Category Archives: la Casa Amarilla

Hotel Complaints…people are strange!

It’s no secret to anyone who has followed this blog for a short while that we are the proprietors of the Casa Amarilla Hotel in Mompos and of course we are in it for the thick and thin of it, complaints, warts and all. So, when I was recently shown a list of the most irregular and unusual hotel complaints in Wanderlust Magazine, I thought I would skim through some of the most bizarre complaints which we have received in the past few months. Here they come in no particular order.

Fawlty

At times, I am sure I behave like Basil Fawlty

  • The heat in Mompox it is very, very hot and humid

Hint: it’s hot in Mompos, in fact, the whole region is hot. Cartagena is hot, Monteria is hot, Valledupar is hot, Santa Marta is hot…it’s the Caribbean. Every author of every guidebook to Colombia writes of Mompos’ soporific heat, how did this escape their notice?

  • Nosotros llegamos Un día antes de la fecha de la reserva y no hubo nada de interés para ayudarnos

“We arrived a day before our reservation and no one wanted to help us.” Actually, we called seven hotels, and bear in mind that this was during high season, and none had space. This makes me remember of one guest who arrived 10 days after his reservation and was angry with us.

  • Se fue la luz, entonces, nos quedamos sin aire acondicionado

“The electricity went out and so there was no air conditioning.” Yes, take it up with the crooks at Electracaribe please, we live and die by this company on a daily basis. We do our best with a generator, but, what can you do in the middle of nowhere?

  • Un poco alejado del centro pero en mompox todo está cerca

“The hotel is a little outside the centre of town but in Mompos everything is close.” Then pray tell, why the hell did you write this?

  • Al estar al lado del río, el calor es insoportable

“Being beside the river, the heat is insufferable.” Actually, most will agree that there’s a breeze by the river and it is in fact cooler. I thought this was common knowledge?

  • La mayoría de los libros disponibles en la pequeña biblioteca, están escritos en inglés

“The majority of the books available in the little library, they are in English.” This is due to more English-speaking readers prepared to exchange books. I suppose this is cultural, hardly something you can complain about.

  • The staff was friendly enough but it seemed as if they were only being friendly because it was a learned behavior, not because they genuinely were happy to help. 

…speechless.

 

I am glad though to have never received any of the complaints listed below. Although, we did receive hate mail from a person who was too fast to  reserve online on Booking.com and not actually read the large text about where we are located, we are in Mompos, not in the Dominican Republic? She accused us of trying to cheat her out of her money.

 

Basil doing what he does best

 

The sheets are too white
The sea was too blue
Ice cream too cold
Bath was too big
Girlfriend’s snoring kept guest awake
Guest’s dog didn’t enjoy his stay
Hotel had no ocean view (in Mayfair, London)
There was no steak on vegetarian menu
Waiter was too handsome
Mother of groom wasn’t given the honeymoon suite

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The Guaqueros of Mompos

Guaquero – person who plunders graves or other archaeological sites

As the waters of the Magdalena River continue to drop due to an alarming water shortage brought about by the ongoing effects of the climatic phenomenon known as El Niño, the widening banks around Mompos’s ports have provided an unexpected source of work for some of the more enterprising locals.

Guaquero

The Guaqueros of Mompos

The Guaqueros of Mompos are hard at work and are reaping the rewards of toiling in the blazing sun.

Digging into the dark alluvial deposits as the river recedes, these Guaqueros make their money finding trinkets dating back to Republican, Colonial and even from the pre-Columbian eras.

Guaquero

Guaqueros washing through the grit

Guaquero

The tools of the Guaquero trade

Using implements which are not dissimilar to those used in gold-panning, one member of the team will be involved in digging down through the dark mud to a level expected to represent the actual water-level dating back hundreds of years and here, just perhaps, they’ll find something of value.

Gauquero

The Guaquero digging into the past

Of course, since temperatures have been soaring and routinely ensure that the mercury is close to the 40 degree mark, the first few feet of excavations require a certain degree of fitness and athleticism. Then, once this hard crust is broken down and bested, the moist dirt gives away more easily.

Guaquero

Some “treasures” found by the Guaqueros

In the above image you may be able to make out some of the that day’s finds. In the saucepan on the left amidst the fine sand and mud there are tiny slivers of gold. And on the right, you can see some of the more routine discoveries such as colonial era nails and fragments of colonial or pre-Columbian pottery.

More discoveries

More discoveries

Given the history of Mompos and the surrounding area and it’s importance not only to the pre-Columbian people that inhabited here and then it’s importance as a major port along the Magdalena River (the other ports being Cartagena and Honda), it’s no surprise that the dense soil around the river banks provides some insights into the life and times of the various communities here and the evolution of the town.

