When we prepared our trip to Colombia, we put a pinch of culture with Bogota and its museums, a hint of color with Cartagena and its magnificent colonial buildings, and a bit of adventure with the trek of Ciudad Perdida. Suffice to say that, despite our “technical preparation” (not to be confused with physical preparation!), We did not return unscathed from this 4-day “ride” in the Colombian jungle. So that you know which sauce you are going to be eaten if you decide to try the adventure, here is a review on the Ciudad Perdida trek.
But before that, a little “disclaimer”! Our opinion on the Ciudad Perdida trek will necessarily be very personal. Not because we chose Expotur instead of another agency since they all take the same route and share the same facilities. In fact, it is more our physical condition that we will modestly describe as “average” and which explains the fact that we spent part of the trek cursing our choice to do it. As we are not the most athletic in the world (Sharone is an asthmatic who has been away from gyms for too long and Maxime, rather athletic for a time, now lifts his elbow more than he lifts dumbbells) each part of the trek was a physical test. So if you are a little more athletic than us, and unless you are injured by the rough terrain, you will more easily reach the end of the 45 km walk in a jungle full of surprises, all over 4 days.
In order not to knock you out too much, we have split this logbook into two parts. To read the last two days of the trek, go here.
For those who wish to try the adventure, discover our article on the preparations for the Ciudad Perdida trek.
Ciudad Perdida trek day 1 – 50 shades of mud
It is almost 9:00 am when we arrive in front of the premises of Expotur, located in the heart of Santa Marta to set off to conquer the Ciudad Perdida (and incidentally drop the bag full of unnecessary belongings for the trek). Very quickly, you realize that there are many who wish to try the adventure: we are nearly 40 young people from 20 to 35 years old from all over the world to wait for departure time. For a moment we were afraid that the trek would turn into a factory but we were quickly reassured when the large group was divided into smaller ones of 13 people.
At a run, we reach the agency’s 4 × 4 on which we attach our bags and off we go for almost 2h30 of journey! Conditions are far from optimal: it is hot, we are tight, we are not facing the road and the last part of the journey consists of an impracticable track (the 4 × 4 is not for showing off) ! Now, you understand that we were all a little sick when we arrived. At least, we got to know most of the members of the group, which therefore consists of three Americans, two Dutch, one Canadian, one Australian, one Colombian, one Chilean and four French (including us).
Once the end of the road is reached, it is time to have our last lunch before the departure which we fear more and more. Indeed, at the same time, we see those who have just completed the trek arrive in order to take the car for Santa Marta: all of them look exhausted and display an impressive number of bites on their arms and legs… But not the time think too much about it because it’s already time to leave. We put the bag on the back, a little product against mosquitoes and forward for the first step!
For the first day, we have to travel 8 kilometers in about 3 hours according to Miguel, our guide. The whole group leaves the base village cheerfully and, before sinking into the jungle, gives themselves a name that will not surprise those familiar with Colombian cuisine: “Team Platanos” (plantain)! We walk rather quietly for about thirty minutes observing this environment so unusual for us before crossing a first very shallow river. Methodically, we take off our shoes and socks in order to cross and continue the dry walk … Finally, that was the initial plan which quickly shattered! Indeed, while we put our shoes back on, the rain makes its appearance, and what an appearance! Very quickly, we understand that it is not likely to stop and that we will arrive drenched in camp.
As it is more than 25 degrees and our path is mainly composed of climbs, the rain is welcome and we could have continued our whole little way. But it was without counting on our (ridiculous) physical condition that placed us at the end of the group. Indeed, we are the last ones because Sharone is struggling to catch her breath because of the chain of rather steep climbs and Maxime must carry his bag to avoid being too late. After about 1h45 of ascent, we finally reach the end of the climbs. It is still raining and our clothes are more than soaked! But hey this is the least of our worries because we must now descend to join the first camp and as we know: slope + earth + rain = super muddy slope extremely slippery! And yes, for more than an hour, it was a constant struggle to avoid leaving a shoe in it or simply falling into the mud that came well 20 centimeters above our ankles. The last 30 minutes in this hell were the most mythical because it was necessary to add to all this the passage of convoys of mules loaded with material which were on the verge of falling on us. It is in these moments that one wonders internally “But why do I do this to myself ?? !!”
