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Published: April 17th 2012
Overview of Ciudad Perdida
Day 182 Tuesday 10th
Day one of the trek to Ciudad Perdida, trekking is a love/hate relationship and this one will be no different. The day did not start well when we went to pay the hotel bill our cards appeared not to work but after a few phone calls to the manager the lady discovered she was pressing a wrong key on the machine so after 10 minutes of worry it was all sorted out and we ran out the door. We had to meet at the Hotel Miramar where Guias-Baquianos Tours operates from at 9.00am, the group is small only two other people. The group is a Korean lady who has been working in Colombia for 12 months named Gina and a French man Tibo and two guides Luis Sr. and Luis Jr. and the cook Fabian. The jeep arrived and we jumped in the back with our bags and a few sacks of rice and supplies. We were on the road just after 10.00am, unfortunately our jeep had seen better days and broke down about two blocks into the drive, it was quickly fixed but the trip was slow. We stopped along the way
The Group - Tibo, Shelley, Gina and Scott
at a great place full of fruit stalls and brought some drinks and fruit. Halfway through the trip the road turned to dirt and we bounced along never sure if the jeep was going to make it or not, but we made it to the starting point a small village about 12.30pm. We had ham, cheese and salad rolls for lunch with about two hundred close friends the flies which just swarmed over everything it was just like Christmas Day in Australia.
We finally started walking at 1.45pm which is a bit annoying that we did not start earlier in the day because we were in the full sun and temperature was probably mid-thirties and very high humidity. The starting point was about 120 metres above sea level, we crossed three streams which were very shallow and then started to climb up and up a steep dirt trail. At the first stop which was at a house we tried a fermented corn drink which tasted OK but I preferred to drink water and a gallon of it. The next part of the trek was even steeper and really was just a trudge unfortunately there is a lot of land
Shelley on the trail
clearing in this section “slash and burning” for farm land so huge sections of the jungle are gone and being replaced by banana plantations and cattle. At the next stop we could buy some Gatorades to try and replenish all the minerals we had lost in sweat, and when I say sweat I mean sweat we both were dripping wet. We finally arrived at the top of the mountain at a modest height of 600 metres but it felt like we had climbed double that. After this section the walk got easier and we could get a good pace going and as we got closer to Camp One the trail started to descend which at the time seemed good but it means on the way back we have to climb back up it.
We arrived at the first camp at 5.00pm it is located near a river and is a pretty setting at 450 metres. The facilities are 5 star compared to the Inca trail there are western toilets that flush, hand basins to wash your hands and a separate area with the kitchen. The best thing was showers although the water is freezing, at least you can wash
the stink off, but you need to have the shower as early as possible because when the sun goes down the temperature drops. We all walked down to a swimming hole but it was about a 3 metre jump into the water and a climb up a dodgy ladder so I chickened out and Scott decided it was not worth the effort no one stayed very long as the water was cold. We had dinner at 7.00pm and learnt that Tibo was leaving us tomorrow he had decided to do the trek in a shorter time so he was getting up early to push ahead with Luis Jr. There is not much to do of a night so going to bed early became a habit on the trek but this camp did have electricity hence lighting so we could move around without torches. Tonight we slept in hammocks which I have to say were uncomfortable and I was cold all night even with the blanket on, so I did not get a good night sleep.
Day 183 Wednesday 11th
The remaining group got up at 6.00am by which time Tibo and Luis Jr.
were gone, we had our breakfast and prepared for the day. At 7.20am we were on the trail the area was similar to the first day with farms and more trudging up and down. We passed a small community of Kogi (the indigenous Indians) and three of the children run over to get lollies off the guide (a practice that I find disturbing) he told us it was OK to take photos, so I double checked with them first before clicking away. As the trek went on we became more concerned about the impact the interaction between the tourist and the Kogis was having, but we could not ask the guide as he only spoke Spanish and Gina was finding it difficult to translate and at times was unsure what the guide was saying or meant.
We arrived at Camp Two at 12.30pm which was the end of our day’s walking. We both changed into our swimmers and walked down to the river and I got ankle deep and Scott jumped in for a swim but the water was colder than yesterday. We had our lunch and then there was not much to do, it is a shame that
we could not walk a bit further in the afternoon but the distance to the next camp is about 4 hours.
