that looked like water or hills nearby. However, we made a turn and down this road was the “volcano”. It was exactly how it looked in the pictures, a big mound of dirt with steps leading up. I was SO excited! I had read in advance that everyone there offers to help you with things and they expect tips so we pre-organized our money. They showed us where to park, we got changed into our swimsuits and followed a couple guys to the ticket counter. These guys became a sort of porter for us, carrying our belongings, taking our pictures, showing us where to go next, it was actually very helpful and worth the tip money.
We climbed up the stairs and down the ladder into this pit of clay mud. To my delight, the place wasn’t very crowded when we first got there. I was extremely surprised by the consistency and the buoyancy of the mud. I was literally floating on top of it and couldn’t really sink if I wanted to. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. Ryan,who wasn’t completely sold on this mud volcano at first, appeared to be having more fun than me! A man gave us a massage in the mud and then, after about 20 minutes, we climbed out. It was chilly and windy and the mud dried quickly on us. We went down the stairs and were escorted over to a nearby lake. Ryan had to hold his bottoms up because they were so filled with mud they were sagging, he looked like a kid with a dirty diaper LOL. A woman washed us off, she did a thorough job, it was worth the price having someone else help.
After drying off we got back into the car and headed another hour or so to the car rental drop off site in Cartagena. We then took a quick taxi ride to our hotel which was in the historical center. The old city was enclosed with a big wall, it reminded me a lot of Chaing Mai in Thailand. I loved the old, yet grandeur architecture. Cartagena was founded on June 1, 1533 by the Spanish commander, Pedro de Heredia, in the former location of the indigenous Caribbean Calamarí village. It was one of the richest ports so had a wall created around it to protect from intruders trying to attack and steal their goods.
We dropped things off at the hotel which was very nice, showered off any additional mud and then went to find dinner. The city also reminded me a lot of New Orleans with a lot of wooden balconies and high energy at night. We found a pizza place and had some ice cream for dessert. It would have been fun to go out for drinks after, but we were both tired from the drive and decided to save that for tomorrow. So far, I had the best night’s sleep in this hotel because it was dark, quiet and had a comfortable bed!