The Arrival of the Obnoxious Mochileras

Seated in the kiosko, deafened by the endless battle of two speakers blasting two different and equally grating strains of Vallenato music, I could see my manager Carmen gesticulating in exasperation to two recently arrived mochileras.

Drinking in the Mompos kiosko

Drinking in the Mompos kiosko

From my vantage point some 60m from the front door of the Casa Amarilla I could see but remained unseen. A car partly obscured the line of sight and I saw Carmen remain stout before the door. It was clear to me five years into running a guesthouse that these mochileras were taking advantage of a situation where there was no common language and were trying to place the blame for something on Carmen.

This is a frequently used ploy, that of declaring your host or the person who meets and greets you as a technologically inept: i.e. cannot answer emails; that they are being ruthlessly overcharged: in this case the cost for a bed in a dorm is a measly 16,000 pesos or US$9; and that it was so expensive to get to Mompós that we should in part subsidize their daily travel budget by reducing further our prices. You cannot fault the pricing for a dorm bed in this place, it’s cheap, it’s far from luxury, but it’s clean, ordered, includes Wi-Fi (which means that these technologically superior travellers can remain stuck on social media sites updating their whereabouts to show people back home how little they are interacting with the local culture) and the use of a fantastically restored – modesty aside – colonial house in front of the river in Mompós.

Mompos, aren't you dying to come here and to the Casa Amarilla?

Mompos, aren’t you dying to come here and to the Casa Amarilla?

But I guess what I am writing about affects guesthouse owners all over the world. To further and better explain the situation I should mention that these mochileras of an unnamed nationality, so as not to pin a traveller stereotype, had written an email on a whim late the previous evening that they were thinking of coming to Mompós. I replied the following morning as the email had arrived after 10pm when I have made a rule to be less efficient of office duties. I replied in the morning.

They demanded to be given beds, we had but one. They demanded to be given a discount, we don’t do this. If you want to pay the price of a mala muerte residence and share once previously bloodstained sheets with an army of cockroaches, bedbugs and caked bodily fluids…then to a mala muerte you shall go. We have them in Mompós and they cost 8000 pesos per night, I was not stipulated if this was for one person or two.

Finally our lovely mochileras calmed down and took the bed.

Glumly slinking around in the kitchen they remained apart from the rest of the guests over breakfasts, serving themselves coffee and occupying the rocking chairs and hammock nearby all the while speaking in almost the sulky tones of adolescents.

Understanding and speaking their mother tongue I chirped in when I saw their guidebooks. They had the most recent Lonely Planet and the Michelin Green Guide to Colombia. I saw and seized my chance:

“You’ve got the Michelin Guide, how do you like it.”

The blonde spoke first:

“I like it very much; I have learnt from the book, it is very good on history and culture.”

Then the brunette chimed in:

“For me it’s not great, it’s lacking and I don’t like the style.”

“It’s good to get feedback,” I said. “I am the author of the book.”

Blushing to the roots the brunette’s look of shame turned to flashes of anger and then acceptance.

“Me hiciste una maldad,” (you played a mean trick on me) said the brunette.

“Yes.”

“Eres bien malvado.” (You are evil).

“Yes.”

But can I say, their behavior towards my staff and towards me changed significantly. My “maldad” had produced an action that while somewhat mean and possibly aggressive, had created a tranquil state free of animosity and of burgeoning friendship – inasmuch as you can have between guesthouse owner and guest.

Would these mochileros have behaved the same way and would they have demanded that the price of the night included breakfast (“You are the only hostel in the world which does not include breakfast”), and would they have been typically rude and brusque towards me as they were with Carmen?

I think not.

Had I greeted them at the door, a familiar European face would have meant they couldn’t try any of the age old scams on me. Remember, we have been open five years, we have seen it all. Carmen has seen it all. But, upon arriving and not receiving what they wanted they tried to place the element of blame on the “hapless” local.

Unacceptable.

So I played a mean trick.

And it worked.

***

Added on January 17

I am adding an apology to the girls in question for this blog, but I feel it is my right to continue to publish this piece, just as it is their right to reply.

In order to show that despite the poor behaviour to my staff, we were still on hand to help, ensure that there was somewhere for them to stay, we were able to accommodate them. And, despite my manager not even wishing to speak to the girls, I helped them with their transport and onwards travel. And here’s a copy of the email transcripts.

emails

 

 

2 thoughts on “The Arrival of the Obnoxious Mochileras

  • I feel I need to address a comment that came in from one of the travellers in question who was able to recognize the tale.

    As expected she speaks about an overpriced bed. At 16,000 pesos or US$9 or almost Eu7 do you expect breakfast? And if so, what kind of breakfast? The price reflects the services offered and the use of a fantastic and wonderfully restored house. To restore a roof costs 20,000,000 pesos or Eu8,650 and I think you'll agree it's going to take a lot of backpackers to raise that money.

    And finally, my place is the only place in the Michelin Guide, not because I kept it that way…in fact, due to us every hostel and hotel in Mompos has improved in service, guests and income since we opened, but, that the place was reviewed by Michelin and deemed the only place they needed to put in the book. I had nothing to do with any hotel or restaurant listings, I did culture, art, history, literature, music, Pacific, Caribbean, Bogota, Santander and other regions.

    Hopefully this puts your queries to bed.

  • This comment arrived from one of the "mochileras" in question:

    Hola! it s the blonde mochilera speaking. I can t believe what I ve juste read. It s full of lies and trully unacceptable. You are almost saying that we are racist with the locals and I just can t tolerate that. We reserved in Mompox in your hostel two beds for 16 000 pesos each and we were absolutely okay with paying this price which seems perfectly right and fair to us.

    But when we arrived, carmen told us there were only one bed left and that we should pay 20 000 pesos for one bed and not 16 000. She told us we didn t confirm our reservation and tried to proove us by showing mails on her computer. However, before showing us her computer she simply erased the mails first. But the lovely brunette had also her phone and have the mails in the sending box so we showed that to Carmen. This is not being technologicly superior but just merely being goof faith. We made a reservation, confirm that we were coming and we were ok to pay for two beds but not okay to pay more for one bed especially when the breakfast is not included!!

    Next morning, we couldn t share the breakfast because it wasn t include but we spent the breakfast on the rocking chair in the main room (for the customers I guess???), speaking with a very nice colombian family with two kids. And the most surprising is that Richard was very cheesy with us, giving a lot of advices and smiles and never talk with us about what happened the day before. I m extremely shocked by the article full of lies which gives a wrong image of us. We met a lot of colombien people trully amazing during this travel and our trip to colombia was great.

    It s really sad that an english neocolonial guy is that narrowminded and coward, not taking with us about what happened to get a chance to explain our point of view. Anyway, I m very disappointed but I recommend to everyone to go to Mompox, I m sure they are other hostels amazing that are not overcharging when they make you to share a small bed.

    THE BLONDE

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