Before leaving Aruba and heading to Colombia, Janice and I spoke to several other cruisers about things to do in Santa Marta, Colombia. Several cruisers were interested in a 4 day hike to the “Lost City” which is approximately 27 miles over some pretty difficult terrain. After a tad more research, Janice decided not to attempt the hike without a lot of training as many of the people stated the hike was extremely difficult.
So after some additional research, 3 other cruising boats (Milly, Blue Moon, Slow Flight and 1/2 of Livin’ Life) decided to book the hike with Expotur located in Santa Marta. I did not have a lot of expectations other than it was going to be 4 days of hiking through rivers and up / down canyons. Oh boy, I really was not prepared for this :).
So the day has come and we were ready to leave:
Our adventure started around 9:30 at Expotur’s office where a 4WD truck drove us 2 ½ hours to El Mamey, the place where we had lunch and began the search for the sacred place of Tayronas (Lost City residents). During lunch, we were introduced to our guide and translator that would stay with us during the journey to the “Lost City”. After a short break, we hiked 4 hours through the Colombian jungle and arrived at our first camp where we would spend the night. Boy, the first day was tough. Hot, sweaty and tired. The accommodations were extremely primitive but honestly after a long day of hiking, it really did not matter about the lack of hot water, dirt floors or the wild animals. Just needed a good sleep before our next day of hiking.
After some much needed rest, we were up at 4:30am and hit the trail at 5:20am. We started the hike by the riverside of Buritaca River where we found the Kogui indians within the village, Mutanshi.
Our trek took approximately 7 hours through the jungle of Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and enjoyed seeing the Kogui indians in their surroundings. After a grueling day of hiking we arrived at our second camp (equipped with hammocks, beds and tents) where we had many beers and a delicious fish dinner. I was extremely tired after hiking two days straight but really enjoyed the experience, wilderness and learning about the Kogui Indians and traditions.
After speaking with our guides, we wanted to get up at 4:30am so we can be the first ones to reach the “Lost City”. After finishing our breakfast, we hiked approximately 1 hour before climbing 1,200 steps to our main destination, “The Lost City”.
Although this seems like a walk in the park (literally), it was pretty difficult as we had to cross a river and a bridge that was washed out due to hurricane Matthew. Check out the videos to get a sense of the terrain and conditions.
Video of Stream Crossing:
Video of Washed Out Bridge Crossing and YES it was raining:
“The Lost City” is an amazing place high up in the mountains of the Columbian jungle and was discovered by looters in 1972 trying to find gold buried amongst the Kogui graves. Lots of treasure was found, however, after a dispute over the distribution of gold, several of the looters notified the Columbian government of the location. Approximately 30 years later, in 2003, eight tourists were captured by Guerrillas and were held hostage for 90 days. The guides told us that nobody was harmed and the tourists were captured to send a message to the Colombian government. After this incident, the Columbian government put a military presence located at the Lost City location to prevent future kidnapping and ensure it is safe for other tourists to visit this beautiful location. You can read more about the incident in the Wikipedia excerpt reference below.
The last day of this adventure started with breakfast at the camp and then we hiked another another 7 hours to our starting point. The 4 day hike was definitely extreme and I was VERY tired from all of the hiking but it was well worth the experience. If you ever visit Colombia, I would highly recommend this adventure but make sure you are well prepared!
Photo Credits: Brita Siepker – Thanks for letting me the use of your photos!
If you would like to read more about the “Lost City” including the capturing of several tourists by the Farc, check out the excerpt from Wikipedia:
Ciudad Perdida (Spanish for “Lost City”) is the archaeological site of an ancient city in Colombia‘s Sierra Nevada. It is believed to have been founded about 800 CE, some 650 years earlier than Machu Picchu. This location is also known as Teyuna and Buritaca.
Ciudad Perdida was discovered in 1972, when a group of local treasure looters found a series of stone steps rising up the mountainside and followed them to an abandoned city which they named “Green Hell” or “Wide Set”. When gold figurines and ceramic urns from this city began to appear in the local black market, archaeologists headed by the director of the Instituto Colombiano de Antropologia reached the site in 1976 and completed reconstruction between 1976-1982.
Members of local tribes—the Arhuaco, the Koguis and the Wiwas—have stated that they visited the site regularly before it was widely discovered, but had kept quiet about it. They call the city Teyuna and believe it was the heart of a network of villages inhabited by their forebears, the Tairona. Ciudad Perdida was probably the region’s political and manufacturing center on the Buritaca River and may have housed 2,000 to 8,000 people. It was apparently abandoned during the Spanish conquest.
Ciudad Perdida consists of a series of 169 terraces carved into the mountainside, a net of tiled roads and several small circular plazas. The entrance can only be accessed by a climb up some 1,200 stone steps through dense jungle.
The area is now completely safe but was at one time affected by the Colombian armed conflict between the Colombian National Army, right-wing paramilitary groups and left-wing guerrilla groups like National Liberation Army (ELN) and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). On September 15, 2003, ELN kidnapped eight foreign tourists visiting Ciudad Perdida, demanding a government investigation into human rights abuses in exchange for their hostages. ELN released the last of the hostages three months later. The United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), the paramilitary right-wing groups in that country, continued attacking aborigins and non aborigins in the zone for a while. For some time the zone has been free of incidents.
In 2005, tourist hikes became operational again and there have been no problems since then. The Colombian army actively patrols the area, which is now deemed to be very safe for visitors and there have not been any more kidnappings. For a six day return hike to the lost city, the cost is approximately US$300. The hike is about 44 km of walking in total, and requires a good level of fitness. The hike includes a number of river crossings and steep climbs and descents. It is a moderately difficult hike.
Since 2009, non-profit organization Global Heritage Fund (GHF) has been working in Ciudad Perdida to preserve and protect the historic site against climate, vegetation, neglect, looting, and unsustainable tourism. GHF’s stated goals include the development and implementation of a regional Management Plan, documentation and conservation of the archaeological features at Ciudad Perdida and the engagement of the local indigenous communities as major stakeholders in the preservation and sustainable development of the site.