Ciudad Perdida- I FOUND THE LOST CITY!

Trip Start Jan 22, 2006
Trip End Jun 23, 2009

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Thursday, May 11, 2006

After the 4 hours bus ride, I just finished my book and we went to the beach. Pete and Fabrice wanted to have a swim, but I didn't feel like changing into my swimming suit so I just dipped in my feet. However, they took it upon themselves and decided that I really did want to go swimming and drug me in... kicking and screaming of course. After changing into dry clothes, we headed to a pretty cool little bar; however being a Wednesday night not a lot going on.

Thursday, after signing up for the Ciudad Perdida (Lost City) trek, Pete, Fabrice, Julia and I headed over to a near by fishing village called Taganga. After having a wonderful lunch we spent the day hanging out on the beach reading and swimming. Fabrice was cracking us up the whole day... he is very persistent that he is NOT gay. But seriously look at the pictures, you be the judge. (Just kidding Fabrice!) We went to bed pretty early because the trek was heading out at 7 AM.

There were 9 people total in our group. Pete (NZ), Julia (England), Fabrice (Belgium), Brittany (US-Colorado Springs to be specific), Brett (Aus), Jenny (NZ), Anna and Sebastian (Holland) and me. We were first of all loaded into the back of a little truck of the most uncomfortable two hour ride to the town with the trailhead. Once in town the fed us cold leftover Chinese food, weird and not that good, but we ate it up... we knew we would need our strength. Then the trek began! The first day was 4 hours of hiking, which was mostly uphill. I don't remember the last time I sweat that much! However, we were rewarded with some amazing views. Very where you looked there were amazing vistas of the Colombian mountains. Breathtaking! At one point we stopped at a great look out and were informed by our guide (Castro) that all of the bright green plants we were looking at were Coca plants... the stuff they make cocaine out of. WHOA! He explained that the US use to fly by with poison to kill the plants, however, it also killed a lot of crops, of corn and beans which the locals (and indigenous Indians) around the area needed for food. They don't do that anymore and are trying to find a better way to whip out the coca plants. As we walked along there were all different types of soil. Sometimes it was normal dirt, sometimes it was reddish mud clay and other times it was a white chalky rock type... we kept joking around that we were hiking on cocaine. Our guides stopped us for a quick snack of pineapple and mangos at the top of a hill with beautiful views out across a huge valley. You could see so many waterfalls and it was really eerie too, because the clouds were starting to settle in for the afternoon rain shower. Finally we were hiking down hill into the camp area. Julia was the first to slip and fall in the mud, but Brittany was a close second with my favorite fall of the whole trek. She just kind of sat down. Anyway, at the camp site there was a river flowing near by that they said had a natural swimming pool. So we all headed down and took a dip. I swam in my T-shirt hopping that it would get washed a little and not stink so much like sweat. The rest of the night, after an amazing meal prepared by our guides, we all sat around playing cards and getting to know one another. We have a really great group of people. Then it was off to bed in our hammocks.

After another great meal for breakfast, we were off for day two. About 3 hours into the hike we entered a native indigenous village. The Indians in the area are called the Kogi and they were originally the slaves for the Tayrona people who built Ciudad Perdida. However, when the Spanish came the Tayrona people sent the Kogi people off to fight their war... instead of fighting they just took off and were able to survive on the land and still live like they always have (only with more tourists coming through daily). A portion of our trek costs got to provide food/grain for the village people. It was amazing. The children were beautiful and there would only be more... every girl that we saw that was older than 13 was pregnant. After another hour of hiking we got to our second camp. Where there was also a swimming hole at the edge of the river. Fabrice had some shampoo so we even had the luxury of washing our hair. I'm sure that didn't help make the river any cleaner... which now that I think about it is a bad thing, since that was the water that we were drinking all day, every day. Yes, the water in the river was so clean we were able to drink it without purifiers of 6 days, without anyone getting sick. Yet. Dinner was great again and we all finished the night with our usual card games.

Day three. We were told that we would get wet today, but had no idea what we were in for... until about 20 minutes into the hike. There we were standing on the edge of a roaring river, as our Castro waded across, in water up to his waist, to drop off his bag in order to help us across. WHOA!!! I was so happy to be tall... at least the water was just below my waist and not at my chest like some of the girls. Pete had decided to wear his flip flops across, trying to save his shoes, but just as he was across one of his shoes came untied from the back of his pack and started heading down stream. I screamed "YOUR SHOE!" and Brett practically dove in after it, pack and all. Pete was so happy he didn't have to do the rest of the hike in flip flops, or in just one shoe. We then hiked for about 4 hours, just enough time for our clothes to dry a bit, and it was time to get wet again. It was time to start the 8 other river crossings. Today I learned the joy of walking in dry shoes! Finally at our last river crossing, we stopped on a group of rocks in the middle of the river and had our snack of pineapples and apples. The river valley was amazing! Everyone was so amazed as we looked up and down the valley and at the nearby waterfalls. Truly incredible!!! It was then time to head up the 2,600 steps (built by the Tayrona people) to the lost city. It reminded me of the Incline in the Springs... Brittany and I wished we had trained on it a few more times. Once we made it to the Lost City it started to rain, and rain, and rain. It was a prefect way to finish a grueling, but amazing, day. We were able to take proper (very cold) showers before drinking coca tea (made from the leaves, no side effects) to warm us up. We had another amazing dinner, which was that much better because everything was carried up by our porters instead of horses. They work SO hard! We finished off the night by playing a crazy new game that Fabrice taught us. It was a card game where everyone got a card. Some cards made you a "wolf", one made you a "little girl", one a "wizard" and the rest were "village people". Everyone then closed their eyes and the wolves would chose someone to "kill", then it was up to the group to figure out who the wolves were. It was really funny and pretty confusing. Castro and our 17 year old porter, Miguel, played along too. It was hilarious, people kept accusing me of being a wolf and it is impossible to convince them otherwise... it was like a witch hunt, no matter what you said they thought you were a wolf. I never was and Miguel was certain I always was. We all laughed so hard!

