The lost city trek is an epic walk through the jungle in the Santa Marta region. Before setting off you should be carrying minimal weight, boots with good grip, and you should be fit and healthy. I’d also recommend walking poles, they will save your knees on the descents and generally assist, learn how to use them before the trek! Depending on who you choose as you guides, you’ll arrive at various camps at different times to other parties.
Meeting an the Expotours office in Santa Marta, the group went down to the Large jeeps, and were soon on the way out of Santa Marta, and within an hour or so on rough tracks leading up to the village of Machete, where a meal was served with drinks. Once we’d had a feed and brief talk, we were on our way on foot towards the first camp.
The first day in my opinion is the hardest, the track is mostly uphill, there’s no shade and the sun is high and beating down on you. It’s not the longest day walking, but if you’re not in good shape or haven’t done a big trek for a long time you’ll be questioning what you’ve gotten in to. Hang in there.
There are stops along the way where fresh fruit such as pineapple, watermelon and oranges are provided for free. Also little tiendas (shops) will sell bottled water, coca cola and gatorade etc. The absolute best drink to have in my opinion is freshly squeezed oranges from Ramon who has one of the first stalls you’ll encounter. At the time of writing he has a little baby pig and a dog.
Once you reach camp you’ll be served up more food (you’ll need this), and iodine treated water is available for free, but you can buy bottled water for 5000COP. Beds will likely be bunks with nets, though in busy seasons you might find yourself in a hammock, which also come with mosquito nets. Other snacks and drinks will be available, including beers, but remember you’re walking in hot sun for days, water and lots of it is best.
The scenery is quite impressive as you climb on the first day, some mountain ranges, rolling hills and woodlands. Some of the tracks are clay, so could be hazardous in wet weather, and there’s a short chalk section. Another hazard here is motorcycles, used to take supplies to the first camps, whereafter mules take over the shifting of supplies (and people).
Day two is the longest stretch, but this is where you’ll find your own pace, the guides will allow you to take this challenge as you see fit. The terrain starts to change now, motorcycles give way to mules, and the beating sun is shaded by trees as you ascend and descent hills. We woke at 5am and were walking from 6 after a breakfast, I can’t reiterate enough to eat your meals, even if you feel unwell try and get something down, one guy skipped breakfast and struggled for energy later. The day is split in two, you’ll have stops to again fill up on delicious fruits, and buy drinks before the camp. Arriving at the second camp after 3-4 hours, this offers an opportunity to cool down with a swim in the river (and feel a bit cleaner) before lunch. You also have an opportunity to leave anything you don’t need on the third day at this point, before you do the afternoon stretch to camp 3, so go as light as possible.
After lunch you’ll head to camp 3, more magnificent scenery, but harder because the sun is now high. You’ll be pretty tired by camp 3, where again you’ll get a meal, opportunity to refill your water and buy snacks. Rest up ready for day 3 and the main attraction.
Another early start. Make sure you’ve got your entrance passport for the site, or you’ll be shelling out a small fortune no doubt. It’s a fairly gentle trek to the base of Ciudad Perdida, then the steps to the site. The steps are steep, small, likely wet, moss covered and slippy so take care and take your time, it’s no race and groups go together to different parts of the site before being taken to the famous view. You’ll learn more about indigenous culture from your guides, see more huts close up and then settle at the place to take your photos with the other groups.
You’ll need to be patient for photos, different groups may walk on to the main terrace, and the army who are present at the site will walk on there from time to time. If you’d like to walk to the top terrace to shoot all of them, expect to wait a long time, and you’re tour may not allow for this.
The most difficult, or risky part of the day is the ascent of those stairs, the tread on my boots is not the best, and I actually missed the last twenty or so steps after slipping, fortunately getting only a graze and bruise. From there you’ll walk back to camp 2, and stay overnight.
Day 4 / 5
Depending on your choice you’ll have a long day 4 walk back to the starting point in Machete, or split this over two days with a sleep at camp 1. Doing five days lets you go a little more at your leisure, and take more photos.