Finally, after a little over 3h30 of hectic walking, we arrive at the first camp located on the banks of a river. The time to wash our shoes full of mud, we discover the spartan comfort of the facilities where we will spend the night. In fact, we are all pleasantly surprised: there is electricity, showers, toilets and bunk beds with mosquito nets. After the day that we have just spent, everything seems luxurious: it does not matter if the shower does not have hot water or the mattress of the bed is not thick, we appreciate the rest and the dry clothes.
Once the excellent dinner is over, our guide Miguel shares his story with us to illustrate the problem of the displacement of populations in Colombia because of guerrilla warfare and drug traffickers. He tells us that his family was originally from central Colombia but that they had to leave their farm overnight to escape the incessant racket organized by the guerrillas who do not laugh with those who do not follow the rules of the game … Settled on the Caribbean coast, Miguel’s family is still not immune to difficulties, notably due to the cultivation of coca in the region. Miguel is not old and you quickly understand that the vast majority of the Colombian population was affected, in one way or another, by the guerrillas and drug traffickers… The armistice definitively adopted a week after our return from Colombia No doubt will make a difference, but the fact remains that the country will be affected for many decades to come.
It is 9:30 p.m. when we go to bed, lulled by the sound of the river and the rain which continues to fall. And when we close our eyes, we sincerely hope that it will stop at night so as not to make our second day of walking even more complicated, the most difficult it seems.
Ciudad Perdida Trek day 2 – The day it goes up
Miguel wakes us up gently while the night is still cool, it is 5 am. In a slightly groggy silence, we change and have a good breakfast with hot chocolate, fruit and eggs. It’s off for the second day, which seems to be the most difficult of the Ciudad Perdida trek.
As the day goes on indeed, it rises seriously and as usual, we are lagging behind. This new day will be rainless, good news since it allows us to realize a little more of the landscape around us. Lush forest, streams, mountains lost in the clouds … all of this would be downright magical if our physical condition allowed us to take advantage of it. Unfortunately, we pay dearly for our months of inactivity in Montreal and it is really difficult to get to the end of each stage. Very often, we are so late that the group according to us joins, where then our guide retraces his steps to make sure that we are always there 🙂 At lunchtime, we arrive at a second camp at the edge from the river where a good meal and even a cool swim await us. We leave for another few hours of suffering. It climbs seriously and frankly, Sharone has a lot of trouble seeing the end of this stage. Add to that the mosquitoes have confused us with an all-you-can-eat buffet, and you will have the full picture of this really complicated day.
Fortunately, the day is still illuminated by meeting with the Tayrona, the indigenous people of Sierra Nevada. During our walk we can see some villages from afar, but obviously we stay away. As so often it is the children who break the ice and come running in our legs and playing with us. As we trudge through the rough terrain, they nimbly sneak into the forest, barefoot and smile. They are dressed in a simple white toga and carry small bags with large shoulder straps resting on the forehead filled with cassava roots and other small vegetables. They speak a language we don’t understand, but some people understand Spanish and ask us for candy. I’m not sure it’s really a good thing and we don’t have it anyway. The adults are of course much more reserved and we will not have the chance to chat with them, apart from a few looks and trade with some men selling fruit and juice by the way.
It is already dark when we arrive at the third and last camp before Ciudad Perdida. Finally, tomorrow we will discover the Lost City. But it must be earned, and our guide tells us that it will take some 1,200 stone steps to get there.
Discover through our eyes the Ciudad Perdida and our return from the trek (second part of the article).
And if you too want to try the adventure, consider taking a look at our article to properly prepare the Ciudad Perdida trek!
And you, have you ever tried the Ciudad Perdida trek in Colombia? If so, we would be very curious to know your feedback, to see if we are really the only ones oblivious to launch out without any physical preparation in such an adventure!
Sorry for the quality of the photos, given the conditions the camera stayed dry in the bag during the walking days. Most of the photos in this article are taken on the smartphone.
More articles on Colombia