Thursday, 4 July 2013

Ciudad Perdida: The Lost City in Colombia

Deep in the jungle just off the northern Caribbean coastline of Colombia lies one of it's once hidden treasures, Ciudad Perdida, or in English, The Lost City. It was found in 1972 by grave robbers, but interest in it from archaeologists didn't peak until 1976 when the city's gold relics started to hit the black market. To  get to this Lost City you have to go on a four to six day trek, with the four day one being far more rigorous as each day constitutes at least six hours walking constantly up and downhill.

There are plenty of tour operators around offering the same deal and all at the same price which has pretty much been set now. You can't do this trek on your own steam though, you need to do it through an agency. If you just turned up, the first army check point you come to will just deny you entry so you'll have made your way to the entrance for nothing.

Tours include food, water and a guide who is unlikely to speak any English whatsoever, if you were to get an English speaking guide I would consider that a massive bonus. Four, five and six day treks all cost the same, so depending on your time constraints or whether you want to challenge yourself or not, you can take the full on four day walk or the more relaxing six day walk. The result is the same, you still walk the same 44km return trek and make it to the Lost City early in the morning.

The six day trek is essentially three days up and three days down at a steady pace, if you have the time it is almost worth doing as it isn't half as difficult and you pay the same as you would for four days anyway, so you can look at it as an efficient way of spending money on accommodation for example. The four day trek is much more hands on and you need to put your head down and get your sweat on.

It's the usual drill to start things off, pick up at the hostel and waste a couple of hours getting people together and a general sense of what is happening. Once the jeeps are loaded, it's a two to three hour drive to the park entrance, half on tarmac and half on a bumpy road winding through the jungle at the slowest pace possible. Lunch is served and as is always the way with these tours, introductions are made and people start to the get to know each other.

The first day is about six hours long and sets the tone for the following three days. This isn't one of those treks where you go steadily up, reach a target and then come back down. The way undulates constantly and not much elevation is ever really gained, it's not until we got there that I found out the Lost City is only at 1200m.

There are small rivers to cross by stepping across the stones, open fields where you are exposed to the elements and close heat and humidity when you  walk along the jungle paths, at which stage you will be dripping wet regardless of the weather.One thing you need on this trek is water, and lots of it, because you will sweat an inordinate amount. Now is probably also a good time to mention that you should have one set of clean and dry clothes for the evenings to change into, keeping these dry and staving off mozzies should be your main goal at night, besides finding rum in the jungle. It's always available though.



The Lost City (Ciudad Perdida) trek in Colombia


The Lost City (Ciudad Perdida) trek in Colombia

The Lost City (Ciudad Perdida) trek in Colombia

The Lost City (Ciudad Perdida) trek in Colombia

The Lost City (Ciudad Perdida) trek in Colombia

The Lost City (Ciudad Perdida) trek in Colombia

The Lost City (Ciudad Perdida) trek in Colombia

The Lost City (Ciudad Perdida) trek in Colombia

The Lost City (Ciudad Perdida) trek in Colombia

On the second day you'll be tempted to put on fresh clothes as your clothing from the previous day will remarkably be wetter than what it was when you took it off, this is a mistake however. I always over pack anyway, so I happily had two sets of dry clothes at this stage so I decided to put one of those on in the hope my wet clothes from the first day would dry, futile to say the least. Within an hour these once dry and clean clothes were a mess and sadly never to recover.

Progress is similar to the first day, hot and sweaty work with more rivers to fjord and steeper steps as you slowly make your way further into the jungle and away from the coast. On a five or six day hike you would only walk three hours but that's just pointless so it's another six hour day to the next campsite, the only difference here is the river is close enough for you to hop into and relax in at the end, provided you can handle the cold. However, after a day of sweating and walking through this humidity, the cold flowing water is nothing but bliss.


