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The Lost City Trek - Day 1: How can a city get lost, please?

Updated: Jan 23, 2022

27. November


Colombia is huge. That's how much we can capture after almost 3 weeks in this country. That's why we also treat ourselves to our first domestic flight. Destination: Santa Marta a coastal town in the north. Here is our starting point for a very special adventure: the search for the lost city, the Ciudad Perdida. Once again, we heard about this multi-day hike through the dense jungle of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta from other travellers. The description is essentially always the same: One of the best experiences ever but extremely hard!

The Lost City cannot be reached by road and fortunately there is no way to fly in by helicopter anymore. After studies discovered that this damages the archeological structure of the ancient site, take-offs and landings of helicopters for tourist purposes are prohibited since 2010. If you want to admire the 169 terraces of the historic site carved into the mountain slope, you have to do the multi-day walk through the rainforest and a final ascent over about 1,200 stone steps. With the jeep we drive to the starting point in a restaurant in the village of Machete, at 120 m. Here we get a first briefing from our guide Jhon and translator Andres about the course of our 4-day hike and strengthen ourselves with a lunch for the first stage.

While we are still dining deliciously, the first participants of another group come back from the hike. Their faces are sometimes frightening. We talk briefly to a German. She is completely exhausted, looks kind of very wet even though the sun is shining and her legs are covered with countless huge mosquito bites. Well, thank god that we only have long pants with us. She hands over her walking stick to Sanni with the words:

Take it, it will save your life.

In addition, she gives us the valuable tip not only to protect our backpacks from the outside with our rain cover, but also to pack the entire ingredients into individual garbage bags. She had not done this on departure and so after the first rain shower on day 1 she had no dry clothes during the entire hike. We are now getting a first idea of what lies ahead.

 

Getting comfortable hiking through the guerilla area

Stage 1: 10 km, approx. 4 hours of hiking. Height 450 m asl.

Sounds feasible after all. Fully motivated with a feeling of being well prepared, we start the first stage around 1:00 p.m. The goal is Camp Casa Adan. After just a few metres Andres comes to us and offers another large garbage bag for our backpack in addition to our rain covers. He thinks that's safer. We use them and actually, a short time later it starts to rain heavily. However, the guides assure us that this does not yet count as rain. By the way, we deliberately refrained from a rain jacket in our luggage, as it is far too warm for that and so we simply let ourselves be completely wet and hike bravely further uphill. After about an hour later, the sun comes out again. But that doesn't mean that we dry off. We continue to sweat cheerfully. However, this does not tarnish the wonderful views of the surrounding mountains.

During the break with a view over the vastness of the Sierra, we learn about Jhon, who officially declares the entire region an indigenous country by the government of Colombia. Nevertheless, the development by settlers living around the Sierra Nevada continues to spread. The indigenous people are thus forced to retreat further and further into the mountains. He also tells us about the time when most of the Sierra Nevada was still under the control of the dreaded guerilla group FARC. Until well into the 2000s, there were still FARC control points on the entire path to Ciudad Perdida. At that time, "certain agreements" were made between the tour guides and the guerillas, which allowed tourists to pass the checkpoints undisturbed. For example, there was a strict photo and video ban along the way to keep the members of the FARC anonymous. In 2003, however, a group of eight foreign tourists and their tour guide were kidnapped by the ELN guerilla group on their way to Ciudad Perdida and released only three months later. After the incident, access to Ciudad Perdida was blocked from the public. It was only since 2005 that tourists were allowed to visit the ancient site again after the military was sent to ensure the safety of the hike. In 2016, the conclusion of a peactready between FARC, ELN and the representatives of the Colombian government was announced. In 2017, the FARC then laid down their weapons. According to Jhon, who worked as a young cook at that time and was in the camp as an eyewitness at the beginning of the kidnapping, the security situation has significantly relaxed, He assures us that our visit to Ciudad Perdida is now possible and safe without hesitation.

After a quite mountainous and stony hike, we are the first group reaching the camp at around 5:00 p.m. Early arrival allows us to choose the simple but tidy bunk beds wrapped in a mosquito net. Right next to the camp there is a river with a waterfall, where we can go swimming. We hang our wet clothes on the clotheslines and off we go to the waterfall. After some fears were overcome, even Sanni makes the daring jump from the cliff to the roaring waterfall and we enjoy the ice-cold clear water.

Our subsequent dinner, as well as all other meals in the coming days, is prepared by our own chef David. Delicious fresh fish is served and we enjoy an ice-cold beer in our (from rain protected) dry cloth. Already at 8:00 p.m. we lie in bed and surprisingly have no difficulty falling asleep.

To be continued…

 

*The English version of this blog is supported by automated translation*

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2 Comments


Guest
Jan 21, 2022

Amazing telling of the experience. It brings back such wonderful memories and sounds like the trip is still is just as it was ten years ago. I feel like I am there again.

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Unknown member
Jan 21, 2022
Replying to

Great, I guess the track is quite much the same, but with the Guerillas 10 years ago, it was probably a different feeling. 😱 I am glad, this blog could bring back some memories.

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