My pal Michael spent almost five months backpacking through South America last year. When I asked him what is favourite place was he didn’t hesitate to recommend Colombia so I asked him to write a little ditty. Here are his thoughts on the sunny Caribbean coast:
Whilst on a four-and-a-half month trip through South America, I had the good fortune of visiting the Caribbean coast, visiting the region between Cartagena de Indias and Santa Marta in Colombia.
The detour to Colombia was based primarily on other travellers’ recommendations. It couldn’t come hyped up enough. And Colombia lives up to its high expectations.
Unfortunately, most people immediately associate Colombia with druglords and the exportation of narcotics to the Western World, primarily Europe and North America. But don’t worry, the drugs and related crime has crept closer to the USA, leaving the Colombian government strongly campaigning to attract both Latin Americans and those further abroad to experience its beaches, coffee trade, pre-Colombian culture, nightlife and friendly people.
I first heard of a trek called La Ciudad Perdida (or the Lost City) from a friend of mine back in Perth. She and her husband had visited Colombia but didn’t have the time in their travels to fit in the five-day long trek. And when I was travelling throughout South America, this trek came up in those typical backpacker conversations time and again.
So when I hit the Caribbean Coast, I found some enthusiastic New Yorkers, a French student from Buenos Aires, a journalist from Copenhagen and some Dutch girls to set off on the adventure with.
Most of the tour operators are based in the towns of Santa Marta or Taganga, where the main backpacker (read: party) hostels are based. And it doesn’t really matter which tour company you choose – they all charge roughly the same and put you into collective groups of trekkers.
The trek starts in a Toyota Landcruiser, where we met our 21 year old Spanish speaking guide, his 18 year old “novia” or girlfriend and their little 5 year old daughter. We stopped for a jerry can of fuel along the way, before a lunch break of sandwiches and a three hour trek to the first camp, that included crossing creeks and trying to avoid getting bitten by too many bugs.
The trek itself can be walked as quickly or slowly as you want from three to six days, generally stopping at the same number of campsites that have camper kitchens, showers, running toilets, hammocks, tents, mattresses and one even had a running fridge full of beer and coke. All food and water is provided, and you feel pretty pampered given the circumstances.
On day three (of four), our group climbed 1,200 steep, skinny steps up a dizzying hillside, which after three days of sweat-soaked hiking along muddy tracks and creeks, you really want to be treading carefully on the way up. But the Lost City is worth it, with such small numbers of people visiting each day you can nearly get the place to yourself (we had the 6 of us, our tour guide, and five army guys at their outpost for the whole afternoon visiting the site).
Given we undertook the trek in December (getting to Colombia’s wet season), we were lucky that the rain held off until the evening of the last trekking day. The track is not as well maintained as you’d hope, with native indian villagers and farmers also using the trail for herding their cattle. It’s best to be prepared with some quick dry clothes and rugged footwear. And repellent.
So next time you’re hoping to explore a lush jungle complete with indigenous villages, various exotic animals, creeks to swim in, and comfortable camping, think no further than the La Ciudad Perdida trek! Definitely a ‘bucket list’ experience for those fueled with an adventurous spirit.
Planning your own South American Adventure? Feel free to ask Michael a question below!