Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Mompos Excursion

Location: Mompos, Colombia

Rundown: Sleepy colonial town on the Rio Magdalena, gotten to by a bus, boat, car, and mototaxi.

The journey getting to Mompos is half the fun of the whole excursion. Our crew, consisting of myself, four other teachers, and a stray Brit, took a bus from Cartagena three hours south to a town called Magangue, a generic little town on a branch of the Rio Magdalena. Haggled a price for a little riverboat called a chalupa which took us upriver to Bodega.

...Turned out to be less of a town, and more of a crossroads, but we found another vehicle to take us the rest of the way to Mompos via pot-holed dirt roads. We careened around rough corners, past corrugated metal shack homes, and through herds of floppy-eared cows. All in all a bumpy 7 hour trip…

Check out the little video!

Mompos used to be part of the river trade route between Cartagena and the interior, and before the route was switched and revenue ceased, Mompos prospered. It’s pretty quiet now, and not much has changed since the late 1800’s. Lots of old, empty churches, cobblestone streets, statued plazas, and people taking their time. Not much to do.

In the morning we took 3-wheeled mototaxis around the town, fed monkeys in the trees at the river’s edge...

...talked to guys unloading a banana truck, and took an unexpected tour of an old lady’s home. Sweet deal.

In the afternoon we took a 30 foot long, 4 foot wide Johnson boat upriver.

Our boatman took a hard right and plunged us into the riverbank foliage, which turned out to be growing over water. We followed a shoulder-wide channel with heavy vegetation that we rammed over like a coastguard cutter over icepack.

Occasionally, the long boat got stuck in the twists and turns and we had to push it out.

Passed people’s houses build up on blocks. Front yards of stagnant, questionable water, chickens living in the trees, pigs on the wooden front porch built over the water, wooden dugout canoes tied to the block walls. Amazing. What do those people DO? Back to the hunter/gatherer stages, I think. We smiled and waved and they smiled and waved, and questioned each other’s lifestyles.

Broke out of the tangle into a wide expanse of deep marsh, found a pleasant spot and swam.

And one more little video...

On the trip home, we hired a couple cars which drove us back towards Bodega again via the pot-holed dirt roads. Again, we careened around rough corners, past corrugated metal shack homes, and through herds of floppy-eared cows. We stopped at a very unexpected traffic jam…in the middle of nowhere. Got out of the cars, and learned that were was a problem with the bridge ahead. Ambled down to the riverfront in the pack of halted people towards a group of longboats to find that the same 400 meter, concrete and steel bridge that we drove across a few days before had collapsed in the heavy rain and was washed away.

A huge bridge that heavy trucks drive over, gone. Sweet. Piled like cattle into another longboat with other stranded people for a trip to the other side. I don’t know if they were bewildered looking because of the missing bridge or because they were wondering what the heck the pack of gringos were doing in this odd end of the earth. I was wondering the same thing myself.

Below are a few extra shots from the trip.

1 comment:

Kate said...

Sooner needs to come now.. you know how good I am at waiting!