The Lost City, Ciudad Perdida
It had evaded me for a month. I first came about this hike in a guide book, then being based in Santa Marta, more and more people had been doing it. I had travelled south to go to check out Bogota and Medellin. I would have to make the journey back up north to do this hike. My friend Leighton, whom I had travelled with previously in some epic times in Thailand and the Philippines a couple years back, was due there. We arranged to hike this journey together.
We planned to do 5 days hiking. I needed some new hiking or training shoes, as my previous ones were taken randomly. I managed to get some good adidas ones with a decent grip. We booked our tour through Mirimar Hostel, we managed to get a cheap price. In total there was 9 of us in the group. I expected to get wet, to be walking alot, to feel the heat, and the bites of the insects around us in the jungle.
Day One – By the time we began our hike, it was the afternoon and already looking as if it was going to rain. We had met our guide Carlos, had some lunch and got a lift to the beginning point.
Carlos spoke in all Spanish, but luckily some of the group were very good at translating, and managed to help me and Leighton out. The first day wasn’t as difficult as most blogs I’ve read advised. It was alot of uphill and downhill, and some slippy moments with some terrible mud, but the rain cooled us. My energy was at a good level, I powered on, getting into my stride and enjoying the hike. I was exhausted but could feel the air breathe throughout my body. It was re-vitalizing, to be connected to nature via the rain, to feel fit and enthusiastic, but this was still day one. We passed through open road, jungle, breathtaking viewpoints. By now the group was together, sharing jokes, finding out about one another, a real backpacker feel. We had myself as the Brit, New Zealand, USA, Dutch, Cyprus, Switzerland and Austrian with us, aswell as Colombian guides. There was a sense of togetherness in the group, no real weak links, everyone know what was expected and we had to push on through. We passed distant waterfalls, view tops which oversaw the Sierra Nevada whilst our hike lasted around 4 hours. We reached camp that night and chose our hammocks. We ate some awesome chicken and rice, washed down by a beer. We had to be up early in the morning. We were told it was the toughest day the first day, or at least the steepest. We wouldnt be hitting as much rain in the next days as our hikes were beginning at 6am, so I felt relieved that the worst was over…
Day Two – We got up early and had breakfast. Today for us, was going to be the longest day. We were hiking from 7am to 330pm, with a stop for lunch. We would probably get both sets of weathers, blistering heat and torrential tropical rain. The second day for me was the toughest. The sun in the morning kept feeling hotter. There was more stops and less of a momentum to gather. Yet, we passed still amazing viewpoints and nature. The embroiled colours around us were everywhere, from butterflies to plants to gorgeous green tropical leaves and crystal clear mini waterfalls. Just before we stopped for lunch, we crossed over indigenous tribes villages. Very natural and part of the jungle, I was amazed at there presence. It truly was a privilege to be with the people of the world, who are free. Free from all social norms and conformity this world brings. They were living as naturally as humans and animals do, as families, together, living to live. Eating, cleaning, playing, working. Within their own world and with the beautiful forces of nature around them. The family we met, well was a selection of young girls and their mother, whom carried a young infant. They were all dressed in basic robes, almost I would imagine to represent their clan or group. The kids were very cute and I got my photo took with them. Not phased by us foreigners at all, but i doubt we were the first or the last ones for them to encounter. But like I said, a real privilege to witness and get a feel for their environment and living ability. It made me feel, and realize, even more so that WE are the trapped ones. These people are free from what we have introduced in this world. They are free from the things we can buy, the places we can go, the careers we may follow. For them, they are free from the mind. We are the ones who introduced more things for our minds to feel as if we need them. Yet to live, we do not. We can live like these. And for this, I envy them. ..
We made it for lunch which felt like the end of the day but was only half way. I took my socks and trainers off for a rest, even though I knew that it wouldnt be long before I would have to feel the uncomfortable feeling of having them back on my feet. We had lunch, and I was that hungry I had two meals. Before however, it had been sweltering hot. There was a pool we could jump into and hang to cool our bodies. I was one of the first ones there, my body was hot and sweat ridden. The feeling of hitting a refreshing, natural pool of water, well it can feel better than most things I assure you. Where we had lunch we would be staying on the 3rd night on the way back. It had a selection of dorm bunk beds and a couple of hammocks.
