Tag Archives: mompox

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

Tagged , , , , , , ,

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?

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

The Lasting Effect of the Mompox Jazz Festival

A lot has been written about our most recent Mompox Jazz Festival held annually now over the first weekend in October. There have been pieces of journalism that are no more than barefaced and brazen adulations for the outgoing governor of Bolivar’s hand in this cultural spectacle. Additionally, I have read some quite routine criticisms focusing on the amount of money spent on something of this size and questioning the exclusivity of an event of this nature. There have been murmurs of discontent from various sources which in turn are counterbalanced by those of us who can see the forest for the trees.

Mompox Jazz Festival art

Mompox Jazz Festival art

But in the end, the Mompox Jazz Festival is a success and long may it run.

How often can we claim to have 36 planes a day arriving into our San Bernardo airport? How often can every single hotel, home and rental house be full to capacity? How often can the mototaxi drivers claim to make in excess of 100,000 pesos of their normal daily haul? How many customers did every single filigree workshop receive over the 2nd and 3rd of October? How many meals were served in Mompox’s restaurants? How many of those visitors to Mompox were indeed repeat clientele and are now planning on returning to our town outside of the congested dates of the jazz festival? How many people went out on the boat trip through the pre-Columbian channels and into the Cienega de Pijino? And the list goes on, but only if we focus on the economic benefits of the Mompox Jazz Festival on the town herself, her businesses and the surrounding areas.

setting up for the concerts in the Plaza Santa Barbara and the fashion show in the Plaza de la Concepcion

setting up for the concerts in the Plaza Santa Barbara and the fashion show in the Plaza de la Concepcion

The Mompox Jazz Festival is far more important than just simple economics.

Did you know that the University of Tennessee now has a fixed itinerary in their school calendar which includes a visit to Mompox for the festival, not only to perform but to also host a variety of musical workshops for the semillero music students in the town. A Momposino also travels each year to Tennessee on a scholarship to receive musical training.

Jazz en la Calle

Jazz en la Calle

It’s about education and evolution. If you had told me back in 2007 when I bought the first part of the house which now makes up the Casa Amarilla hotel, that the Plaza Santa Barbara would, in eight years, be hosting concerts by internationally acclaimed jazz musicians from Los Angeles, Poland and Cuba and indeed the salsa legends of Tito Nieves and Andy Montanez, I would have asked you to have shared some of the happy pills you may well have been popping.

the semilleros receiving instruction and the tertulia in the Casa de la Cultura

the semilleros receiving instruction and the tertulia in the Casa de la Cultura

I couldn’t see it.

Even for all the lofty hopes and dreams I have harbored for Mompox, this is beyond their most extreme limits and surpassing every possible expectation. The Plaza Santa Barbara was little more than a dusty, litter strewn car park where nary a jazz note was previously considered. We spent our days hunkered down at the back of the Casa Amarilla trying to block out the hardly dulcet tones of Silvestre Dangond and another awful song by some vallenato musician or another entitled: Mentirosa.

Now the Plaza Santa Barbara has evolved from its neglect, became an archeological dig for over a couple of years yielding secrets about Mompox’s past and has since been renovated to host spectacular and unrivalled events.

concerts during the Mompox Jazz Festival

concerts during the Mompox Jazz Festival

Yes, the concerts were restricted. There was a VIP section and then a general mass, but the last time Mompox hosted a concert with unrestricted “seating” to entertain the masses with a champeta outfit from Cartagena, the vandalism and damage extended across the town and within the colonial center.

Mompox was previously a seat of culture in Colombia when the town still retained some importance along the Magdalena River. What is now the Colegio Pinillos was formerly known as the Real Colegio Universidad de San Pedro Apóstol and was founded in 1804. A university in Mompox! Mompox was known for writers, politicians and composers.

