After I heard there was a mud bathtub that the locals known as “the volcano of youth” positioned an hour outdoors of Cartagena , I cancelled all of my different plans for my journey to Colombia (which, after two weeks of touring the nation, actually solely consisted of buying conventional mochilas wayu and consuming empanadas on the seaside) and booked myself a seat on an air-conditioned bus for the next morning.

Legend has it that the “Volcan de Lodo El Totumo” (pictured above and under) was as soon as an lively volcano believed to be inhabited by the satan, that’s till an area priest poured holy water into it and turned it right into a soothing mud bathtub. Now, it’s used for locals and vacationers like me to drift round in for the sake of higher pores and skin… and some critically Instagram worthy photographs.

Whereas I can’t communicate to the origins of the legend itself, I did examine in with the professionals to see if the volcano’s pores and skin advantages have been the actual deal or simply a part of the parable. “In your pores and skin, mud baths perform as an exfoliant, [and] in your physique, mud baths may also help alleviate muscle and joint pains and assist circulation,” says Adarsh Vijay Mudgil, dermatologist and dermatopathologist at Mudgil Dermatology in New York Metropolis, who notes that the mineral composition of the mud performs a job in its purported advantages. “For example, muds that comprise sulfur have antibacterial and antifungal properties, zinc has wound therapeutic and anti-acne results, magnesium helps the physique restore broken DNA and is vital in decreasing irritation.” The Totumo Volcano is thought to be wealthy in magnesium, and, if the odor of rotten eggs wafting out of it was any indication, there was an entire lot of sulfur in there, too.

When the bus pulled up on the finish of a dusty highway 20 minutes after I misplaced cell service, I used to be shocked to find what regarded extra like a pile of dust than the menacing “volcano” I had been anticipating. There have been dozens of different folks queued up for his or her flip within the mud, most of whom — like me — had are available in on tour buses. It could have been extra of a well-advertised vacationer entice than the “conventional Colombian expertise” that I had been anticipating however I didn’t care — the fountain of youth awaited.

Writer Zoe Weiner climbing down into the mud bath at Volcan de Lodo El Totumo in Columbia

Courtesy of Zoe Weiner

I stripped down into the shoddiest bikini I owned (… it’s now within the rubbish), saved my valuables in some less-than-promising wanting lockers, and hopped within the seemingly countless line to attend my flip.

My solely earlier mudbath expertise concerned lounging in an spa alabaster tub full of grade-A minerals and sipping on cucumber water whereas somebody gently massaged my scalp. This was… not that. It was mainly an enormous gap that critically stank (thanks, sulfur) and had a minimum of 20 different folks splashing round in it. It jogged my memory of a type of Nationwide Geographic clips of elephants bathing one another in mud, and I could not appear to get the phrase “human soup” out of my head. A number of folks in entrance of me took one take a look at it and chickened out, however I pushed my trepidation apart for the sake of the pores and skin advantages the expertise promised.

An image of writer Zoe Weiner giving the piece sign in the Totumo Mud Bath in Columbia

Courtesy of Zoe Weiner

When it was lastly my flip, I walked steadily down the ladder and flopped onto my again straight into the mud. The feel was jarring. It was heat on prime however refreshingly cool under the floor, and I felt like I used to be floating in a type of fancy chocolate fountains I have not seen because the Bar Mitzvah days. There have been males stationed within the mud to maintain me from sinking into the depths of the volcano (a really, very actual worry of mine), and with a single push, I floated elegantly — or a minimum of, as elegantly as potential in a pile of mud — throughout the highest. For an additional $2, one among them gave me a full-body mud therapeutic massage and flipped me time and again within the goo like a hotdog in a fondue pot.

I attempted not to consider the truth that I used to be floating in a vat of dust, human limbs, and God solely is aware of what else and did my finest to benefit from the massage. And after a couple of minutes of psychological gymnastics, I used to be into it. As soon as I used to be good and soiled, I made my manner over to the lagoon the place I stood in tepid, knee-high water to be professionally scrubbed.

Whereas my morning at El Totumo wasn’t precisely probably the most luxurious spa therapy I’ve ever skilled (OK high-quality, it was in all probability one of many least luxurious spa remedies I’ve ever skilled) as legend, and as Mudgil, promised, it did depart my pores and skin feeling child’s bottom-smooth for nearly every week. The sunburn I would gotten after a couple of days on the Carribean seashores felt surprisingly soothed, and even though I had been dwelling on hostel face cleaning soap for the higher a part of every week, the pores on my face felt clear and tightened. After taking an precise bathe and hydrating like loopy, I used to be nothing wanting impressed with the glow the expertise left me with.

Did I discover the fountain of youth? Ehhhh, perhaps. However did I’ve enjoyable on the lookout for it? Positively, sure.


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