Live #61, Ciduad Perdida & Taganga, Colombia
01/03/2015 Relaxing at the gorgeous beach of Palomino was great, but if you followed my blog for a while, you will know that I actually prefer to put on my hiking boots and be a bit more active. The 5-day trek to the “The Lost City” of Ciduad Perdida deep in the jungle of northern Colombia seemed to be a must-do for me. We certainly had a lot of action thanks to the poisonous snakes in the area. One of them bit a soldier, putting him in a desperate need to be rescued by a helicopter, and one other was found and killed by our guides on the way back!
The first time I heard about Ciduad Perdida was during my trek to Machu Picchu in July 2013 and a bit less than two years later, I made it there myself! There are several options to do the hike: 4, 5 or 6 days. All of them use the same route and even the price is the same for all of them. Fast people tend to use the 4 day option while slower ones, obviously, take 6 days. I picked the middle option, mostly because I wanted to relax a bit and did not mind to get free food and accommodation for one extra day 🙂 A lot of stuff happened and I will try to get it all into this live update, which will propably end up more like being a complete travel report. For this reason I actually included the live updates for each country into my travel report overview now!
I picked Turcol as a company to guide me to Ciduad Perdida, but all companies charge the same and they actually shuffle around guides as well, so I think it doesn’t really matter which one you pick! We left their office at 09:00 to pick up some more people and more importantly, buy tons of food. There were about 70 people to start the hike on that day and each jeep picked up something for the group. My group consisted of our guide, two people from Italy and a British girl. All jeeps met up at the last village before the starting point of the hike, which would also serve us for some sandwiches for lunch around 12:30.
About two hours of easy hiking later, we arrived at a natural swimming pool which enabled me to do some deep water bouldering again. Sadly I didn’t bring my climbing shoes, so I was pretty limited being bare feet. A huge spider was sitting at the rock as well, having no problem with me being super close to her for some pictures. You should zoom in the picture to see her hairy legs, haha! We had a quick break for Water Melons at 15:00 and continued the hike in a pretty slow speed. Our Italian friend seemed to be a little bit uncomfortable walking around in the jungle and took his time. I was relieved to spot our camp site in the distance, asking for permission if I could go ahead and wait for them there, which my guide accepted as long as I would be careful. Of course I would! I made it to the camp in my own speed soon after at 16:45 and could pick a nice hammock for the night. There were about 30 hammocks overall and some of them were already used from a group coming back again on their last day. We also shared dinner with them, each group being served by their own guide and cook. They prepared Rice, Chicken and Potatoes for us and even though it tasted okay, I was missing the awesome food we received at the San Blas Islands in Panama; they set the standards pretty high!
The second day started early at 06:45 in the morning and we were joined by a second group full of dutch guys and their own guide. After some time downhill through the jungle, we eventually made it to a village of the indigenous people. Some curious girls in their white ropes came over while the guide explained about their culture. We were served a huge fish lunch at the next camp and could go out for a swim in the nearby river. The water there was crystal clear and cold, which was very welcome after walking in the heat for quiet some time. It was pretty interesting to see our Italian’s friend tanning pose, hard to describe in words but he really looked funny and certainly enjoyed the hiking break! No one could finish the lunch this time and we continued the hike at 12:00, back into the jungle.
Several hours later, I realized why the guides won’t let me go alone this time: We had to cross two rivers and while the first was no problem for everyone except the Italian guy, the second one was actually a bit trickier and I slipped at the end, landing in the knee deep water with one foot. Just then it also started to rain for the firs time – a very welcome change, because it got pretty hot in the jungle. Not long after we would find ourselves in our camp for the second night, arriving at 15:45, about two hours before nightfall. It was dark, still raining and I was just about to head to dinner when I suddenly slipped into a dark corner and suffering two open small wounds that bled a bit. We disinfected them with alcohol, lime and salt, allowing me to finally eat up before heading to bed and watch some Mad Men since it was still pretty early. This time we had actual beds and no hammocks and even though they were not super clean, it was still better and thanks to the relaxing sound of the rain pouring down, I could fall asleep pretty fast.
