Santa Marta – The Lost City Trek

When I arrived in Bogota; I was absolutely freezing! I arrived here in August and many people said to me that Colombia would be hot – it seemed they were wrong. 

Then, I moved to Medellin which was a good warm like 25C – 30C which is a comfortable heat that I could handle.

There is no Uber here so you will need to take a taxi but it’s a fixed rate about 30,000 COP (approx £6.80/ $7 USD).

Anyway, The Lost City Trek is something that I’ve heard about and wanted to do whilst in Colombia so I flew to Santa Marta and OH MY DAYS! It was 8pm and it was smelting hot. It was so humid and I could not stop sweating. It doesn’t go well when you’re carrying a rucksack and I needed to cool down ASAP! It was about 40C in the evening – thank the universe for I have booked a hostel with air conditioning but it was only in the bedroom so all the hallway etc had fans that was just blowing the heat. I literally almost died from dehydration.

But then I crawled into my room and thank the world as the air con was on :).

Hostel Eco – The staff at this place were actually really friendly and the location is great plus it’s next to the police station so I felt safe walking around in the evening.

Another place that I stayed at was Colour Hostel which is a little walk away from the square but it’s a nice boutique style with a small pool, a pool table and just modern and clean. 

Anyway, moving onto the Santa Marta, there are some beautiful places to visit including secluded beaches on Tayrona where you can relax in the heat and maybe do some snorkeling (you can get a local bus which takes about 15 mins).

The Lost City Trek

This can be 4 or 5 days which cost the same but the 5th day is hiking to a different area. Some people think they would stay as they save money but 4 days in the jungle was enough for me and you’ll find out why soon.. 

Firstly, we need to get into the many companies that run treks as there are so many. There are companies that will profit for themselves and my preference was to go with a company that gives money back to the indigenious community, gives the indigenouse employment and if anything were to happen, these are the people that can lead you out of a mess since they know the land on the back of their hand. If you are someone like me from the city who rarely treks – it all tree’s blend in together and I would easily get lost in the jungle so having someone there that can speak the languages of the villages – this is a no brainer for me.

In 2006, there was a group that was held hostage by guerillas and as much this is more of an established route these days so it’s less likely to happen again as well as there are police at The Lost City – I am not chancing it with just ANYONE; it will be with people who know the land well enough to escape and as well as know the villages to ask for help. Because I am that person that thinks ‘worst case scenario’.

The only company that I found that supports the indigenous community it Wiwa Tours and I highly recommend for MULTIPLES of reasons which I will go into later.
I paid by card so there was an additional card charge but it should costs approx 1,100,000 COP (approx £252 GBP / $340 USD).

One thing to say before I go into this trek is that you shouldn’t attempt to do this solo and you should go with a tour company. You are entering land that is owned by the indigenous community and if you are not with an approved tour company – in theory, they can shoot you down as you are trespassing. Even when you get to The Lost City – they have a specific temporary passport that tour companies need to apply to obtain for you. There are strict restrictions to prevent people going on their own as there’s been many problems and again, you are entering land that is owned by the indigenous community so they can apply and punish you however they see fit. 

 This trek is SO intense that I would not recommend to beginners or intermediates (unless you want a challenge).  

We had a quite funny indigenous guide, trainee guide and a translator leading a group of 16 who were from France, UK, The Netherlands and Colombians.

This is technically low altitude compared to Peru at 1,500 metres however, personally, I think I have health problems as I struggled a lot (mostly breathing) as I think my body isn’t strong but I powered through.

There’s lots of uphill climbs in the initial days and at one point there is an hour and a half climb up hill. Most of these treks are not as established as the treks in Peru where it’s flat land upwards – this is all rocks where you are grabbing rocks to climb up plus mosquitos everywhere! Honestly, you sweat throughout the day so all your sunscreen and mosquito repellant will drip off you (it’s disgusting but protection is needed!).

Having someone from the indigeous community to guide us was great as they were able to share some traditions, facts, stories and folklore which is a massive highlight for me. 