On this day the Guaqueros were not so successful, but their haul was of interest to me. They gladly showed me the snarled colonial nails, the broken pottery and other trinkets including a French era brooch and a small cannon ball. This wasn’t going to be a red-letter day in terms of earnings for them, but, when I return to Mompos I am invited to the family home to see their other discoveries and will potentially buy some antiquities from them.

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Rain Alone Cannot Solve our Water Crisis

We need rain say the people in Bogotá.

We need rain say the people in Santander.

We need rain say the people in Bolivar.

We need water say the people in Mompos.

Filling up plastic tanks to transport water to homes in Mompos

Filling up plastic tanks to transport water to homes in Mompos

El Nino is to blame. The outgoing Mayor is to blame. Everyone is responsible. But Mompos has no water save for the few with their own wells tapping into the groundwater.

The Brazo de Mompos River, ordinarily a fast flowing tributary to the Magdalena River is running dry. Playones or mud banks are fast appearing in the centre of the river and travel by any means now seems precarious.

The water situation in Mompos has been delicate for months. Rationing has not been put in place but is now a naturally established phenomenon. Those of us with wells have been pumping up water to gift to other families and homes not as fortunate. My Casa Amarilla runs a hose out into the street to fill up tanks from our well for others.

Filling up a tank of water for families in Mompos from the well at the Casa Amarilla

Filling up a tank of water for families in Mompos from the well at the Casa Amarilla

Motorbikes, the ubiquitous form of transport in town, can now be seen free of passengers, instead now balancing plastic containers and buckets as the drivers today make their living taking water to outlying and dry barrios.

Each container filled with untreated river water costs 5000 pesos. And the cost of the transport is another 1000 pesos.

How and why did this happen?

motorcycles are now transporting water tanks more frequently than passengers

motorcycles are now transporting water tanks more frequently than passengers

Mompos was born of the river and as the river gave so shall she take away. Mompos’ decline was brought about by the change in direction of the Magdalena River and indeed by exhaustive cattle farming further to the north. Now, we are asking the same questions.

How could this have been avoided?

Five years ago the banks of the Brazo de Mompos burst, causing more widespread damage (although not as economically disastrous for obvious reasons) than the disaster in New Orleans. Today, we can walk across the river with the muddy swell only reaching as high as your waistline at the deepest parts.

El Nino was always going to affect us. But, there could still be water in our treatment plant and flowing from our taps if we had prepared in time. There are countless engineers, labourers and landowners in Mompos who could have all risen above the politics of this environmental and natural disaster to come to the aid of the people.

One family uses the tricycle transport to ship water to their neighborhood in Mompos

One family uses the tricycle transport to ship water to their neighborhood in Mompos

But, politics won out.

And the people suffer.

It’s thanks to a chain of events that we find ourselves here.

Administration after administration has done nothing to improve the situation. It’s far too easy to blame the most recent and inept mayor but this dates back to when mayors were unelected officials in Mompos.

You are all to blame.

So, in a combination of events stemming from over farming, over grazing, El Nino, exaggerated increases in the cost of electricity (you are thieves Electrocaribe), the failure of the town’s water company to pay their electricity bills resulting in them having the power shut off at the treatment plant in mid-December, and a lack of political will to plan in advance, Mompos has run dry.

Rain alone in the interior of Colombia cannot solve the water problems.

What will we do when the wells run dry? Who then will be to blame?

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Jumping from the Tree

Mompos

Jumping from the tree

With temperatures routinely tipping the mercury to 35 degrees well into the evening in Mompos, it comes as no surprise that some take to jumping from the trees into the river to cool down.

Were I not closer to 40 than 30 I may just have participated on one occasion or two, but then I remember watching one such boy jumping from the old Customs building in the Plaza de la Concepcion and receiving an unpleasant shock.

Hidden just beneath the muddied waters of the Brazo de Mompox river that flows round this side of the Island floated a gnarled log travelling at quite a speed in the current found at this point. A second earlier or later and he would have been fine. I do believe the whole town was able to hear his piercing screams post impact.

Ribs broken and pride severely dented he was drawn from the river and shuttled off to hospital to be treated. I believe he is fully recovered now, but, I must add that I have not seen him launching himself from edifices or trees into the river any more.

This photograph featured is one that I snapped whilst walking along the Albarrada in front of the river later one afternoon and was nothing but luck with my Iphone. It almost appears surreal as if the boy is a decal sticker that has been placed carefully upon the river scene.

I may just have an option for the cover of my work in progress, The Mompos Project.

However, for those of you interested in viewing far higher quality photographs taken by a professional, I urge you to check out Fetze Weestra’s page. And if you are piqued, Weestra was interviewed on my Colombia Calling radio show in November.

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