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Magangue to Mompos, Colombia - Stepping Back In Time To A Previous Century

Colombia travel blog by Mark Berman - July 2010   » View Photoset (99 Photos)

Mark Berman, South America backpacker for 10yrs!
In the latest edition of Lonely Planet a new destination in Colombia has been added, a place called Mompos. It sounded mysterious
Colombia Photo - A house, barn and palm trees beside the Rio Magdalena.
A house, barn and palm trees beside the Rio Magdalena.
and was off the beaten track - I was definitely interested. Someone in my hostel in Cartagena had just been and described the journey to get there as horrendous and the blogs I read on the internet about this journey said the same thing but as I was to find out for myself this was not the case at all, getting to Mompos was actually half the fun!

Cartagena Bus Terminal

I left Cartagena by taxi to the bus terminal while the soccer world cup final was on - I figured there would be less traffic during this day. As it turned out I saw the game on a
Colombia Photo - Horses and carts, motorbikes and cars share the streets of Magangue.
Horses and carts, motorbikes and cars share the streets of Magangue.
tv while sitting at a restaurant at the terminal waiting for my bus to Magangue.

Split the Journey

I had decided I would split the journey to Mompos over 2 days. I would spend a night in Magangue then continue to Mompos the next day. The bus from Cartagena to Magangue took about 4 hours but this included stopping a couple of times due to problems with one of the wheels, so it probably takes less normally.

Bus to Magangue

After leaving Cartagena and the ramshackle of the area near the bus terminal, we rolled down a rough dirt road for 10 minutes to get to the main road out of town southward. The journey passed through the green countryside where animals graze in the fields and
Colombia Photo - A passenger boat on the Rio Magdalena, Magangue.
A passenger boat on the Rio Magdalena, Magangue.
farm houses are set amongst the shade of trees. We passed through various small villages including San Cavetano and San Juan. I saw many donkeys and fruit stalls on the sides of the roads where people live in simple housing and make a living from the land. We travelled through the village of San Jacinto where there are shops next to the road selling things like hammocks, colorful shoulder bags, bongo drums, very colorful wooden parrots, butterflies and children's rocking horses and the black and white cowboy hats you see
Colombia Photo - Man on a bicycle rides through the street in Magangue.
Man on a bicycle rides through the street in Magangue.
a lot of in this area of Colombia - cowboy country. Just before passing through the village of Carmen De Bolivar I saw a road sign that said La Ye 130km, Cerete 164kms and Monteria 178kms - for reference. The houses around Carmen are set on roads going off the main road half washed away by rain. After passing through Carmen I saw a road sign saying Ovejas 23kms, Sincelejo 64kms and Medellin 528kms. We passed through Ovejas where I saw a little plaza area which has a white church at one end. After passing through a police checkpoint we came to the fork in the road where we turned left towards Magangue, in the other direction is Corozal 15kms and Sincelejo
Colombia Photo - Bright green swamp between Bodega and Mompos.
Bright green swamp between Bodega and Mompos.
25kms away. The bus was only about 40kms from Magangue now, we passed a vineyard called Palma de Vino before coming into the village of Hatillo and continuing the journey through the vast countryside through Paloquemao and other villages as well as the odd checkpoint. It was about this time the light began to fade and we started to have problems with one of the wheels on the bus and had to stop 2 or 3 times to fix it. A while later we arrived in Magangue where I was dropped off in the center of town.

Helpful People in Magangue

As soon as I got out of the bus a strange man said he would show me to a hotel and picked up my backpack without asking me and carried it to a hotel that was twice as
Colombia Photo - Horses and carts wait for work in Magangue.
Horses and carts wait for work in Magangue.
much as I wanted to spend on accommodation that night. I said no thanks I would find my own place and left without giving him the tip he thought he deserved. I walked across the road and found a room for $15,000 pesos ($8USD). I had a great feed nearby that night at a Chinese restaurant for less than $4USD. In the morning I woke early, took some photos out of my 3rd storey room of the nearby streets and area and headed out to have a cheap breakfast at one of the several street cookups. It consisted of soup, a rice, meat, beans and salad meal with drink for about $2USD. I then wandered around Magangue for an hour or so taking photos and to find out about a boat towards Mompos. Magangue is a town full of
Colombia Photo - Horse and cart, woman on a bicycle, Mompos.
Horse and cart, woman on a bicycle, Mompos.
horses and carts, juice stands, people on motorbikes and of course smelly fish markets because it is located on the Rio Magdalena. There is a nice church and plaza near to the river where I sat down under an umbrella for an ice cold fruit juice freshly made.

