Apparently, life is about the journey and not the destination but when you’re discussing the lost city trek it definitely is a case of both. Completing the lost city trek; a 47 km trek into the Colombian jungle to view the ruins of an ancient civilisation was among the toughest and most challenging few days I’ve ever had but one amazing adventure!
After spending a relaxing few days in Taganga, I headed to neighbouring Santa Marta for the starting point of the trek. We set off from the agency a little after 10am. We then arrived at El Mamey, a little mountainside town where we would start our trek around lunchtime. After lunch in the town, we started the 7.5 km to bring us to the first camp that night, camp Adan. The climb was mainly uphill. A constant climb that was broken two hours in with a fruit break. Watermelon has never tasted as good! And then the heavens opened. Thunderstorms are a regular part of an afternoon in this part of Columbia and nearly a welcome break from the humidity and mosquitos. Reaching our camp about 5pm that evening, we settled in or the night. Camps are basic but comfortable. There are showers available but unfortunately cold. All beds have a mosquito net. All meals are provided on the tour with delicious, fresh ingredients making traditional Colombian dishes.
Day two started with a 5am wake-up call, breakfast at 5.30 and hiking at 6am. We reached camp Casa Mumake at 10am after a fruit stop earlier. Here we had two hours to relax and swim in the Rio Tono Arzario river if we chose. After a quick lunch at 12pm, we were off again to Casa Paraiso our camp for the night which was situated within 1 km of the lost city. Day two was the hardest day as we hiked for 15 km in total but the terrain was a mixture of uphill and downhill along with plenty of river crossings as we ventured further into the jungle. However, throughout the day the views were spectacular with chances to see and hear various birds, butterflies, monkeys, squirrels and even a snake. We also passed by many villages where the indigenous people lived and worked in their traditional lifestyle.
This was the big one. After setting off at 6 am again we had to trek for approximately an hour to reach the lost city. The beginning of the trek was similar to day two in that we had a river crossing and more jungle terrain to cross before reaching the steps to the lost city. There are 1200 steps to climb, they are slippery and uneven and never seem to end! Eventually, we made it to the lost city and had two hours here to explore and learn about the history and culture of the indigenous people. After thoroughly exploring the city we headed back to camp where we had some food and started our trek back out of the jungle. We reached camp Mumake about 4pm and then spent our last night in the jungle there.
We reached El Mambey the town from which we started trekking 3 days previously at about lunchtime after what was probably the toughest hike of the 4 days. The trek is 15 km long and consists of going uphill, downhill and uphill again. We reached camp Adan about 10am and after a quick snack and rest, we had one more hour of uphill climbing before starting our descent down. Finally, we reached El Mambey at lunchtime and had some lunch before heading back to Santa Marta.
A brief history:
The ancient Tayrona civilisation set about building the city of Teyuna in the Sierra Nevada mountains in approximately 800AD. At its peak, the city is thought to have been home to between 4000 and 10000 people. The tayronas abandoned the city when they were overthrown by Spanish invaders. They fled the city and left behind their gold and other valuables believing they would eventually return. The city lay abandoned and overgrown until 1972 when local men stumbled across the steps leading from the base of the Burticaca River. The site was raided for gold until 1975 when the Colombian government began official evacuations. There are 3000 meters of the city uncovered with a further estimated 9000 meters laying undiscovered beneath the jungle. The first guided tours to the lost city began in 1983.
Tips and Tricks:
- Mosquito repellent! Seriously there is never enough.
- Some sweets/candy to give the indigenous children you meet along the way in the jungle.
- A basic first aid kit: painkillers, support bandages, blister plasters, antiseptic cream, sunscreen, personal toiletries and medication.
- Packing: rain-jacket, waterproof cover for your backpack, 4 tops, leggings or shorts depending on your preference, swimwear, warm and cosy clothes for evening time, flip flops, towel, a pillowcase and duvet cover to sleep in (sheets and blankets are provided but lack of bed bugs is questionable).
- There were charging facilities at one camp, although I would recommend bringing a power bank to charge your phone.
- A small amount of cash. There are tuck shops at each camp where you can buys snacks and drinks such as a well-earned beer! Also a tip for your tour guide and translator.
- I booked my tour with Magic Tour through my hostel. The whole trip was well organised and our tour guide Jesus was a gentleman, I honestly couldn’t recommend them enough. The cost is $850,000 COP (approx. €250) and is the standard price in Santa Marta with any of the tour agents.