Ciudad Perdida is Colombia’s most famous hike, and rightfully so.
The four day jungle trek which brings you from Colombian civilization, through Kogi villages, across pristine rivers, and finally to the soaring views of Colombia’s lost city is a truly remarkable experience.
My trip to Ciudad Perdida began by happenstance.
I was sitting down one evening waiting for the pizza I had just ordered for dinner in the backpacker town of Taganga. A woman standing next to me asked if I wanted to go to Ciudad Perdida.
It’s low season in Taganga, which makes the people selling tours all the more aggressive. She was friendly, and so I responded with a simple ‘No, I’m kind of busy.’
She followed up by asking if I spoke Spanish. I responded affirmatively. She followed up by asking me again, this time in Spanish, if I wanted to go to Ciudad Perdida.
Not thinking anything had changed at this point, I shrugged my shoulders, and said ‘No.’
Then she quickly retorted with ‘No, no. Gratis.’
The hike is reasonably expensive, so I wasn’t planning on doing it, but this new development helped change my mind. I could go to Ciudad Perdida for free; all I had to do was translate for a group.
I got the call while lying in my hammock on Monday afternoon. There was a group headed out the next day, Tuesday, and I was invited to join them if I was able.
I packed my small backpack, and the next morning was off to find the Lost City of Colombia.
♠ ♣ ♥ ♦
The trip began at the Expotur office in Santa Marta. We all met there at around 9:30am and prepared ourselves for an amazing four days of hiking.
On the way to the trail-head (it’s a three hour drive,) we introduced ourselves to the people we’d be spending the next four days with sharing Colombia’s rugged jungle landscape and most important archaeological site.
Our group included Luke and Anna, an outgoing couple from the UK. Onassis and Rebecca, a Greek Divemaster and his Swedish girlfriend. Patrick and Katherine, a German couple in a long distance relationship sharing precious holiday time together. Jonas, a German master’s student. And yours truly, the translator.
♠ ♣ ♥ ♦
The first day was only 7.5kms and started from the town of El Machete. An ominous name for the start of this hike.
With only 7.5kms to hike the first day, it was an easy introduction to the heat and humidity of the jungle. Our biggest obstacle was a climb of approximately 600 vertical metres before we descended to the river valley that was the tranquil home to our first camp.
After dropping our bags, we all jumped into the beautiful swimming hole about 100m from the hammocks where we would rest our heads that night. The dinner was a hearty and tasty chicken dinner, which would foreshadow the good food and healthy portions that would follow us the whole four days.
♠ ♣ ♥ ♦
Day two was the longest and hardest day of our trek. It took us from the relatively wide paths of day one into the heart of the jungle. The canopy covered path would not have been out of place in Indiana Jones or the Jungle Book.
One of my favourite parts of the hike were the ample opportunities to cool off in the crystal clear waters of the rivers that were at our side for the majority of the 48kms.
With the jungle heat enveloping us I took every opportunity to cool off in the glacier runoff springs. The best pools had large boulders from which you could dive head first.
By the end of day two’s trail we were at a camp at the base of Ciudad Perdida. It had been approximately a 15km day, with many obstacles. The most challenging of which, for me at least, was the heat. The site of camp was a welcome one for our group.
♠ ♣ ♥ ♦
Ciudad Perdida would finally be found, at least by our fantastic group, on day three of our journey.
We woke up early (as was every day on the trek,) ate a hearty breakfast of eggs and grilled cheese before setting out to conquer the 1200 stairs that would lead us to the Lost City of Teyuna (the indigenous name for Ciudad Perdida.)
The story that our guide Wilson told us is that a local family had been searching for gold when one member found the steps that lead to Ciudad Perdida.
He took the steps up to the opening, and when he arrived he found pots of gold covering much of the Lost City.
To our dismay, there were no pots of gold waiting for us at the top of the stairs. What was waiting for us, however, was a stunning view of Ciudad Perdida. The ‘lost city’ had been found by non-indigenous over 40 years earlier; this didn’t diminish the impressive nature of finally arriving at its impressive entrance.
♠ ♣ ♥ ♦
After admiring Ciudad Perdida for a couple of hours, cleansing ourselves in a pool said to clean your soul, and hearing a bit about the history of the magical place we headed back down to the camp where we had spent our second night.
The Ciudad Perdida trek used to be a point to point trek, but the one entrance was closed in recent years, which means that we were to hike the next two days out the same way we had come in.
Having seen all of the trail that we were hiking out in the first two days didn’t diminish the beauty of it all. The backdrop of the trek seems to have been created in Hollywood. Frequently I caught myself thinking I was and adventurer in an epic film. Hard to believe that these fantastic surroundings just 10 years ago were host to the nightmare of a kidnapping.
Our final night had a leader from the Kogi tribe visit us for a question and answer period. It was an interesting enough experience for its own post (soon to follow.)
The final day we woke up early, and had a 14km hike back to El Machete where our jeep was waiting to take us back to the hustle, bustle and noise of Santa Marta. Quite a shock after four days of peace and tranquility in a truly magical corner of the world.