Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Cartagena: old stuff and mud volcanoes

We only had planned one night in Cartagena, not knowing much about it, but as soon as we got there we wished we had more time. We were dumped off at a crappy bus terminal way out of town and had no idea where to go. We decided to try our luck with a city bus instead of taking a pricey taxi. City bus turned out to be a bad idea since it took way longer than we thought and once we got off we still had no idea where to go and ended up taking a taxi from that point. We did get to see the city though. The outskirts look like any run down town but as we neared the center we were driving with the Caribbean Sea on our left and an old wall that used to be part of the fort on our right. Took the taxi to the hostel (driver didn't even know where to go and had to ask two other people) and got our double room at the Casa Viena. The room was the only one in the hostel that had a balcony looking onto the street which was pretty awesome. We immediately signed up for the tour to go to the mud volcano 45 mins out of town. We had an hour to relax before the trip left at 1:30 PM.

At 1:30 a woman picked us up and took us to a van where we spent the next hour driving around picking up people from different hotels. Finally we were on our way and I passed out since I hadn't slept on the bus the night before (no surprise there). We arrived at the volcano which was smallish and had a lake behind it and some little stores around it. The locals, knowing tourists come here, have set up stands with food and drinks around the volcano as well as other ways to get money. On the bus our guide told us that for a fee we could hire someone to take pictures while in the volcano using our camera. Also you can get a massage inside the volcano and in the lake afterwords you can let a woman help you wash the mud off, all for a fee. Of course you are free to say no..or are you....
We knew it would be worth it to have someone take our pictures but the rest of the stuff we didn't need. So we gave our cam to some guy and went up the stairs to the volcano. I got in first, going down the wooden ladder into the mud. It wasn't cold or hot, just room temp, but the weird part was how buoyant you are in it! The guy helping me down the ladder put me on my back and floated me toward this other guy and i couldn't right myself up at all! Then Nick came in and a couple other guys started to massage us. Now we only brought a little money with us, just to pay the camera guy and get a drink and we knew at the end these guys would want money so we said no to the massage. The guys were just like 'tranquilo tranquilo' and continued to massage us. Nick kept saying no and finally was like 'ok fine but I'm not paying you!' The massage was quite nice though, maybe lasted 30 seconds and then they floated us away so they could massage the next person. Finally we were free to play in the mud and help each other get upright! We realized that by tucking your knees to your chest it helps you get in a vertical position. It was like being suspended in pudding or something, really cool feeling. After 20 mins we were told to get out and go to the lake. At the lake there were these kids wanting to wash your flipflops and the woman ready to go with their bowls to help get the mud off you. Nick and I dodged the woman and got behind the group. They kept yelling at us that we were to far out, but I think they just meant that we were to far away from them so they could get us to wash them. The lake was a really nice temp and it felt good to get the mud off my face.
All in all it was a nice experience up till the end when everyone came at you demanding money for the services they performed. Of course we paid the camera guy but we did not pay the massage guy. I know that they are trying to make a living buy they need to respect that if someone says no it means NO! We've been around too long to let them take advantage of us.
After getting back we walked around by our hostel, which is just outside of the old town, and got some dinner. We then walked around some more looking for fruit juice, I was soo thirsty! We ended up getting pineapple juice, then passion fruit juice, then water! The next day we walked around the old part of Cartagena before catching our bus to Santa Marta. The old town was awesome! It was kinda how I pictured Havana to be. It's surrounded by the old wall/fort used to prevent attacks back in the day and to enter it you walk through an archway. The buildings were so colorful and it just had a great vibe. I would have liked to have had a tour of it to know it's history, but we only had an hour before we needed to check out of our hostel and be on our way.

view from our balcony

mud volcano

first getting in

optional? massages

chillin in the mud, feet floating up

Big kitty at the hostel, he was deff 2x the size of my cats!

Cartagena old city

Our balcony

old city

view of new city from old city

the fort wall

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