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Tuesday 9 Feb 2010
Ciudad Perdida, Colombia

Lost City trek Day 1

The previous night I took a bus from Taganga into neighbouring Santa Marta to get some last minute supplies for the trek: insect repellent, baby wipes, sun cream, even a new pair of shorts and a new white shirt to keep the mozzies away. The list of items you could bring on a trip like this is endless, but I kept bearing in mind that I would be lugging this stuff with me all the way, so tried to keep everything to a minimum. No porters to carry my baggage this time matey!

Wrecked after a day of shopping, I went to have a beer and dinner (where I was joined by a Vodka-swilling Russian bloke and a guy from San Sebastian in Spain, who thought it was great that I was Irish so we could all represent the Russian mafia, along with ETA and the IRA), and then early to bed. The first shock came when I got up early the next morning to begin packing and realised my puny 20 litre backpack could only hold about 1/2 the items I bought for the trip! Doh! ... so first lesson, bring at least a 40 litre backpack on the Ciudad Perdida trek!

I was met by David, the young chap who gave me the hardsell the night before when he visited my hostel (Techos Azules) after a tip-off from the owner that I was interested in doing the trek. I had planned on going with one of the well-known agencies in Santa Marta (like Turcol), but David's presentation and perfect English (plus a solid promise that I wouldn't have to sleep in hammocks because of my back problem) had me convinced to go with his company. Now one thing David had told me initially was that the groups are no larger than 6 people to one guide, which I would have thought was the absolute max, but later the previous night when he came to collect the payment (only CP$ 500,000 - 200 euro - which is the same for all agencies) that he revealed that a sudden influx of people had signed up and that I would be joined by 10 others. At this point I'd already decided to do the trek so I just went along with it, plus I assumed that there would be at least 2 guides on the trek as a result.

How wrong I was. After picking up the 10 others from their hostel in Santa Marta, all crammed into the tiny 4x4 (I managed to call shotgun!) we drove the long 2 hour bumpy ride to the start point for the trek where we met our SINGLE guide, "Archie". At first I didn't mind this, but over the following days it would become apparent that for a group of our size, with people walking at different paces plus an extremely fast-walking guide charging ahead, you'd want 2 guides! One at the front, one at the back. Not a good situation! In fact a company I WOULD recommend though is Magic Tour, who were also trekking on the same route but at different pace to us so we only met the other tour in the evening in the huts. They had a small group, I think they even had 2 guides, their guide walked at a normal pace, and the people in the group were a lot more chilled than some of the guys I was stuck with...

So yeah, a brief mention of the people I was gonna be travelling with for the next 5 days! Most of them were pretty cool: 2 Swedes, 2 funny Dutchies in their 50s, a German guy, a really quiet Brazillian girl who you would hardly know was there as she kept herself separated from the group, and a sound English bloke from Leeds.

Then 3 Americans: 2 New Yorkers who were rather gruff and rude, but not intentionally, it was just them being typical New Yorkers. The star of the show though was a rude, obnoxious Mexican-American guy from California whose sole characteristic seemed to include incessently making sarcastic remarks in an extremely LOUD irritating nasal voice peppered with exclamations such as "Like... dude... totally". To get his point across he would basically talk louder than you. After the first few nights (one of which ended in me shouting at him) I found that avoidance was the best course of action.

Lesson learned? Well you can't choose your travel mates.. but you _can_ choose the company you go with!

OK enough with the negativity already! Apart from the dodgy setup this trip was to be among the most amazing I've ever undertaken...

The Trek on Day 1...

The first day was pretty damn challenging. The guide zoomed ahead at a rapid pace and myself and Kuss (one of the Dutchies), being the two least capable people on the trek, ended up buddying together. I was slow on account of my knee, he on account of not being fit! It's a very very difficult trek with many steep sections on all days, so you've gotta be in fairly decent shape!

Day 1   What a view
Day 1 What a view

There is a particularly notorious uphill section on the first day that I had read about, and indeed it was like spending a good 1.5 hours on a stairlift, with little or no breeze on dusty latarite terrain in fully exposed sun. A hat was compulsory gear. Stupidly I'd left my water bottle at the start-off point so it was only after a local lady gave me a spare bottle and I popped in 2 sterilising tabs could I continue onward.

Somehow we made it to the top, and it was here that we first saw what would become the true gem of the Lost City tour: the landscape. Stretching for miles around, the rainforest-covered Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains undulated across the sky in steep formations; rivers flowing at the bottom of lush valleys while eagles soar in the air. Stunning!

I need not have worried about running out of water either, as on the first day there are 2 or 3 huts selling Gatorade/Coke/Cerveca. Not always water though!... Not a bother though, as we also stopped off at 2 or 3 swimming holes along the flowing river. The water was so fresh, but not terribly cold.

Day 5   Camp for first...
Day 1 Camp

Day 5   Serene morning
Rainforest flowers

After a 3-4 hour trek in which we covered around 7km, we arrived at our base camp set deep in the rainforest and surrounded by the most amazing looking flowers. It also had yet another swimming hole, but this time with the single best waterfall I've ever swum in! Absolute bliss.

We also got to sample the first meal "on the road", and we weren't dissapointed. Raphael, our cook, was a pure genius and could swirl up a Beef Stroganoff with little more than a spatula, deep pan and wood-fire. We ate so well on this trip, plus beers were plentiful when required (although the price would rise considerably as we got deeper into the forest!).

The table we had dinner at was to become my bed for the night (albeit with a mattress on top!), while the others were all slung up in hammocks. Mozzie nets were flung up on top of all, and as I tried to get to sleep among all the sounds of the rainforest I had some crazy dreams about glowing eyes floating above me. I only later realised that it must have been the swarms of fire-flies.

3 Comments for this Travel blog entry

David Expotur eco Says:

8 March 2010

Hi peter. The next day you cameback from the lost city I call you but you were not in techos azules at the moment. I'm really sorry you did not enjoyed trek with our company, I dont want to blame the guide because is my responsability Im the owner.

peterforan Replies:

9 March 2010

Hi David. I enjoyed the trek, but it was exceedingly dangerous because there was one guide to 11 people and the guide would often zoom ahead with the faster walkers. You need AT LEAST 1 guide to 4-5 people. So there should have been 2 guides.

David expotur eco Says:

29 March 2010

Hi Peter thank you so much for understanding we are gonna correct the mistakes and thank you for your constructive complaints that's really important to improve our service. if some day are you planning to comeback call me I'll give you one free night. 2

peterforan Replies:

30 March 2010

David, I am entitled to write reviews of companies on my blog. You have mentioned that you have learned from the complaints and that is great, so people will now know to check you out. The fact that you are concerned about improving service is now shown!

David expotur eco Says:

29 March 2010

It is a promise. Just last one favor could you erase the fist message which I posted on your blog please? Thank you and I apologize with you again. Don't forget to call me when you comeback

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Photo Album

  • Day 1 Early...

    Ciudad Perdida

    Colombia

    Day 1   Early river crossing
  • Day 1 Our...

    Ciudad Perdida

    Colombia

    Day 1   Our first water hole!
  • Day 1 Kuss...

    Ciudad Perdida

    Colombia

    Day 1   Kuss and I
  • Day 1 What...

    Ciudad Perdida

    Colombia

    Day 1   What a view