June 21st – 27th
Cut out boxes line destitute sprawling hills in the outskirts of Santa Marta, Colombia. The people are kind, impecunious, and wary of the light skinned foreigners. While some of the locals steer clear of the tourists, others in the small city of Santa Marta greet them with open arms as they imagine themselves being blessed with great wealth.
I made my way from Cartagena to Santa Marta by bus and instantly made a friend who would be my travel buddy for the rest of my time in Colombia. We spoke about the meaning of life, our experiences, and why we were traveling in the first place. I was pleased to hear that like me, Nick Langton journeyed to discover more about who he was, what he wanted from life, and what path he would choose to get there. After speaking for hours I sat back in my seat and smiled. I smiled, knowing this trip would lead to one of the greatest discoveries of all – a conquering of what I could only dream of doing to be able to do more. But what does that actually mean? Well, let’s skip the routine part of travel to get to the best part.
- Arrived at Drop Bear Hostel
- Explored the dirty and unattractive city
- Relaxed and indulged in local delicacies
The Lost City
Located in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Ciudad Perdida, is a four day hike for those who are fit in mind. Yes, the hike is physically strenuous but mentally the climb is astronomically difficult. To reach the famous Lost City one must climb up mountains – sometimes quite literally with hands and feet clinging onto the side of steep hillside – and carefully slide down the other side. The trail winds sporadically until tunneling into an all encompassing thick and awe-inspiring jungle; a jungle full of wild beasts (red howler monkeys / tigers said to have been seen by tour guides) and mother nature’s continuous call to quit. To make it to the Lost City one must trudge through mud, thick foliage, and heavy sheets of warm rain. To top it off, one must live in wet socks, sticky and sweat dampened clothes, and dirty underwear for four days. Oh the smells, oh the ungodly smells. Don’t forget, us nature lovers pay to do this.
Below is an itinerary from Expotur of the hike:
DAY 1 SANTA MARTA – EL MAMEY – CAMP 1
This adventure starts around 9:30 at Expotur’s office where a 4WD car will take you in a 2 ½ drive to El Mamey, the place where we have lunch and then begin the search for the sacred place of Tayronas (antique Lost City residents). At the end of the afternoon we arrive at the first camp, and in its surroundings we´ll find rivers, natural pools and waterfalls to have a relaxation moment, and then we have dinner and spend the night in hammocks.
DAY 2 CAMP 1 – CAMP 3
The day begins and we have breakfast early in the morning, then we start to walk by the riverside of Buritaca River where we’ll find plenty of houses which make part of a Kogui indigenous village called Mutanshi. Our trek during the day will takes about 7 hours going through the jungle of Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and enjoying the biodiversity to finally reach the third camp (equipped with hammocks, beds and tents) where we´ll have a delicious dinner and rest after an adventurous day.
DAY 3 CAMP 3 – LOST CITY – CAMP 2
Early in the morning we have breakfast to start climbing up 1.200 steps to our main destination, a trail constructed by Tayrona people to reach the beautiful Lost City. Once we get there the guide will show us everything related to this magic place full of relics and ancestral stories, we’ll spend the morning enjoying the landscapes and having enough time to rest and take pictures, finally we’ll have lunch at the third camp and then go back to the camp 2 for having dinner and spend the night.
DAY 4 CAMP 2 – EL MAMEY
The last day of this adventure begins with the breakfast at the camp to then continue the way back to the point where all it started, during the walk we’ll find rivers and waterfalls to have refreshing breaks. Finally we reach El Mamey, place where we’ll have lunch and our 4WD car will pick us up to go back to Santa Marta arriving around 5:00 p.m. completely delighted of a lifetime experience in the magic Sierra Nevada.
So why hike a total of 28 miles to reach a city of ancient ruins through dangerous jungle terrain? Was I mad? Was everyone else on this hike luny? Did not one but many fly over the cuckoo cuckoo’s nest? Depending on when you asked me during the hike I would have said, “why yes darling I have gone bonkers.”
The truth is… I did it because I did not think I could.
I was afraid. I was scared I would be the weakest link. I was worried I was not physically fit enough for such a strenuous and challenging journey. What I didn’t know was that unlike my body, my mind could be invincible if applied through a positive and determined lens. What I didn’t know was once I stopped focusing on what I was so worried may happen and started focusing on what I WANTED to happen, then that’s exactly what I would achieve. What I didn’t know was the hardest and most difficult parts of the hike were my absolute favorite. Why? How could that be? At the points where I felt myself breaking, I also felt myself growing. I learned how far I could actually push through pain. Pain was nothing but a preconceived notion that could be turned into feelings of pleasure within an instant. All that was needed was a true decision. A decision to keep going and push myself past every so called breaking point no matter what. Is there ever a breaking point though? When gaining muscle we tear the muscle we already have to make it stronger. So then, to become mentally tough shouldn’t we break our old thoughts? Shouldn’t we push past the limitations of the mind to “work out” our most valued and most powerful muscle? Have I not learned this lesson before? Apparently, I needed a 4 day reminder.
What I enjoyed most about the journey was not finding the Lost City but finding the person I knew I could be.
I stayed at the Lost City for 3 hours. I was in the journey for the remainder of the time. The whole time I thought seeing this ancient pile of ruins would give me the satisfaction I wanted. Yes, it was beautiful. But surprisingly as soon as I got there all I wanted to do was hike some more. I was exhausted. My legs were shot. My body was raw from mosquito bites and my feet were covered in blood. Yet, I wanted to continue hiking. I wanted to learn. I wanted to learn so much more about myself, mother nature, and the history that surrounded me. If I only pushed myself more I could discover a kingdom of knowledge waiting to be unlocked. If I only took one more step I could imagine a world where nothing could ever bring me down. Where, despite every physical barrier, my mentality would always prevail. Because the lesson here was simple:
If you think you can, you can. If you think you can’t, you can’t.
And that my friends is how I learned how to be successful. It doesn’t matter what you do or how you do it but what you think while doing it. Your mind is the sole predictor of everything you will ever make happen in your life. Life never happens to us. We make life happen for us.
Whenever I think back to my time in the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta, I think growth. I think fight, blood, sweat, muscle, and one hell of a mind. My Lost City was a journey of discovering the power that lie within. It was finding something that had been dormant for too long. I realized that only I could seek and create passion and drive to continue through this difficult path we all take. It was never about finding one Lost City but creating a continuous journey of beautiful discoveries along the way.