Dr. Katinka's practice

Lost City - Ciudad Perdida


Lost City, Columbia

Itai, 23 years young, from Israel, has just completed his three-year military service and is now on a journey across South America. He sits next to me while we drive up the dirt road to El Mamey, at walking pace. That one can drive on such a street at all with a car, surprises me already very much and actually we sit then also in a hole in the ground. For the time being nothing works and we have to get out of the car. With united forces our group pushes, the four-wheel-driven minibus again from the hole out. Altogether we are ten persons strong, plus a translator and a guide. All young boys and girls. I am by far the oldest and that, not only in our group, as it will turn out later. We are on our way to a four-day trekking tour, to the forgotten city of Ciudad Perdida. Across the Colombian jungle. A tour that pushed me to my limits physically, but not mentally, although at my age, you think twice about getting back into the wet clothes from the day before in the morning.

Camp 3, Everything Puddle Wet

Arrived in El Mamey there is first of all lunch. A good opportunity to get to know each other a bit better. The group is international. Two Dutch, one Israeli, two Swiss, four Colombians and me as a German, including two women. In addition, there is Chris, our translator, who, as a Colombian, has spent half his life in Tampa, and David, who knows the trek like the back of his hand and, through his roots, has close contacts to the indigenous population. This later gives us an audience with the highest chief of the Taironas, who lives with his family in Teyuna, as the forgotten city is also called.

Mamey of the Taironas, Teyuna Colombia

After lunch we set off. We walk along the river for a short distance before the first steep climb awaits us. Three hours are scheduled for the first 7.5 kilometers to the first camp. The highest point of 620m is reached after 2.5 hours. At the latest now everyone knows what awaits him the next days. The climbs are steep, partly very boggy and interrupted again and again by short descents and counter ascents. Completely sweaty and with a considerable loss of physical strength, I reach the summit and provide myself with the tea I brought along. The sinking into the mud and the sucking moment, which develops when pulling out, cost very much strength. I ask myself for the first time what I'm actually doing, but I let myself be motivated by the enthusiasm and partial recognition of the group for being able to keep up at all. This pat on the back is later also given to me by other groups and whenever I appear on a hill, everyone cheers for me. At the latest then you know that you have become old. But no matter, I'm happy about the sympathy and about still being reasonably fit and able to keep up. The descent to Camp Adan, is no less challenging than the ascent, and you have to be careful as hell not to slip on one of the many slippery spots and lie down in the dirt. The camps are all open and covered with corrugated iron. Bunk beds with mosquito nets create the possibility to start the next day reasonably rested. There are showers and toilets, but the best way is to cool off in the river. Not far from the camp there is a rocky edge which dams up the water to a small lake. After certainly 100 people jumped from the approx. 10m high edge into the water, and only a young woman and I stand above, the woman is motivated from below, loudly. She decides then nevertheless for the ladder, which actually serves as exit. I give myself a quick jolt and jump. The cool water is refreshing and after what feels like an eternity, I actually emerge, under loud bawling. During dinner it is suddenly dark and after a good night beer it goes then also immediately under the mosquito net. Since I am the "SeƱor", I have the privilege to always get the lower bed. Well, age sometimes has its advantages.

