This story begins about 1200 years ago, deep in the jungles of what is now Colombia. The indigenous peoples of the day carved 150 stone terraces into the side of a valley. On these terraces they built a large city of wooden structures. The people lived here for centuries until the Spanish arrived and basically wiped them out. The city fell out of known existence for 4 hundreds years. Fast forward to 1972, when some tomb looters discovered an ancient stone staircase that led up from a river deep in the jungle. Twelve hundred stairs later, the city had been found. Word got out. The government named it Cuidad Perdida, literally, “Lost City”.
I signed up for a 5 day trek to the city, which my guidebook described as “rugged”. The trekking itself was not difficult, but the heat was debilitating. Luckily this is one of those full-service affairs, as the government does not allow independent trekking here. So, donkeys and guides carried and cooked my food. They navigated for me. Hammocks were provided for sleeping. There was nothing for me to do except try not to pass out from over-heating and chat with my fellow trekkers. Oh, and the mosquitoes/sandflies were carnivorous! On our way in we saw two guys on their way out; their legs were covered in dozens and dozens of red bites. It looked like they had been subject to some kind of military experiment that had gone horribly wrong. I wish I had gotten a picture. But, it turns out the bites were not as bad as they looked (although barely). We all survived and it was an all-around great time.
Below is a pic of our top-notch trekking team. From left to right: Scott & Adam (NZ), Carlos our guide, Johnny (Aus), Andrea (England), myself, Alicia (Aus), Uli (Germany), and Daphne (Ireland). I told you all that so that I could tell you this: I had met Andrea New Years Eve in Cambodia, and bumped into her again in Myanmar. Subsequently, she met Uli in Myanmar, and travelled with him again New Zealand. Uli had trekked in Nepal with Scott. Scott & Adam and Johnny & Alicia had travelled with mutual people earlier in South America. Lastly, Andrea met Daphne a month earlier in the Galapagos Islands. (Did you get all that?) It turned into a reunion of world travelers! The world is huge, but sometimes it reminds me how small it can be.
(pic from Andrea L´s camera)
Just a few of the 1200 steps up to the city. I could have used an escalator…
Don’t have a backpack handy? No problem. All you need is a little Colombian ingenuity. Put the goods in a sack. Then use twine and your pants to fashion yourself a pair of shoulder straps! Added bonus: you have a pair of pants to wear in the evenings.
Our high-class accommodations: hammocks and mosquito nets.
Guides help the trekkers during one of Day Three´s 9 river crossings.
I now find myself in Cartagena. It must be one of Colombia´s most picturesque cities. I will try to capture it for you (and my 70-year-old self).