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Published: January 13th 2015
Stumbling monotonously uphill under the sun, heavy-legged and dreary-headed, ears and senses numbed and an unrelenting thirst. A similarly sorry state named Elly is swearing under her breath as she trudges up ten yards behind me. No, it isn´t 5am in Sheffield, but rather half an hour into our ascent to the Sierra Nevada jungle on the infamous Lost City trek in Colombia.
Simultaneously battling the insect repellent-induced sweat slowly burning away my sight while attempting to assure Elly it ´will get easier soon´ inbetween my own intermittent hyperventilating, I started to wonder if we had bitten off more than we could chew.
Contrastingly, after being dropped off in the freezing cold rain at several thousand feet on the Machu Picchu Jungle Trail with just a bike and a vague instruction from our guide ´bajo!´ (
down), my only concern was free-wheeling fast enough to escape into lower altitude (and higher temperatures) to get enough feeling back in my fingers to eventually be able to brake.
After a two hour ascent to flat ground in Colombia and restoring my body fluid back to a sustainable level by burying my head in a watermelon
we had finally made it. Made it to the start of a gruelling 4 day trek through thick jungle to Ciudad Perdida - a lost city that originates from around 800AD and found again in 1972. Soldiering on through the afternoon we eventually made it to our cabana
(a row of terraced wooden beds below an open sided roof. Cooling off in a nearby natural spring I couldn´t help feeling a little bit Ray Mears, before a searing cramp as I attempted to climb out sent me splashing down feeling more Karl Pilkington.
The mountain biking descent on the Machu Picchu trail, winding ourway down stunning scenery at what felt like high speed, was without doubt one of the highlights of our trip. But getting back on a bus to be taken to our hostel for the night at 3pm left me not quite being able to rekindle the more nerving, exhausting and wild excitement I´d had in Colombia - even if it did mean we had enough energy to challenge a group of Peruvian full kit w*****s to a game of football (and comfortably win).
The first days of each trek reflect my
overall impressions of them. The Lost City trek is not for the faint-hearted. It is repetitious trekking for 7 hours a day but with Carlos (our guide) ocassionally creating new paths with his machete, gorging on the sweetest fruit I´ve ever tasted from trees all around us and periodically passing by shy indigenous communities along the way, its authenticity is unrivalled.
Differently the Machu Picchu Jungle Trail offers great fun (rafting, cycling and zip-lining), but only short moments of original inca trail, and for large parts you merely walk along the train track for hours. The trail is well worth the money, with good food great accommodation (the hostels even have wifi) and a host of fun activities it is a brilliant option for making your way to Machu Picchu (the original inca trail requires you to book well in advance which isn´t ideal for those travelling around, and at 22 I felt I couldn´t justify getting the train either - plus its ridiculously expensive!)
Where the Machu Picchu Jungle Trail really earns its stars though is simply Machu Picchu itself. While Ciudad Perdida is a fantastic sight too, entombed by jungle and with
the added uniqueness of having the sight to yourselves, an early ascent up Machu Picchu on our final day of the trail to witness the sun rise over the ancient city is pretty special. And while many people will moan about the amount of tourists, sharing the same reaction with so many different nationalities has its own charm.
As a journey and overall experience Colombia´s Lost City trek, with its unforgiving route through mountainous rainforest, the cliched sense of accomplishment and even being able to have a kick around with some indigenous kids, is probably the highlight of our trip.
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