Friday, 28 September 2012

Our hiking jungle adventure to the Lost City

"The Lost City" (La Ciudad Perdida) was just about as accurate a title as you can get. Our 5 day adventure involved challenging climbs, river crossings, sleeping in hammocks, eating great food and not to mention thousands of mosquito bites! This trek was a one-in-a-lifetime experience that we recommend to everyone!
The classic shot of Ciudad Perdida

That mysterious remote city elevated high in the lush green Columbian jungle, surrounded by unique tropical plants and towering waterfalls, used to be home for thousands of indigenous people in the 14th centuryBuilt in 700AD but only discovered in 1976, and we now know why, it was a mission to get to!

We were staying Candela y Chocolate hostel in Santa Marta who booked us in for the tour with the company Magic Tours who we highly recommend. It cost COP 600,000pp (US$ 300) and was worth every penny!

Day 1:
The "Museum" truck
We were picked up outside Magic Tours' office in Santa Marta around 9.30am in what can only be described as a colourful museum on truck wheels. The truck was already full with the 8 other people in our group so we were good to go for our 2h ride into the mountains. 

We took a short fruit stop (I have now discovered zapote!) before driving on the seriously bumpy mountain road.
So many tropical fruits...I am in heaven!
Typical muddy path... you should have seen our shoes afterwards!
We unloaded the truck at the start of the trail, had lunch and started our hike around 1.30pm. We were told the first day would be the hardest as we would have the afternoon heat whilst hiking up 620m but thankfully it was overcast which made it more manageable! 

It was still hot but the frequent fruit breaks were very welcomed!

         Harry fashioning the latest outdoor-wear
As we continued our 4h hike, the storm that threatened us as the beginning finally caught up with us! luckily our guide had given us very fashionable black bags to keep our bags dry until we got to camp.

The first camp was well equipped with (cold) showers, flushing toilets and hammocks with mosquito nets.

We were fed extremely well when we reached camp 1, more food than we burnt off hiking! They did a good job accommodating my veggie diet. 

DAY 2:

We were up at 6.30am for a huge breakfast of eggs and toast at 7am. It was a cold night sleeping in the hammock, despite me borrowing 2 woolen blankets! We were told the best way to sleep in a hammock is to lie diagonally to avoid curving your back too much...I assumed it worked?

After yesterdays rain we had some interesting
paths to climb
The hike on day 2 was easier but it did begin with a 1h 20mins uphill climb followed by a tricky downhill descend, which was more like a stumble for me.

We had more fruit breaks along the way again but the mosquitos were growing in numbers the further up the trek so we kept those breaks short. Bring strong repellent with DEET! 

One of the best parts of day two was meeting some families of the Kogi which were the main surviving tribes from pre-Colombian America. Our guide gave them some snacks and some of the kids followed us to the main attraction of the area...the waterfall!

Me with a Kogi boy and girl from the village
 The waterfall was incredible and the water was so refreshing after 4h of hiking. We hiked in our bathing suits so we could jump right in after having a pineapple break by the pools. 

Apparently only a couple of tour agencies take you to this waterfall, which is another reason why we would recommend Magic Tours.

The Kogi kids were making us look bad by preforming
impressive dives
We stayed at the waterfall as long as possible and then it was only 30mins more to camp 2 where we thankfully had beds with mosquito nets. After a big lunch we entertained ourselves with card games until dinner. A deck of cards is a must on this trip!

DAY 3:

It was an earlier (5am) start the next day as we had to beat the rainstorm that came earlier as we moved further up the mountains.  Strangely enough, the Germans in our group made us late but day 3 was by far the easiest hike so we made up time.

The bridge with the old "cage" on the side
We crossed an elevated steel bridge near the start of the trail which had only been built 2 years previously.

The old river crossing system was a joke! They used to use this wooden "cage" with no sides that was pulled by rope... I was grateful for the bridge!

For the rest of the day the group was divided with Harry and one of the German guys (literally) running ahead with our chef through the forest trail and me hiking alone for 40mins trying to keep up and hoping I was on the correct path! 

The river we chilled out in at camp 3
I eventually caught them at the river crossing which we had to wade across and then made it to camp a good 45mins ahead of the rest of the group; what better way to wait by swimming in the river before the rain came.

We had reached the final camp and spent the evening playing "spoons" before getting another early night as tomorrow would at last see The Lost City!

DAY 4:

We left camp at 6am to go to The Lost City. Unfortunately  Harry had food poisoning (ate a piece of fresh cow's liver) and was not loving life that morning; especially when we reached the bottom of the 1,600 steps!

The start of MANY stairs to come!
The first 800 were the steepest and seemed to go on forever. We stopped every so often at various terraces on the way up to get a brief history of the city.

After more stairs and mosquito bites later, we made it! And it was totally worth it! 

The many terraces of the city we surrounded by dense green towering mountains with cascading waterfalls with no sign of other civilization in sight. We were a group of only 20 (plus some cool dudes from the Colombian army) so it was very peaceful.

The scenery around La Ciudad Perdida

Despite the views, Harry still wanted to leave...
We spent about 3h there and after many photos, we headed back to camp 3 for lunch. The stairs were even harder on the way down and really hurt my knees. We had heard many people fall down them quite often. So take them "con cuidado" (with caution!).

After lunch we began our hike back to camp 2 as the rain chased us down the mountain. We made good time and we were fairly tired but the last day would involve us hiking bot days 1 and 2 (about 7hrs).

DAY 5:

Harry and I were extremely determined to finish the hike in 5 or 6 hours so we set off ahead of the group with the mind-set of powering up the hills, rest at the top briefly and then repeat. It worked for the first half (day 2) but we had an hours break at camp 1 waiting for the rest of the group (with some well deserved watermelon).

By the time we set off again the sun was at full strength and we had a 40min climb in the scorching heat! That was by far the hardest part of the entire trip but once we made it to the top we practically ran downhill to the end as we were promised a swim in the river. 

In the end we completed it in 5h (excluding the hour break) and by the time we made it to the lunch stop where the vans were waiting, we were pretty exhausted!
The worst mosquito bitten legs of our group
Everyone ate lunch and rode the bus back to Santa Marta in silence, just longing for a shower and a nap!

Overall, it was a fantastic hike with a great group and wonderful guide (Jose or Chelo). We were sad when it was over and I would say it is the number one thing to do if you visit Colombia!

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