A stroll in the woods

Trip Start Aug 11, 2009
Trip End Sep 30, 2010

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Casa Familiar

Flag of Colombia  , Magdalena,
Monday, September 7, 2009

We have double confirmed our flights with Qantas this time around, which evidently means that it is LAN's turn to screw up and we miss our connection. We do get to see Bolivia and lake Titicaca from the air as we fly directly over between Brazil and Lima.
Instead of arriving in hot, humid Cartagena at 4pm, we arrive at midnight. The following day is 6 hours on various buses to get to Santa Marta further up the Caribbean coast.

Santa Marta is not a city of many attractions. It is however the first place we dip our toes into the Caribbean sea. But our reason for stopping here is to arrange a trek to Ciudad Perdida, the lost city. Built around 800AD, it was abandoned and completely covered by the jungle until its ´discovery´in the 1970s when tomb raiders started finding the gold buried under what used to be the funeral huts. Getting to the city and back is a 6 day hike (unless you are Bill Clinton and have your own helicopter as there is a helipad).
We have a group of 8 with 3 guides\cooks - Alberto, Freddie and an older guy whose name we don´t know but we call him Vamos as it seems to be his job to say "vamos, vamos" and get us all moving again after rest breaks. A lot of our group are kitted out in hiking boots, hiking sandals, special packs and quick dry clothes. We are kitted out with board shorts, thongs, and sneakers with holes in them. I guess we are obviously in the Aussies in the group.

The first 2 days are about 4 hours hiking each - the terrain is very hilly, constantly going up or down. We are lucky and it hasn't rained too much so the going is not too muddy. Day 3 gets much harder - steeper uphills, rocky ledges on cliff faces and 9 river crossings through waist deep water with strong currents. Our guides all prove to be experts at shoe retrieval - leaping in to rescue stray sandals as they are swept away and we all manage to complete the trek with all our shoes. The final section is 3000 (restored) stone steps that lead up to the city itself.
All that remains of the city are the stone terraces and stairs, most of which have been restored. Houses were built from wood and mud, so so are long gone. The military patrol the area to keep tourists safe from guerrillas - it is a strange sight in the middle of the jungle to see army camps and soldiers with AK-47s. One girl in our group struck up a conversation with a soldier and asked how often he fired his weapon. His response - a few times, but not to worry, they don´t have money for bullets, so they just fire blanks (even in training).

Arriving into camp on our second last day, Freddie and Alberto disappear. We later discover cold (expensive) beer, a pool table, terrible Mexican music blaring and our very drunk guides playing some competitive and rather heated pool. Poor Vamos is left cooking our dinner alone, and does not look at all impressed. He is very unsympathetic when there is very little dinner left for Freddie and Alberto. 

It is nice to now be back in civilisation in Santa Marta, with soap and running water. When our hostel has finished doing all our washing, we will head on to the nearby national park to check out the snorkeling.
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lostalready on

Re: City in the Clouds
yes, was rather toasty warm (is my red face giving it away?) at the top it was really cold at night though.

We're aiming to head to Bolivia if time permits in Peru... so who knows.

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