12 January 2014

Ciudad Perdida: Trek to the Lost City

The only way to see “The Lost City” is to do a hike – generally, with the tour groups, it’s 4, 5, or 6 days, though if you are fit and hired your own guide, you could easily do it in three days (I think). While a lot of the hike is very challenging and technical, you take frequent breaks and don’t do too much hiking at once,  so it’s not that bad.

We signed up with ExpoTour (or ExpoTur) and Sherry signed up with Magic Tours – Magic never answered any of my emails, which is why we went with Expo. What ended up happening was – perhaps because of the day we left – our groups were small, so ExpoTur and Magic merged their groups and we all headed out together.

I was angry, however, because in emails, ExpoTur specifically told me that they had two English-speaking guides available during that time, and when we arrived, we were told our guide did not speak English. They explained at length that most people did not know English, that they hire people from the communities – they have to, you see, and they didn’t speak English, and could I please be understanding? I was being understanding, I told them; I understand this, but I don’t understand why I was told that there would be TWO English speaking guides when we wouldn’t even have one. I was frustrated. Luckily, the guide spoke slowly enough that I understood most of his Spanish and when I was tired of translating to Wayne, we had a few others whose Spanish was much better, and they would translate.

They were late picking us up, late leaving, took forever. Then we got to a lunch place – they gave us terrible bread, cheese, lunchmeat, and onions/tomatoes/lettuce to put on top. Oh, and “Golf Sauce” which is apparently ketchup and mayo mixed together. It was awful. I hoped the food would be better on our trek, and happily, it was.

We started out in the afternoon sun, and very quickly, had some stream crossings (I fell in, and I’m good at falling in on stream crossings.), and after 40 minutes, we took a swim break. Then we hiked. An orange break. Hiked. A watermelon break. Hiked. Another watermelon break. We arrived shortly before dark at a crowded camp with hammocks. My hammock unfortunately smelled like sweat – or was it the less-than-clean blanket they provided us with? They did have showers, so I took a shower and I felt amazing after. We ate dinner, and then passed out.

I slept poorly; I never sleep well in hammocks. In the morning, I tried to eat the eggs with onions, but I do hate onions so I just could not. I ate my toast and fruit, though. We began hiking at 6am, and it was a lot of downhills, some uphills too, and then we passed through an indigenous village. At 8:50 a.m., we arrived there, and had until 11am. Because my skirt I had worn the day before was filthy and stinky, and I was planning on re-wearing it, I washed it in the sink with some soap and hung it to dry. A small cute indigenous girl (Don’t know which Tayrona group of people she belongs to), begged for my necklace. I made it at Burning Man but found myself taking it off and giving it to her. Then she asked for my bracelet, and I said no. She begged. Her mother came over and asked. It was weird. Later, on Day Three, we had children begging us for “Dulce, Dulce, Sweet, Dulce.”

We swam in the creek, ate some food, relaxed. Our group was small, which was nice, and everyone was great: besides Wayne and I, we had two Dutch guys in their late twenties or early thirties, an English woman around the same age, and a 30 year old Colombian guy who is currently living in Guatemala.

After lunch, we hiked some more – a lot of uphill. We had some breaks for oranges, and then we forded a stream without shoes on. It sucked. Wayne and I were hungry and tired and had taken a break before the stream to have granola bars. I was in calorie deficit, and was on the verge of being dizzy from lack of calories. After the stream, our guide gave us a bocadillo, which was amazing.

The next section was brutal. Horrifying. Ladders gone sideways, walking planks, drop-offs straight down. I fell at one point, sliding down on a cliff. I grabbed a rock, which moved, and then Wayne and Andres (Colombian hiker) pulled me up. I was very scratched, but happy to be okay.

We arrived at the final camp before Ciudad Perdida. It was a dump. People talked about bedbugs. The bunkbeds were so close that you could touch the person through the mosquito net (that very likely had rips) in the bed next to you, and you couldn’t do anything in front of your bed without inconveniencing anyone else who wanted to walk through the “bunkhouse” or go through their stuff. Wayne and I slept together, cramped, on a very uncomfortable surface.

We woke up at 5am again, and headed up to the Lost City. It was really special; almost no one was there. Well, except for the military. They keep a base up there, and a helicopter had just dropped off a month-long supply of food, so they were moving it all up to their base. A little weird how one of the terraces has been turned into a helicopter landing pad.

Oh, but the stairs. 1260 up, plus another 600 in the city. And yes, all the way down. I freaked out on the way up, knowing how awful it would be on the way down. Wayne was a star; he held my hand, talked me down. He is fast on stairs, and I know he could have been way in the front, but stuck with me. I love this boy so much.

To go up the stairs, I used my hands. I was basically on all fours, which is really comfortable and fun (sarcasm). Our guide actually told us some stuff on the visit to the city (which he hadn’t done before), about plants, rituals, traditions, what certain terraces were. You can’t see any of the buildings because they were made of wood, but you see the stone terraces and all the steps – still pretty cool.

Hiking down was worse. Wayne and I went slow and he held out every time I freaked out (which honestly, is more often than I’d like to admit).

We ate our lunch ravenously, then hiked back three hours to the camp we had swam at and ate lunch at the day before. The beds were more comfortable, the river pretty (but cold), and everyone spent the night relaxing, talking, scratching mosquito bites, spraying on bug repellent.

We awoke again at 5am, ate breakfast, and hiked. We didn’t remember there being so many uphills. A break for some guava juice, watermelon and a chocolate cake. More hiking. We got back to the original swimming hole, and it felt amazing. It was cold, but so good to clean off.

We hiked the final bit back, everyone happy with the trip but happy to return to civilization.

Am I glad I did it? Yes, but I thought the accommodations were a bit rougher than I would have liked: there was almost never any toilet paper (I found myself going into the kitchen and snagging napkins to use in the loo.), the beds and bedding were filthy and stinky, there was not much comfy room for hanging out. But it was great – pretty views, lots of quiet time, time to think, chat, reflect. Lots of gorgeous photos.

I’m glad I had my Kindle so I could read, and letters to write and my travel journal to add to. All of these items were light and definitely worth their weight.

I would recommend to others to pack mosquito repellent, extra socks, extra clothes than you think (A lot of people thought they could just wear the same outfit all week, not realizing that it would never dry due to the humid climate and smell more than imaginable.), rain jacket, maybe something to use as a pillow, shampoo/soap/toiletries, sunblock, a few snacks (We packed some granola bars.), warm clothes for night, money if you want to buy beer en route. The safety at times was dubious, so you really needed to be cautious while hiking. But it was wonderful.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ugh! Went with Expotur and had a horrible experience. They combined 3 groups of 4-day, 5-day, and 6-day hikers into one 14-person 4-day group. The food was spaghetti and hot dogs, and dirty we all got sick from it. Personally, going with Expotur was a big mistake.