Published: September 12th 2010September 11th 2010
The first day
View from the trekking path
I have never heard of Ciudad Perdida before I looked at the travel guide. It is not well known as Macchu Picchu in Peru, is it.
It sits at approximately 1200 meters (non-metric users, please look up the conversion) in Sierra Nevada in Colombia, not so far inland from the Caribbean coast. On the way into the Sierra Nevada, you can see the Caribbean ocean behind you.
I went there with Magic Tour in a group of 8 including myself, plus Jose the cook and Pedro the guide. We passed the areas belong to native Americans including Arhuacos, Koguis, and Wiwas.
Start of Trekking: Level of Freshness = 10!
I was picked up at a hostel in Santa Marta early - around 8:30am. The jeep looked like it had loads of stuff and too many people already, and it seemed impossible to fit all of us plus our backpacks. It even had several dozens of eggs tied to the rooftop. But somehow we all squeezed in, with our stuff secured on the rooftop by ropes.
We drove approximately 3 hours - easy ride
Look, the store!
lasted 1 hour until we got to the dirt road and started to climb up the slope of Sierra Nevada. We reached the foot of the trekking path around noon. There were groups who had just finished their trekking. Some of them had really bad bite marks on them - Fleas? Mosquitoes? I had long pants and long sleeves, but decided to put extra layers at night.
Many of us realized that we brought too much stuff. To lessen the weight of our backpacks, we left behind some things. We had lunch there, got briefed on the plan for the first day, and started our hike.
Day's Not Over, Already Tired. Level of Freshness = 8
Supposedly it was only 3 hours of hike, but the incline of the hill was incredible that it nearly seemed vertical. We stopped to rest after that treacherous hill. Slice of watermelon and oranges never tasted so good! And there was even a store where we could buy water (2000 pesos), soda (2500 pesos), beer (3000 pesos) and other what-not. Mind you that the price of these goods go up considerably higher you go up. But it is amazing
The hike through red earth
to be able to buy such things in the mountain.
We hiked on the rest of the way, going up more uphills and equally challenging downhills especially when it rains, until we reached our first camp. There it gets dark around 6:30pm - so I am guessing it was around 5pm when we arrived, just in time before the rain started to come down hard. It was a large camp with capacity to sleep 50 some people on hammock accessorized with mosquito nets. It was during the low season, so there were just 8 of us. It had very clean TOILETS, SINKS and SHOWERS!!
A Reward at The Camp
The view from the camp was amazing. The camp is located on top of a slope looking into the creases of mountain valley. After the rain had stopped, there were double rainbows in the sky for us to marvel. Jose the cook created enormous dinner for us, and we enjoyed it by the candle lights. We turned in early to the sounds of bugs and frogs. The night was amazingly comfortable (temperature, I mean) and we slept under blankets.
Almost at the camp
Morning Is Tough. Level of Freshness = 9
The day begins early - we started to walk again shortly after breakfast around 8am. We were told that the worst incline was over, but I was hardly convinced during my walk on our second day... It seemed equally hard, and I learned and had to make a peace with the fact that one must go up to go down; or go down to go up!
It's almost guaranteed that it rains in the afternoon. So we wanted to reach the second camp before the rain fell. My shoes did not have much traction, and I did not want to fall. So going downhills was painfully slow and cumbersome process for me. And I wanted to snap pictures... Consequently I was the last person to arrive at the second camp which was on the property of Mr. Celso and his family.
Around 2pm it started to pour. Jose the cook is 19 years old and when we were not hiking worked all day turning out great meals for us. I attempted to help, but I slowed him down so I quit helping in order to not
The view from the camp - double rainbows
starve the rest of the group.
Hot Chocolate. Level of Freshness = 6
Juan and Rafa from Barcelona were quiet on the first day, but by the second night, they were hard to shut up, always telling jokes - some funny and some crude but even funnier. By the way, hot chocolate of Colombia is very delicious. I am a coffee lover, but even I opted for hot chocolate.
Juan played the role of alarm clock and woke everyone up by 6:30am. We started to walk by 7:30am. This day was probably the most interesting and excitement ridden because we passed many indigenous villages along the path and had interactions with the people there. Also we were going to the 3rd camp which is at the foot of Ciudad Perdida!
River Crossing. Level of Freshness = 3
But this was a long day - 6 hours of hiking with 7 or 9 river crossing, steep uphill that rivaled the hill of the first day, and walking over wet rocks in the rain. Survivor the dog who accompanied us along the hike almost got swept away a
Sweat never dries during the day
few times by strong current while crossing the river. Some cross points had ropes that ran across the river so that we could use it as a literal life line.
It seemed that the closer we got to the camp, the more rapid the current became. However, amazingly the guides and cooks crossed with ease. They even carried several of our backpacks on their head and shoulders while we the tourists struggled to go forward a few feet with their help and the rope. Jose the cook was truly astonishing. He carried a large pack containing cooking utensils and food, but he would ran up and down those slippery muddy downhills.
River crossings were nice chances to dip ourselves in cool water, but it kept us drenched. And it was not easy to walk in wet pants clinging to your legs & hips. Nevertheless the view along the path was beautiful.
The Base Camp!! Level of Freshness = 2
We finally made it to the camp around 2pm. It had already started to rain, but as soon as we arrived at the camp, it started to pour like there was no
Green, green, everywhere!
tomorrow. This camp was a good place to pass time and feel a premature sense of accomplishment of ALMOST making it to Ciudad Perdida.
