Mountains, mud, waterfalls, jungle, farmland. The Lost City Trek had it all. I would have to say that it was the highlight of my recent trip to Colombia. I did a 4-day tour of the Lost City with the company Magic Tours. Below, I go into detail, day-by-day, about what my 4 day, 28 mile hike in the jungle was like.
We got picked up from our hostel around 9:00am on Monday morning. We were brought over to the Magic Tour office where we waited for the rest of the group members to get picked up. Colombia seems to move at their own pace, so we ended up leaving the office a lot later than we were expecting. Sitting in the office gave us time to meet some of the other group members – there were two girls from Spain, a man from Washington D.C., and another man from Holland. Once the rest of the group arrived, it added two girls from Ireland, four more people from Holland, and a couple on their honeymoon from Colombia. Sidenote: I felt like I was on some type of game show or survival show the whole time – also, if it was a survival show…I lost.
When everyone had arrived, we got our luggage strapped to the top of two big white vans and all hopped in! There were nine people in our van, and we even picked up a mother and her son along the way to drop them off at a nearby village. The van ride was hot and bumpy, but having windows open let in a nice breeze. After an hour, we stopped in a little village where there was a place to buy snacks or water and use the restroom if needed. After this quick stop, we were on our way for another hour in the van. We finally made it to another village where we unloaded our luggage and got sat down for what seemed like a feast before the hike! We got a giant plate full of chicken and rice and other delicious foods. All of our meals throughout the hike were feast-like and delicious! After we had finished eating, it was time to start the hike and make it to our first camp where we’d spend the night.
If I am remembering correctly, it was about 2:00pm when we left lunch, and we made it to our camp around 6/6:30pm. This first day was not very hard, and it made me think this hike would be a piece of cake – I was wrong. We crossed a river right away and then climbed up one big hill for about 45 minutes, but after that it was pretty flat for the most part. This first day we had so many stops along the way. We had a rest-stop right at the top of the hill; we got a watermelon stop; a coffee stop – fresh homemade brewed Colombian coffee; and a stop at the highest peak on the trail where there were also cocoa beans you could try. We definitely got spoiled this first day with pretty easy terrain and all the stops we made. The last half-hour or so of our hike was in the dark and through a bunch of mud. Then we finally made it to our camp for the night. We crossed a bridge over a river into the camp and were directed to our beds.
There are several tour groups that spend the night at each of these camps along the trek, so there are certain areas designated for each group. There were rows of bunk-beds all covered in mosquito netting. We were told to either rinse off in the shower or in the river before dinner. We chose the river – more fun. Our guide led us down a path and over some rocks to the top of a small cliff. We all then pro
ceeded to jump in to cool down and clean off for the evening. After jumping in the river, we then proceeded to get into warmer clothes, as it was starting to cool down, and get ready for dinner. Dinner was – again – a delicious feast. I do not remember each individual meal we had, but just about every meal had some type of meat, rice, another side dish, and then they would always give us a yummy Colombian treat for dessert!
After supper, our tour guides told us about some of the different plants in the jungle. There was one flower (nicknamed Devil’s Dust) and if you so much as blew the powder of the plant on someone, they would forget everything that was happening – this used to be a common way to mug people. After learning about some of the native plants, some people headed to bed, and others stayed up to play a game of Dominos. I was one of those people who stayed up to play Dominos – it became the game of the trip.
Day 2 came sooner than we thought it would – especially after staying up playing Dominos. We were served a huge breakfast – eggs, fruit, and toast; offered a cup of coffee; and then packed our backpacks and headed on for the day. We would usually leave the camps by 6:30am. Most people say day 2 is the hardest because there’s the most walking. I found day 3 to be the hardest, but this one was still quite difficult. We had a small river crossing right away, then trekked through some mud, and went up and down hill. An hour and a half into the hike we got a fresh fruit stop – pineapple, watermelon, and oranges were usually the fruits at the stops.
