Wednesday, March 2, 2011

5-Day Ciudad Perdida Hike

Often when you want to go on an overnight hike in a national park in another country, you need to go with a guide, which often entails hiking with a large group. There are a few factors that can make or break your experience:

1) People - You hope your group does not have a whinger, a loud-mouth, a snorer......

2) Guides - You hope your guide is informative, entertaining, able to accommodate varied paces, organized, a decent cook, attuned to the group's needs....

3) Nature - You can only hope you don't get pissed on the whole hike. Who likes to go to bed wet, wake up wet and repeat the cycle?....

4) Health - You don't want to be miserable, suffering from a twisted ankle, raw blisters, itchy bug bites, cold/flu, or even worse, food poisoning...

On a scale of 1-5, I scored a 5 in all the categories above except #4 in my 5-day hike to La Ciudad Perdida (the Lost City). I was at a bit of a disadvantage entering the hike with only having eaten 2 eggs, 2 pieces of cornbread, yogurt and oatmeal with a spoonful of peanut butter in the last 72 hours. And right when I thought I was getting my strength back on Day 1 and I tried to eat normal meals again, Bam, whatever bacteria poisoning I had in Cartagena came back and I spent the evening of Day 2 suffering all over again. At least it was a full moon and there was a bubbling river for ambiance. For the next 72 hours of hiking in the hills, I ate plain rice for lunch and dinner, fake juice and nuts. But despite these minor health setbacks, I slowly but surely, hiked up the mountain in search of La Ciudad Perdida.

As far as the other factors, (#3) we nailed the weather. It never rained on us, was sunny, but not too hot, and when it was too hot, we would jump in the natural swimming pools along the walk. (#2) Our guides were a husband/wife duo - Elber and Magali, who were clearly in love, and enjoyed their jobs. They were joined by their well-behaved 8 year old son, who had boundless energy, and Magali's 2 brothers. This family radiated so much positive energy that it was refreshing and contagious. And they were clearly concerned about my well-being, intent on making sure that I was healthy and able to survive the hike. (#1) Finally, the group was an international mix of 13 people, representing Canada, Australia, Ireland, England, Colombia and Italy. The best part about these trips is the natural progression of complete strangers getting to know each other - starting off with the typical backpacker conversations of where one has traveled and where the next adventure is and then slowly transitioning into more personal conversations, learning about their culture, perspective on life, their significant others, children, divorces, aspirations, etc. It's impossible to walk away from trips like these without learning another way to look at life or to see other paths taken.

And with all that said, yes, we found La Ciudad Perdida. After climbing 1000+ steps, the forest opens and there are flat, green, circular terraced platforms made by stone walls where the ancient ruins used to stand. Was it thoroughly preserved and restored like Machu Picchu? No. Were the ruins grandiose, tall structures like Tikal in Guatemala? No.

However, as I was sitting in the middle of a green circle, staring out at the blue sky and the forest and mountains around me, it was clear to me that it was more than the ruins that made this Trek worthwhile. Really, it was all about the experience from the combined 4 factors above that made the clearing in the middle of the forest to La Ciudad Perdida an unforgettable trip.

NEXT STOP: 3 days in Tayrona National Park / Beach (sea level) and 3 Day hike in Cocuy National Park (4000+ meters)

1 comment:

  1. Will you be going to panama?? Have a wonderful FUN amazing friend there you should meet!! Dan xx