The Lost City (Ciudad Perdida) trek in Colombia

The Lost City (Ciudad Perdida) trek in Colombia

The Lost City (Ciudad Perdida) trek in Colombia

The Lost City (Ciudad Perdida) trek in Colombia

The Lost City (Ciudad Perdida) trek in Colombia

The Lost City (Ciudad Perdida) trek in Colombia



The Lost City (Ciudad Perdida) trek in Colombia


The Lost City (Ciudad Perdida) trek in Colombia

The Lost City (Ciudad Perdida) trek in Colombia

The Lost City (Ciudad Perdida) trek in Colombia

The Lost City (Ciudad Perdida) trek in Colombia

The Lost City (Ciudad Perdida) trek in Colombia

The Lost City (Ciudad Perdida) trek in Colombia

By this stage you are getting used to the early morning wake up calls which is just as well as it's another one on the third day, only this time you get to leave your bags behind as it's pretty much a straight shot to the Lost City from here, just water and a camera needed.

The walk isn't too long, with only one river to cross where the water comes up to waist height so once again, keep your wets on. From there after you follow the bank for a short while until you come to the staircase that leads all the way up to the city. There are some 1200 steps to navigate here so it's pretty much head down and grit your teeth as your body slowly wakes up as you traverse this steep and winding stairwell. It's usually pretty wet here so be careful and watch your step.

At the top, the city itself isn't all that impressive, there are 169 terraces in total but only the stone foundations remain, at most, on any of them. The jungle surrounds the city entirely until you walk up over a rise and the city opens up around you and you can see nothing but the sky and terraces ahead of you. Locals of the Kogui tribe still live in huts around the city, so don't be surprised if you see some indigenous folk up here as you meander around the grounds.

The Lost City (Ciudad Perdida) trek in Colombia

The Lost City (Ciudad Perdida) trek in Colombia

The Lost City (Ciudad Perdida) trek in Colombia

The Lost City (Ciudad Perdida) trek in Colombia

The Lost City (Ciudad Perdida) trek in Colombia

The Lost City (Ciudad Perdida) trek in Colombia

The Lost City (Ciudad Perdida) trek in Colombia

The Lost City (Ciudad Perdida) trek in Colombia

The Lost City (Ciudad Perdida) trek in Colombia

The Lost City (Ciudad Perdida) trek in Colombia

The Lost City (Ciudad Perdida) trek in Colombia

The Lost City (Ciudad Perdida) trek in Colombia

The Lost City (Ciudad Perdida) trek in Colombia





The Lost City (Ciudad Perdida) trek in Colombia

The Lost City (Ciudad Perdida) trek in Colombia

The Lost City (Ciudad Perdida) trek in Colombia

The Lost City (Ciudad Perdida) trek in Colombia

The Lost City (Ciudad Perdida) trek in Colombia

The Lost City (Ciudad Perdida) trek in Colombia

The Lost City (Ciudad Perdida) trek in Colombia


This trek is pretty much a cul-de-sac so once you have finished looking around the city, it is back the way you came, the whole way. Coming down isn't as easy as you wish, as the trail bobs up and down the whole way, some of the stretches on the way back are pretty steep and you wonder how you don't remember them on the way through the jungle. For the remainder of the third and the morning of the fourth day, it is pretty much a straight shot back to the start.

Even though this is a tough and sweaty slog, it is definitely worth the effort. The actual city at the top won't blow you away but the walk through the jungle itself is different to any other I have done and comes with its own rewards. A tad pricy for what it is and not enough food for me, but other than that well worth it if you have the time whilst visiting the Caribbean coast of Colombia.





4 comments:

  1. Smashed this bad boy back in March. Good lad for doing it in 4 days. Truelad.com... Enjoy the rest of your travels, Flash x

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yeah I was a hot, sweaty mess but totally worth it. Four days is the way to go mate!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Excellent post! Mind if I link to it from my recent post?
    http://my.lasttrip.to/ciudad-perdida-colombia-the-lost-city/

    PS - Here, There, Sand Everywhere. Awesome!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi Dave, glad you like the blog! Feel free to link it to your own post.

    ReplyDelete