Boat Ticket to Bodega

I collected my backpack and guitar from the hotel and walked for 3 minutes down to the river area which was very busy. I found the little blue shed where I bought a ticket for $6,000 pesos ($3USD) on a small boat to Bodega. They leave regularly when each boat is full with passengers, all the luggage is tied onto the roof. It is not a long ride along the river to Bodega, it takes about 17 minutes and is very
Colombia Photo - The road to Mompos becomes rough and the journey slows down.
The road to Mompos becomes rough and the journey slows down.
pleasant indeed. The land along the banks of the river is flat and has cattle grazing and sheltering from the sun underneath trees. You could very well also see cattle boats - boats with fences transporting cattle from one part of the river to another. I hadn't seen one of those before.

Docking at Bodega

It was not long before we docked at Bodega where the last part of my journey to Mompos would begin, this would be a 40 minute ride in a co-op taxi along a very rough (in parts) road. Luckily I got the front seat while 3 locals sat in the back, it cost around $8,000 pesos ($4.50USD).

Taxi to Mompos

The sign said 38kms to Mompos and off we went, the trunk of the taxi didn't close and was wide open. We passed swampy areas towards
Colombia Photo - Meat, potatoes and a small salad served on a wooden board in Mompos.
Meat, potatoes and a small salad served on a wooden board in Mompos.
the right and there were white cows on the side of the road eating grass. We passed through a community called Cicuco where many school children dressed in uniform were walking home on the side of the road for their mid-day break. We passed a church called Iglesia Cristiana Atrios de Dios. There were locals riding bicycles, motorbikes, pushing carts and selling things in roadside stalls. Continuing on over a bridge across the river, past livestock on the side of the road and on the road (pigs, goats), houses and shrines. The sign said we were aproaching Talaigua Nuevo 8kms with Mompos now 32kms away. The road was actually in very good condition in this
Colombia Photo - Shops and street near the river in Mompos.
Shops and street near the river in Mompos.
area with beautiful green trees overhanging the road with swamps and palm trees to the side. We passed many locals riding bicycles busy doing their day to day business. As we came into Talaigua we passed by Hotel el Carmen before we hit the main street where the locals were eating and selling goods at stalls. A pleasant little place where pigs and cows wander all over the road.

Road Gets Rough

The sign now said 4kms to El Vesubio and 23kms to Mompos, this was about the time that the road started to get a little rough. It wasn't sealed and the rain had damaged it. It now became important to drive around the water filled pot-holes in the road more slowly while also watching out
Colombia Photo - Coming into Cicuco on the way to Mompos.
Coming into Cicuco on the way to Mompos.
for animals standing in the middle of the road. I started to see more horses and cattle ranches around here with huge palm trees around. The road continued to be gravely, unsealed and rough but it looked like bulldozers and steamrollers were working on various sections to fix it up. We passed through Tierrafirme just before arriving in Mompos on the last part of the journey.

Mompos

Mompos is hard to describe but the first things I noticed were the deep roads and high footpaths with the houses perched high off the roads and painted in light pastel colors and everything is a very square shape. There are many motorbikes being ridin around as well as bicycles. People sit on the
Colombia Photo - The boats and dock at Bodega for the boat back to Magangue.
The boats and dock at Bodega for the boat back to Magangue.
sidewalks outside their houses watching it all go by. After finding a bed for the night I went out to have a look around Mompos and take photos.