Now, the selling point with WIWA Tours is that they have reinvested the money that they have got from tours and built their own ‘camps’ so you are not sharing with over 100 people (200+ during peak season).
There is a LARGE camp where a lot of companies use to place all the groups in (they must pay a rent or something when they use these camps). There are issues with kitchen staff as each company will have their own chefs who bring their own food so the kitchen has to be rotated (meaning you might be waiting for your dinner), there would be HUGE queues for the showers and toilets.
I’ve heard there’s been times where there’s not been enough beds as there isn’t someone who manages this properly so people have had to sleep on the floors – not ideal. But as a private company, I don’t think they have permission or they must find it hard to get a permit to build a space therefore they only have to one large camp that they can use.

WIWA is different as previously mentioned, they reinvest and they are a company built up by the indigenous tribes so they were able to obtain permission and build their own camps, separate showers and kitchen that’s only for people in the WIWA Tour. So you only have your groups, you aren’t waiting forever for the kitchen staff to cook as they have their own space, it doesn’t smell like urine or body odor and it’s nice not to fight for a bed. We walked through the other camps and I knew I made the right decision going with WIWA. 

For the first night, we stayed in a camp with bunk beds (with mosquito nets) and the second in a space that is still waiting for further investment for bunk beds so we slept in HAMMOCKS. It was an interesting experience and as a group, we’ve all had funny stories the next day. The third night, we slept in bunk beds so all good in the hood for us.  

We trekked through farmland, it was a steamy jungle that will always rain in the afternoon and saw rural Kogi communities. 

I am a sunset chaser and watching the colours with the black shadows of the jungle was incredible. There are no words that describes this beauty and it made it all worthwhile for me.

After many steep incline steps – we finally got to The Lost City – it felt so amazing!! That I accomplished this bloody hard trek and to hear the history of this place. They are still doing archaeological work on this place to find out more about the history and this trek closes for one month in September. The native tribes come to this sacred site to do ancient rituals to let Mother Earth breathe, spiritual cleansing and restores the balance of the ecosystem for Santa Marta. 

One of the best things from this trek is that we were blessed and given a bracelet by the Chief which represents different  (a good fact is that if the male Chief is married – the female is also the Chief and is seen as the same statue and power level as the male Chief. It’s good to see equality is something they practise and it’s taking a long time for the rest of the world to catch up). 

What goes up must come down right? Honestly, coming down was a b*tch for me – I think I pushed myself too much and threw up (a couple of times) which made my body spiral out of control. The worst thing is that the only way down is to walk down. There are no motorcycles or donkeys to help – these are only for good and to bring stuff but it’s quite unstable ground so if you did get on a donkey, you might fall off.  So I had to persevere – I was so happy when I got to the bottom! 

All the tours are on a schedule as you need to be in X place at a certain time and if you are slow and behind – they really don’t like it as the timings of the jungle is that it rains and when it pours it down. I would say raining cats and dogs. Which creates rivers and streams with a strong current that were never there before so you have to end up crossing so they are quite strict on timing. 

I’ve crossed so many rivers with a medium to strong current that went up to my shoulders (I’m quite petite so everyone else it only reached their waist – major short girl problems), I almost blew away with one current (it’s no joke as no one would’ve been able to get me) and I had blisters all over my foot – BUT it was worth it. 

On that side of things I do understand the position of the tour companies, but I physically could only push myself to the limit.
Unlike trekking Machu Picchu – if there is a great concern of people lagging behind, they would suggest the individual to leave earlier with a guide to get to the destination on time – which I was prepared to do. 

I’m one of those people who if you tell me to ‘Hurry up’ – you will get evil looks that will haunt you in which the guides could see my struggling and yet kept telling me this.

My group was so supportive of me and gave me so many words of encouragement – I couldn’t be more grateful for having this amazing group.

These are my cons on this as the treks in Peru – they will adapt to you in the sense where, if there is someone slow, they will allow you to leave earlier than the rest of the group so you meet at the same time at the checkpoints and you don’t feel you are lagging behind.

After this trek, I had bruises on my feet and toes, mosquito bites everywhere, definitely got sunburnt and cuts from when my boots rubbed against my mosquito bites (that stung like hell) but IT WAS WORTH IT!

I highly recommend doing this trek if you are someone who wants a challenge and be highly rewarded after the trek ends. 

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