A journey to the lost city
12.09.2007 22 °C
The trip began in the dirty, smelly beachside city of Santa Marta, on the north coast of Colombia. We arrived on the birthday of the city, fiestas in the streets, concerts staged with well known colombian musicians spread throughout the city. At one of these we met some locals, who told us of another, much larger concert accross town that we should go to. Cramming into a taxi, we drove through bust streets for 15minutes until we came across a massive field surrounded by a high fence. 2 stages were set up, and 10s of thousands of people who were laughing, drinking dancing and signing. We partied the night away, chatting in broken spanish with our new found friends, finally making it back to our hostal at 3-4am.
We moved to the nearby beach town of Taganga the next day, the beaches are a little cleaner, and the attitude of the people is even more relaxed. Our hostal there was the casa de felipe, set a little out of town, on a hill. Run by a great staff of locals, it was the perfect place to relax. We booked our lost city trek with a company there called magic tours, the price is the same everywhere you go $460,000, so there isn`t much point in shopping around. If you book with magic tours, you get a free t-shirt, and the guide they use is fantastic.
We set out in a 4x4 chiva, making our way past the tarona national park, past millitary checkpoints, and up into the mountains. We started the trek at around 1pm, after having baggettes for lunch. After a relativly easy start to the hike, we came to a very steep section, continuously uphill for 1.5-2hours, and just as we made it to the "top", it started raining...very heavily. The track turned to liquid, the clay becoming amazingly slipperly, and it was all downhill at this point. Trying to make your way quickly down a slippery track is a nightmare! At one point, a water bottle flew past my head as a guy behind me had a rather spectacular fall and landed with a splat in the mud. We trudged on, and after a few hours more, sighted our camp for the night...accross a flooded river. When its not raining, there are rocks to jump on to cross, but after 2 hours of rain, there was no way but to wade through waist deep water.
After drying out as best we could, dinner was served, rice, potatoes and chicken, with fresh juice, then coffee or chocolate afterwards. We slept the night in hammocks under the safety of mosquito nets.
The next morning we continued the trek, after watching a demonstation of how coca leaves are transformed into a certain white powder. Climbing higher into the mountains, passing through amazing landscapes and seeing strage insect life. We came across several native villages, and locals walking the trail in bare feet. After a swim in a slow moving stream, and lunch of pineapple, we trekked on to our second camp site which was crowded with another group, who were returning to civilization.
Day three started with a walk along a cliff edge, with everyone being extra careful of their footing. It was after this that we had our first water crossing. Our guides ferried our bags to the opposite bank for us, then one by one, we made our way across chest deep water clinging to a rope. This was to be the first of 8 water crossings, and although a little aprehesive at first, by the end of the day, we couldn´t get enough.
Emerging from the final crossing, we were immediately confronted by a huge staircase made from rocks out of the river, and guarded by swarms of hungry mosquitos. The climb up was exhuasting, and at points seemed like it would never end, it was obvious why the spanish never made it this far. Finally we came to some ruins which were the suburbs of the once great city, and after some more stairs, we reached the top, where a temple once stood, and looked out over the valley.
Our camp for the night was in a 3 story wooden building set a little further up the valley, with a great view over the city. After a night of drinking rum that some of the hikers had brought with them, we slept on matresses, a welcome relief from the hammocks.
Day four saw us take a tour through the city, learning all about the history of the site. We got to swing on jungle vines at one point, and after showing us a map of the city carved into a huge rock, which showed all the paths, our guide took us to the cities swimming pool, which had a natural water slide. The water was freezing, but we all had a lot of fun. We spent the rest of the day relaxing at camp, or exploring on our own, then went to bed to rest for the next days hike back down.
Day 5 we climbed back down the stairs, crossed over the water, and hiked all the way back to camp 1. Exhuasted, we bought more rum from a family across the river, and slept almost immediately after dinner.
Day 6 we had to climb back down the huge hill from day1, and by the end of it, our knees were almost destroyed, but we pushed on, knowing that there was chocolate and beer at the store at our destination. Its amazing how much you miss things when deprived for even a short amount of time. We made it back at 12, and sat, drinking, eating, and talking about what we had just achieved. Another group arrived at 12.30pm, and we laughed to overselves, knowing what they were in for. At around 2pm, everyday, it had started raining, and this group was taking their time in leaving, they were going to get wet. Sure enough, at 2.03pm, it came... We loaded our packs into the trucks and headed back to santa marta in the rain, tired but happy with our experience in the lost city.