View from the top of the town over the main Temple
A late afternoon view from the Lost City. The mountains at the end are the unexplored part of the Sierra, where white men are not allowed, and the Kogis still live like they have done for centuries, hunting with bows & arrows.
The view as we leave on the first day, almost at the top of the mountain at the back we will eventually find the Lost City
I am just back from a 5 day trek to the Lost City of the Tayrona in the Sierra Nevada National Park.
The area used to be called Green Hell, and now I understand why. I did not realise that a human body could sweat as much as I did.
I have been bitten to death by mosquitoes and managed to poison myself with 97% DEET that then gave me the runs. I was worried about snakes after a girl from one of the villages we passed got bitten by a poisonous one while we were there.
However it was, without a doubt, one of the best experiences of this trip. A great way for this year to come to an end. I have now decided that I am challenged out, I have had enough of pushing myself and for the next few weeks I am just going to relax.
All along the trek we came across the original stone path set by the Tayrona over a 1000 years ago
The trek starts at around 200 metres above sea level and finishes at 1300, in the famous Lost City that was only found by tomb raiders in 1974. Although it starts in an area mostly used for agriculture, and until very recently for growing coca, most of the trek takes place in deep jungle.
The first day we got a taste of what was to come when, after having walked for only three hours, it started to rain. From then onwards there was not a single moment when I felt dry.
We were lucky with the rain, the last hour of the first day was downwards......the path turned into a river of mud. Nonetheless we were lucky, another group's car had broken down on the way to the start of the walk so they caught the rain and the mud on the way up and on the way down.
Accomodation throughout the trek is in hammocks under a tin roof. The hammocks have got mosquito nets, but, by the time you get to bed, you are already covered with bites.
As the days pass you walk deeper into the jungle and the views just keep getting better. I had never been in a place like this, so green and lush.
Clearly it is not the Hilton
But then again, how many Hiltons have this early evening view
Or this early morning light
One of the unexpected side effects of the government destroying all coca fields is that a large part of the 'campesinos' that were working these fields decided to migrate to the cities and not work in lower cash crops. Now the government aims to buy as much of the agricultural land as possible and revert it to forest and to its original owners, the Kogis, descendants of the Tayrona.
A little Kogi girl in one of the villages
We did cross several Kogi villages. Sadly following the Spanish invasion, the Tayrona culture was lost, and its descendants are far from the heights of their ancestors. If the Tayrona built complex stone cities, the kogis live in rounded mud houses. They have now lost the ability to work gold, their pottery is extremely rustic and rough.
The Kogi use this machine, that is pulled by a donkey to crush sugar cane
Talking to our guide you lose the romantic idea of the life of the Indians. One thing that really shocked me was the raw deal women get in this society. Men do not work, except for two years when they work for their mother-in-law-to-be. Men need to rest so they can have meetings with their leader and chew coca leaves mix with sea shell dust.
Women on the other hand are meant to work the fields and breed. One child a year, or the husband has the right to take another wife. The same applies when women reach the end of their fertily life.
After three days walking, having crossed the river Buritaca nine times, completely soaked, and having climbed the final 2000 steps, we reached the Lost City.
They believe that there are around 1000 round houses in the city, and several temples, although only about 300 have been excavated.
Before the archaeologists arrived, the city had been raided for around 2 years by a group of 5 cuaqueros, until one got drunk back in Santa Marta and bragged about the city and the treasures they have found.
This has probably been the hardest trek I have done in this trip. Although not as intense as climbing Volcan Concepcion, it was longer, and the conditions are much harder. Humidity, heat, mosquitoes, all add up a Green Hell.
However, the harder the challenge is, it seems that the sense of achievement is greater. Once again, I felt like the old men in the group. And also the unfittest. It seems that everyone just raced ahead of me and left me grasping for air as we walked.
Let The Games Begin!!!
4 years ago