Colombia: Lost City, Kogis, and Parque Tayrona

Following a few days in the hippie village Taganga in the Santa Marta region, I decided to join the 5 day trek to discover the Lost City in the mountains of Sierra Nevada. Despite the fact that I didn’t have proper hiking shoes or a backpack, the idea seemed like the best thing to do at the time, which I did not regret!

I quickly bought a ticket at the Magic Tour office in Taganga to be picked up the next morning at my hostel Casa Felipe. Even though I was traveling alone at this point, I made friends pretty quickly with the other 18 mostly European backpackers who were going be my companions for the following 5 days.

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The minivan that took us to the starting point on Day 1

The trip took 5 days in total to go and come back and the company also offered 4 and 6 nights. Unfortunately since no one wanted to stay 6 nights, I had to agree to go back on the 5th day. For me, the connection with the lush green nature and culture was so fascinating that I could stay a couple of weeks if I was allowed!
Ciudad Perdida is also known as Teyuna and Buritaca and it is believed that  was founded about 800 CE, some 650 years earlier than Machu Picchu.

During the trek, which was pretty rough at times, we saw amazing sceneries, crossed and swam in rivers, slept in hammocks, ate pretty decent camping food, consumed canned cervezas, were accompanied by dogs, mules, Kogi kids, and chewed on coca leaves.

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6 am smile 🙂 The sheets behind me are the hammocks we slept in.

We started the days pretty early (around 5 am) to hit the trail early to avoid the sun and the mid-day rain.

The highlight of the trip for me was to be able to interact with Kogis (means Jaguar), an indigenous tribe who lives in the highlands of Colombia.

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Me and the Kogi kids. I hope they were as happy as I was

Kogis have a sad story like most of the indigenous tribes in the world and they are exploited still to this day. Some may argue that by joining trips like this might contribute to their destruction however, I was told that the money made from these tours also go to the preservation of their habitat and culture. But I agree that our entry into their lives started a difficult integration period for them. Because being exposed to money means buying booze and junk food from camps (true story), which means dealing with consequent health and cultural problems. I heard there was a special health center in the nearest city (Santa Marta) just for their use and they needed money to get there, so hopefully our help was not a bad thing afterall. The irony of being the cause and cure of the problem :/

From the internet: There is a genocidal atrocity underway in Colombia that threatens this highly sophisticated Pre-Colombian tribe. During the Spanish invasion, they were threatened by dogs and soldiers alike, they remained in isolation. Regardless, many priests were hanged, women were stolen and raped, and children where forced to accept Spanish education. Later, missionaries came and also began to influence their way of life, building chapels and churches amidst their villages to train and convert the locals. In the years since, the Kogi have remained in their home in the mountains, which allows them to escape the worst effects of colonization and aids them in preserving their traditional way of life.

At the end of the 3rd day, after having climbed the last 1,200 stone steps, we finally arrived to Ciudad Perdida as early as 7 am. There was a school trip while we were up  there who came to learn more about the history of the area and chat with the Kogi Shaman who came down specifically for this reason. We were lucky to be there to meet him and get his blessings as well. The bracelet he gifted me to save me from lions and snakes surely kept me safe for the last 4 years of my life during my journey.

As you see, at the end the Lost City site didn’t have much left in it to show us but the journey itself was truly worth the challenge. Especially, the interaction with the Kogis, friendship built with a bunch of backpackers, the amazing landscape we breathed in, and the overall experience exceeded my expectations.

What to pack for the trek:

Make sure to pack minimally since you don’t want to carry unnecessary stuff on your back for 5 days.

  • Mosquito repellent (possibly with deet)
  • Refillable water bottle (clean water is offered at the campsites)
  • Snacks/nuts – this is up to you.  You won’t go hungry during the trip as you are fed generously by the company + fruits will be offered during the day
  • Rainjcoat ( I had my foldable one from Uniqlo)
  • Fleece jacket (after the sun is down and you can wear in the bed)
  • Waterproof shoes and backpack or raincover for your backpack
  • 2 t-shirts, 2 trekking pants/shorts
  • Quick dry towel to use after swimming and showers
  • Bathing suit
  • Headlamp – must have to go to the bathroom (or to your hammock) in the middle of the night
  • Earplugs
  • Wetwipes
  • Toiletries (shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrush)
  • Sunscreen
  • There’s no reception during in the mountains, so you don’t need to carry your power bank unless you listen to music or use other apps on your phone.

Parque Tayrona

After the 5 day trek, I traveled along beautiful Parque Tayrona, which had quite a number of awesome beaches. The best-known ones are Bahía Concha, a lovely spot for swimming.

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A popular beach among young Colombian travelers

You may find some spectacular fincas (bungalows) or hammocks to rent for days and reach some of the most beautiful beaches of Santa Marta, and take a bath in their crystal waters. The best ones can be reached by boat or by an adventurous ecological hike. For some of these beaches, you will need a whole day to enjoy them as they deserve, and it is not possible to visit them all in one day.

The reason of my trip to Colombia was to join an Ayahuasca retreat on a private beach property in Parque Tayrona for 8 days and I tell about my experience with the plant medicine in another post because it deserves special attention!  But it was one of the best experiences I have ever had and the pictures below reflect that magical time even a little bit.

Check out the rest of Parque Tayrona and my 2 month trip in Colombia here. My relationship with Colombia has been so deep from the beginning like love at first sight. And I’ve been to this beautiful country twice already.
I am planning to go back in 2018 again to join a special retreat including ayahuasca and vision quest practices under the lead of Native American elders.

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