We came to Santa Marta in search of Ciudad Perdida, an archaeological site nestled in Colombia's Sierra Nevada.
A Land Cruiser picked us up late morning along with 4 others and took us 2 hours to the start of the trek. Lunch was served and as we were enjoying our cold sandwiches, other hikers returning from the jungle began pouring in. They looked as though they were the ones lost and recently found: worn, sweaty, stinky, dirty. Yet, there was a sense of victory in their demeanor. Before leaving, they passed on their hiking sticks to us, confident we would need them.
The following days were full of tough up- and downhill stretches, but the views were captivating. We were surrounded by lush jungle, crystal clear flowing water, and, in some parts, deep orange clay. There was so much biodiversity, we had to stop every half step to appreciate it. Full of energy, enthusiasm, and eagerness, the fatigue from the first 3 days was easily dismissed with the refreshment of sweet oranges and watermelons and cold showers. After hearty meals each evening, we sunk into our hammocks, oblivious to everything around us, recharging our bodies for the day ahead. On the fourth day, we hiked the last kilometer along a narrow path, through 2 river crossings, and up 1,200 stone steps to the ancient city. That morning it was set against blue skies and verdant mountains. The weather was perfect and the air felt that much crisper. The higher we climbed, the better the view. We soaked it in for a short time, then began making our way back.
Having reached our destination, the return trek suddenly seemed daunting. We started to notice aches and sores in places we hadn't before. Mosquito bites became itchier and urged us to scratch harder. Uphill climbs seemed endless and even descents were dreadful. Looking down was just as bad as looking up and we got to the point where putting one foot in front of the other was forceful and deliberate. Our bodies felt heavy with lead and our packs weighed down on us even more, ladened with perspiration and humidity. Landmarks we had passed less than 72 hours prior felt so distant. Anxious to get back, first to camp and then to the head of the trail, we stopped only for water, ignoring even the sweetest of oranges.
After 5 days, 4 nights, and 45 kilometers, we made it back to civilization, worn, sweaty, stinky, dirty...yet victorious.