The Lost City in Colombia's Sierra Nevada | Gesine Cheung
Colombia may not be the first destination that comes to mind for the best mountain trekking. However, world traveller Pete Heck is sharing with us his experience on the Colombia’s Lost City Trek so that you can see for yourself how impressive this region really is. Be amongst the few travellers that will travel to Colombia, with trekking boots.
It ended with an ascent of 1,200 steps. I arrived breathless and with aching legs, but with wide eyes and ears pleasantly ringing in silence. From that vantage point, the terraces of la Ciudad Perdida were laid out before me. I’d seen the photos, but like most ancient treasures of human history, they couldn't give this spectacular site enough justice.
La Cuidad Perdida, or “the Lost City,” housed the thriving Tayrona Tribe since 800 CE until the Spanish arrived in the mid 1500s. The Tayrona fled the city then and it was not rediscovered until the early 1970s. In 1976, the Colombian government declared it a historical site.
It’s a difficult hike, but not a technical one. Tourism infrastructure is simplistic but sufficient - if it were anymore extravagant, I honestly believe it would have taken away from the experience.
I felt like a true explorer trekking through humid jungles in search of a lost treasure.
Because it's the journey not the destination
Yes, that sticky morning our tour group scaled those 1,200 stairs to behold the mysterious site was a moment I will always remember, but the full adventurous expedition itself most definitely played into the elation I felt. We had crossed six rivers and swam in several ponds and waterfalls to cool off. We ascended and descended repeatedly through the intense humidity of the Sierra Nevada Jungle, mindful of the foreign critters that scuttled around us. We encountered the Kogi tribe and were greeted by the children eager to make contact with our group.
At night our group sometimes slept in hammocks. With the pure exhaustion we felt at the end of each day, we really could have slept anywhere. We bonded over a nourishing dinner and recalled moments from our day before falling asleep to the songs of the jungle.
About those critters
Being from northern Canada where the cold does not allow for the existence of the variety of creepy crawlies seen in the tropics, I was fascinated by all that we saw, like the glow bugs that lit the dense jungle at night. Our guides sustained my intense curiosity - gently prodding at some of the strange insects to entertain me, but then steering me clear of those that could cause harm.
And it was important that they did so, for when I wasn’t staring intently at some of the weirdest and most fascinating critters that I’d ever seen, I was distracted by the astounding views that were before me.
The breathtaking scenery
Every day started early, often before daybreak, in order to ensure the toughest parts of the trek are done before the sun reached full strength. I grumbled, out of habit, at the early rise, but was quickly absorbed by the journey as we moved.
It was the variety of the landscape that surprised me most. I expected little but to be surrounded by walls of green throughout, but it provided so much more. From the clear water of the swimming holes to the panoramic views when we ascended the mountains, it was unlike anything else I had ever encountered.
And then, the City
Unfortunately, the site itself is devoid of many of the artifacts that tell much of the Tayrona story. Robbers combed the Lost City before the government could step in. Now, guards keep a watchful eye. They were pleasant to interact with, but mostly left us to enjoy the archeological treasure to ourselves.
I was surprised by the mass of it. It’s more than just that one emblematic terrace - there are smaller sites and trails all over. With only a few hours and a slight explorer’s adrenaline sidelining my fatigue, I scouted as much of it as I could. I remember each step of it like it was yesterday - tracing my exploration of a city that while once lost, felt like I had found it all for myself.
Guest blog post by world traveller Pete Heck. #BestMountainTrek stories.
Author Bio: Pete Heck is a full-time traveler, professional photographer, social media consultant, and co-founder of HeckticTravels.com, where he and his wife Dalene write about their world travels. Pete and Dalene were named National Geographic’s Travelers of the Year in 2014.