As we got further along the trail, we started passing people who belonged to the indigenous villages. Some would be families traveling together, others would be siblings, and some would be young boys running along with their dogs. It always amazed me how fast the people would walk or run on these trails, and some didn’t even have shoes on their feet. The indigenous people dressed in all white – both male and female – and had long beautiful hair. The men would carry a sack around their shoulder, and the women would have colorful necklaces adorned around their neck. At one of our rest stops, there were indigenous children selling bracelets.
Another river, more mud, and we made it to some farmland. It was flat for quite a while. We passed pastures with horses in them, children playing along the pathway, and a village. The men and women of the village live in separate houses. The men all live in one big house, while the women live with the children in smaller houses. The children do not attend school, as there is no need for them to go. They learn everything they need to for their lifestyle without having to attend school. Farming is a big part of their culture. And we were told that money and time are not used by the villages. You will see children playing and sometimes you will see them selling bracelets along the trek. By age 14 or 15 years old, they usually start having kids. And by the age of 30, they usually have around 10 children.
We hiked until about noon then stopped at a camp for lunch. After lunch, we continued to hike until we made it to our camp around 5:00pm. We had made some river crossings, walked over bridges, passed waterfalls, and saw some pigs. There really wasn’t much wild-life that we saw on this trek, so the pigs were pretty exciting. Once making it to our camp, we once again had to either shower or go in the river before dinner. And once again, I opted to go in the river. After cooling off and getting changed for the evening, we sat down for another feast. Most people went to bed very early that night, but we once again stayed up and played Dominoes. The beds at the second camp were not as comfy. I was put on a top bunk, and barely had room to even roll over as it was so close to the ceiling.
I was much more exhausted by day 3 than I thought I would be. My legs were extremely sore just getting out of bed that morning! Once again, we were up and moving bright and early. This was the big day because we would make it to the Lost City which was now only about an hour or so hike away! We left the camp by 6:00am and made it to the Lost City by 7:00am – believe it or not, we were the last group to arrive for the day by the time we made it. Sidenote: there was a group of hikers – all older men, like quite a bit older men, and they were amazing hikers! They would fly by me and make me feel like a pathetic human. I hope some day I can be as great of a hiker as they all were!
After climbing 1,000 steep steps, we entered the Lost City – Teyuna. It was an amazing feeling to finally make it to this magnificent and beautiful city. The city started being built in 600-700, and was completed in the 11th century. Corruption and violence throughout the country made this city become forgotten, as it was unsafe to venture off in the jungles and rainforests for quite some time. In 1976, the city was re-discovered. Archeologists discovered it and started digging away, uncovering this magnificent city. The indigenous tribes that were still living there asked the archeologists to stop in 1987. The digging was stopped, but the tribes did agree to have visitors come and see this forgotten city. Every September, the park is closed for any cleaning that needs to be done.
When walking through the city, you see all these rings made from stone. Each ring is the foundation of a house or terrace. There is believed to be 885 terraces or more; however, because the digging was stopped we are unsure of how massive this city really was. When a family member would pass away, they would be buried in the middle of the house with all their belongings; then, another layer would be built on top of them. When walking around and looking at the rings, you can see where new layers were added onto the foundation.
Our tour guides told us a lot about the history of the city and stories that were told about it. And then they gave us some time to walk around, take pictures, and see the different areas of the city. There were some indigenous children there who were very friendly and would come up and ask us for some of the snacks we were given.
After getting quite a while to explore the park, we gathered as a group again. In the city, there are still several people living in Teyuna; the leader of the tribe, his wife, and children are some of the people who get to live in the Lost City. We went through the part of the city where they are still living, and met one of the tribe members. He gave us a bracelet as a peace sign and it’s also supposed to be a protector from snakes – we did not see any snakes the whole trek.
The tribe member also told us how they find their tribe leaders. Usually the baby is born on the night of a full moon. By the age of 8 – 10 years old the boy will start training. They cannot eat a lot of foods and they train during the night. At the end of their training they all go to a conference where they present their knowledge and the new leader is chosen.
