Adventure of a Lifetime Trek to Ciudad Perdida

Last Monday, I set out with some friends through the company Expotur to hike to Ciudad Perdida, in English known as the Lost City Trek located outside of Santa Marta, Colombia. Now that it’s over I can say that this was one of the most physically and mentally challenging hikes that I have ever done, though not because of the actual trail’s difficulty. The conditions of the hike were what made it such an adventure: the heat and humidity, the bug bites, the constantly soaking wet clothing and shoes from rain and sweat, and the mud. I have done many a multi-day hike in my lifetime, and this one was definitely one of the most challenging given the conditions. These conditions are also part of what made this trek so awesome!

Ciudad Perdida from the top of the mountain

Day 1: We were picked up at our hostel by the company and gathered at the Expotur office for luggage storage and some last minute organization. Then, we boarded the 4 by 4 SUVs for the 2 and a half hour drive up to El Mamey, the little town that was the starting point of this hike. The first hour and a half was pretty smooth sailing, driving out of the city and past Minca and Tayrona National Park. For the last hour, we had to drive on what I can only describe as a jungle service road. It was extremely bumpy, to the point that my watch thought that we were walking the entire time and added to my step count.

We made it to our starting point, where we were served a delicious lunch and separated into our hiking groups. We were introduced to our guides, Diego and Luis, as well as our cook, Joel and our translator, Jose. Our group was comprised of ten people, including me, my Canadian friend, my Norwegian friend, and others from England, the Netherlands, and Colombia.

Of course, right before we started hiking, it began to rain, and didn’t stop all afternoon. We climbed about 600m in the exposed jungle before descending down into our first camp. Our first day of trekking was extremely muddy, and I fell in the mud three or four times. My little hiking crew within the bigger group quickly formed, with my two friends plus two English guys hiking quickly with Luis. We were happy to hike at a good pace and arrive at camp first to wash off the mud and beat everyone else staying at the camp to the showers. We had an amazing dinner (all the food on this tour was extremely good) and slept well in our mosquito-net covered bunks.

Post fall in the mud
Our group and our guide

Day 2: We woke up at the literal crack of dawn at 5am for a 6am leave time. There’s nothing like the feeling of waking up at that hour to put on clothing and shoes that remained soaking or damp from the day before. Day 2 of the trek was much drier, but much more challenging as we gained a ton of uphill on our way to camp 2. We arrived at our “lunch” spot around 9am and were able to cool off in the river before an early lunch. This felt especially nice given how sweaty we all were. It was at this point I noticed that my calves were a prime zone for bug bites, which I began acquiring at a rapid rate on the second day of the trek. Our hiking section after lunch was the most challenging of the trek, with an hour of steep uphill in the blistering heat. When we arrived at Camp 2, we were so sweaty and gross that we decided to swim in the river in our complete trekking outfits, including the shoes.

Extreme sweat and mud – this photo summarized our feelings quite well
In case you didn’t believe me!

On night 2, our guide Diego spent some time explaining to us about the lives and practices of the Indigenous people living in the area around Ciudad Perdida. It was fascinating to learn about their ways of life and hear from a young person himself about how the tourism of the trek was helping the communities.

Day 3: Another 5am morning to make it up to the Lost City ruins as quickly and coolly as possible! We set off just before 6 to walk along the river until we reached cable car. On the way to the cable car, we passed a camp that looked like it was destroyed by a landslide. We later learned that this camp had been destroyed two weeks before, and the Camp 2 we were staying at was quickly constructed within 3 days!

After the cable car, we climbed about 1000 steps to the top of the Lost City. It was a really magical place, divided into 4 quadrants, and our guides led us through the various areas while providing us with delicious snacks along the way. We had the opportunity to meet the leader of the Indigenous community (El Mamo), from which we purchased bracelets and took photos. A fun fact is that he is on the 50000 peso bill in Colombia! It’s been fun to spot the bracelet on others in Colombia who have also completed this hike.

Getting my bracelet from El Mamo
Dream team at the top of the ruins

After descending the steps from the Lost City, we began to retrace our steps back toward the start of the trek. It was a bit of uphill and quite a bit of downhill as we made our way to camp 3. We were happy to finish early that day, as it began pouring raining about an hour after we arrived. My group really enjoyed killing time at camp by playing cards and drinking coffee. We were all exhausted and were asleep by 8pm (!!!)

Day 4: On the final day of the trek, we woke up at 4:45 am and set off to finish the trail back where we started. We began the morning with a giant uphill climb, then descended all the way back to our starting point. My group was just excited to be done, so we hiked quickly and were finished the trek around 11am. After waiting for others to finish hiking and eating lunch, we got back on the bus for a very bumpy ride back to Santa Marta. One of the teenage boys from the Indigenous community took the bus with us, because he was seeing the city for the first time and staying over at the house of one of the translators. It was really interesting to see his face light up when he started seeing the infrastructure of the city for the first time.

So excited to take off our wet shoes

Overall, it was a fantastic hike and super fun adventure! I made some good friends and we managed to laugh our way through most of the trials and tribulations that the trek presented us. If you’re looking for a jungle adventure and don’t mind a mosquito bite (or two, or 100), this trek is for you! It really is all about the journey (the destination wasn’t terrible, either).

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