You could consider the third day as the highlight of the trek as we would reach the famous terraces of the Lost City today. Starting early at 06:00, we walked about 45 minutes through the rain and crossed one more river before suddenly standing at the beginning of a 1000 steps stair case, built by the tayrona indians somewhen between the 8th and 12th century. Those guys used to be very short (1,50m – 1,60m) and once you walked on their stairs, you will see why. Some of the super steep steps required some attention, but overall the hike was not too hard. The sun finally came out as well while we were walking up to the first terrace, where our guide started to explain about the lost city and their former inhabitants. For instance, they built everything with the use of fire, water, wood and stones. Not much of a breaking news. More interesting was the moment we reached the most famous of all terraces, fully occupied by a complete squad of about 50 soldiers! I’m not really sure why they need so many there, but it might also have been because of the fact that one of them was just bitten by a highly venomous snake…
The military split up in groups, some of them taking care of the bitten comrade, others occupied keeping the signal fire up to produce enough smoke for the upcoming helicopter, and some just documenting everything on their smart phones. It was a pretty intense situation, the soldier only had about 30 minutes to get treatment before the bite would kill him. I asked our guide and they told us that snake bites here are not too uncommon and it was also not the first time for him to see a helicopter coming in for rescue. About 20 minutes later, the helicopter finally got in and the whole scene with all the soldiers felt a little bit like being in a movie! Hoping that the soldier received his medication in time, we eventually started our hike back with just one more stop for some more explanations about the area. Turns out that Ciduad Perdida is 200 years younger than El Publito, the “mini lost city” I visited in Tayrona National Park!
The guides spotted something in the bush on the way back to catch up with the rest and it was actually the same kind of snake that bit the soldier earlier! I could really tell that the guides have been in those situation before, quickly cutting a branch of a tree and shaping it to a Y shape to capture and then kill the snake with their machete. I spent the last 1% of my camera battery to take some cool close up pictures with the snake and her blood on the eye and was really happy to be here to witness this while the others of our group already went down – hopefully they would not find another snake! The terraces have been really enjoyable despite all the action we had. We were the only tourists at the time and despite the warnings, barely had to fight with any mosquitoes! The weather was great as well and the jungle surroundings made for a really cool Indiana Jones kind of atmosphere – it was totally worth coming here. I received permission to walk back in my own pace since the wound on my foot from last night was hurting a bit and I wanted to get out of the hiking boots to rest as soon as possible, arriving at the camp again at 15:30, taking just 90 minutes for the hike that took us four hours this morning.
The Italians and myself woke up at 07:30 while the others in our two groups already left the camp at 05:00. They are on the 4 day trek and have to get back all the way to the end while we will have another night in the first camp. I waited a bit to dry my wet clothes, which were a bit wet every morning due to the humidity in the jungle, and soon after would catch up with the Italians who left an hour before me. Arriving at the camp at 11:00, we would have a full day to relax now. The Italian girl, our guide and myself decided to take a little excursion to a nearby waterfall at 15:00 and only a 20 minute walk away. We arrived at the top of the pretty big falls and had to climb down to the bottom. The girl decided to stay on top because the climb was an actual climb and I was happy to be able to use some Bouldering moves to get down 🙂 Enjoying the view from the bottom and the waterfall it self, we returned to camp at 16:30 for a nice dinner. I was glad to take the 5 day hike, as I would not have been able to see the pretty nice waterfall otherwise.
The last day started at 07:00 and we walked back to the starting point after breakfast. Our Italian friend turned out to be a great entertainer as he started to scream as loud as he can from a tiny slip. He was so careful all of the time and I think his scream was rather out of disappointment that he fell down rather than actual pain resulting from it. It was pretty amusing to see though and both the guide and myself were looking at each other in disbelief while he was crying out loud for about two minutes straight. Eventually, we made it back to the extraction point and I had enough time to take a shower before the car would drive us back to Santa Marta at 09:00. The Italians stayed in a hostel in Taganga and we dropped them off there with a quick stop at the viewpoint overlooking the bay. I returned to Turcol’s office to get my stuff, had some food and then headed back to Taganga myself, since I planned to stay there for my last night in the area. I made it just in time for the sunset at 17:30 and met up with a CS for some nice dinner at the bar Babaganoush, highly recommended if you are in the area. A dutch chef is serving really nice food over there for a decent price of 30.000 Colombian pesos. That’s it! I had no time to do any diving in Taganga but was very satisfied with my visit of the north coast. Up next for me was a flight to the capital Bogotá and a short visit to Villa de Leyva before flying down all the way to the southern point of Argentina, getting ready for my long awaited cruise to Antarctica…
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