The Lost City
Thu 2 Jul 2009 32 °C
We left the tour office at 9am and drove two hours to the Tayrona National Park (the north-east coast of Colombia) until we reached the last village reachable by vehicle. We ate lunch and began our 4-hour hike. There was a stop at a swimming hole and that was lovely. We reached our first camp which had electricity, toilets, cold showers, and f**kin’ hammocks for beds. Screw you hammock! There was also a deep and cold swimming hole with little fish that liked to bite you.
Here they are packing up the food in the jeeps.
Here's the local school at the top of a steep hill that takes 15 minutes to walk up. The children go to this school only in the morning for three hours each day.
We did a lot of uphill walking. Screw you hills! We hiked again for about 4 hours with a stop to swim. The camp had no electricity, but had bunk beds instead! Plus the toilets and showers were much cleaner and more user-friendly. However, the showers were even colder than the night before. After dinner by candlelight, we played Paska Hosu (Shit Pants) a Finnish card game Jorge and I taught the group. It became our nightly ritual for the remaining nights.
A break along the way.
Our drinking water came from hoses bringing water in from the river. It was the best water we've had in South America, but there were lots of floaty things in it!?
We were up an hour earlier than usual to start our 6-7 hour day hike that included 8 river-crossings. River crossings entailed either crossing the river with the sporty sandals you brought (i.e., K) or crossing in bare feet and killing your feet on the rocky bottom (i.e., Jorge). After the crossing you could either continue hiking in your wet sandals that would slip on the rocks (i.e., K) or you could attempt to continue hiking in bare feet OR take the time to dry your feet and put your socks and shoes back on (i.e. Jorge). River crossings were painful and tiring, but never really dangerous.
Walking along the river.
After 8 river crossings, we had 1200 stairs to climb (the entrance to the Lost City). We’re talking steep stupid stairs that aren’t even big enough for our feet because they were made by tiny indigenous people who RAN these stairs in bare feet. K’s legs were jell-o at this point and she was doing her share of cursing while ascending.
Here are just SOME of the stairs within the city.
As we arrived to the city and our camp, it started raining. This was unfortunate as we were unable to go out and explore the city. This camp provided toilets, (freezing cold) showers, and mattresses on the floor. Unfortunately, there was a reject group (a bunch of immature university guys that you just wanted to punch, punch, punch) who didn’t quite understand how to crap IN the toilet and how to tell the guides that the toilets weren’t flushing. This meant that within minutes after finishing dinner, the toilets were unusable until the guides thankfully and graciously cleaned them for us.
We were guided through parts of the city for about 2 hours. It was absolutely incredible. The Lost City was actually built 650 years before Machu Picchu and was home to somewhere between 2000 and 4000 people at any one time. What remains are all the steps and terraces of this city. Check out wikipedia for a little bit more information (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ciudad_Perdida).
Here are a couple pictures of the city. These only give you a slight idea of the magnitude of this place.
After seeing the city, we began our trek back home. This meant another 8 river crossings. Luckily, the return hike was definitely faster, however K’s legs were completely shot and she was slipping more often and actually fell twice (without hurting herself).
The hiking was actually O.K. at this point and we were able to reach camp quite quickly. However, this was the “hammock” camp. After attempting to sleep in the hammock for a second time, we were ready to make a sacrificial offering of the damned thing in the morning. We’ve never been so happy to get up in the morning!
Not so bad Hell.
We had a relatively easy trek back to our starting point. We were even able to jog some of the trail – this was often easier to do going downhill than trying to control your muscles with every step.
We then had lunch and waited a long time before the jeep came to pick us up for the return journey to Santa Marta. Our driver decided to drive like a maniac through the curvy dirt roads and we all had to close our eyes in order to avoid getting car sick. However, our journey would not be complete without a blown out tire that was luckily repaired within minutes.
Here's some of the wildlife we saw along the way:
We had an absolutely amazing time. This was by far the most physically demanding thing K has ever done (Jorge experienced worse in his military training), but she loved every minute of it. We hiked 52 kilometers from about 100 meters above sea level to 1300 meters (so we were told). We had an incredible group of 10 with an Irish couple, a Colombian man (living the past 12 years in California), a lovely Swiss couple, a French couple, and one Irish guy. We got along so well and really enjoyed hanging out together and playing cards.
We enjoyed hot sunny weather every day that was followed by afternoon rain. The rain was kind enough to only come down after we reached camp each day. Unfortunately, the humid weather and daily rain meant our clothes never dried properly. We stunk so badly by the end of the trek we couldn't stand the smell of ourselves.
We were accompanied the whole time by a guide, a guide/chef, and a chef. We were fed incredibly well. In fact, it’s basically the best meals we’ve had this whole time in South America. We were fed three huge meals a day, plus snacks, and coffee at breakfast and upon reaching our camp each day.
We also ran into paramilitary often and they made us feel even safer... considering this was the location where 8 tourists were kidnapped by guerilla groups in 2003. Plus no drivers were killed on our tour since we took the tour that pays off the guerilla groups (a driver was supposedly killed just a few months ago as an example to the tour companies who do not pay their dures). All good!
This will definitely be one of the highlights of our year in South America.