We’re checking the clock. Our guide was supposed to pick us up at 8:30 AM, yet…
Fabien reminds us to relax – that 8:30 really means 9. Right. He’s right. We’ve forgotten that we’re no longer in Kansas, que estamos en COLOMBIAAA! And we’re about to get our lungs handed to us on a plate of rice and beans. After weeks of reading just about every blog post tagged La Ciudad Perdida or the Lost City, we were ready, at least materially – minimal clothing, dry bags, protective sprays, etc. etc. Physically, though? Eh.
When a man dressed in white with long, black hair strolls up to our hostel, I know it’s time. Alberto swings my smaller pack over his shoulder and walks us to the Wiwa office, all of 5 minutes away. We choose Wiwa Tours because of the indigenous guides, but all the main tour groups provide a similar experience. We walk the same path and share the same camps. The Wiwa office holds our extra bags until our return, and it’s where we meet the two individuals who’d complete our four-person tour group, five including our guide. Upbeat chatter followed by tired silence fills the 2-hour drive from Santa Marta to El Mamey, the town where the journey really begins.
After lunch, and as we wait on our guide, dirtied travelers make their way down the road to the tune of congratulations from the locals. They have just completed the hike and can very much use the rest and fuel that await them. One girl limps to her chair as a result of spraining her ankle during the hike, needing a mule to carry her the rest of the way. The others sit at the table picking ticks not from the dog beneath the table with a giant tick on its face – poor thing – but from themselves. Aaand before we know it, Alberto introduces us to Wancho, another Wiwa guide who leads us for part of Day 1. This is it! We’re finally walking, and the sun is piercing my skin. Thank goodness for A’s extra visor.
The walk from El Mamey to La Ciudad Perdida is 14.5 miles one way, x2 = 29 miles over 4 days. It’s not a terrible distance, but add in steep climbs and equally steep descents, dense jungle (great escape from the sun), THE SUN, backpacks (pack light!), 1,200 steps… and it makes sense why our fellow travelers at the start of our hike looked so messed up by the end of their own.
DAY ONE. 7.6 km/4.7 mi. Hot, so hot! No shading from the sun. Steep, so steep. Lungs in a panic. The first fruit stop includes watermelons, views, and the company of another group. As the walk progresses, the sun falls behind. Enter trees and an eventual clay path, steeply leading us down into the first camp, overtaken by greenery and plants. The first of many dives into chilling rivers begins here, as does the first of my cold shower dances. Oh, but to be clean and warm after a day of sweat and funk – what a wonderful feeling. Night hath come, and it has brought with it a jungle coolness and sounds of the passing waters. Fortunately, our camp is up a hill and separate from everyone else. Dinner, and every meal thereafter, is beyond satisfying. We never go hungry on this trip, at least not for long. Our new guide, Bernando, shares with us a bit of Wiwa history and this surprisingly delicious candy bar whose name is best said as such: GOLLLLLLLLLL.