The Lost City - Ciudad Perdida

Trip Start Nov 24, 2007
Trip End May 15, 2008

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Flag of Colombia  ,
Thursday, February 21, 2008

Hidden for centuries in the deep mountain range of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, La Ciudad Perdida, 'The Lost City", was lost to to the outside world in the endless folds of the dense Colombian jungle until it was rediscovered in 1973 by gold miners and treasure looters who just happened to stumble upon the 1300 steps that lead up from the mighty Buritaca River and carefully lay the path to the ancient lost ruins. Not soon after it was discovered, the densely overgrown city became a hotbed for grave robbers and the likes. As quickly as the ruins were discovered, many of its treasures and priceless artifacts were stolen and sold for riches to private collectors. Its identity, along with much of its true glory were lost forever.

Today Ciudad Perdida (founded between 500 and 700 AD) is a growing tourist attraction only reachable on foot through an amazing jungle landscape taking three days and an obligatory licensed guide. That, or you can shell out the big bucks, skip the grueling hike and go by helicopter. The Lost City itself is made up of hundreds of miraculously designed terraces and circular stone platforms laid out in a strategical design where it probably once served as a lookout point for the native group that once inhabited it. For better or worse, depending on who you speak with, the ruins can no longer be excavated as the local Tairona indigenous groups stand against it. Therefore it has become legally prohibited by the government which supports the local communities decision. For now, although is continues to see more and more tourism, much of the rest of the Lost City and its secrets remain undiscovered.

Despite the unsettling events in 2003 in which 8 foreigners were kidnapped on the trail leading to the city by gorilla infantry, the region is presently considered safe and is heavily patrolled by the Colombian Army. The city itself is patrolled 24/7 by about 40 bored-out-of-their-mind young soldiers who attempt to amuse themselves by asking visitors for cigarettes in exchange for odd looking nuts they have picked up off the jungle floor or kindly obliging to take photos in true army-face fashion, that which they love more than anything.

From day one until day six I was blown away by the beautiful rivers, amazing swimming holes and cascading streams that served as a welcoming change and cool respite from the dense overgrown jungle vegetation that dominates the tropical landscape and the wide array of foreign sounds that emanate from the hidden forest. While the city alone was impressive, its grandeur was most definitely heightened by its gorgeous setting amidst huge green mountains as well as the sweat and physical exertion it took to get there. I won`t go embellishing, in my opinion any decently in shape person could make the hike and by difficulty standards go, it wasn´t bad at all but add mosquitoes, ticks and humidity into the equation and it makes for tough albeit rewarding journey.

Our group chose to do a slightly different less traveled route which is more difficult than the normal route but never retraces old steps steps. It was worthwhile in the and as the scenery over the course of the last two days was dramatically more unspoiled and in my opinion more wild, more rugged and more beautiful. That said, the joy comes from the 18 or so river crossings you do in route to the Lost City, the healthy dose of white bread, cheese, onion, cucumber, tomato, beans, rice (of course), noodles and canned ham you receive along the way, the 1300 steps at the very end of the 3rd day that take you up above the gorgeous valleys blanketed in a shield of green to the majestic ruins and of course the awesome river pools that you swim in each day and drink out of at the same time. I`ll leave out the fact that our group encountered some massive poisonous snakes right along the trail, I pulled multiple ticks from my skin each day, your clothes will never completely be dry, a few people got pretty stomach ill along the way and if you go, check your shoes each morning because scorpions in the area are all too common. As if the other bugs are not bad enough already...

A little more on the indigenous groups of the area if you care to read.

We passed through a largely isolated Kougi village along the way and while definitely interesting to see how they live so simply and unchanged for so long, there was definitely nothing more strange than being a stranger in a strange land that is home to strange people. As we passed through areas in which obviously malnourished little kids were dressed in traditional mud colored loincloth attire and staring at us with big eyes as wide and bewildered as ours you had to wonder if you feel right standing right there before them. Later seeing that their older brothers and sisters bore the obvious signs of the outside world, wearing over sized Quiksilver and Nike shirts like little dresses down below their knees, equally partaking in the same long stare, you can`t help but be humbled as it sheds a different perspective on what you are doing at that very moment and what the land you are walking through means to them. Not only that, but at that moment as I adjusted my high quality "Native" brand sunglasses to shade my eyes from the scorching sun that we all equally stood beneath, it brought to mind the brash cultural collision taking forth at that very moment and made me wonder what the future holds for this crazy world that we live in. Should we not have been there? For now I`ll just leave it at that. Goodnight.
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