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Our Journey to The Lost City

Five days with our G Adventure group hiking through the jungle to reach the famous Ciudad Perdida


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To be honest we were pretty scared when we set off with our little daypacks for our five-day Lost City trek. We had heard how gruelling it was and we hadn’t trained at all before we headed in as we have been travelling and training while moving constantly is pretty tough to do. The Lost City was only founded in the early 1970’s before due to it’s isolation and the difficulty to reach. The Indigenous people of Sierra Nevada’s Shaman have known of this place for a long time. There shaman have used it as a place of ceremony. Today 70 people are let in a day on a journey to the lost city. This limited number makes it still rather unique and special.

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Our trip was organised by G Adventures and Wiwa Tours. Wiwa is just one of the group of Indians that live in the Sierada Nervada. We were going to be in the jungle for five days and our main guide was a lovely Indian named Alberto.
We all jumped into the back on a jeep (think 12 of us and the driver in one vehicle…yep it was a squeeze!) and did the two hour drive to Machete, the town where the trail begins. After being feed lunch of eggs, dhal and rice we began to realise how hot the temperature was and that we were going to be walking in this while we were here. Eeek!

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Our first hike for the afternoon was to Base Camp 1. The camp was approximately 7km away…an easy 1.5hour hike right? Nope it took us three and half hours to get to camp! Sadly the distance didn’t really come into the duration of the walk, as the terrain was rough and rugged with the track going up and down the whole way. You end up climbing up the rugged paths for an hour at the time. The paths play a great illusion along the way that it appears you are at the end but nope there was always another hill around the corner.

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We arrived at our first camp after sliding down in the hill to find a few holes in our mosquito needs and smelly damp mattresses. It was this or a hammock for the whole trip. We were pretty glad we had brought our silk liners though it is so hot you really don’t want to use them! The camp was more than adequate and the cold shower was a much needed to wash away the sweat and dirt.

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We had an easy walk to the Base Camp 2 the next day. This is a big day if you opt to do the walk in four days but seen as we had five we got more time to chill out down at the glacial temperature swimming hole or play with the local Wiwa Indian kids. I had brought a few treats with me in case we saw children on the way…a minon toy and some balloons. The toy they had no idea what to do with.
They just kind of stared at it and left it inside.

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The balloons were adopted by the younger kids who treasured them and walked everywhere gripping them protectively…there was no way they were sharing. Eventually they caught on that they were fun to throw around and play with. We had a lot of fun that afternoon before the rain with the balloons. That afternoon we also got the chance to go up into the coca plantations. Legally the Indians are allowed 30 plants. Traditionally the woman are the only ones that are allowed to pick the leaves and usually only when they are menstruating (this relates to the red berries). Women are allowed to drink tea made with coca but they not allowed to eat the dried leaves. That is left to the men who also exchange it each time they met each other. We saw this quite a bit on the trail. The leaves are dried by putting a hot stone into the bag and shaking the living daylights out the bag as it smokes away. The Indians chew coca all day and mix it with lime from ground shells. The shells are stored in root that is gifted to a boy as a part of his coming of age at 18. It is interesting.

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Day three and we were off to Camp 3, the camp that is a kilometre from the lost city. We were half way through our trek and the worst and more strenuous parts were still to come. The day consisted of walking up a MASSIVE hill then crossing a really fast river.

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We arrived at camp luckily just as the rain did. This was a lucky situation considering that once the rain started the river rapidly rose. I wouldn’t have wanted to cross it in that state especially considering their cage for crossing in high rivers was broken. Even by mid-afternoon it was dark so it was time to play cards by candlelight.

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We awoke pre-dawn the next day for our final quest to the city. After crossing another river and climbing 1500 slippery stairs we had arrived at our destination. We had the site to ourselves. The silence mixed with the dampness and moss added to the magical ambience. The stories of how the lost city was created are passed down from shaman to shaman between the four different groups of Indians that live in the Sierra Nevada area. Not a lot is known about the lost city and the civilisation that lived there but it is thought the four indigenous groups from Sierra Nevada descended from the Tayrona people. We were welcomed on a stone circle in before we started walking through along the different terraces and learning how people lived here.

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The view from the main terrace was spectacular!! We continued up past the terraces towards the small military camp. The view of the ruins was again nearly all to ourselves and the sight was stunning. We spent quite a bit of time just gazing. It really did feel like the massive mission to get to this point really was worth it.
Alberto took us to visit the local shaman who unfortunately wasn’t too full of helpful insight for any of us before we continued seeing the area and heading down. At this time it was only 10am and we had been up at the ruins for over 4 hours.

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It was back to Camp 3 for a quick lunch then the walk back to Camp 2 for the night. Due to the daily afternoon rain Lewis and I were pretty adamant that we were getting across that river before the rain began. There was no way we wanted to cross with our bags in water that was at shoulder level, especially when it was a struggle to get across when it was just above our knees. The nice part of this was that we knew our way so we could just walk the two of us to the next camp. We were lucky and had Manual, an Indian guide who followed us along and whistled at any point he wanted to communicate with us. The walk was great for thinking and reflecting, even if you were sweating up a storm!

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We arrived at camp before the rain but sadly me arriving dry wasn’t meant to be. I had slipped off one of the rocks while crossing a stream and did a nice matrix style landing on my backside. Luckily I was fine but sadly my waterproof shoes were saturated! I discovered that waterproof shoes are great until they get wet. At this point they are a mission to dry as the water struggles to get out of them. That night we spoke to Alberto more about his history rather than the Indian history. He explained how his family was kicked off their land as part of the conflict when he was 14. 20 years later they have just received that land back. They are slowly working on what they can do with it as it has been so long since they were there.

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We awoke early on our final day. We had to back at Machete for lunch and we knew how hot it was going to get. We left at 6am to start the walk back. To be honest I was dreading three hills we had to climb…(it was actually only two but I will mention that in a bit). Before we left it had been discovered that it was my birthday so I ended up with an extremely healthy pineapple (cake) with a massive candle and a small gift of a agar fibre (like they use for the coca bags)bracelet from the Wiwa people. It was a gorgeous momento and I feel honoured to have received it. I blew up some more balloons for the Indian children to play with. They all came running in hopes they would get one while we said goodbye and left.
We made it up hill one and then down through the farm land to Camp 1. It was here that we had a Gatorade to help with the electrolytes we had lost through sweat. Even at 8am we were sweating up a storm as it was hot and humid. It was then time for hill number two. The hill was the biggest of the lot. We made it before walking down and cooling off in the swimming hole for an hour. We were pretty lucky we did as there was no water when we arrived into Machete. My final hill was the one into Machete….we arrived and I burst out laughing…it wasn’t a hill at all and I have no idea why I thought it was. Haha.

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We had completed the lost city trek and managed to get back in one piece. I have to say that the area is still so primitive and the lack of people is really what makes it so magical. I feel privileged I got this experience with the Indians. I really feel like it is a must do if you are in Colombia. It is difficult but the experience is well worth it!

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Posted by chellebelle 12:52 Archived in Colombia Tagged children rivers hiking adventure city indians stairs g wet lost balloons 1500 sweat bracelets wiwa Comments (1)

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