After enjoying Tayrona National Park, we headed off to Mompos, a mere eight hour bus ride away. It wouldn’t have been so bad, but more than half of that was on insane dirt roads. We also randomly saw two flamingos on the way. Not sure if that was normal or not… the driver seemed too excited about it for it to be a common occurrence.
Arriving at night to a new place is always a bit daunting, but we were quickly directed to a large plaza that was pumping out music and had all sorts of street food venders. Being a Saturday night, it seemed the whole city had the same idea, and we quickly found ourselves surrounded by locals enjoying the nighttime festivities. We couldn’t pass up the Hawaiian Pizza and we tried our first “Jugo Naturales” with Lulo Fruit.
Mompos is an old colonial city founded by the Spaniards, and it was used as a interior harbor for many years until the river silted up. It has been described as “a city that time forgot,” and that really couldn’t be a better description.
Filled with seven beautiful churches, amazing colonial houses, and friendly neighbors; it is a city where walking around and saying, “Buenos Dias,” could fill your days. We seriously did not see another English speaking tourist the entire time we were here (great for our Spanish practice!), but there were tourists from other parts of Colombia. Locals were super friendly and wouldd just sit down and start chatting with us. One day, we even taught a local kid how to play Speed (a card game), and even with our horrible Spanish, he totally got it.
One day we decided to take a tour of the city and the river basin. The city tour was much more informative that I expected it to be. Jose was our guide and took us all throughout the town on a mototaxi. He didn’t speak any English, but he purposely spoke extra slowly and used a lot of hand gestures. I was surprised at how much meaning we gleamed from it all! I counted it as a tour/Spanish class.
Now, tourism is pretty new to this town so our two hour tour was pretty random. Some highlights:
- Going into random people’s houses. Seriously. He would just walk up, say Buenos, and in we’d go. The family would be watching TV or whatever while we walked around. It was interesting to see the colonial houses (open to a garden in the middle) in various stages of disarray. Some were amazingly remodeled and beautiful, but others looked about ready to fall over.
- Getting the keys to one of the churches and climbing the tower. Where there’s a tower we must climb it. The view from the top was great. We also tried to go into a second church, but the person with the key wasn’t at home, so that got thrown out.
- Walking through the public school. Kristen was pretty excited about this. Joe’s tattoos got a lot of notice.
- Visiting the cemetery where he told us a crazy story of a general named Maza who executed anyone who pronounced his name like a Spainard. Haven’t fact checked this one yet.
- Jose looked at us in horror when we told him we hadn’t been to botanical garden yet. So he took us. We stopped in front of a wall with a metal gate. No sign to indicate anything of interest. Turns out it was someone’s backyard and didn’t really seem to have any order to it. When we went in, we were given a tour by an older man and he told us about all the medicinal uses for all the plants, Joe almost asked if there was something for boredom. We didn’t understand all of it, but I recognized a few plants (be proud, Dad). Not really sure how we were to find this on our own, but it proved to be entertaining.
After an excellent tour of Mompos by land we decided to head to the high seas, and by this, I mean the Rio. We boarded a slightly leaking wooden boat, piloted by a masked man.
Our initial fears were put to rest by his caring demeanor and general concern for the amount of sun we were getting. We headed down the river seeing more iguanas than we knew was possible. To say we say over one hundred is no exaggeration. We even stopped briefly and looked at a few monkeys high in the trees.
The shear number of birds was also amazing, our guide (Jose) named them all, but we struggle now just to name a few. Safe to say, there were no barn swallows.
We later read that Colombia contains over 25% of all the varieties of birds found in the world!!! This river tour was truly a bird lovers dream.
The tour was broken up by a quick stop in a small river village were we enjoyed a beer with Jose and the boat driver, while watching some kids play Volleyball in the main square.
We truly enjoyed the sleeply town of Mompos and all the fun it has to offer. The quiet streets and slow pace of life will be missed.
On to San Gil…