It was like a mountain city compared to other camps because all other groups who were trekking converged there. There were even beds! However, due to fleas rumor, I picked a hammock to sleep on. This being the base camp, a can of warm Aguila beer went for hefty 5000 pesos! We drank it anyway! Only thing was that there was just one toilet and one shower for all 40 of us. I will leave it to your imagination how I managed it.
Wet Wet Rain Rain
This was the night that many of us ran out of dry clothes (and shoes) to put on. All our clothes were damp or soaking wet from rain and river crossing. Hang drying them did nothing because of humidity and near constant rain. And rash developed on my thighs and stomach, probably from the heat or from constantly being under wet clothes. They did not itch but it was just a horrifying sight on top of all the bite marks I had already
Jose the cook!
had on my legs.
Despite the lack of dryness, we had a great time at this camp in anticipation of Ciudad Perdida that awaited us the next day. And I had figured out to be more comfortable on a hammock: one needs to lay on it slightly diagonally. This way the hammock becomes more flat and less likely to suck one into the concavity.
Finally Ciudad Perdida!! Level of Freshness = 1
As usual, we started to walk around 7am. There was nothing I wished for more than some dry clothes to wear, but as such was unattainable, I quickly put back the wet and nasty clothes. The camp was on the other side of the river from the stairway that leads to Ciudad Perdida. So our walk started with a river crossing. The number of steps are approximately 1200+. But it really didn't matter - they were made of stones and the surface was wet. I ditched counting and paid attention to my footing instead.
Some 30 minutes later, we finally arrived the "entrance" of Ciudad Perdida! There is a map of the city carved on
Siesta time with stinky feet
a large stone, but to me it just looked like series of random lines. One can get lost very easily there because all the paths and clearings look the same.
I did not see military for the entire duration of the trek, but in Ciudad Perdida, we met about 2 dozens of them with guns. They are very young, between 17-20 years old. I heard that it is a mandatory service for men unless they are the only sons. They are there to guard the area from FARC, but they also act as emergency dispatchers when someone is hurt or lost there.
One of our group member fell while walking, and they came rushing - the funny thing is that as they were running towards us to help our member, one of the guys also fell and made everyone laugh. Oh, by the way, you can get a beer (5000 pesos) or a bottle of water (I don't know how much) there, too, from a guy with a cooler.
Getting Lost in Lost City - Almost
We walked through a part of the city, visiting reconstructed Malocas (houses) and
Glimpse of sunset after the rain
stone tools Indians used to use for preparing food. During this walk, I got left behind again due to my slow walking pace. I kept on the path, trying to catch up with the group. However, at one point the path diverged. I took the upper path first, but did not see my group when I reached a clearing plateau. So I went back down and took the lower path. But this again came to a fork split. I had been walking alone for 40 minutes by this time.
I figured that going back the way I came was the best thing to do. There were military back up the path, and I thought I could get help from them - or wait until other groups came through the path... provided that they had the same walking route as my group. I had to keep moving because mosquitoes would swarm around me when I stood still. Before I reached the military point, I saw 2 other groups coming down and I joined them.
Walk in the Rain
Going back down the stone stairs was more scary than climbing up. Military guys stationed themselves along
the stairway and helped us descend. We had lunch at the base camp and started to head back to our second camp. This time I kept up at the front of the line out of fear of being left behind again. Needless to mention, you can already imagine the condition of the path.
During the descent of a muddy, slippery and steep downhill, I was struggling to walk/slide down. Jose the cook just took my hand, and ran down the hill! I don't think I even took a breath. He helped us one by one like that, making many round trips up and down the hill. With his big pack on his back.
The last 2 hours of our hike was in a down pour, relentlessly coming down on us and turning our path into a river. I really wished I had rain boots instead of my stupid sneakers. The thick mud would suction off my shoes from my feet, so as I lifted my feet to take another step, they ended up being mounded in the mud.
After good 6-7 hours, we arrived at the second camp of
Friendly kids - and Survivor the dog
Mr. Celso. He made a fire for us around which we hang our clothes and shoes to dry them. I sat around tending the fire and dried my hair which had been wet for 4 days - it felt heavenly.
I did not know that frogs love being around fire. Several of them came towards the fire and hang out for a while. On this trip, I appreciated eating hearty warm meals after merciless hikes. Food taste great when one is really hungry. Everyone seemed tired more than usual, and we all turned in around 9pm.
Final day! Level of Freshness = 6
This day we had to walk all the way to the starting point without spending a night at the first camp. We were looking at another 6 hours walk. My legs, by this time, was completely over the soreness and stiffness - thanks to the daily workout of flexors and extensors. We said good-bye to Mr. Celso and his family, and headed out around 7am.
The way back was easier for having less uphills to climb. We stopped at the first camp only to
Met the family of a boy David
have snack and drinks. This day I tried to walk like a ninja, modeling Jose's light footsteps. I ran down the last steep downhill which was the first uphill on our first day. It is actually easier to run than trying to take secure steps - at least on mud.
We actually made it to the goal line in 5 hours. By the time we arrived, there were many new groups starting their trekking like us 5 days ago. They looked clean and fresh! I guess we did too on our first day. But the satisfaction of completing the trekking surpassed all physical tolls we had experienced. The shower I took that night was one of the best in my life!
There are more photos below