The next day didn't involve hiking anywhere except around the lost city. Castro has been guiding tours up there for many years and told us a lot of history about the area and the people who inhabited the area.... which wasn't much since the lost city was only discovered in the 80's. There is more information found everyday. One of the highlights was swinging from a vine like Tarzan... but the ruins were pretty cool too, I guess. It then started raining again, earlier than usual... the rain isn't suppose to start until 1 it was only 11. UG! We then had a nice lunch and everyone spent the rest of the day under the shelter reading information about the Tayrona people or the Kogis or the 6 tourists that were kidnapped by Guerrillas, on the same trek, three years earlier. But the Guerrillas treated them well and they were returned unharmed. We once again finished the night with cards before heading to bed at the late night hour of 8. How can it only be 8 and we were all ready for bed? So I read for an hour and felt better by staying up until 9... wow!

Day 5! Before heading out on the trek we had heard that the first day is the hardest... That is a bunch of bull! We hiked for 8 hours all the way back to the first camp site. We climbed down all the stairs (I only fell down once), across all the rivers (Julia almost got swept away), and up and down all the muddy hills. Just after crossing all the rivers we passed another group heading up to the city. The other guide handed Castro a note and talking to him a bit. Brittany was near by and got the understanding that Castro's brother had been shot and killed the day before. His pace quickened immensely. We didn't really know what happened until we stopped for a pineapple snack and he showed the note to our translator, Fabrice. The rest of the morning hike to the second campsite, where we had lunch was very somber. After making sure that we were set with lunch and our two Porters, he took off running down the trail back to Santa Marta to get to his family. We were all a bit stunned. We asked the Porters what happened and they said his brother (who was also their cousin since they were all related) was into some bad business deals... that was all we got. I hadn't felt very good all morning. I just had no energy and was wondering how I was going to make it the other 4 hours back to the first camp. Thankfully after popping some ibuprofen and eating some soup, I felt better. I'm not sure what they put in that soup, but it was magic. The rest of the days hike went pretty quick. I think it was because Julia and I were entertaining ourselves by singing every song we could think of. We were cracking ourselves up, we were so bad! But Brittany just kept insisting that we were good... I think she drank too much coca tea. About 20 minutes away from camp, we stopped and were able to buy some beers from our Miguel's family (everyone in those hills are related). At the camp we went and took a swim in the pool and of course finished the night playing cards. Jenny and Anna also helped my figure out if I had a tick on my toe, combined they have had about 27 (Anna had 26 of those so she is a pro)... turned out to just be a blister.

The last morning after a nice breakfast, we were met by a 70 (plus or minus 2 years) year old man with a nice hat. We just thought he was a friendly old man who lived in the little house next to the camp. However after kissing his grandkids good bye, he turned out to be our tour guide to the Cocaine Lab. Yes, can you believe it; they took us on a tour of a Cocaine Lab! But forget about everything you have learned from Hollywood... it wasn't like that at all. It consisted of a black tarp held up by tree limbs, with a concrete floor where the grind the leaves. Anyway, the process is quite simple... you just take the coca leaves, grid them down with industrial chalk and salt, mix that with about 80 gallons of gas, let set for 5 hours, drain, add water, let set, drain water, add citric acid and hydrogen peroxide, mix then add a bunch of other horrible things and eventually you get a paste that is taken somewhere else and added to other stuff before hitting the streets. The whole process was crazy! The entire time we were there I just kept laughing to myself... What was I, Farah McDill, doing in a Colombian Cocaine Lab!?! WHAT! The best part was how proud the old man was. He posed for so many pictures and made sure everyone got to smell the concoction. I was blown away. After that craziness, it was time to hike the final three hours back to the trail head. Besides burning the heck out of your quads, all downhill, it was a pretty easy hike. We were all happy to be back to town where we had a nice lunch before cramming our stinky selves back in the back of the truck for the ride to town. Castro was there to meet us, whom we were surprised about, and he looked like nothing happened. It was crazy, different culture, I guess at least in his family. We all rushed to our favorite restaurant for giant mora con leches (blackberry and milk drinks). They were so good! After all that hiking, we were all able to finish off the night dancing at the cool bar. Jenny really got crazy on the dance floor. She was great!

Thursday I did nothing, but rest, LAUNDRY and work on the internet. It was nice to be back to civilizations. I mean what kind of city these days doesn't have internet... I don't care if it is "Lost". Just kidding.

The next day after saying good bye to Fabrice, Julia and I (Pete headed to Bogotá... our group is breaking up!!!) headed to Tayrona National Park, for some nice beach time. You have to hike an hour from the jeep drop off to the beach, but after the last week, it was nothing. The beach was beautiful! We walked up a bit and were treated to our own private beach with crystal waters and was simple amazing! We just spent the whole day relaxing and reapplying sunscreen (at least I did). However, I still got burnt... who knew the sun was so strong so close to the Equator? After hiking back we bought our bus tickets to Bogotá and met up with Brittany for dinner.

Time to hit the road again. We spent the day internetting and hanging out. I was so amazed with my time in Santa Marta. The Ciudad Perdida trek was the best thing I have done on my trip so far. It is currently number 1 on my list of wonderful things around the world (FYI- I just started the list and to tell you the truth, it doesn't really exist).
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