No amount of preparation could have prepared us for this tough challenge. Having a fever on the last day with over fourteen kilometres to cover made every step feel like torture but we did it and it was amazing. Feeling relieved to be back in our luxurious personal space on Qi, we can reflect back over the last five days from a safe distance. So if this post makes it sound tough, it truly was but it was worth it.
We set out from Santa Marta and headed north to the National Park Tayrona, named after the indigenous inhabitants from pre-Colombian times. After a two and a half hour bumpy ride we waited for another group to arrive before we could have lunch. They had had car trouble so we were all late. So late that the afternoon rains arrived. We covered our backpacks with big garbage bags and set off. We were soaked within minutes and could forget about staying dry. It was too hot to wear a raincoat. The first river was experiencing a flash flood so the guides used their machetes to cut a new path which added another hour onto the first part of the journey to the first camp. We ended up descending on a very muddy and slippery slope in the dark for about the last hour of the journey.
Covered in mud, we quickly showered and dug in for our first night. We slept in hammocks with mosquito nets under a huge tin roof. All the camps were great. Each night we went to sleep with the sound of a fast running river. Most the time I thought it must have been raining it was so loud. I could imagine all the rivers being in flash flood mode and we would be stuck in between them. Then I would wake in the morning to everything being dry.
No amount of ordinary insect repellent deterred some horrible little black bugs that seemed to suck out your insides and leave a red dot in the middle of the bite. We were in the jungle and we were being reminded that we were in their territory.
We hiked for about three hours on each of the next few days through beautiful mountain scenery and through rivers, and lots and lots of mud, until we reached the camp at the base of the mountain where we had to climb the 1200 steps to reach the lost city.
We were briefed about the city the night before entering. A farmer and his son found the city in 1968 and for five years thieved the gold that the residents had buried in funeral ceremonies some thousand years before and where they had hidden it from the Spanish some 400 years before. The Spanish didn’t actually reach it and many of the indigenous peoples were rounded up and used as slaves. They would have been better off staying put. Knowledge of the city was lost over time even though the modern day Shaman only lived about 10 km from the site.
So for nearly four hundred years the jungle swallowed these treasures. The father and son were found out by their neighbours and needless to say that everyone’s greed got the better of them. It is a shame to think that a lot of the pieces would have been melted down and sold on the black market. Archaeologists spent fifteen years repairing the damage the pilfers caused. Now it is an amazing place in a beautiful setting of jungle with a waterfall right beside it.
We were lucky to have travelled with a wonderful group of young people from all around the world. It made the trip so interesting learning about their ambitions and where they had travelled. They were pretty hard core travellers and were quite impressed with Thomas and I doing the trek. One said that she couldn’t imagine doing it only a few years from now little lone at our age. Boy did that make us feel old. It made us laugh though. There was an old guy in another group who was about 75 and he wasn’t looking too good at the end of it. I think they got a mule for him in the end. He did well getting there. It was hard but enjoyable. Thomas was a real trooper and kept a great pace throughout. I slowed a bit on the last day with the fever but we finished together.
We arrived back to a big party at the marina – not for us but for the t.v. Stars that were filming a local adventure show. Armed uniformed men and women ran around the docks amongst rifle fire and explosions. The next day one of them called out to Thomas. It was a guy off our trek posing as an American soldier. So lots of exciting things are happening around us. I said to Thomas, imagine if a cruiser was coming in with all this going on. They would be really feeling as though they’d stepped into a Colombia from the past.
We’re now getting fitted with some solar panels and then we head off to Jamaica. Yeah Mon! (More pics below as usual)