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Tales from an intrepid viajero in Latin America Despite promising myself that I´d never be so self-indulgent as to write a blog that´s exactly what I´m going to do. Welcome to the blog that I´m writing while studying Spanish and travelling in Latin America over the next 8 months

Jungle Adventure - Trekking to the Cuidad Perdida

COLOMBIA | Saturday, 11 April 2009 | Views [2118] | Comments [4]

Mensaje para mis compadres de este viaje

Esta caminata fue una de las mas impresionantes que yo he hecho. La belleza de la selva, las ruinas, los saltos locos de las piedras y arboles etc. Pero, tambien el humor y ambiente de este viaje fue muy especial. Gracias a ustedes. Creo que teníamos suerte con nuestro grupo y los guías. !Que chevre¡ Por favor, agreguen unos commentarios abajo de sus momentos favoritos y mi cuenta del viaje. Estoy seguro que me he olvidado de escribir de muchas cosas divertidas del viaje...

Ok. So now for the part that my normal readers are going to understand. If you´re in Colombia and have six days to spare I´d recommend going on the trek to the Cuidad Perdida. It is basically a six day hike through the jungle which includes numerous river crossings, stunning rolling mountains covered in lush vegetation, encounters with the Colombian army and a stunning set of ruins set high in the mountains. Here`s my short account of the six day trip...

Day 1 (Walking in the sun...)

It is hot, we´ve got a long way to walk and we have no idea if it will be easy or difficult. The group meets up and we jump in the jeep to get to the entrance of the Parque Nacional de la Sierra Nevada. Everyone seems in good spirits and the Colombians among us seem particularly talkative. We stop on the route for a cerveza - it´s Semana Santa after all. We enter the national park and have our first encounter with the mean looking army dudes. They´re actually very friendly and amiable and we pose for photos with them.

Following lunch we set off. We reach our first river crossing and everyone gets across safely - first test passed fairly comfortably despite the odd sticky moment. The the uphill begins...the local among us (wittily nicknamed Costeño) starts to ask how much uphill there is and that the walk is much harder than he thought. I´ve got news for you Costeño - there´s a reason why they´re called mountains...The secenry is simply stunning - rolling mountain scenery covered in jungle with the sound of rivers around every other corner.

After a hard three hours of walking in the hot sun we split into two groups. One group gets the short straw and has to walk a lot further to their camp - I get lucky. Following an early dinner Las Profes decide that 7.30ish is an appropriate hour to retire to the hammocks to sleep - they must be really tired - in fact, this isn´t a one-off...it´s their usual bedtime.

Day 2 (walking in the jungle...)

We are deep into the jungle now and get some shade from all dense vegetation around us. There is a lot of downhill amongst the odd uphill. Everyone makes a note that this means that day 5 is going to be hard as we have to return the same way. I put to good use the "running" technique for the downhills. This generally involves pegging it as fast as possible downhill to make it a bit more fun and adventerous (and to save the pain on my knees of having to break all the time). Everyone is walking well today although Costeño is debating whether he should do the last 2 days in one as he needs to return a day early - something about it being muy exigente.

We finish walking quite early. The other group start talking of the "great rock which you could jump off with a drop of 5m". My group appears to have missed out. Damn. There is a nice river near the camp and we go for a swim. I manage to mess up and let the current take me away and bang myself across some rocks. Ouch. As we return a group of viejitos turn up to the camp looking fairly fresh - they´ve done two days in one. Some members of the group start to feel slightly embarrassed.

Costeño provides the evening entertainment by miserably failing to execute a card trick. He spends the remainder of the evening castiagado trying to work out what went wrong. The rest of us pass another uncomfortable night in the hammocks listening to los roncidos of various members of our party and getting bitten by the mosquitos.

Day 3 (the ruins)

Today is the day we are going to reach La Cuidad Perdida and it´s going to be hard. We set off early. Reaching the city involves a total of ten river crossings, including eight in an hour at one point. As the river crossings start I go from being miles ahead of everyone to behind. My feet are killing me going barefoot through the rivers on rocks - I`m not made for walking without shoes. The only consolation is that we can jump into the river to cool off and have a swim. Pablo, Emily and Michaella have the river crossing technique down to a tee - leave your shoes on - they may get wet but it´s preferable to hurting feet.

After the river crossings we reach the bottom of the Cuidad Perdida - 1200 steps to climb to reach it. Our guide tells us it´ll take about 40 mins. No problem - people seem to be expecting me to do it very quickly. I manage it in 12 mins and wait 10 mins for the next person to arrive. Manage to get some good photos in while waiting for everyone. The next challenge is a race up the next set of steps with Ender and Costeño. I´m actually starting to get a little tired but everything goes once I reach the main part of the Cuidad Perdida. The ruins are set with stunning views of the mountainous jungle background with waterfalls falling from great heights.

