Trek to the Lost City
My friend Claire and I prebooked the tour through Bamba, who use Expotur agency. It was sold as a 4 night 5 day trek.
This seemed tedious as the reward should be the Lost City right? But you then have to turn round and spend the next two days going back the same way!
From cartagena we made our way by bus (berlineas, 50,000 cop). Its a 4 hour journey to Santa Marta, where we spent the night at the quaint Travellers hostal. The hosts are so friendly, you truly feel at home.
Bloody love a trek.
Day 1 - Expotur collected us from the hostel at 8.30 am. A few others were on the jeep and explained they were doing it in 4 days.. On arrival to the office we requested to do the same. The cost is the same weather its 3 or 4 nights. We opted for 3 so we could have longer down time before Claire had to return to the UK.
You can leave your bags in a lock up at the office, then its a 2 hour drive to the start of the trek. this journey is spent in a jeep and can be very bumpy, but it was also a great first meeting point with half of our group. the other half we met at El Mamey. your starting point and where you have lunch before you begin the trek.
This is where I looked like a pure amateur. I gave no thought to the fact We would be trekking when I packed in the UK. I turned up with a leather Benatton rucksack, Denim shorts, a pair of topshop spotty shorts and 2 t’shirts…. We were trekking for 4 days!!!! I sat there at that first lunch and was the only one to crack open a can of beer (great first impressions). One of the girls enquired “did you plan this last minute?” “no” I replied “it’s been planned a while”. I can totally see why she asked. Even I was shocked at what a hill billy I looked!! As they say though, looks can be deceiving! I’m 41 and bloody determined. Having been named the mountain goat on the Inca Trail 4 years previous, I needed to prove to myself I still had stamina.
This first day is 4 hours to the first camp and mostly uphill. Isidro our translater, explained to me this is the toughest day for most. I’m not going to lie, and don’t want to sound cocky, but I thought it was easy with too many breaks. For me going down hill has always been far harder then up, Whilst everyone complained, in my head knowing you come back the same route I started to panic about coming back down, I have very weak knees and ankles and feel the force on them. My other thought was I really hope this isn’t the most challenging day as I will be very disappointed (thankfully it wasn’t).
On arrival to our first camp I couldn’t believe there were showers and beds. All the information sent never mentioned this and it was stated you sleep in hammocks. I really regretted my lack of items as I figured I would be fithy and unshowered for 4 days so why bring more! Dirty denim shorts by day and cute spotty shorts by night it is. So far removed from my experience on the Inca Trail.
My advice for this trek is buy a Shine Bar. It’s completely eco friendly, No palm Oil, plastic packaging and its easy to carry. You can use it to clean both your hair and skin. I would have even tried washing my two outfits with it had I not left it at the Expotur office.
5 am wake up, pack up, breakfast and hit the trail 6 am.
8 hours trekking can be expected, with lunch half way.
This started badly for me. The morning consisted of lots of down and my knee felt knackered. I tried numerous ways such as skipping and walking side ways to alleviate the pain. it was brutal. I envisioned having to get taken back by mule the following day.
The thing with trekking though, is the mental battle. I know I can do it, I can charge up those hills. I don’t want to be stumped by coming down. Forget about it, and be inspired by those I met on the Inca Trail who had no choice, No matter how ill they were but to carry on, as there are no mules or motos to the rescue. What walks up, must walk down!
Apart from the start, day two was all up hill which I loved. I highly recommend bringing headphones as music blocks out your heavy breathing and helps to set a pace. I also found it freed me up to take in the beauty that was surrounding me. If you pick the right music you can really get your energy going.
The fascinating part about this trek are the Coggi & Wiwa indigenous tribes that wear all white, no shoes and have the most incredible long black hair. The boys always carry a bag so you can distinguish them.
The beautiful Wiwa children. Picture curtesy of Claire Healey.
Sixto, our guide, explained a small part of their culture. Which I will do a special post separate, as they deserve more than a paragraph.