As we set off for the 2nd part of day 2, this was definitely the most interesting part of the journey for me. The first hour was uphill, in dry heat, and I literally thought I had nothing left. It was the toughest walk for me, my legs were aching, my lower back feeling pressured because of my rug-sack, the heat relentless, the climb ever felt more steeper. We crossed a bridge which could only hold 3 people at a time. You know, one of them rocky wooden foot bridges with the loose metal railings, the ones you see of adventure movies collapsing. Well, that crossed my mind, but there was no problems. After a while we crossed fields and downward declines, followed by a few rocky waterfall crossings. Miniature ones with no real difficulty. The rain began to pour much to my delight, it had been too long coming in my book and I needed to feel at one with nature again. More so I needed to be cooled down. We got to the top of a stop off point, where free oranges were provided with other hikers were resting. Some hikers on the opposite way to us, on the way back, assured us the hardest part for us was over. What made my day even more amazing was there was some indigenous kids playing football in the swishy wet mud. Their goal posts were made simply of wooden sticks, and some of them were barefoot. My lack of energy became full again, and I joined in. Football is always something I can get myself up for, despite how tired I was, knowing I needed a rest, but to play football with locals I could do anyday of the week. The kids were really good, all of different ages. One kid was the youngest, quite small in size, but was playing centre back defense. He was extremely brave and good on the ball, and actually scored a goal for us which seemed forever to come. I nicknamed him Cannavaro. He was almost like a younger brother to me or an adopted son. After we played the rain really came down.
We had a couple of hours left which was mainly downhill and straight through the jungle. Going downhill my body felt better, but more caution had to be taken with where I was stepping, incase of any unnecessary falls. We reached a river with about 30 minutes left. It was either walk across mid waste or go through the bird cage which was manually accessible. Basically, one guy had to get across to the other side, pull the bird cage with an individual inside, via rope, whilst the cage levered and was brought in via being attached to a cable above. It was something out of Tomb Raider or Uncharted. I went first and loved it. It felt asif there was no other way across, that we were survivors. After that I pulled the next person in, and everyone took turns in getting people across. By this point, our guide Carlos, wearing a Mexican hat, sporting a Sonny Crockett mustache, with a hiking stick/machete and wearing a Red coat which floated out like a cape, came across on the bird cage. It was like a mix between Speedy Gonzalez and Robin from Batman. I nicknamed him, Speedy Gon-Carlos. After that we reached camp after some trickier than imagined climbing and maneuvering through rocks. We were soaked but stoked to have reached camp for the night. That night we had planned to get up at 530 to make it for sunrise up at the Lost City. An early night was planned. With the gang, we had played werewolf. A card game which at first didn’t have my attention but then I was really interested into it. A game that almost requires a poker face to succeed, we played that whilst hanging out until our eyes dropped. We had beds with mosquito nets, I crashed out almost exhausted.
Day Three – The next morning we arose early and headed out to the last hour of hiking up to the Lost City. We had to cross a river at waste high deep, with the help of a rope to pull us across against the wishes of the current. We then had to climb up 1200 steps. These steps were worn and small and steep, added with the morning intense heat, it got the better of me, but I pushed through. Then, at last I reached the beginning of the lost city. Tribes lived here in the 700 AD times. Now only consisting of bases of where the straw and wooden houses would have been, this indigenous city houses up to 8,000 people. Only part of the site had been excavated, but was still enough to question, think and explore. We got to the main summit, the biggest area where was believe to have homed to the chief tribes and family. Also rituals were held here. There was a rock shaped frog that was worshiped by these people, which was still in its shape although not totally recognizable. We heard the stories of how it was re-discovered, the people who wanted the buried gold here, how the local jungle tribes knew about this site for a long time but kept it quiet, for how much there is more to find in time, and how there is potentially another lost city being used in similar fashion right now, but cannot be found and only known to the indigenous. It was truly remarkable to get here, hard from our part, but a mesmerizing experience. We had made it to the lost city, now it was time to get back.
We headed back to the place where we had lunch on day 2. This time, the rain was hugely torrential. Me and Leighton played football again with the Indigenous, sliding tackling a couple times in the mud for the fun of it. We headed back to camp, ate some great food and enjoyed our achievements. It was sad to see the remaining gang go before us. There trip was 4 days meaning they got up at 530am to make it all the way back to the beginning. We had the luxury of an 8am wake up.
Was easy for us really. Well, going uphill was always tough in the heat, but our day only lasted 3-4 hours which was alot easier than the other guys day-long trip. As we reached the camp from the first day, we napped and then me and Leighton headed to a cliff jumping spot. We happily jumped into the water, cooling off before strolling back to camp for food and sleep.
Was really a stroll. Despite the first hour which seemed to be harder than anything we had done, going uphill again in the heat, most of the day was enjoyed downhill and seemed to go really fast. We bathed in some water whilst the fish nibbled at our bites and sores, cooling down before reaching back to the beginning. We ate food tremendously but we reached back to Santa Marta atabout 4pm.
So after 5 days hiking, with the weather, the climbs, the descents, the worries, the challenges, I completed the Lost City Hike. I was nearly not going to do this hike but prevailed allebit it the hardest hike of my life. I enjoyed it more than I expected though and that’s what matters. The highlights for me though were seeing Indigenous people, roam and live there life. For me, that was worth the whole trip. The added challenges of river crossings and bird cage mechanisms was really survivor like, adding to the stories and tales of this Lost City, I have to put it up there as one of the top things I’ve done travelling.
I recommend to go, however be prepared!