Colombia travel blog by Mark Berman -
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Mompos, it sounds mysterious and it's off the beaten track. Step back in time to a place that hasn't changed since the 1600's. With a beautiful historic center
spread out along the riverfront. Explore the enchanting streets where you will find many old but well-kept churches and buildings. Relax in the cafes
and restaurants along the riverfront and enjoy fine cuisine. Take a river boat tour, see birds, iguanas and other wildlife. Mompos is a wonderful place to spend
a few days. There are hotels and hostels to cater for all. Mompos is best accessed via Magangue from Monteria, Tolu, Sincelejo or Cartagena. With new roads and
bridges (opened in 2020) in and around Magangue it is now much easier to get to Mompos than it was when I first visited in 2010. You used to have to get to Mompos
by river from Magangue, now the new roads change that! The story of my first visit to Mompos is written below.
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 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 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 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 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 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
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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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
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
stay the night there. After a brief 1 night stay in Monteria
I traveled south to Medellin
where I ended up living for 5 months.