Despite the perceived exclusivity of something like the Mompox Jazz Festival, after years of forget and abandon, culture is being returned to Mompox. This should be celebrated. Perhaps things take their time to catch on, perhaps the family to my left on the first day that would have: “preferred to have seen los diablitos” (a vallenato troupe) will not be impressed. But, change is coming about and it’s from here that we can make a difference.

Walking along these ornate streets to take in the Jazz en la Calle where musicians from Cartagena would strike up tunes in the shade was a pleasure and a delight to behold. To see the semilleros reacting so positively to the instructions offered from the head of music from the University of Tennessee brought joy to the musty halls of the Casa de la Cultura. And to watch the academics deep in thought during tertulias with high-ranking national musicians such as the latin jazz pianist Oscar Acevedo made me feel transported away.

security was ramped up, there were performers on stilts, the chorizo seller made a huge sale, a rare mototaxi found empty and Alba and I had a great time

security was ramped up, there were performers on stilts, the chorizo seller made a huge sale, a rare mototaxi found empty and Alba and I had a great time

So, there’s but one thing to say whether you like him or loathe him, but, thank you Governor Gossain for believing in Mompox and for bringing us this Jazz Festival. It’s not all about the enjoyment of the concerts and the shot in the arm to our economy but also for its lasting effect on Mompox’s society and community.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Casa San Rafael or Mompos House No.3

We finally managed a holiday this year, the first in 2015, and only five pitiful days in length. For obvious reasons our priorities have changed and time needs to be carefully organized and compartmentalized! But, what can I say, we also skipped off to Mompos for a few days to check in at the Casa Amarilla and to see how some essential restoration works are progressing with our Casa San Rafael or Mompos House No.3.

The fachada or external facade of the Casa San Rafael or House No.3

The fachada or external facade of the Casa San Rafael or Mompos House No.3

The San Rafael house found on the corner of the Albarrada (in front of the river) and the corner of the Plaza Santa Barbara – exactly across the square from the Casa Amarilla – has been a long work in progress. More will be explained and described in “the Mompos Project” but, rest assured, three years of legal wrangling over property titles, some shady deals done in the past by former owners and further strife have left us wringing our hands and shaking our heads on many an occasion.

We estimate that we've done abou half of the rooftop restorations for Casa San Rafael or House No.3

We estimate that we’ve done abou half of the rooftop restorations for Casa San Rafael or Mompos House No.3

So, it has been slow going. San Rafael, so-called as it is located on a stretch of the Albarrada known as the Albarrada de San Rafael, is perhaps the most imposing and opulent house in Mompos and the lot measures over 1000m2 of colonial ruin. The task of restoring this monster is quite tremendous and overwhelming. But, it’s heavily in our favour that we know our workmen well and over two houses have been able to put together a robust team of architects and hard-working able-bodied Momposinos.

An archway in the Casa San Rafael or House No.3

An archway in the Casa San Rafael or Mompos House No.3

Since the house is quite daunting and some of the rooftops are up to 17m in height it’s important to go about this project of Mompos House No.3 in a measured and careful manner so not to get carried away and keep an eye on expenditure which could very easily spiral out of control.

We are stocking up on wood and other materials for construction

We are stocking up on wood and other materials for construction

Empty for more than 30 years when we took the Casa San Rafael it must have been home to a large portion of Mompos’ bat community, thousands of pigeons, vultures and who knows what else. I know that the immediate neighbours are happy to see work underway as this will inevitably lead to less wear and tear to their homes from plaga. One neighbour even stopped by to point out where, as a young boy, he used to sit and watch episodes of the Flintstones (los picapiedras in Spanish) in black and white on the town’s first television.

As we stripped back the layers of plaster and ill-advised coats of paint we have found architectural anomalies, hidden archways which have been bricked over, bodegas, former spaces for safe boxes and perhaps the most interesting item, a splay of cement used to seal the well which was closed up on September 20 1977.

How coincidental that it should have been sealed on my first birthday. Should I read something into this?

 

Tagged , , , , , , ,
Skip to toolbar