Reared on a diet of Indiana Jones and Romancing the Stone, I had been looking forward to the machete swinging jungle trek vision of the Ciudad Perdida for months and happily it lived up to expectations. We forged waist high rivers with backpacks on our heads, clambered over boulders, walked through coffee plantations, bathed under waterfalls and camped in hammocks under the stars. It was ace.
The whole trip took six days and although we only walked for around three or four hours a day the heat and humidity really took it out of us, much more than altitude ever did on our Altiplano hikes. But what fun we had. The real joy here is the walk, the city at the end is just a bonus and the walk really is great.
We set off in our group of 17 with Turcol guide Edwin and cooks, porters and mules. Anyone who didn't keep up was left behind but there was always someone at the back to make sure you didn't get too lost.
Every day has a different topography with jungles, rocky river beds and cultivated indigenous villages. Within an hour of the first day we had reached our first swim hole and everyone stripped off and jumped off rocks into the river below providing blissful relief from the heat. We were pretty much wet from that moment on as the humidity would not allow anything to dry even when wrung out and strung out overnight.
Revived on regular offerings of pineapple chunks, oranges and bananas along the way, we made the three day walk up to the lost city through some spectacular scenery. Lush forested hills gave way to hill top vistas across the jungle that spanned for mile upon mile of lush verdant green. No machete action on the well kept route necessary but you got the feeling the jungle would reclaim the path in an instant if people stopped walking it.
Our guide Edwin was quite a card, his family history is tied up with the site and he loved telling it.
His father was one of the original grave robbers who came to Santa Marta and hiked up the Ciudad Perdida in the 1970s on the tip of a local friend. They began robbing the gold from the burial pots unaware of what they were finding and selling it well below value. When they tried to flog it in Bogota though it came to the attention of Government officials who realised it was something quite big and stepped in to stop the looting.
Years later, Edwin was the guide who took a group of international tourists up there and got kidnapped by guerrillas, managing to escape and falling under suspicion himself as being part of the plot. We took his story with a hefty pinch of salt until he produced the newspaper clippings showing him at the center of the story.