Four days through the jungle; crossing rivers, trekking through mud, going through farmland, climbing over boulders, sleeping in mosquito nets, and passing by indigenous villages. The views were beyond beautiful and the experience was unforgettable. The Lost City (Ciudad Perdida) Trek was one of the coolest adventures I have ever had.
What is the Lost City Trek? It is exactly what is sounds like: a trek through the mountains of Colombia, South America, which lead to the city of Teyuna – the Lost City. This city was built between the 600-700’s and was finished in the 11th century. In 1976 the city was rediscovered and restored. You might wonder why it took so long for the Lost City to be rediscovered and the restoration begin. Colombia used to be a very dangerous country. Many drug cartels existed and violence was everywhere. Because of this, it wasn’t safe for people to venture out and therefore, it wasn’t until the violence of the country had calmed down that people ventured out enough and rediscovered this city. The trek to the Lost City is now very safe and hundreds, if not thousands, of people go visit Teyuna each year.
So how can you be one of the many people who visit this city each year? Read on, as I have included everything you need to know.
How To Prepare:
You want to make sure you’re prepared for this trek, especially if it is unlike anything you’ve done before. This was my first time doing a trek like this, so I definitely did my research as I wanted to be prepared. Make sure you are in good physical condition. The hike is 28 miles (46km) long and you will be hiking for 6-8 hours each day. Honestly, I would suggest working out quite a bit prior to doing this hike. I made the mistake of not doing that. I did survive the hike, but at some parts I felt as though it was taking every ounce of energy out of me to continue. Prepare for the mosquitoes. The mosquitoes weren’t as bad as I had thought that they would be, but we did go during the dry season. During rainy season the mosquitoes can get very bad. And at the Lost City, the mosquitoes were quite bad despite the time of year. Before leaving, I sprayed all my clothes, my backpack, and tennis shoes with insect repellent that I had gotten from Cabelas (http://www.cabelas.com/product/Sawyer-reg-Duranon-Permethrin-Insect-Repellent/714807.uts?productVariantId=1633517&WT.tsrc=PPC&WT.mc_id=BingPLA&WT.z_mc_id1=50024268&rid=20&msclkid=89505779fc8f151f31380d1343716764&gclid=CNqR-YD29NgCFVSSxQIddN0FWA&gclsrc=ds). In my next section I will go over what to pack, which includes mosquito protection equipment. Get proper vaccinations. Okay, so I might not have fully followed this tip myself. The CDC suggests you get the following vaccinations: boosters of your Hepatitis A vaccination and your Typhoid vaccination (you can acquire both diseases by consuming contaminated water and/or food) and in some areas of Colombia (the northern part of Colombia happens to be in this area) your Yellow Fever vaccination (https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/colombia). This is the one vaccination that I did not get. In our travel group it seemed about half of the people had the gotten vaccination and half of the people did not get the vaccination. This vaccination can be a hard one to get as not all travel clinics provide this vaccination. Our tour guides did tell us that it has been many years since there has been a case of Yellow Fever in this area; but that does not mean you shouldn’t take the proper precautions to be on the safe side.
What To Pack:
Pack lightly. You do not want to over-pack or pack unnecessary items adding to the weight of your backpack. You will be carrying your backpack for 6-8 hours per day for the next four days; anything extra packed will just add to the weight you’ll be carrying (which seems to get heavier every day). Bring travel size everything. Pack travel sizes of as many things as you can: shampoo & conditioner, toothbrush & toothpaste, hairbrush, etc. Prepare for the mosquitoes. Bring bug spray (travel size) and make sure it has a high percentage of DEET; some people disagree with using DEET – saying it can ruin your skin and poison the environment; I have never had an allergic reaction while using it, and I find it very effective. I ordered mine off of Amazon.com (https://www.amazon.com/Bens-Mosquito-Insect-Repellent-Ounce/dp/B00TV2J5IG/ref=sr_1_1_sspa?ie=UTF8&qid=1516947056&sr=8-1-spons&keywords=ben%27s+insect+repellent&psc=1); you can also get small sizes at Cabela’s; however, they are 4oz bottles so I wasn’t sure if I would be able to bring it in my carry-on on the plane (http://www.cabelas.com/product/SAWYER-PRODUCTS-MAXI-DEET-DEET-OZ/1816470.uts?slotId=1). I also packed a mosquito repellent lotion and mosquito repellent wipes (which I never used). I would apply the lotion morning and night as it lasts 12-hours (http://www.cabelas.com/product/SAWYER-PICARDIN-HR-LOTION/2045634.uts?slotId=0) – note: I couldn’t find the exact lotion I used, however, this is very similar. And the mosquito spray I would apply as I felt like I needed. Pack one backpack. You can fit everything you need for this 4 (to 6) day hike in a backpack. I used a camelback backpack from Cabela’s (http://www.cabelas.com/product/CAMELBAK-PRODUCTS-CLOUD-WALKER-WALKER-OZ/2432907.uts?slotId=0). Do not try to pack extra bags or bring along extra luggage. If you find yourself having more luggage than the backpack, usually whatever hostel you are staying at will be able to keep the extra luggage until you return from your hike.
