Tuesday 8 May
Santa Marta, Colombia
Just done a 14 hr bus trip to Medillin and waiting til 23:30 to do another 18 hours to the border of Ecuador and then 7 more to Quito. Its all good tho cause the bus was top notch and we've checked into a hostel for a few hours to relax and use the shower, internet, kitchen etc. Sure beats hangin' at the bus station for 12 hours!
Had one of the best experiences so far on our trip up near Santa Marta. Did a six day trek into the colombian jungle to the Lost City (Ciudad Perdida). Only accessible on foot it was a gruelling but absolutely amazing experience.
We were picked up in a funky multi coloured long wheel base Land Cruiser which took us to our starting point. The thing wasnt too good on the highway but it excelled once we got off road. First days hike was relatively short, started at around 2pm. It was a tough uphill grind. Steep continuous switchbacks.....close to 45 degrees at times I reckon....hell steep! The veiws were great but no comparisson to what lay ahead as we moved deeper into the jungle. We started a descent over thick orange clay towards our first nights stop and could hear the refrehing sound of a river - music to the ears - drenched in sweat, sore and tired, just craving a swim. First thing, off with the shoes (had been wearing only thongs for over 4 months). Then we were led to a sublime swimming hole with a small waterfall surrounded by jungle. Only way into the drink was a 4m jump off the smooth rocks next to the waterfall. Em was last to go, took all her courage, very difficult with everyone watching, but she did it!!! & scored a free mini enema for her troubles!
It was a tough nights sleep that night in the hammock. The geezer next to me somehow produced the most violent snoring I'd ever encountered, reminiscent of a chainsaw intermitantly cutting in & out. He kept waking himself up it was that hardcore.
Next days hiking was good, tough in the sun but more enjoyable once under the jungle canopy. Passed a little indigenous village, saw a snake black and Red, maybe 1.5m, very impressive. Camp that night was amazing, above the river which was flowing rather rapidly in this section. Slept in hammocks again and devoured all the food layed out for us. Walked a little further to a secluded swimming hole with two other guys. Just the 3 of us alone in the colombian jungle, Overcast skies spitting rain, steamy dense jungle covering, Impressive mountains, mist playing at their peaks & icy cold water splitting it all down the middle, allive like the snake we'd seen earlier. Exiting the cold water & laying on a hot rock that exuded steam, I felt colombia pulsing through me as I absorbed the warmth from the stone and the beauty all around me.
Next day was the toughest and the most impressive. Set off early, followed a narrow goat track hugging the cliffside. Quite treacherous at times in the wet conditions, no real path, just thin footholds of stone along a rock wall which we clung to precariously, a sheer drop of maybe 30m at times through the trees to the river below. Mind blowing vistas in the morning light revealing vast rolling mountains standing to attention, lush & robust side by side & into the distance their colours fading with the mist and cloud enshrouding the farthest examples, all looming over dense jungle, the powerful river cutting a winding path through it all over orange and black granite polished smooth over the centuries.
Em had blisters by this point and was suffering with each step.Terrain kept changing as we hiked up and then down again. We moved back into the jungle crossing shallow little creeks, lots of moss covered rocks and logs, heaps of ferns, it was very reminiscent of Victoria at times....the only difference being the tropical plants in amongst it all, and the sticky heat!
Back down on the river we took a break in a picturesque spot with some tasty apple and pear energy food. We then crossed the river, the first in a long line of crossings as we followed the river at times on its banks but mostly along its edges and down the middle in places where it was wider, shallower and less formidable. Discovered wet shoes aren't so bad, quite comfy actually. It began to rain just as we reached the final hurdle in our journey to discover the lost city...2000 of the steepest steps you'll ever see all covered in moss. It was pretty tough going, especially after hiking up & down all day. We were completely surrounded by jungle, occassionally there'd be a gap in the trees allowing a glimpse of the mountains and mist around us. Spotted the first terraces and thought we'd arrived, but not so, had to get to the top. Arriving at the main terraces- which were the spiritual centre inhabited by the most important peeps- we found ourselves above the jungle and were afforded 360 degree panoramic views, which included a majestic waterfall, mist/clouds constantly moving through, vast views down and across valleys, a very spiritual place indeed.
Over the two days we spent up there the scenery was in a constant state of flux with the clouds and the light. Each time I looked up a magical beauty penetrated my sight and reached inside of me. The enchanting feelings this place produced were magnified when I was up there alone at dawn. What made it even more special was the fact that you could only view this through hard work on foot.
Ciudad Perdida was built roughly between the 8th & 14th centuries. It sits at an altitude of 950-1300 metres. There are some 150 sone terraces on top of which buildings were errected. Only 10% of the city has been uncovered. The inhabitants were the Tayrona indians who seemed to live a peaceful life off the land with numerous cities throughout the area.
I could tell you more but I think I've crapped on for way too long already!
The scenery on the way back on the first morning was insane. The lighting and the fact that we were fresh enough to enjoy our surroundings made it truly memorable. After that it was just a tough slog really, with our minds on the finish line.
It was such an immense and rewarding experience and one we shall never forget.
Getting psyched for another long bus and looking forward to checking out Peru.
Dave & Em