Only 1200 steps left. Last stairs. It’s the last part after more than two days trekking into the jungle. Into the Colombian forest. Trees as far as you can see. No cell phone service. No electricity. Life at its simplest. A beautiful and yet foreign experience. In a world fully connected.
We started the trip in Santa Marta. In the office of the tour operator. After making sure everybody showed up and paid the money we split up, went into the jeeps and left the town at the Caribbean coast. The first part of the journey is a 2.5 hour drive (roughly) from Santa Marta to a small town in the jungle. Since you can’t go further than that by car you have to leave the car and start trekking from there.. it is also the place where we had our first meal together as a group. I actually remember when we had lunch. There were people coming back from the trail. The same trail as we were gonna take. Sweating, exhausted, breathing heavily. I just thought: „Wimps!“ I’m kidding.. I was told it was a hard and I could see that in their faces. So let’s do it then.
Each one equipped with his or her backpack we finally started walking. 18 people we were. With a guy leading us. Two of the girls took the option to pay for a donkey that carried all their stuff. Anyway, you shouldn’t bring too much (see tips what you should pack). The guide was great. Since he grew up in the jungle himself he knew a lot about it and had some stories to tell. However, he only spoke Spanish. There was a translator though. But honestly, he didn’t have the level of the guide. He might have smelled those flowers you’re not supposed to. They make you high – we were told.. Luckily, there was a guy in our group who spoke English as well as Spanish fluently. So we ended up listening to him rather than the translator.
The mosquitos – your new friends
As mentioned, the first two days you basically walk into the jungle. Uphill.. Downhill.. More uphill definitely. Sometimes, it’s actually pretty steep. But that’s not even the hardest part. It’s the heat. The humidity. The mosquitos. They eat you. Every time you sit down and have a break.
Once you get used to it, time passes by pretty quickly. Beautiful landscapes and many new people to talk to. After walking for a few hours we arrived at around 4.00pm in the first camp (I call it camp.. well, some people actually live there). When you arrive there you reserve a bed – it’s basically mattresses with some mosquito nets under a roof – then you may wanna have a swim in the natural pools, maybe wash your shirt to let it dry for the next day. The overnight stops are nicely located.. close to rivers. Perfect to get a refreshment after sweating the entire day (honestly, I have never sweat as much in my entire life as on this trip).
Around 5.30/6.00pm was dinner time. I was actually surprised in a positive way of the food. Pretty good and personally I didn’t have problems with digestion (you don’t wanna have this on this trek!). So after dinner you can talk, play cards in some romantic candle light, or just hang out before you go to bed. There’s no electricity – at least not everywhere. Cooks had to cook using flash lights. Anyway, we were pretty tired and were happy to go to bed early. A shower (with cold water) and toilets are available (bring your own toilet paper!!).
The next morning, to beat the heat we started walking very early.. as usual in the mornings. Generally at around 5.30am. After having breakfast. It sounds brutal but it not that hard to wake up. Since you walk for like 6-7 hours a day you get pretty tired at night and you won’t go to bed no much later than 8pm..
On the third day we started early as well. But it was a little different because you can leave all your stuff – except camera, insect repellent, and a bottle of water – in the shelter where you slept the night. The reason for this is because you hike up to the lost city and come back a few hours later to the camp. This last hike is pretty tough though. 1200 steps. I don’t know if you have seen „lord of the rings“ but it reminded me of the stairs that Frodo had to climb at the black gate 😉
Well, once you made it to the top it is very rewarding. A beautiful site with a lot of history. We spent like 4 hours up there (it’s pretty big overall) and learned about its history from our guide. Having seen the entire city, we went back down again to the camp, grabbed our stuff and started our way (the same way) back to the beginning. One and a half days later and hours and hours of hiking it was us.. those guys returning to the restaurant at the starting point. Sweating. Breathing heavily. Exhausted. But totally worth it.
The Ciudad Perdida trek is pretty exhausting on one side but very a very memorable experience. It is recommendable to people who like to be in nature and are not afraid of walking for hours nor living without luxury good for a few days
Why I prefer this trip to the one to Machu Picchu? Because you actually need to make an effort to get up there and see the city. To Machu Picchu, anyone can go. Buses will drive you all the way up to the entrance. Not possible in Ciudad Perdida. And you can notice this: Only about 50 people per day visit the ancient ruins of the lost city. Compared to 3000 people (in low season) at Machu Picchu.
Some recommendations and facts about the Ciudad Perdida experience:
- Ciudad Perdida is about 1000 meters above sea level. It’s pretty hot all year around.
- I did the trek with expotur. Good organization. Food was good. Great guide. Recommendable.
- I paid about 800’000 pesos (roughly 230 USD)
- It was everything included – meals, beds, water. Not included some extra snacks and the beers. Buy some snacks – energy/chocolate bars or dried fruits – before you leave.
- I did the trip in 4 days. You can do it in 4 or 5 days. However, the extra day is used on the way back. Basically, you just add an extra stop on the last day. On this last day there is a lot of hiking to be done, indeed. But it would maybe take 3 more hours from the extra stop to go back to the starting point. And personally, I was glad to finally be back after 4 days and not having an extra night stop. But that’s up to you.
- More information on: http://expotur-eco.com/tour/tour-ciudad-perdida-4-dias/#
Tips – what should you bring to the Ciudad Perdida trek:
General advice: pack light. Don’t bring much! It will be easier. You’re gonna sweat anyway. You can wash shirts in the river and let it dry to wear it again. Have clean clothes to go to bed, obviously. Preferably long pants and long sweater (watch the mosquitos!)
- Some money. To buy snacks (chocolate bar) at the „kiosks“ or a beer in the camp. (rather expensive though)
- Mosquito repellent. An absolute must-bring!
- Toilet paper. As well: must-bring!! there is no toilet paper on the toilets.
- Sun block. Most of the time you’re covered by trees. But not all the time. So bring it.
- Ear plugs. I bring it everywhere. The chances there is someone in your group who snores are high.
- Water bottle. Bring a bottle. You can refill it in the camps.
- Towel. After having a swim or a shower
- Swim shorts/bikini. Don’t miss it. Don’t miss the natural pools!
- Long but thin pants. Better for fighting the mosquitos
- Long but thin sleeve. Same here
- (Solar) flashlight. Very useful for the camps at night. It gets dark pretty early. You wanna be able to recharge it even without electricity.
- Comfortable shoes. You’ll be walking a lot. Running shoes work fine.
- Cards. You have some time at the camps. Playing cards (or something else) is good fun to get to know the other people and have a good time.