My Packing List:
- shampoo (travel size)
- conditioner (travel size)
- deodorant (travel size)
- facewash (travel size)
- moisturizer (travel size)
- sunscreen (travel size)
- lotion (travel size)
- hand sanitizer (travel size)
- ROLL OF TOILET PAPER!!!
- hairbrush (travel size)
- razor (travel size)
- makeup if you feel the need, but it’s pointless as it would most likely melt off and just add to the weight of your backpack…plus you’re in the middle of a jungle
- one pair of tennis shoes or hiking boots – if they’re tennis shoes, don’t plan on keeping them after the hike
- flips flops or crocs – these will come in handy with some river crossings, and when swimming in the river in the evenings
- 2 pairs of gym shorts
- a pair of leggings or long pants – the evenings can get chilly
- 2 t-shirts
- 2 tank-tops
- 2 sports bras – I made the mistake of bringing just one, so trust me when I say to bring two
- underwear – enough for all 4 days as you won’t be doing laundry
- pj set
- a swimsuit
- a light jacket
This is a very detailed clothing list. Basically, you just want clean undergarments for each day; 2 hiking outfits – you can re-wear your hiking clothes; a swimsuit; something clean to sleep in; and leggings/pants and a jacket for the evenings.
- phone charger
- portable phone charger
- camera – I just used my phone for pictures, but some people did bring along their nice cameras
- 2 plastic bags – one for dirty laundry and one to cover important items if it rains
- a hand towel
- money – any place along the trek where you can buy snacks/water/etc. they take Colombian cash
- a water bottle!!
- itching cream – I did not pack this, but wish that I had
- mosquito repellent/lotion
How To Get There:
This is a guided tour (you cannot do it on your own) and you can do it in 4, 5, or 6 days. We did the tour in 4 days through a tour group called Magic Tours (https://magictourcolombia.com/tour-category/lost-city/). The tour guides were very nice and friendly and knew the trail very well. One of the tour guides said he has done this trek over 60 times! And the other tour guide said he can do the trek one-way in 6 hours! Each trip (4, 5, or 6-day) will get you to the same destination and you will be going the same amount of miles/kilometers; however, your days will be broken into shorter hiking stretches.
The tours for the Lost City leave from Santa Marta. Through Hostelworld.com we booked Cacao Hostel for the night before (https://www.hostelworld.com/hosteldetails.php/Cacao-Hostel/Santa-Marta/279357). The hostel was nice and clean; there was a kitchen, main area, pool & patio, and co-ed dorms. The workers at the hostel were very welcoming and accommodating. One of the workers even walked with us to and from the ATM. The hostel let us leave any extra bags that we had in a locked room to pick up after the hike. There are a lot of hostels and hotels in Santa Marta.
We chose Cacao Hostel because it was one of the cheapest, while still being a nice place to stay. When talking to the other people on the hike, it sounded like the hostels they stayed at were also very accommodating with keeping their luggage until they returned. I would suggest contacting your place of stay in advance just to double check.
With Magic Tours, they pick you up right from the hotel on the first day of the trek. I think most of the tour groups are like this. So you don’t have to worry about going somewhere to meet up with the tour group.
Tips For The Trek:
- Drink A LOT of water!! They suggest that you bring 1.5 liters of water for the first day. I brought along my personal water bottle and then a 1-liter store bought bottled water. At the camps they supply water that has been boiled and safe to drink so you can refill your water bottles here. Otherwise, you can usually buy bottled water at the camps as well. Some people had the hydration packs in their backpacks, so that is just another option as well!
- Prepare for mosquitoes! I know I’ve already mentioned this, but just don’t forget to bring mosquito supplies.
- Drying your clothes – so we discovered the hard way that if you leave your clothes up to dry overnight, they actually get more wet! So if you have wet or sweaty clothes, you can hang them up during lunches. On the last day, we knew we would be coming back to the camp for lunch, so we left some of our clothes hanging in the sunlight.
- Taking pictures – as I mentioned, some people did bring their nice cameras. I just used my cell phone for pictures. You don’t get any service on the hike, so I kept my phone on airplane mode the whole time. I brought with 2 portable chargers and they made my phone last. At one of the camps, there were electric outlets, but don’t depend on those.
- Packing food – I was worried about getting hungry on the hike. There is really no reason to pack extra food for the hike. They feed you VERY well with big meals and snack breaks. If you feel like you do end up wanting some extra food, you can buy snacks at the camps.
***Bonus Tip*** – don’t end up in the hospital!!
Hear about my friends’ and mine full adventure on this 4-day hike in the next blog post!