Friday, November 19, 2010

Ciudad Perdida

After a 4 hour bus ride from Cartagena to Santa Marta, Colombia, we decided to make the 5 day hike through the Teyuna region of the Sierra Nevada to Ciudad Perdida (Lost City). The hike was breathtakingly beautiful, although it consisted of either 'arriba' or 'bajo' (a.k.a. up and down), so we were extremely bushed after the very first day. The first day's hike also consisted of a lot of rain, as the jungle tends to have very hot and sunny mornings, then rains every afternoon, and sometimes all night long.
Tyrone made a little buddy along the way!

Tyrone had the biggest pack of the group, as he carried both our supplies (what a gentleman!), and everyone was impressed he survived all 5 days... they were also jealous when we had our tasty steri-pen purified water and when we were toasty warm with our sleeping bags on the cold nights!

One of the many highlights of the trip was interacting with the local Kogui people who had little grass hut farms along the way. Our guide mentioned that the immediate area in which we were hiking had about 180 Kogui people, and there are approximately 3,000 total Kogui left in Colombia. Although some Kogui speek Spanish, the majority of the people speak Kogui. Of the few indigenous people we passed, most were fairly shy and offered a quick 'buenas' or 'hola'; however, the children were very curious and playful! The first adorable Kogui girl we encountered ran ahead of us on the trail, clapping her hands and grinning... then she popped behind a bush to pick up an orange and chucked it down the trail at us! Bowling for gringos is a major sport in Teyuna for the local children!

Our first camp site offered comfortable hammocks and breathtaking views of the mountains and valley below. We were never hungry on the trip, either, as each camp was fully equipped with a kitchen and tables, offering up 3 large meals and snacks daily! We never thought we would get such hospitality so far away from civilization!

Although we were provided with plenty of chocolate on our journey, Lydia just couldn't help herself from sampling the cocoa pods along the way...

Each day was full of mountain peaks full of vistas better than the last... it made the uphill hike worth it every time!

On top of the high peaks, there were also numerous river crossings. Most were done on foot, but this one required a bit of a mechanical advantage!
On day 3, Lydia waged a battle with two Kogui girls (they started it!), throwing little beans at each other... Below you see the truce after a peace offering made to Lydia by the littler of the two girls, which was a handful of beans put in her pocket to take along the journey!

The littler Kogui girl was also fascinated by our camera, so Tyrone had her take a photo of him to try it out!

Bright and early on the morning of day 4, we made it to Ciudad Perdita. We had to conquer 1200 steps to get to the top!

Our guide, Jesus, explained to us that the Tairona people who inhabited Ciudad Perdida (yes, Tyrone believes he is their reincarnated leader!) had extensive carvings of maps, one of which is pictured below. There apparently was no form of writing or pictographs found in the archaeology, however, so it is believed the history of the Taironas is solely oral as well as gathered through anthropological interpretation.

Tyrone sitting on the Shaman's throne with his special stick thing... we don't recall what it was called, but apparently the boys in the region each get one when they reach 17 years of age, along with a wife (who could be any age from 12 to 30). It has something to do with cocaine and conch shells... and that was the best we could interpret, as our guide only spoke Spanish.

View of Ciudad Perdida and Tyrone taken from the Shaman's wife's house plot.

The farthest circle is the Shaman's house plot, and the closer circle next to it belonged to his wife.

We made our journey along with an awesome group of people from such parts of the world as Australia, Zimbabwe, Wales, England, Czech Republic and Switzerland. A few people are travelling in our same direction, so we are hoping to meet up with them along the way! We even met the ancient cat of Ciudad Perdida, held below by Nick.

Tyrone packed a small bottle of champagne around for 4 days for us to finish at the Lost City. Unfortunately, shortly after we cracked the bottle, we were interrupted by a small group of extremely rude French people who actually 'shoed' Tyrone out of their picture just as we were taking ours... as you can see, he wasn't very impressed...
Next to the terraces of Ciudad Perdida, there are a few remaining uninhabited grass huts where our guide explained the rise and fall of the Taironas to us. The city was established in approximately 800 AD, and was extremely rich (based on the gold and treasures found in the 1970s by looters). The Spanish came in the early 1600s and brought with them guns and diseases, causing many Taironas to be wiped out, and many to flee to higher grounds where they succumbed to cold and hunger... And the city wasn't discovered again until 1972 by looters. Local authorities didn't catch wind of the site until 1975 when they figured out where all the treasure on the black market was coming from. Since then, there has been much archaeological research done in the area. In 2003, the National Liberation Army (ELN) kidnapped a group of hikers who were on their way to the Lost City. Fortunately, they were released 90 days later in exchange for the release of some jailed ELN. The site was again deemed safe to travel to in 2005, and 5 years later, we travelled there!

Tyrone became one with the butterflies, as they believed he was descendant of their ancient leaders...

A little known fact about Tyrone is that during his time in Africa, he acquire some Doctor Doolittle-esque skills (seen in the video below):

Day 5 was a gruelling hike, as we made up the same ground back as we covered in days 1 and 2. We still stopped to snap some photos of the fabulously flourescent flora and fauna.

This guy was sleeping, but when he opens his wings, his top half is an extremely bright royal blue... We have both never seen anything like it before!

We made it back to the starting line! Through muchas mud, rapid rivers, relentless rain, scalding sun, malicious mosquitos and annoying ants, we had finally made it back to civilization... Cold beer had never tasted so good... and clean clothes had never been so appealing before that moment in time! But we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves (well, for the most part... there were some rough parts during the 50 km hike, especially for some... no names mentioned!) and we would recommend the journey to anyone and everyone! It was truly an experience of a lifetime!

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