Floating weightless in mile-and-a-half-deep volcanic mud was by far the most memorable part of my visit to Colombia, even if I didn't have my phone in hand to document the surrealness of it all.
Just an hour's drive from the walled city of Cartagena lies Totumo's otherworldly, 50-foot-tall mud volcano, a thick pool of thermal water and subterranean minerals popular for its unusual appeal and therapeutic benefits.
All I could do was laugh as I tried to swim or move in the thick ooze, finally letting my body naturally float to the top of the buoyant bath. After the muddy massage, still giggling, I joined the rest of my fellow mud people to wash off in the nearby lagoon, with help from the local women, who rubbed us down rigorously. Whether it was the healing minerals or the absurdity of it all, I felt lighter and sported a glow for the rest of the afternoon, and some leftover dirty nails, too.
Taking a dip in the volcanic mud bath was just one of the experiences on my trip to Colombia with G Adventures. While I knew I could expect a vibrant culture that oozes drama and musicality (the city of Cali is both the birthplace of cumbia music and famed author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, after all), I was amazed by the diverse landscapes Colombia offers -- beach to jungle to mountains -- and all the outdoor adventures that lie within them.
Another unforgettable day was one spent trekking through the tourist-free Tayrona National Park, a lush region along the Caribbean coast. I don't know what was more special, the fact that we had the jungle to ourselves or that our guides from the local indigenous communities shared parts of their traditional culture along the way, from finding coca leaves for us to chew on to leading a purification ceremony at a sacred waterfall.
This blend of exploration into new territory while respecting the culture and heritage of the people who call it home has always been the mission of G Adventures. While the sustainable-travel company now offers 13 itineraries that visit Colombia, it also makes sure it works closely with the locals to provide ways they can make money off tourism while protecting their sacred land.
"Colombia is still an emerging destination for us within a region where we've had a strong foothold for 25 years," said G Adventures global product manager Rachel Wasser.
"Our expertise and volume over the years in Latin America has allowed us to contribute to development in the communities we visit, and we feel Colombia is now in a place where we can hope to have the same positive effects and bring tourism dollars back to this vibrant and unique country," she said.
Travel Weekly | By Kathleen Rellihan