Dinner is at 6.00pm the facilities here our similar to Camp One, but there is no electricity and the hammocks have been replaced by bunk beds. The mattresses are thin, the one sheet they give you barely covers it and the blanket they supply smells like they have dragged it out of a damp kennel, but after a hard days walk it is better than nothing. Our poor chef has no Michelin Stars and I do not think he has seen a cookbook but he does know about salt which appears to be the main ingredient of the meals. After a lot of explaining we finally got him to add no salt much to his disgust, but at least made it more enjoyable. We went to bed early as there was not much to do and no lighting to read. The setting here is beautiful and the jungle is more dense and the frogs a lot more noisy I think one was under one of the bunks croaking away all night.
Up at 5.30am and started walking at 6.10am and at 7.00am we crossed a bridge that has been recently built across the river. Apparently someone drowned in this section or maybe it was a dog the translation between Gina and Luis is falling apart, but something happened and the bridge was built. After that it was another steep climb up hill, on the way we saw a tree full of vultures and a squirrel plus an assortment of birds and of course the endless trails of leaf cutting ants. Thankfully at least todays journey was through jungle and not through farm land, I am sure that it won’t be long before all this jungle is gone. The Kogi and other inhabitants appear to be very aggressive in their slashing and burning of the jungle and a lot of the land is supposed to be for cattle and we really didn’t see too many and the terrain is so steep we wondered if it was even suited for cows.
All day as we marched along helicopters were roaring up and down the valleys and made us all feel as if we had stumbled onto the set
of a Vietnam war movie. We discovered that the President of Colombia and the President of Ecuador were flown into Ciudad Perdida for a meeting and a photo shoot, so the air was filled with security. Would have loved to have made it to Ciudad Perdida in the morning to witness the spectacle but apparently this site was locked down during the visit. We arrived a Camp Three at 11.30am where we were going to drop our bags off, have lunch and then head up to Ciudad Perdida. We walked down to the river to paddle our feet while waiting for lunch and rest before the 1260 steps to the Lost City. At lunch our guide announced that we would not be doing it today as the weather was changing, so we just hung around the rest of the afternoon. We initially were downstairs with the other groups, but Gina arranged for us to move upstairs where she had seen 3 beds and some tents all with broken zips so the beds were the best option. This worked out well because we have decided to walk up to Ciudad Perdida at 4.30am to see the sunrise. In the afternoon we
Camp Two's bunk beds
sat on the steps of the hut and watched the rain fall till dinner and then an early night.
Day 185 Friday 13th
Up at 4.00am and put our boots on and our headlamps and hit the trail in the dark maybe not the wisest decision as our guide was going at the same speed that we did in daylight. The path was very slippery from all the rain and we had to cross a river before we even got to the steps. Again at this river we had to take off our shoes and socks and wade across, which can be tricky in daylight but was slightly harder in the dark. The 1260 steps leading up to the city are very narrow and irregular like all these old sites, but these ones were all covered in moss and leaf matter which made them treacherous. We made it up there in one piece just as the light appeared (note there is no spectacular sunrise just light), but we had the whole site to ourselves, except for the military base right at the top but we did not see them to later. The site
Shelley on the new bridge
was better than we expected and it was great wandering around and taking photos without other people in them. After 2.5 hours the guide sat us down to explain the history this was torture and became a guessing game, the history Gina could translate was all over the place and our guide did not seem to really know he stuff and was more fascinated with the sexual habits of the indigenous people. Some of what we could make out was just wrong like how he claimed 150,000 people lived here whilst most sources we have read say it was more like 2,000 to a maximum of 4,000. The Tayrona who lived here abandoned this city when the Spanish arrived back in the 1500’s and there rudimentary houses made of timber and clay have disappeared leaving only stone terraces, interconnected by hundreds of stone stairways. The city covers an area of approximately 2 square kilometres, but only a small portion at the top of the hill has been cleared of the jungle and restored. The city was discovered in the 1970’s by locals who started plundering the tombs and this in turn aroused the attention of the authorities who once they
Shelley & Scott on the bridge
realised the importance of the city stepped in and protected it. Paramilitary groups controlled the site for a short period and in fact kidnapped 8 tourists back in 2003 but the Colombian Government is in complete control of the site these days and have a permanent army base on site. The whole time we were there soldiers with their machine guns were wandering around and some look as young as 18. Two of them we met stopped us and shook our hands and then filmed us not like it was some sort of official Government security check but more like “wow look at this, these guys are weird looking tourists”. One of them even did his best cool young rad pose for my photo as if he was just a young kid with a skateboard rather than a very large machine gun. We walked around the site some more and started back to the camp at 9.30am this time in daylight and I was amazed that we had walked up here without slipping.
