By WorldTeach Colombia volunteer Allison Kielhold, 2016

motoThis Friday it poured in Cartagena and since then the weather has been amazing. It is the first time since July that I have not felt hot. I even turned one of my fans off last night 🙂 The word frío has been batted around which I feel is pretty generous…I don’t think cold exists here. However the weather has been quite enjoyable and I hope this kind of thing happens more often!

I also visited Volcán Totumo with my coworker John who happens to have a motorcycle.  I had always thought I wanted to learn to drive a moto and one day have my own. However, after 40 something minutes driving to the volcano my behind was not thrilled about the idea of the return trip. But it was a beautiful drive with lots of greenery-worth the sore bum!

We decided to rest a bit after the trek and enjoyed carimañolas in hammocks while chatting with the shop owner. She taught me how to make real masa for arepas by grinding corn kernels. It is a labor intensive process but her food was amazing so its better than buying corn flour.

The volcano itself is very small but completely filled with mud. It is a pretty strange sensation swimming around in the crater. The mud is so dense that you float but the thickness makes it a challenge to move around gracefully-but I seem to have that difficulty with or without mud so nothing new there.

You can get an optional massage if you pay a tip but I passed on the rub down. To enter the volcano it was 10 mil pesos so ~$3.50 plus the tip for the guy that takes your pictures.  And then 5 mil pesos for an extremely thorough washing by women unfazed by typical US conceptions of personal space. She definitely got all the mud off!   Overall a very inexpensive trip, 20 mil (less than $7) for entrance, mudpictures, and a bath. That is not counting food and drinks but good frito and juice are always worth a little extra money.  They say the mud is really good for your skin, not sure if it is true, but its a fun experience  flopping around in a volcano crater!

After the volcano we went down to the beach to rinse off a bit more and enjoy the rest of the afternoon. I’m not sure where we were exactly, or if the beach even has a name, but it was the first beach I have been to in Colombia that just had a handful of locals, no tourists, and no one trying to convince you to get a massage, braids, or buy sunglasses. Don’t get me wrong, Playa Blanca and the other beaches here are fantastic, but they are always packed and geared towards tourism. It was nice to be in a place where I didn’t feel like a foreigner on vacation. I don’t think there were more than 15 people there that day! We also saw some fishermen who had an impressive amount of patience and strength to pull in nets from the sea. I have never seen that technique used before-it is intense work! I didn’t have a camera with me at the time but it was a similar scene to the ones in these photos.

After the beach I went home to attend the birthday party of Señora Lira (81 and still tearing up the dance floor!) and her daughter Sandra. We had a nice family gathering celebrating these lovely ladies and wishing them another year of salud, dinero, y amor.

ladiesMuseums have free admission the last Sunday of every month so a couple other volunteers and  I took advantage and visited the Palacio de la Inquisición. I don’t know why it never occurred to me that the Spanish Inquisition made its way to the Americas but I learned that Cartagena was one of three cities in the Spanish Empire that had a tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition (the other tribunals were located in current day Mexico and Peru).  Trials/tortures were carried out from 1610 until Cartagena’s independence from Spain in the early 1800s.

The visit to this museum is a sobering one.  Many of the torture and execution devices are on display and there are pictures of various other torture methods.  It was stated that 10,000 people were killed in Cartagena but I wouldn’t be surprised if that number is higher. I am not sure if they were counting only those who were “officially” executed or also those who died while being tortured. It was a very informative outing but it is a chilling site with a gruesome history.

After our trip to the Palacio we wanted to do something a little more lighthearted and so we found a kite festival!  I thought it was just a coincidence that everyone was flying kites this weekend but we arrived just in time for the start of an event.  They began with a largest kite competition which had some decent competitors.  It was a gorgeous afternoon and you just can’t help but be joyful while watching hundreds of kites fly overhead. Another amazing weekend in Cartagena!

This post initially appeared on Allison’s personal blog, Teach Abroad: Colombia, on August 29.