Up early to leave the Lost City as we had a full on day ahead of us. Essentially over the next 10 hours we were supposed to walk back all the way to the first camp we had stayed in 3 nights ago! That's roughly 18km back across the rivers, and valleys!! The idea is that it's MOSTLY downhill, but to be honest there were at least 2 hours of solid uphill on the return journey, plus we weren't going to be permitted any swimming breaks, not to mention our packs were about 20% heavier now that everything was wet from sweat and humidity.
The advantage of covering so much in one day, though, was that we would be able to spend longer chilling out at the amazing waterfall at camp 1, and then have a more "relaxing" final day walking to the pickup point. For me, the first camp still has my favourite swimming spot of them all! (photo on the left)
This was the hardest day. Let alone for the fact that the climb DOWN the Lost City steps is one of the most dangerous parts of the journey...
It had rained heavily the previous night so the already-slippy steps were now greased in a fine slime. If you didn't put your foot on the step exactly horizontal, you were likely to end up horizontal yourself. What didn't help matters was that the guide was in such a rush this morning that he left with the fast walkers fairly quickly, and I decided I'd catch up with them when I left 5 minutes later. BAD IDEA.
Always stick with your guide in the Lost City... even when you are leaving. You WILL get lost otherwise.
Whatever little pathway they took, I clearly took the wrong one, and so after clambering down some 200 steps, even slipping up on one and almost landing on my tail bone but was saved by my backpack, I realised I didn't recognise where I was. My guide and group had left without me! I was stranded as there were no more groups in the Lost City to head home with!
After 10 minutes where I started to panic a bit, I thought logically for a second... "ok I remember someone saying that they got helicoptered out when they were bit by a snake.. maybe I can pull that off", so with this last desperate idea, I trudged back up to my camp to see if I could find the soldiers and try to bribe them! As luck would have it our cook, Raphael, happened to cross my path.. just in the nick of time.. he's such a fast walker that had I been 1 second later I would have missed him! Thank Christ!
It turned out the actual path was COMPLETELY different to what I remembered, so I would have never found it.
Going down the 1,200 steps Raphael kindly informed me in Spanish how roughly 1 out of every 3 groups going down these steps has had at least one person fall and break their kneecap, ankle or arm. So I quickly stopped being brave and turned around to climb down the stairs backwards using my hands as secondary "feet". This is the ONLY way I'd recommend going down the steps, as when I met the others later they all told me that they had about 2-3 falls on the way down, whereas I got away with none.
I didn't bother changing out of my shoes into my sandals when going through the river as I was desperate to catch up with the group, so I got nice soggy shoes to accompany me on the dusty track back. Nice!
Eventually I caught up, but as the guide was still extremely fast and would often disappear down a particular junction I had to rely on my "keen" tracking skills to find the way. Basically I just either looked for wet footprints or donkey shit. Donkeys are used to carry the loads on most of the journey, so a fresh batch of crap in your path is a good sign!
Several hours later, and one damn sore knee later, I made it to the 2nd Day camp. While having soup lunch here, Archie told us that it's 3 more hours to the first camp. And it's not at all downhill.. in fact there's a huge uphill section.
Myself and Kuss were wrecked. Plus one or two of the others had sore knees as well. Archie then came up with an excellent idea: our packs can be taken down using a donkey and then we can walk the whole way without the weight of our bags! Genius! Although why the hell couldn't we just have used a donkey on the whole trek I'll never know
I wasn't aware that only about 5 of us knew about this plan, so as I was marching along without a care in the world, MP3 player belting out The Walkmen, I found I was overtaking the normally fast walkers (who still had their backpacks as they had left before Archie suggested the donkey idea). Doh!
Arrived at the first camp in record time.. and jumped into the waterfall for a well earned massage. Fantastic!