At camp we had a quick breakfast and grabbed our backpacks and hit the trail at 11.00am, we were hoping to make it back to Camp
One today. We were starting to have some issues with the guide as he was very smug and just kept racing ahead and Scott and I had told Gina it was OK we did not need any more translations as she was struggling herself to understand him. We would catch up to the guide and he would want to stop for breaks we started to get the feeling he did not want to push on to Camp One. We arrived at Camp Two at 2.30pm where we were stopping for lunch and he told us we would not arrive to Camp One till 7.00pm which would mean an hour walking in the dark. We all decided to stay at Camp Two which is what he wanted. Later in the afternoon he found a lady who could translate well and even she said the conversation was uncomfortable and confusing, it even seemed to conflict with what her guide had explained so his talk was a waste of time. We have decided to Google the info so we can get the information and not try to work out what he is talking about. Our guide was by far the worst we have
River we swam in
ever experienced and it wasn’t just the language problem, but it was his attitude, dodgy information and his complete lack of guidance for us. He spent nearly all of his time with Gina and barely gave us a second glance. It wasn’t till the last hour of this last day when I think he realised we were angry with him did he bother trying to spend time with us and by that time I couldn’t even bother acknowledging him. I am unsure if he was expecting a tip or was worried we would complain to the tour company and so thought he needed to butter us up, but it didn’t work. After a group discussion we have decided to leave camp at 6.00am so we get an early start before it gets too hot. Dinner was at 6.00pm even though we had a late lunch we talked to Gina for a while and then went to bed the only good thing about stopping here was no hammocks.
Day 186 Saturday 14th
The 3 of us were up at 5.00am and packed everything up and went over to the kitchen for breakfast. We sat
there and sat there it seems the guide forgot to tell the cook about the early start. We eventually got on the track by 6.30am and started the slow trudge the guide disappeared pretty quickly and we could not be bothered, Gina was walking with the cook and we were happy to just walk together and chat. The walk was long and hot and a bit boring because we were heading back into the farming area which had been deforested so it was just one foot in front of the other. We arrived at Camp One and had a quick break and could not see Gina or the cook so assumed they had continued. Just as we were about to leave they came in Gina had fallen in the mud and had gone to the cook’s house which was nearby to wash off. Luckily she only slightly hurt her ankle and we all started the walk back to the starting point. Straight after Camp One there was a steep climb up and over a very slippery mud hill, by now it was again in full sun and the sweat was dripping off us. It was a relief to make it
Stonework and Chair
to the top as this was the last big climb the rest was just up and down. We made it to starting point at 12.30pm and had lunch while we waited for the jeep to pick us up. The meal was so bad that when they were not watching we fed it to a very skinny dog and a pushy cat.
The jeep for the return was a different one and much more comfortable and we were finally on the way back. The trip was great to do although it would be nice to have an option of an English speaking guide, even if people in the group can speak Spanish and English there is a lot of time wasted translating and I am sure information is lost. The site of Ciudad Perdida is beautiful and definitely worth seeing we both loved it and the facilities at the camps although basic were good, which was a nice surprise.
We arrived back in Santa Marta at 4.30pm and walked back to our hotel for a hot shower and fresh clothes and no boots on our feet. Our backpack was full of wet smelly clothes nothing dried on the trek
in the morning the clothes were as wet or wetter than the night before to we can’t wait to get the laundry done.
We decided to hit the town as it is Saturday night and for the first time we saw police everywhere and were wondering if something was happening. We stopped at a bar for a well deserved beer and next thing we looked up and saw four policemen with machine guns standing around us lucky they had a translator with them. It was just a routine check of passports and I.D.s which was no problem except our passports where back in the safe at the hotel and I did not bring my bag with the copies, I just could not be bothered carrying anything. After a few questions and us offering to walk back to the hotel with them so they could see them they said not a problem and walked away to check other people. While sitting there Tibo walked up to us to say hello and ended up joining us it was great to catch up with him and hear how he went on the rest of the trek. Tibo was such a great guy
The steep climb
and it was a real joy talking to him and comparing notes on the trek, travelling and life in general. He was also a great drinker and on most nights we would have been glad to have sat there drinking till sunrise but we were both stuffed and had only planned on coming out for a quick drink and a bite to eat before crashing. When I suddenly realised that I was drunk and dead tired I discovered that it was midnight and so we said our goodbyes and went back to the hotel for some much needed sleep.
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