Saturday, 1 January 2011

Where is it? Where is it? Damn, it's lost...(part 1 of 2)

Indecisive until the last minute if we should use 5 full days of our precious time left in South America (we are starting to feel pressed of time even though we have more than 2 months left before taking off from Rio for Auckland in early March) to do the trek to the Ciudad Perdida, or if we should rather just spend a couple of days on the beach and then move on to the next destination in order to make it to the Galapagos Islands in time for my dream of celebrating Christmas with some giant turtles.
Five minutes before the deadline, the night before the trek, we had made our decision and started a chase for cash machines that actually accepted foreign cards. By the 5th try we finally hit jackpot and withdrew the million!!!
needed to pay for the two of us (our first million ever) and made it to the meeting with the guide only 10 minutes late, to end up waiting for 1h for the owner of the travel agency to show up.

In Colombia, our (in)famous lateness is nothing in comparison with that of our 'hosts'. An hour mentioned is in fact not really a precise time, but rather some kind of estimation of what part of the day something will be happening. Hence our departure on the first day of the trek was 2h delayed, 6am morning departures turned into 8am ones during the trek, while a '1h hike' could be anything from 20 minutes to 2 hours.

But it was all worth it! The time frustration, the 1000s of mosquitoes and horrible, horrible sand flies (the bites of the latter itches 20 times worse than those of mosquitoes and they keep on itching two weeks after getting bitten), the slippery deep mud with mule poop mixed in, the rain and constant humidity of everything we brought, the freezing cold showers, fairly uncomfortable beds, hurting knees, swollen feet...

It was all worth it because the experience was just magical.

On the first day, we started with a crazy ride in a Jeep seating 13 people (well squeezed up together) on a road that was more or less, well more really, falling apart.


We had to get out a few times and walk when the road got too bad or dangerous. While at other points we were wondering what would happen if the wheel slipped just a few centimetres as there was nothing more between the car and a few hundred meters fall right down the valley. It felt a bit like being in a amusement park, although without the security restrictions usually in place there.

This was definitely the most adrenalin filled part of the excursion, and we got to experience it twice – on day 1 and day 5.

As we had started out 2h late in the morning and got delayed additionally because of the state of the road driving up (and also because of a broken truck blocking the way), we then had to walk really fast to get to the place were we would sleep for the first night. Although it felt like we were running part of the way, we still ended up walking the last hour in the dark, trying to make it down a muddy, fairly steep path without getting completely covered with mud.


So imagine how happy we were when we finally arrived and could wash off in the river floating just in front of where we stayed (there were cold showers, just that we didn't realise that until later...) and how well we slept in the hammocks that were our beds for the night. And I can usually not even take a siesta in a hammock. Magical :)

On the second day, we woke up to poring down rain. Hoping that it would stop, and taking almost two hours to leave in the morning nurturing that hope.
So finally we took off after all and spent the full day walking under the rain. But once we got completely wet, after about 10 minutes, we couldn't really get any wetter and thus enjoyed the hike, carefully putting one feet after another on the slippery, sloppery path and enjoying the hot soup once we arrived more than anything ever before (well, approximately).


On this second day we saw some of the huts that the indigenous people of the region live in, saw the very simple way they dress, and the extreme rapidity with which they move through the muddy paths with. 
 
 
Nuno also got to do some magic tricks for some of the indigenous children that came to eat a bit at the place we were staying on the second night, and saw one of the men use the local poporo (I was regretfully out dead in a siesta during that afternoon and missed it all)

 The third day was the day of some crazy river crossings. We had already crossed a multitude of smaller rivers, but this day we had to cross a big fat one at several intervals.
 

As it had rained the full day before the water was fairly high, so it was decided at the first river crossing point, that our bags would cross in a kind of cage on ropes that was deemed too dangerous for us, but the locals crossed it back and forth all the time, both our guides and the indigenous. So our bags had a nice dry crossing over, while we waded through the river holding on to a security rope.

It was actually a lot easier than it originally seemed. It was a cool day. And as the sun was shining down warmly at us we enjoyed every river crossing and even decided to swim a few times once we had crossed over. And we were getting really close to the Ciudad Perdida.






So close in fact that we played with the thought of going up there for a small preview peek when we arrived at the base-camp for the third day already before lunch. But we were very good and patiently waited for the next day, and spent the afternoon playing different games including stones, the river and the other side of the river.

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