Mompós

by lwsaville

My meeting Heidi in Bogotá and my wanting to do some of the routes Cass Gil has made popular dictated my route from Cartagena across the widely spread drainage basin whose low point culminates in the mighty river Magdalena, flowing towards the sea to the north of Colombia. Across this large area one encounters the eastern mountain range running south, which contains Bogotá.

In the midst of this watery area in which the river takes liberties making it’s sinuous path lies the historically important town of Mompós (Simón Bolívar recruited soldiers for his victory, was once important for travel of goods along the river before the extended road infrastructure and shifting of the river). Touted as lost in time by travel authorities, Mompós sits isolated, surrounded by various waterways (nat geo claims an island… I’m not sure how that works technically) making it difficult to reach. I came in from the west and crossed by an old school ferry. The isolated bit itself is laid-back enough with comparatively little traffic. Spending a rest day in town I wandered off to find replacement flip-flops and encountered a very average sort of town a few blocks apart from the carefully maintained colonial center. Apart from the heat (sweating v’s into my shirt taking a walk) Mompós is pretty and colonial (like so many). This section represented a sort of obligatory race to the hills which in my mind were a retreat from the heat I’ve experienced since descending from the high places in Guatemala (wasn’t I carrying a jacket somewhere in my bags?). Conveniently enough for the cyclist looking towards the Bucaramanga the route cuts through the watery area and the corner of a larger thoroughfare being an excellent option (escaping traffic and taking a more direct route, a seldom found combination).

After Mompós I headed out to the main road and encountered a whole lot of truck traffic. Those unpleasant days were requisite for reaching the hills and a myriad of smaller roads one can take all the way to 30km outside of Bogotá. Along the road I was able to encounter quite a lot of hospitality that made it a touch more worthwhile.

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The big flat, hot, open plain, gently sloping down over the average heading towards Magangué. In Central America somehow I lost a sense of largeness, In Colombia I found it again, straining to see across this huge basin to the Cordillera Occidental where I was to meet once again with lots of climbing and the cooler weather given with gaining altitude (6.4 Degrees C per 1000m, the average environmental lapse rate stripped of the complexities of the real world).

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Had some chats and sipped tinto (tiny coffees with a ton of sugar) waiting for the ferry to unload. This ferry is much more straightforward than the modern ones.

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Mompós is alternately, spelled Mompox (historically/officially Sante Cruz de Mompox). The city was a thriving port in it’s prime being strategically located along the large Magdelena until the traffic shifted due to river dynamics.

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Classic doorway and modern poverty.

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A well kept street in the historic center typifying architecture of the past.

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An old building across from an old church.

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With it’s wingspan.

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Architectural detail of a building.

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Interesting artwork in the arches.

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Another less innocent piece on the other side. (They’ve grown up?)

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Looking the other way from said arches.

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Doorway.

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One of the many churches in Mompós, this one just down the way from the hostal Casa Amarilla.

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Same church from the roof of the hostel.

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I had met this fellow a few days before on the ferry and here we have another meeting along the road. He came over with a huge truck of bananas and goes about in a much smaller vehicle to sell them along the way.

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Ready for the road.

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My gift bag.

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And he’s off to deliver more.

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A large bird of prey from a distance on my side road route to El Banco.

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Going for a swim and eating at the same time.

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Some flicker along the way.

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A bit of the road I had to myself save the passing motorcycle.

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In place of the little river crossing I had imagined when getting directions from a random guy on the road, I tossed my bike on top of a high capacity speed boat.

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I was happy enough this big guy didn’t run and instead posed for me.

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What I presume are ant hills.

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Bird and ant hills.

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The fellow that set me up with a backyard camp. He lived a long time ago in the US and was keen to practice his English, the rest of the crew bestowing him with the new name “My Friend” for him always starting his phrases with it.

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My Friend and some of the many people in and out of their busy house. The women tried to persuade me to stay and take a Costeña for my wife.

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Almost got him! Take off.

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Fruit and meat just short of Bucaramanga.

Highs:

-Hospitality: fruit, water, chats, yards to camp in, arepas (a super thick tortilla sometimes stuffed) and meat, showers, river dip, sweetened the cycling.

-Finally arriving and traveling in a country I’d looked forward to for so long.

-Arriving in the foothills with the promise of chilly nights not too far off.

Lows:

-Traffic after hitting the main-road.

-Quite warm.

-The rumble in my gut my last night camping before Bucaramanga that in hindsight signaled the return of unbalanced gut flora.

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