Cartagena de Indias, on the Caribbean Sea, was a very cool city to start off our South American adventures. The old town is full of fantastic colonial buildings, little lanes and squares in which to watch the world go by. One thing we had missed in Central America was the “square" life that we had enjoyed in Mexico, and which Colombia also has. In the evenings everybody gathers in the town square to eat, drink, play football, watch the kids run around or just to loiter with no good purpose.
During the day we meandered the streets of Cartagena soaking up its atmosphere. The evenings we spent hanging and laughing with the motorcyclists Jason and Mike, and having drinks with the lovely Mike and Helen who we had met in Panama. Lots of chilling in squares was undertaken. However, while in Cartagena we also had to get some jobs done – cleaning up the bikes after their ocean voyage, doing repairs and trying to stock up on some of the things we needed. We also had to work out where we were going next. We knew we were heading south but that was about all we had decided upon. In the end we decided to take the route that Lorely and Russ (http://throughthestreetsofanywhere.wordpress.com/) and the Dutch guys (http://www.cycleforwater.com/) had done about a month before us – south for a couple of days and then east to the area of Mompos and the River Magdalena. Obviously we had decided that we don't have enough adventure in our life as we were heading straight into an area heavily affected by flooding...
The next morning we said goodbye to our adopted family and met up with Mike at the ferry landing. Now there were 3 on our adventure out to Mompos. Colombia has had a very hard and extended rainy season this year and there has been some serious flooding in sections. The ferry ride and road into Mompos was a bit of an eyeopener as to the devastation caused by the floods. Whole houses were under water and lots of families were living in rows of makeshift shacks on the road, as that was the highest part of the landscape. Even the town of Mompos was very soggy when we arrived, but we soon settled in at the beautiful La Casa Amarilla Hostel and proceeded to fall into the sultry life of Mompos.
Mompox is an old colonial town surrounded by river and marshes, and seemingly straight out of a novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, one of my favourite authors. Jules, Mike and I mosied the streets, ate, watched life in the square, had beers on the terrace and slowed down to the speed of the siesta-taking, rockingchair-lounging locals
It had been a bit of an emotional last few days through the mud but it was definitely worth the effort to spend time in the timeless Mompos, and to stumble through the soggy backroads. We were also very relieved to hear that Mike (and his motorbike) had also made it out of the mud – though not without some emotional scarring. When we caught up with him further down the track the first thing we did was sharing of survival stories (some great photos are at his blog http://www.fairtanker.blogspot.com/).