Andres spends a lot of time clowning around on the main site of the city. He´s posing for some silly photos when some heavy looking army dudes approach him while he´s lying down. Luckily, they`re actually quite cool and we spend the rest of the afternoon asking them questions about being in the army. One of the chaps kindly decides to do show us how to put together and pull apart a rifle in 25 seconds. I start to wonder what would happen if there were a sudden attack on us - these army dudes seem to spend more time hanging out with toursits instead of actually looking for guerrilleros.

Costenño and I seem to get the short straws and have the hammocks to sleep in. Everyone else gets beds...

Day 4 (the glorious sunrise)

Get up at 5.30am to watch the sunrise with Andres and Costeño. Muy chevre. The jungle around from atop the ruins is really stunning as the sun starts to appear. We take advantage of the lack of people around and take a ton of photos.

We have a wander around the ruins as a group and then start the trek back. I´ve learnt my lesson - the shoes stay on for the river crossing. I decide it will be better to use the running technique for the dowhill parts - I teach it to Costeño and we arrive well ahead of everyone at one of the river crossings. We find a nice rock to jump off and do numerous jumps into the river from a few metres up. 

The rest of the day passes off somewhat uneventfully apart from Bryan aka King Kong being abused by one of the guide´s seven year old kid.

Bryan: "so, what do you think of when someone says king kong"

Norbeye: "someone big and fat". Don`t hold back there Norbeye...

Day 5 (the day of the tree jump)

We get up early to go to the spot where half our group did the rock jump from 5m on the first day. I do the rock jump is quite cool. Saul, one of the guides, points to one of the trees overhanging the river and tells us that some crazy fool once jumped from one of the branches of the tree into the river - everyone conservatively puts the jump into the water at 8m (Í reckon it is 10m). Why is Costeño scampering towards the tree? He climbs the tree (don´t fall Costeño or you´re going to die on the rocks...). He does the jump. Well, if he can do it. Andres does it next. I guess that means that I have to do it. I climb the tree and as I am doing so the realisation sets in that if I fall as I´m crossing the branch I´m going to hit my head on some nasty looking rocks far below. In fact, it looks an awful way down from the top of the tree. Everything is ready - Andres has set the video rolling and everyone is shouting words of encouragement such as "get on with it you chicken". The countdown - 1,2,3...I´m still in the tree as everyone is expecting me to hit the water. After another aborted attempt I realise that I´m going to be stuck up in the tree all my life if I don´t jump. I jump. After an interminable few seconds i hit the water - an amazing experience (the video is on facebook...)  

We continue the trek and the long uphill starts. It isn´t as hard as I thought it would be but I don´t admit that to the rest of the group - the whines of Costeño can be heard in Santa Marta. We eventually split into two groups and my group gets the hard trek to our camp. The evening is spent playing chess and various other board games. Las Profes break their record and stay up until nearly 9pm.

Day 6 (the day of the waterfall)

We get up early to find the Señor pruning some dried leaves. He informs us in a very matter of fact way that is marijuana. Apparently, lots of foreigners like to smoke it, particularly Israelis and you can only buy this high-quality variety in the jungles of Colombia. He´s never tried the stuff of course he hastens to add. For a fee of 25,000 pesos he will also show you how they process cocaine although he doesn´t cultivate the stuff himself. We go to a spectacular waterfall which you have to climb down the side of to get to the bottom. The scenery here really is breathtaking.

We start the final days walking in earnest and embark on our last two river crossings. These are done across rocks that stick out of the river. I manage to fall and get my shoes wet. Costeño is making fun of me when he manages to fall into the river and lose his backpack in there while he´s at it. Haha.

The remaining hour of the trek passes off without anything of note and we all unite for a final group photo and lunch before going off on our separate ways.

The trek to the Cuidad Perdida is a truly unique experience with lots of great scenery and adventure. A definite highlight of my trip so far.

Tags: trekking ruins

Comments

1

I can SO stay up until 10 if I really try.

  Profe Apr 13, 2009 8:08 AM

2

Good stuff. Norbuet sure is a meanie.

  Bryan Apr 14, 2009 6:02 AM

3

I look forward to seeing a double pike and tuck next time you do a 10m dive!

  Martin Apr 15, 2009 4:22 AM

4

Hello there, I read all the stories about travelling Colombia (very interested!) and would die to be able to see the video of your 10m. dive! Is there any chance you could upload it on this site? I would so much appreciate it. Many thanks. Kind regards
A-M

  A-M Apr 27, 2009 11:28 PM

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