After speaking with the tribe member and each receiving a bracelet, we finished walking through the back side of the city and returned to walk back down the 1,000 stairs. We hiked back to the camp for lunch where we had spent the night before. I was feeling so exhausted that I could barely eat lunch and I laid down to nap. I was in no way ready to continue this hike, I just wanted to sleep. This day was so hard for me, the sun seemed so hot and I was more than exhausted. It was the first day on the hike where I wasn’t able to eat any of the food because I was not feeling well. I was in no way ready to continue hiking, but after our hour lunch break we were on the road again.
We hiked back the same route that we had hiked on day two. A lot of the day was downhill since the day before was all uphill. It was hard for me to decide which was worse – hiking uphill or downhill. As the day continued, I became more and more exhausted and my hiking slowed down immensely. I realized I did not drink a lot of water that day and am assuming I had some type of heat exhaustion.
We finally made it to the camp where we had eaten lunch the day before. I felt like I was going to cry because of happiness! We went swimming in the river and then sat down for dinner, which I was once again unable to eat. We had an indigenous tribe member speak with us that night. He told us about their culture, beliefs, and ways of life. He also opened it up to questions and answered any questions people might have. It was interesting to hear all that the tribe member had to say and was very educational. Unfortunately, I was so exhausted that it was very hard to remember what he all said. I ended up going to bed at 8:00pm that night before the speaker was was over, and I did not get my night game of Dominoes in.
By this point I was going back and forth on if I enjoyed the hike anymore. I was so excited to be back in Santa Marta and be done hiking, yet I loved being out in the jungle.
Because I went to bed so early, I got a really good night’s sleep and felt energized for the last day of the hike. We were so close back to the starting point the end of this adventure; just about six hours of hiking this day and then we had completed the trek of 28 miles. We started hiking at 6:00am again, and passed by the same farmlands and village that we had two days prior. We definitely took our time hiking back this day. We were excited because it was the last day and there didn’t seem like there was any pressure at all. We got fruit stops, saw the highest point on the trail again, and made a stop at the cocoa bean place.
A few more river crossings, mud, and hills and we made it to the starting point. There was a big lunch awaiting us. I still could barely eat. The last full meal I had eaten was breakfast the day before. I was so excited to have completed the hike. I was looking forward to not having to hike for eight hours the next day. The hike had been unbelievably beautiful. The scenery was so lush the whole hike. We had had amazing weather – not one time of rain.
At lunch, everyone was comparing blisters. People had their feet wrapped or covered in Band-Aids; everyone seemed to have one part of them that hurt the most; and everyone’s feet throbbed. We were all proud of the big accomplishment we had made. Everyone was talking about where they were going next. Most of us had planned to go somewhere relaxing next; either the beach or Minca – a town up in the mountains where there’s a hostel with the largest hammocks in Colombia.
After lunch, we got bused back to our hostel. We were so happy to be back and be able to just relax for the evening. Little did we know, there was one last little adventure left.
After getting cleaned up and changed into fresh clothes we went out to dinner. At dinner, one of my friends all of a sudden started feeling very nauseous and unable to eat. What she was describing was how I had felt that day and the day before. We went back to our hostel after dinner, and not long after, my friend started throwing up. She was unable to even keep water down. She realized that she had not drank much water that day and once again it was probably heat exhaustion. Knowing she needed to get hydrated and wasn’t able to do so on her own, we ended up taking a taxi to the emergency room around midnight. The hospital was clean and run well and she was able to get the help she needed right away. So make sure when you do this hike that you drink PLENTY of water! Even if you think you’re drinking enough, just keep drinking more.
The Lost City trek was by far the most strenuous hike I have ever done; but, it was also one of the most breathtaking adventures I have had. If you get the chance, experience the hike for yourself and have an amazing adventure.