The day began with the arrival at the tour office of Expotur in Santa Marta, the travel agency I got recommended by other travelers in Medellin. The price for the 4 days / 3 nights tour is fixed at 1,100,000 COP at all agencies and hence it is important to pick some which have a good reputation. Santa Marta is the starting point for all Lost City Trek tours.
The night in Santa Marta’s hostel was very hot – one could clearly feel that Santa Marta is based in a tropical zone 😉 I paid the outstanding balance in the morning of the departure (paid a deposit of 30USD via PayPal) as I arrived the day before shortly before midnight. I left my backpack in the tour companies‘ office and asked them to bring it with them on the arrival day such that I could head straight to the Tayrona National Park.
In total the Expotur group was huge: 39 people and hence we got split into 3 smaller groups. Apparently, they did it according to age such that I, of course, landed in the group of the oldest 😉
It was thirteen of us and mainly couples: Two Belgians, two Dutch, two English, two Slovenians, two Americans (dad and son) and two other Germans and me.
We drove in three Landcruisers around two hours to the village of El Mamey where we had lunch in a restaurant (chicken, rice, salad and platano). Then we started hiking uphill at 12:45h. It was very hot and humid outside and the first section was completely open.
The trail started at 400m above sea level and led through a couple of up and downs to the highest point of 840m on this day. The distance covered the very first day was quite easy: Only 8km. However, due to the heat and the reoccurring ascents and descents it took us 4h to reach the first camp.
During the hike we had great views of the forests and fauna of the Sierra Nevada, which is apparently the highest coastal mountain range (tallest peak above 5000m). We crossed a bridge over a river which was located close to the first base camps. After two hours of walking it started to rain which is quite common at this time of the year. Our guides Gabriel Jose and Paula handed out plastic bags to cover our backpacks. On this track we had to carry our luggage by ourselves.
Due to the heat I did not bother to put on the rain poncho I brought. My clothes were anyway soaked due to endless sweating. The last section was slippery and muddy and every second person fell. Bryan, the young American, slipped and got even a cut on his elbow. Fortunately, not too deep. Hence, everybody was quite happy to arrive at the first camp where we got a refreshing shower and cold beer for 6000 COP. We even got real beds covered with mosquito nets – what a luxury! As electricity went out around 21:30 we went to bed early.
The next day started early at 5:00 and breakfast was served at 5:30. Shortly, after 6:00 we left the camp and hiked uphill and had great views of sunset breaking through the trees of the Sierra and on the lush green grassland. What a great start into the day.
The second day was harder than the first as we needed to hike 17km. We had two cross several times small rivers and one time even had to take off our shoes to get to the other side. Adventurous! At our first pause we got to know three persons from the local tribe Wawa. They and three other groups (Kogi, Arhuaco, Kankuamo) are the descendants of the Tayronas which built the Cuidad Perdida.
Their main Shaman gave a talk about their culture. We learned that there are around 18,000 Wawas in the Sierra Nevada and they live a self-sustained life with hardly influx from outside. They grow their own plants (Yucca, platanos, rice, vegetables, etc.) and eat from time to time meat from their own animals (mainly chicken and pork). The males also have long hair since they see something spiritual in it and it has the advantage to protect them against the sun as well 😉 One interesting tradition which made everybody joke afterwards is that young 18 year old males need to have sex with an experienced 45 year old from the community before they have their first girl friend or wife 😉 Some of the elected Wawas can go into town to obtain a university degree under the promise that they will return to their community afterwards. Apparently, only few leave the tribe completely! A very interesting talk!
Around 12:00 we arrived at the second base camp of Mumake where we had the first time the joy to jump into the nearby Rio Buritaca. Sooo refreshing!! Then lunch was served. The portions were always big and the food was yummy. Most of the time it was rice, platanos, salad and a protein such as chicken, beef or fried fish. Also we could not complain about insufficient vitamin supply: Each day there were two stops were we got fresh fruits.
After lunch we continued for another four hours and again two hours before our arrival at the third camp the rain came. Again we arrived fully soaked at the camp. We used the proximity to the river for another bath and a cool beer in the river 😉 Then dinner was served and fortunately everybody got a bed as the Belgian couple agreed on sharing one mattress 🙂 Again, we had a early bedtime.
Day 3 started again at 5am and we left for the last kilometer to the Lost City shortly after 6am. After a 20min uphill section we had to cross along a rope and without shoes again the Rio Buritaca. Then 1200 stairs waited to be climbed and we arrived sweaty after an hour at the Lost City. Everybody received a passport which we got stamped at the entrance.
Gabriel started to tell us the story of the city. It has been built around 700 A.D. by the Tayronas which originally migrated from Central America to Colombia. It has been built over multiple generations. One of the main characteristics of the city are the stone circles which represent house foundations. According to their amount archaeologists estimate the amount of people who most likely has lived at the Lost City at around 2000. The city was destroyed with arrival of the Spanish conquistadors at their second attempt. It was abandoned and re-discovered by local farmers in 1972. In 1976 it got explored and protected by the government. At the beginning there were only a handful of tourists a week but this has changed in the last decade as can be seen from the count of tourist agencies increasing from one to six nowadays.
We walked around the four sectors of the Lost City while listening to the explanations of our guide. We enjoyed the view on the terraces from different angles and as well the great lookout points into the Sierra Nevada. We even spotted a Tucan flying in quite a distance from us from one side to the other.
Particularly interesting were also the huge palm trees whose tops had a V shape.
We also got to see another group of Wawas in the second section where we could observe replicates of the Tayrona houses. A group of young children completely dressed white was playing in front of one of the houses.
After four hours we started to hike back. The weather has been great and we should be lucky on the third day. Unfortunately, the Lost City track has not been designed as a loop and hence we had to walk the same way back we came. That meant stairs down, river crossing without shoes, passing by the third camp and back all the way to the second camp where we arrived after 10km around 15:30 which gave us again plenty of swimming time in the river. When we were all protected under the roof the late afternoon arrived. We enjoyed the last night in our group with beers and games until bed time (21 o’clock).
The last day we started again at 6 in the morning and hiked the remaining 17km with short fruit breaks
up to the restaurant where we started with lunch the first day. The rain stayed away luckily but it was another sweaty, hot day. We reached the restaurant at 12:30 after a bit of 6h of hiking.
Fortunately, my backpack was already waiting for me and so I could start repacking for Tayrona National Park which was next on my itinerary. After lunch we said Goodbye to everyone within the group and the minivan brought us back towards Santa Marta.
I can recommend the trek since it was very well organized. However, due to the lack of high mountains it was not as scenic as the Santa Cruz or Salkantay trek. Further, if you can’t stand humidity and heat the trek to Ciudad Perdida is not for you 😉