Trekking trail Ciudad Perdida, Colombia

The next morning is wake-up at 5:00 am and departure at 6:00 am. From Camp Adan we go via Camp Mumake, where we have lunch, to Camp Paraiso. Also this morning we will climb steeply. From a height of 450m. it goes up to 690m. The trails become narrower and narrower and we leave the land, mostly cultivated by farmers, and reach the indigenous land that the Taironas claim for themselves. Today, 15.7 kilometers in 6 hours are on the program. By the way, to my chagrin, we fell well short of the time given, in part, because I was in a very fast troop. At so-called intermediate stations there is always fruit. Mostly melon, but also oranges or pineapple. After we have reached the summit, it goes down again adventurously. Arrived at 450m. we see the first village of the Taironas. A tribal elder explains us some rituals and customs and how to handle the coca leaves, which are chewed by every Tairona from the age of 18. Finally we reach Camp Mumake where we have lunch. In the meantime, I am bitten by mosquitoes. Everywhere where bare skin protrudes, the critters have bitten. Especially the calves seem to like them. Chris the translator says that the mosquitoes mainly target Germans and that he would be safe as long as he was near me. As it looks at the moment, he seems to have a point. But we can't think about it for long, after all we still have to go up to 900m. to Camp 3 "Casa Paraiso". Also here it is the same as in the first camp. Dinner, another beer, and then we fall totally exhausted into bed. Meanwhile all clothes are wet. Only the things with which I go to bed are still dry and I make sure that they do not get wet. Hanging up on a clothesline is of no use. David opens us after dinner that we have to get up tomorrow already at 4:30 o'clock and as soon as the day dawns, go, because we cross the river with a kind of gondola, which is only allowed for two people. Since there are a lot of groups, it jams very quickly at this point. But obviously other groups have the same idea and so the whole camp is up at 4:30am. Nevertheless, our group makes it to this river crossing as one of the first. After we have covered the last two kilometers from the camp to the gondola, in the running pace, I stand after the crossing of the river now before a stone ladder, which leads almost vertically upwards and whose end is not to be seen. Once again I think, what are you doing to yourself? But now I've come this far, now of course I want to see the city. I start to take one step after the other and after what feels like an eternity, I reach the entrance to Lostcity with burning thighs and cramping calves. The city was built between the 11th and 16th century. It is possible, however, that there was a settlement here even earlier. Unfortunately, there are no written records. The reconstructed area is about two square kilometers, but the city itself covers a much larger area. In this respect, the original site could be larger and older than Machu Picchu in Peru. What can be seen today are the terraced circular areas on which the houses once stood. When the head of the house died, he was buried in the middle of the house and the house was not allowed to be entered until it collapsed. After that, the bones were dug up again, placed in a special container and a designated place. Now a new house, for the next family, could be built in the same place. The complex is extensive and through David's connections, we can talk to the highest head of the Taironas and get a bracelet with different small stones put around the wrist. Each stone has a different color, which means sun, moon and earth. After we have visited the Ciudad Perdida extensively, we make our way back. The steps "Stairways to heaven" down into the "Green Hell" are not less difficult than up. After we have transferred again with the gondola, it begins to rain terribly, which does not play any role in the end, however, because we are already soaking wet anyway. In Camp 3 we had left our things behind, which we now pack together. Of course they didn't get dry, so we put everything into plastic bags. In the pouring rain we set off for Camp 2 Casa Mumake, where we take our night quarters today. All in all, it was 7.5 kilometers over hill and dale again today. Unfortunately, however, it is not much with the rest overnight, because in the meadow in front of our quarters numerous frogs, loudly announce their presence.

With a cable winch over the river

The last and fourth day has it once again in itself. Due to the long rains during the night, the paths are now completely softened. Crossing the rivers becomes an adventure, because the stones that serve as bridges only protrude from the water with a small area. In addition, today we have two mountains ahead of us and about 15 kilometers of walking. Not an easy undertaking in these conditions. Twice I slip and once I overstretch my thigh because one foot can't find a foothold and the other one gets stuck at the top. Again and again I struggle with my balance and threaten to land in the mud. After four days the strength is gone and the concentration decreases. Nevertheless, I reach the starting point El Mamey without major injuries. Except for a small laceration on my right arm, which I got from a protruding nail in a camp, and numerous itchy mosquito bites, I return from the adventure in one piece. In total, we covered 46 kilometers in these four days, overcame 2200 meters of altitude and were 17 hours on foot. After a last lunch we return to Santa Marta. Having made a few friends again, I will rest for the next few days before Gaby and I continue to explore the country. Until then, we wish you as always, fair winds and keep a stiff upper lip.

Typical bags in Colombia