Sights in Mompos

There are about 6 churches in Mompos, the first that I found was right across the road from where I was staying called Iglesia de Santo Domingo, it is white and yellow. The plaza beside it is also very nice, people sit and kids play and in the evening a lot of food is available. There is a cannon emplacement and a statue of Juan B Del Corral - Dictador de Antioquia y Liberador de los Esclavos in this plaza also. Nearby is the cemetry which has many statues inside. I was enjoying walking around Mompos, the streets had a strange feel
Colombia Photo - Colorful houses along a quiet Mompos street.
Colorful houses along a quiet Mompos street.
to them, some kind of timewarp. I came to Plaza Bolivar where trees hang over seats where locals shelter from the hot hot sun, there is also a statue. I walked to beside the river to Plaza Real de la Concepcion which was very empty, the building beside the river had taxis sitting under it and was in bad shape. On the other side of the plaza is Iglesia de la Concepcion, white and pink in color. I walked up the stairs of the building beside the river to take photos of the river and across to the church. Walking around in Mompos at times was like walking in a ghost town with its big long empty streets, especially in the heat of the day. I found Parque de la Libertad which has
Colombia Photo - A cannon, bench chair and lamp in Plaza del Dictador in Mompos.
A cannon, bench chair and lamp in Plaza del Dictador in Mompos.
a monument in the center for the independence of Mompos from Spain on the 6th August 1810. I found Iglesia de San Fransisco and the nice plaza beside it, all a red-brown color. There are many seats and it's a nice open area, the church has a clock and bell tower. Now as I continued walking around Mompos I found my fourth church - Iglesia de San Juan de Dios, an orange and white color. Across the road nearby on the footpath under a tree was a Zapateria - a man who fixes shoes. Mompos is well signposted in regard to where the parks and plazas are.

The Main Event

As the light began to fade at the end of the day I was getting excited about
Colombia Photo - A photo like this makes me want to visit Mompos again!
A photo like this makes me want to visit Mompos again!
the main event for the evening which was to see the people of Mompos sitting on the pavements in their rocking chairs, which I did see a lot of. I was wishing I had one also at the time. As night fell the streets and plaza turned into open restaurants where people gathered including myself to eat hot food. I sat down at a table at the side of the street and ate meat, potato and salad off a wooden board.

The Road From Mompos

The next morning I left Mompos the same way that I had got there - back along the rough road to Bodega and along the river by boat to Magangue. From Mangangue the only way to Sincelejo was by co-op taxi. So after having something to eat I waited an hour for enough people to fill a taxi to Sincelejo. Once at the bus terminal in Sincelejo I decided to get straight on another bus to Monteria and stay the night there. After a brief 1 night stay in Monteria I travelled south to Medellin where I ended up living for 5 months.

     

View all photos in the Magangue to Mompos Photoset


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Distances & times (if available) from about halfway from Magangue to Mompos (Colombia) to:


Map location: Magangue to Mompos, Colombia. The road to Mompos is famous for being just that - The Road to Mompos! It's kind of remote, you get there by river and car/taxi. First go to Magangue, then get on the river and step back to the 1600's in Mompos!
 A : Cartagena - Colombia 156 kms 156 kms straight distance | 4hrs 11mins 4hrs 11mins by car (232 kms) | 5hrs 1min 5hrs 1min by bus (232 kms) (232 kms)
 B : Barranquilla Carnival - Colombia 194 kms 194 kms straight distance | 4hrs 52mins 4hrs 52mins by car (282 kms) | 5hrs 50mins 5hrs 50mins by bus (282 kms) (282 kms)
 C : Barranquilla to Santa Marta - Colombia 202 kms 202 kms straight distance | 5hrs 36mins 5hrs 36mins by car (325 kms) | 6hrs 43mins 6hrs 43mins by bus (325 kms) (325 kms)
 D : Santa Marta - Colombia 229 kms 229 kms straight distance | 6hrs 15mins 6hrs 15mins by car (354 kms) | 7hrs 30mins 7hrs 30mins by bus (354 kms) (354 kms)
 E : Valledupar - Colombia 211 kms 211 kms straight distance | 5hrs 46mins 5hrs 46mins by car (354 kms) | 6hrs 55mins 6hrs 55mins by bus (354 kms) (354 kms)
 F : Tayrona National Park - Colombia 237 kms 237 kms straight distance | 6hrs 30mins 6hrs 30mins by car (364 kms) | 7hrs 48mins 7hrs 48mins by bus (364 kms) (364 kms)
 G : Taganga - Colombia 234 kms 234 kms straight distance | 6hrs 27mins 6hrs 27mins by car (364 kms) | 7hrs 44mins 7hrs 44mins by bus (364 kms) (364 kms)
 H : Minca - Colombia 223 kms 223 kms straight distance | 6hrs 29mins 6hrs 29mins by car (367 kms) | 7hrs 46mins 7hrs 46mins by bus (367 kms) (367 kms)
 I : Santa Marta to Maicao - Colombia 278 kms 278 kms straight distance | 7hrs 55mins 7hrs 55mins by car (471 kms) | 9hrs 30mins 9hrs 30mins by bus (471 kms) (471 kms)
 J : Camarones Flamingo Sanctuary - Colombia 306 kms 306 kms straight distance | 8hrs 20mins 8hrs 20mins by car (499 kms) | 10hrs 10hrs by bus (499 kms) (499 kms)
 K : Bucaramanga - Colombia 294 kms 294 kms straight distance | 10hrs 24mins 10hrs 24mins by car (637 kms) | 12hrs 28mins 12hrs 28mins by bus (637 kms) (637 kms)
 L : Bucaramanga to Cucuta - Colombia 298 kms 298 kms straight distance | 12hrs 59mins 12hrs 59mins by car (720 kms) | 15hrs 34mins 15hrs 34mins by bus (720 kms) (720 kms)
 M : Cucuta to Venezuela - Colombia 287 kms 287 kms straight distance | 12hrs 50mins 12hrs 50mins by car (721 kms) | 15hrs 24mins 15hrs 24mins by bus (721 kms) (721 kms)
 N : Medellin to Bucaramanga - Colombia 305 kms 305 kms straight distance | 10hrs 55mins 10hrs 55mins by car (740 kms) | 13hrs 6mins 13hrs 6mins by bus (740 kms) (740 kms)
 O : San Antonio to San Cristobal - Venezuela 318 kms 318 kms straight distance | 14hrs 14mins 14hrs 14mins by car (777 kms) | 17hrs 4mins 17hrs 4mins by bus (777 kms) (777 kms)
Driving times are accurate but approximate and are listed in the order of driving distance! Drive times are always affected by weather conditions, the terrain, time of day, altitude, dinner and bathroom stops, animals on the road, protests, a fast or slow bus driver, police checkpoints, border and river crossings, dropping off and picking up passengers etc. These drive times are obtained from Google Maps and are meant as a guide. Note however, times quoted in the main text of this page are exactly as the author experienced it.


My Hostel & Hotel Reviews for Magangue to Mompos, Colombia:

Hotel Rivera, Magangue, Colombia - Large Photo
Hotel Rivera, Magangue, Colombia (July 2010 - 1 night) - I had a simple and basic room with dingy bathroom for about $8USD which is all I was looking for anyway. The room had a good view of the area from the roof floor, there are restaurants and main streets right outside and its 5 minutes walk to get a boat to Mompos.
Hospedaje La Union, Mompos, Colombia - Large Photo
Hospedaje La Union, Mompos, Colombia (July 2010 - 1 night) - I had a nice little room with bathroom, the place is very nice and across the road from a church in the center of Mompos. Recommended.
Hotel Don Kike, Monteria, Colombia - Large Photo
Hotel Don Kike, Monteria, Colombia (July 2010 - 1 night) - Not expensive, around $10USD for a small room with bathroom and tv, the owners are very friendly. Great for a one night stopover and not too far from the bus terminal.

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Magangue to Mompos, Colombia - Stepping Back In Time To A Previous Century. The road to Mompos is famous for being just that - The Road to Mompos! It's kind of remote, you get there by river and car/taxi. First go to Magangue, then get on the river and step back to the 1600's in Mompos!

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