Besides having a secure marina where Milly could be left for a few days at a time, Santa Marta is a perfectly situated city to explore northern Colombia. Here’s where the Lost City comes in. We had heard about it from other cruisers, read about it in cruising guides and The Lonely Planet - which is our favourite tourism series - and we were itching to hike the four day, 47 km roundtrip trail between 900 and 1200 meters above sea level.
Ciudad Perdida, covering 30 hectacres, is a part of a sacred region and site of the most extensive of 300 other smaller villages in the area. It is, therefore, thought to have been a seat of political power for the surrounding villages. The population at it’s height is estimated to have been about 2,000.
The Tairona inhabited the area for thousands of years before the first Europeans arrived in the New World. When the Spanish began to plunder the countryside for gold, the wise people of the Tairona preferred to abandon Ciudad Perdida sometime between 1580 and 1650, instead of allowing the riches of the site to be ransacked and stolen. It was not until 1976 that this remote and difficult to access site was officially rediscovered, completely overgrown by vegetation but having been plundered in the early 1970's by those seeking gold.
To access the trail and the city it is required to hire a guide and touring company. We chose Expotur, most highly recommended by our book but they provided an English translator. We arrived psyched and ready for what we had been told was a tough hike. It was my first multi day hike and Peter’s first since his childhood hiking in Norway. We were ready…we thought.
|The cruiser/hikers ready to go. At the marina, still clean and with smiles. The smiles remained, not so the cleanliness.|
Our group was made up of cruisers Dave of Livin’ Life, Steve of Slow Flight, Brita and Jason of Deep Blue, two young Belgian guys on a two week holiday before their girlfriends at home gave birth in the next weeks, one very young American teacher on a three month backpacking trip and six youngish Colombians. Note: There is a theme here!
|Heading out of the village. The 100 meters were on paved road, followed by dirt road, then lane, then single-file trail.|
|Another rest stop on day 2. This one had a few items for sale including freshly squeezed orange juice. Our mules had already delivered some fruit so we had no need to buy.|
|A Kogi village beside the trail. Each building is round with mud and thatch walls and thatch roofs. The two sticks coming out the top of the roof symbolize the two snowcapped mountains in the Sierra Nevada.|
|A few people were about the village but we were requested not to take their pictures unless they agreed. We were also told not to go into their homes - who would do that?? I guess some have.|
|Rejuvenated after lunch for a very long, uphill slog. We were spread out by the time we reached the top. Steve and Peter were always in the lead - no surprise.|
|Another suspended bridge over more water. This one had wide open sides and the plates of metal moved with respect to each other kind of like a "fun house" at the CNE.|
|Steve in the lead, his speed hampered by the mules.|
|It poured with rain during the afternoon of the third day. I had not fallen in the river but was totally drenched from the sky. The river, of course, was swollen and rushing. No bridge this time, only a rope we were told to hang onto downstream.|
|This bridge has been washed out by the fallout after Hurricane Matthew hit the area. The river below, fallen trees, mud, all safely negotiated in the rain.|
|Another bridge. It was getting a bit chilly, unbelievably, in the wet.|
|Another river to ford before we got to the stairs leading to the city. Time: About 6:00 a.m. We were able to leave our packs at the hostel so we felt extremely light - good thing because their were 1260 uneven, steep steps to climb.|
|Problem was the steps were so uneven that you had to concentrate climbing and especially going down. The scenery was a bit lost. Important to stop and look around.|
|Steep! Definitely short of breath.|
|I know, I know enough of the stairs but they were pretty, too. Covered with moss.|
|This is a map of the region drawn hundreds of years ago.|
|The cruiser group. We made it with only a few blisters, a couple of toenails that were going to come off and tired legs. Really great feeling to arrive. Now we just had to go back.|
|Because we left at 5:30 a.m., we were the first group on the site. Glorious!|
|There are two Kogi dwellings in the city for the Mama, the enlightened leader of the tribe, and his family. His wife - he could have two - and the female children stay in the smaller home and he and his sons in the other.|
|The city foundations were terraced because of the steep terrain. The whole city is built on a ridge. In this photo you can see the trees and brush that were knocked down by Matthew.|
|Such beautiful green.|
|Archeologists have noted that the Tairona were exceptional at providing movement between houses, areas within the city and between cities. And there were beautiful stairways and paths all over the place.|
|The toilets at a rest stop. Looking a bit fragile. Most of the toilets were at least in concrete, unlit cubicles.|
|Our hostel on day 3 had been our lunch stop on day 2 where we swam in the river. Another swim instead of shower and then we hung around the dining room table. No where else to go.|
|Day 4, returning to civilization. A very few homes in sensational landscape.|
|Mules do a lot of dirty work. These had a full load.|
|We all tumbled out of the car to get a better view.|