Sunday 30th September

This morning we organised our tour for Ciudad Perdida and then got on the first bus out of Santa Marta headed towards an eco lodge closer to Tayrona National park. Our new accommodation was a perfect place to relax in a hammock in nature and we spent the afternoon reading our books and preparing for the big few days of hiking that we had coming up!

Monday 1st October

Today we headed out to the Tayrona National Park. The park is located along the coast and wasn´t too far from our hostel. Once inside the park we completed the usual hike through the rainforest and along the beach to a final beach which was called Cabo San Juan – a beautiful spot for lunch and a swim.  After enjoying the hike out to San Juan and having a swim, we spent most of the day relaxing on the beach in the sun. That is until the tide came all the way and wet most of our things! We could hear the thunder rumbling in the distance and knew it was time to make the 2hr trek back out of the park before sunset! Tayrona was a beautiful park but it was a shame that there weren´t more hiking options to get away from the beachy tourist hordes. 

Ciudad Perdida Hike: Tuesday 2nd October to Friday 5th October.

Day 1: Tuesday

We were picked up at our hostel this morning by our guide and translator for the Ciudad Perdida hike – Sarwakin and Victor. We had a small group for the hike with only another couple from Germany to accompany us. It was a beautiful drive out through the countryside after we left the main road. After about an hour on a pretty rough road, we arrived at the town of El Mamey which would be the starting point of our hike and the first of a number of very early (but very delicious) lunches! We set off along the track straight after lunch, and as the walk on the first day was only about 4.5 hours, we had plenty of time to relax and enjoy the beautiful surroundings. We had a hard slog uphill for the first couple of hours up to a mirador with amazing views over the river that we were to cross the following day.  We had some delicious watermelon before setting off downhill into the jungle on the muddy and sometimes slippery track until we reached Camp 1 after crossing the river on a rickety suspension bridge. We were pleasantly surprised by how nice everything was- the bathrooms almost looked new and were very clean as were the beds. Maybe this was because we were only the second day of hikers on the trail after one month of the track being closed?!

Anyway – we only had time to dump our bags and put on our swimmers to head down to a natural pool in the river. There was a waterfall and everything – it was awesome and very chilly, just what we needed after a long day of hiking! We had a cold shower and then a nice early dinner. Our guide Sarwakin was from a local indigenous tribe so he was wearing his traditional clothing which consisted of white cotton pants and shirt and he carried a woven shoulder bag and most importantly his Poporo which is a round shaped pumpkin shell given to all the men in the indigenous tribes in which they put crushed sea shells. The men chew on coco leaves all day and mix the seashells with the coco and saliva and then rub the outside of the pumpkin shell which then grows – over time showing the knowledge and maturity of the wearer. It’s a very interesting tradition.   As is the custom of carrying coco leaves in their shoulder bag and when meeting other indigenous men, exchanging the leaves as a greeting rather than shaking hands. Sarwakin told us some stories about his tribe and his way of life and gave us the run down of the following morning.

Day 2: Wednesday

Early start after a pretty good nights sleep considering. We had a much bigger walk to make today. First we continued through the jungle surrounds for about 3 hours before making it to our lunch spot at Camp 2. This was also a really nice camp and we would return here to sleep the following night which seemed really weird to think at the time! What was really cool was that we were able to follow a small path to an amazing waterfall for a pre lunch swim. Super refreshing after the long morning trekking through the jungle. We had lunch very early at 10:30am as we still had another 5 hours of trekking to go before reaching Camp 3, our home for the night. Along the way we soon passed a local indigenous settlement which was a series of round huts with thatched roofs and two poles pointing to the sky to represent the highest mountains in the local area. Sarwakin told us that the village was only used fortnightly for tribe meetings – where all the local settlements would meet to discuss preservation of culture and other important issues. Next we had a hard 2 hour slog directly uphill. The rain was holding off but only until we reached the top and were about to head downhill for 2 hours into camp. The rain started in earnest – our first true test! The going from here was pretty tough and slippery and very very wet! Just before we reached camp we crossed the river on a pulley type trolley which was really cool – whizzing over the river suspended high above rushing waters. Another 20 minutes and we had arrived at Camp 3, the jumping off point for Ciudad Perdida! It was really full of people and busy but we managed to find somewhere to sleep for the night and get a quick cold shower in, as well as a hanging space to attempt to dry out our saturated clothes and boots! Was definitely feeling much more tired after this crazy second day of walking!

Day 3: Thursday

Once again up at 5am ready to start our hike up to the Ciudad Perdida – we put on our wet boots and clothes once again and set off alongside the river for a little while until we reached the point where we needed to take off our boots and cross the fast moving river with the aid of guide line. The water was up to mid thigh and pretty strong but the experience was super fun! After putting our boots back on it was time to climb the 1000 steps all the way directly up to the Ciudad Perdida! I found some energy somewhere and bounded up those steps easily! Before we knew it we had made it to the site – a series of platforms which used to house the indigenous people of the area from 800AD. The indigenous people would have built their huts on these platforms spread throughout the thick forest of the area. They lived here and carried out the traditions just like the people of the area still do today. It is believed that people inhabited this area until the Spanish invasion in the 1500s. The area was abandoned and the jungle reclaimed it – it was not rediscovered until 1975. The local people now won’t live at the city because they think the land is cursed. It is a very important religious centre for them and they have many ceremonies there during the month of September when the path is closed.

The views of Ciudad Perdida were amazing – especially as we were the first group up there well before the others we were able to take unobstructed photos which was pretty special! We had morning tea while Sarwakin explained all about the area and it’s history and significance for the local people. We then headed on through the city and met a local family – I had a chance to speak with one of the local women ( I was pretty lucky because they are usually pretty shy with foreigners). I was also able to hold her youngest child – a baby who was super cute!  This woman was 20 years old and already had 3 children but was hoping to have 10 in total! She asked me if I was a man or a woman – I think my shorts confused her! Women in the local tribes wear a long sheet of white cotton which they wrap around themselves in differing ways depending on their particular tribe. The tribal elder gave us a bracelet to offer us protection for the return journey. We continued on back to Camp 3 where we had lunch before embarking on the long journey back to camp 2 all afternoon in the rain! 

After dinner at Camp 2 we had a pretty special session with a local tribal elder who explained a little bit about the way of life for the local people. For example, local boys are given to an older woman, usually a widow at age 16 to be taught how to have sex for their initiation. After this they can chose to stay with her or not to make a family. It’s a similar story for the girls at age 15 when they are given to a man from the community of about 25 years old. Women also head way out to the bush to have their children – they try to keep the smaller children as innocent of the reproductive process as possible. It’s such a different and strange way of life – and sounds pretty shitty overall, particularly for the women who don’t really have a lot of rights – only to pick coco leaves for the men, bear children and weave bags for the men. 

Day 4: Friday

Last day of the trek today – heading back out from Camp 2 all the way to our starting point at El Mamey. It wasn’t too bad going, only the last bit in the strong morning sun unprotected was a little bit more difficult.. We had one final delicious meal in El Mamey and then were dropped back off at our hotel mid-afternoon. The hike had been so spectacular and challenging in its own way even though it was only 48kms in total!