I’m no girly girl, let me tell you. I can get dirty (like when there’s no hot water and I refuse to shower.) I play sports (er, watch sports… if they’re on at a bar). I can live out of a backpack without room for a hair straightener. (That one is really no problem at all, my hair is straight.)
But lo and behold, the thought of ever sleeping in a hammock again after trekking to Ciudad Perdida (the Lost City) might bring me to tears.
The trek to La Ciudad de Perdida is one of those “rites of passages” for South America backpackers. I’ve heard people talking about it since I arrived in Colombia almost two months ago.
And I was ready to say… Yes. Yes, I’ve trekked to Ciudad de Perdida — the potential statement made even more exciting by the fact that I had never really done any serious trekking before.
The trek to The Lost City is a doozy for first timers. You get really dirty, you push your body really hard, and you definitely do NOT pack a straightener.
But all jokes aside, I do consider myself pretty low maintenance and with a history of long distance running, I stuck my nose up at the concerns of others surrounding the difficulty of the trek to the ancient city — said to have been built around 800 AD, 650 years earlier than the more famous Machu Pichu.
I even opted for the four day version, rather than five, combining the mileage of two days into one. Its the same price so five days is a better deal with three more meals and an extra night of accommodation — but look at me, wanting to try the harder version and be cool. Yup — that girl. So I signed up for the four day hike through Turcol Tourism and off I went on my very first trek.
On the first day, a chiva picked us up and we drove three hours to the start of the trail. One tidbit that no one mentioned to me: you’re driven about an hour up the mountain before you’re at the start and that drive might have been the only purely miserably segment of the journey. I sat in the back with the exhaust pipe and dust clouds clogging my eyes and lungs while I struggled to catch sight of the side of the cliff we were tight roping. It was terrifying and miserable and the walk was probably a lot easier after surviving that drive.
Then came the start of the hike, and to tell you the truth, I don’t think its worth reading a whole lot about what each day will bring. I know I’m really good at ruining surprises but this one deserves some mystery.
The trek truly is incredible. Your body will ache, your sweat will sweat, and you’ll want to curl up on the side of the trail and let the vultures have at you on at least one occasion. And if you’re like me and completely unable to sleep on your back, you’ll twist and turn in a hammock the night before the longest day and want to cry when you barely fall asleep for two hours.
But then you’ll finish and think — damn, that was great. As soon as I can feel my legs again, let’s do it again.
The route is there and back so the return is identical — but somehow feels completely different. The last day is a confusing, endless path of more ups than you remember going down and steeper downs than you remember going up. But trust me, the promise of regularly priced beers (they get understandably more expensive as the altitude climbs) and a proper shower will propel those tired legs to the finish line.
We eventually arrived back to the main town, smelling worse than the cows and feeling as free as the birds. With the trail behind us, there were lots of high fives and beers and food and the satisfaction of successfully conquering a challenging four days.
I finished with the satisfying confidence of completing my first trek, and despite my newly discovered hatred for hammocks, I will definitely be doing more. My backpack and sneakers smell a lot worse now and with that stench comes some serious street cred on the backpacker trail.
Watch out, Machu Pichu! I’m coming for you next…