They have allowed tourism into the Lost City via a certain route, this is why you go back the same way. You can still see the traditions, but also the effects of tourism as some now wear crocs or wellies, and even a gold watch!
In the evening one of the Wiwa spoke with the group via a translator as they have a different language. Everyone in the room was spellbound. I desperately wanted to ask to take a picture, but it seemed inappropriate.
5 am start. Its a 1 hour 1km trek all up hill, 1200 ancient stairs to be specific! Fortunately we were the first group to get up to the top and view the whole of Ciudad Perida with no other groups insite. It was far more breathtaking then I could imagine, and I took the time to find a quiet spot and really soak it in. Its a magical feeling.
Interestingly there are armed guards everywhere. When I asked Isidro why? he joked “to protect us from tourists”
In the past I know guides have been attacked, also tourists have been kidnapped here. The last incident being 2004. Im not sure of the real answer the other rumour was protection for the coco fields? who know’s? Either way initially they looked menacing, but when I asked for a selfie they were happy to pose and held their guns proudly, they also helped a few struggling up the last steps.
After a 3 hour tour ( you have time in-between to yourself, and have some snacks), you head back to camp to collect your bags and trek the 4 hours back. This was the part I dreaded….Downhill! but hurrah after a few nurofen my knee was good as gold and I flew down. Then when the uphill parts came I was back in my element.
Arriving to our camp around 4 we jumped straight into the river to cool off. Its incredible,. then dinner a game of cards and bed.
5 am start and its the home straight. Isidro said the quickest one of his groups got back to El Mamey was 11.00 am. Challenged accepted!! There’s a solid hour of uphill and then mainly down, and in some parts you feel like your in the desert so make sure you have your sun factor on. This was by far the hottest day. There are a few traffic jams along the way as all the groups head back, so find your over tacking spots at the right point.
What time did I cross the finishing line you ask? I’m happy to say that the mountain goats still got it! 11.30am me and one of the other girls arrived, whilst the others started trickling in about 20 minutes later. Needless to say the beers started to flow as we all celebrated.
I would highly recommend staying this night in Santa Marta, (we stayed at La Republica) and hanging out with the group. It’s so much fun when you’ve shared this special experience together, to then relish the rewards! We had so much fun that a second night was needed!
I was in my own world. It was great to break away from the different groups all headed back.
I have to say we had a great group. everyone was tranquillo. You come into contact with other groups a long the way and we witnessed lots of alpha male and females and premadonna’s. thankfully “team red faces” all looked out for each other and seemed like minded.
Claire Healey- aka Glen Gryls,
You faced your fears of bugs and the dark. Thanks for travelling with me on those first two weeks I loved every minute
Karin & Tobias
the cool headed lovely couple that were unfazed by anything.
The energiser bunny that was always upbeat and cheering others on.
Kiara & Denise - aka Denis
The gorgeous Irish girls that reminded me of the friends I made 10 years ago backpacking.
My fellow Londoner, that was quick fire with a torch if anyone was freaked out by bugs.
Dorothee & Helena
We didn’t speak much on the trek, but loved getting to know you both in Santa Marta. And Helena your English is brilliant, don’t be scared to speak 😊
Again it was great getting to know you after the trek, and thank you for your tips on where to go.
And of course a massive thank you to our wonderful guides. Sixto for your humour and knowledge, Isidro for the best laugh ever! and Louis for setting a pace I loved!
When I started this trek and noticed the signs saying best trek of South America I was very dubious, but after doing this and the Inca trail I agree with that statement. The Lost City is the right amount of hard. You feel challenged but theres no altitude issues and you have comfy amenities. The down side is not having Machu Picchu at the end, as that is the most emotional feeling when you lay eyes on it, but I just found myself smiling so much more on this trek.
If your thinking about doing the trek, Do it you won’t be disappointed! Although do it during dry season as the mosquitos have left and the pathways are dry. I can only imagine how treacherous they must be during the rainy season.
What a great group we had.
We made it!
Thanks to everyone for making it so much fun!