Explore's Head of Product Simon Grove was one of the first people to try our trek to the Lost City of Ciudad Perdida in Colombia. Read on to find out more...
"When I told my four-year-old son that I was off to Colombia to walk to the Lost City his initial question was “How can you lose a city?” It’s one of those difficult questions, brilliant in it’s simplicity yet almost impossible to try and answer.
A few days later, as I stood in the Lost City, surrounded by rainforest, hot, sweaty and tired from the efforts of walking for three days up and down hills that I would later describe to folk (in my over-exaggerated way) as “it was like trekking up ladders” I perfectly understood how you could lose a city. Build it somewhere almost inaccessible, on the side of a mountain, in a jungle, in the middle of nowhere!
It’s been quite a while since I have been on a serious trek – I led our trekking groups in Yunnan in the mid-90s, have been on small treks in Nepal and Morocco since and spent time in the Dolomites – but I can honestly say that none of those experiences has beaten the satisfaction and achievement of reaching the Lost City, Ciudad Perdida, in northern Colombia.
It’s because I haven’t trekked for a while that I wanted to do this trip. I wanted to challenge myself, to take myself outside of the comfort of Explore HQ and to get back to the most basic and exciting element of adventure travel - walking to see a great site that is inaccessible by any other means of transport (other than a military helicopter, which doesn’t really count). The trek into Ciudad Perdida is described as one of the world's most iconic treks and it's in an area that has just recently been given the green light to travel into by the FCO. The site itself seemed to be a real mixture of the terraced grandeur of Machu Picchu and the jungle entwined delights of Angkor Wat, albeit on a smaller scale, but with less visitors in a year than those sites have in a day.
I wasn’t disappointed. The trek was challenging. Paths twisted up through the hills and then descended just as quickly. They took me through the jungle, had me scrambling up steep steps and then wading through water. I trekked in searing heat, stifling humidity and then pouring rain. On this trek you do have to carry your belongings for its duration (although it is amazing the wear you can get out of two pairs of light shorts and two t-shirts (+ one bar of washing soap)), yet every day it became easier as we neared our goal. On day three, steep ascents were nowhere near the lung-busters they were on day one; in fact we’d find ourselves having converastions as we walked those hills, rather than putting our heads down just to get to the top.
The simple, yet forgotten pleasures in life became part of our daily routine. Trekking through the jungle with the group spread out in silence, just listening to the noises of the birds, insects and distant monkeys was fantastic. Equally fantastic was not having any mobile phone access, WI-FI or all those other 'essential' things. With a great cook, delivering three hearty meals a day – along with mid-trek snacks of a variety of seasonal fruits - the trek became like a life detox. Ending a day's trek at a camp and then jumping into the clear waters of the Buritaca River became the norm.
As complete darkness descended upon the camps each evening we’d wander into those typical traveller-type discussions with our leader and guide. Sitting with our Wiwa guide, Selso, learning about his traditions was a real eye-opener. A few days previously I had been in the modern-day capital of Bogota, now I was sat with a man who explained to me that his hair was so long because hair helps the brain breathe, and so it should never be cut. When I asked him “what do you think of us western males, with our short hair? Do you think that our brains can’t breathe properly?” he just shrugged his shoulders and then burst into a knowing laugh. I learned about his religious and political authority, the ever powerful Mamos – the fount of all local knowledge and much revered in the region - and in return I was able to show Selso a short video clip of my inquisitive son dancing on a stage at a wedding, which was passed around his family to gasps and laughter.
The Lost City trek was a timely reminder of everything that is great about travel: the journey, the achievement, the local interaction, the just being there. I feel very privileged to have been on this amazing journey...it’s definitely one to add to your list."
Try it for yourself on Trek to the Lost City.
By Simon Grove