The Lost City

04th December 2010

Our first stop in Colombia was the pleasant Santa Marta [2] on the Caribbean coast of Columbia and the oldest city in South America.  A drawn out 24 hours from Mérida (Venezuela) featured a bus full of suspicious people openly bribing officials at all 12 check points between Maracaibo [1] and the frontera.  Something must have been up as Colombian police grabbed them soon after crossing; thankfully we had already changed buses. 


The next day we spent relaxing  at the beach in the nearby fishing village of Taganga where we chose a fresh reef fish for lunch from one of the palm thatched restaurants along the beach.  Perfectly cooked, it was delicious.


To begin the tough trek through the Colombian jungle to the Ciudad Perdida (Lost City) a four wheel drive took us to the pueblo of El Mamey on a barely passable, rutted, muddy track.  The first creek crossing, with knee deep water, came up after 5 minutes walking.  It was no use being precious, there were many more creek crossings and a lot of mud to come so we barged straight through, boots and all.  The gradient increased seriously (Kokoda Track style) before a steep, muddy descent to our first nights camp which was a row of hammocks strung up under a shelter.  It rained every day so the same set of wet clothes and boots went back on in the mornings and at night a carefully kept dry set.


It continued to rain day and night but what´s a rainforest without rain.  The trail was difficult at times but the scenery superb.  We encountered scattered huts of the Kogui tribe (descendants of those from the Lost City) and passed the indigenous residents going up and down the trail.  They all wear the same white(ish) tunic made of a natural fibre from the jungle and both men and women have long hair.  There are some 1400 living in the Tyrona National Park.


Two of the river crossings on day two were a little unnerving – one by sitting in a little open cage and being pulled across, 20 metres above the raging water, the other by wading through waist deep water, holding on to a rope strung across the river.  With 3 strong men supporting us across, our feet were still swept from under us half way across and we had to be dragged the rest of the way.  On day 3 it rained heavily for 12 hours and we nervously watched the river rising rapidly.  The next morning we had to make 3 more crossings.  The force of the water was just too powerful; poor John (one of our guides) carried us on his back while struggling with the rope.


More than 1200 mossy stone steps wind their way from the river up the jungle covered mountain to 1100 metres where the Tyrona Indians lived from 800 to 1600.  After it was abandoned, the city was soon reclaimed by the jungle until in1972, was re discovered by grave robbers looking for gold.  The dwellings are no longer there but elaborate terraces still stand where each dwelling was.  Wide stone paths lead to the large ceremonial and central plazas.


We returned the same way; it had rained all night so the path was a river or a muddy quagmire.  The 4 wheel drive road had deteriorated.  Our vehicle stalled crossing a swollen creek and water poured in through the doors.  The vehicle behind towed us out and we had to wait 2 hours for the water to subside finally reaching Santa Marta at 9pm. 


The trek was fantastic and the Lost City worth all the effort but enough Indiana Jones stuff for us for a while.


Santa Marta church

Colonial buildings in Santa Marta

Nearby Taganga

Canoe on the beach

Colombian starter motor on the way to the Lost City trek

Look out - here come the mules

Jungle path

More jungle path

Camp 1

Indigenous huts

Some of the children

Children with typical carry bags

This is one way to cross a river

Another way to cross

And when all else fails ...


Path turned into a river after the rain

Camp 2

Freddie made delicious soup over a wood fire

Mules carry tin roofing up the trail

This is how the matresses get there

Swollen river

Mossy stone steps winding up to the Lost City

Flower on one of the steps

Long even steps lead to ...

... The Lost City central plaza

Mossy green walls

Large flat paving stones

Map of the surrounding area carved into a rock

Helicopter resupplying Colombian army patrol lands on the Plaza

Round terraces where houses once stood

An old photo of one of the original Tyrona people