Rob, our Head of Product, has been working at Discover Adventure for 16 years and will be a familiar face for many of you. This means he's seen a lot of the most spectacular places in the world but we've not seen him get this excited about a trip for a little while! Here's what he had to say about one of our newest challenges...
As we drive away from the hotel at 6.00 am and the light begins to strengthen the streets are again busy but this time with people exercising, making the most of the relative cool of the 25 c morning temperatures! Lots of others are out too doing what work can be done at these favourable temperatures. Some schools start at 6-6.30 am and are then finished by midday!
There is a strange and seemingly unnecessary urgency to the place but I guess they’re just trying to get as much done early to be as comfortable as possible? It’s one of the things I love about being in the tropics, the satisfaction of knowing you’ve done most of the things you need to do by midday and still having plenty of time left in the day for more if needed! Almost as though you’ve cheated the day.
As we continue to drive away from the coast I realise that the coastal breeze at the hotel was cooling the beach area more than I appreciated. Already looking forward to the first refreshing dip in the river along the trail.
As on all our trips, but especially for those where the humidity is higher, hydration and a steady pace are key to the success of this trek.
Surprisingly as we start the trek the heat is drier than I expected. The landscape is drier too at the beginning, only becoming more luscious from lunch on Day 2 and in fact, it isn’t until you’re on the final few km’s to the Lost City that you really feel as though you’re in deep jungle/rain forest and the humidity rises significantly. We are in the dry season now so that may make a big difference to the feel of the trek but even without high humidity the daytime temperatures are high and make the hills especially sweat inducing!
The camps are all very well organised and not as basic as I was expecting, all with showers (refreshingly cold is the only temperature setting!) and flushing sit on loos. Also they have a water treatment program set at each camp so it’s easy to refill our bottles at each one (outside of camps we need to individually treat water from the streams).
The locals take great care in keeping the camps clean and tidy with use of some simply and common sense rules for all to follow, I’m really impressed with their forethought and preparation. This continues with the trail itself and the well positioned rest points and huts where local fruit (providing a very tasty source of essential fluid) is offered whilst we cool a little in the shade.
When we reach The Lost City all the effort is worth it (in spades!), it’s spectacular! and a much larger complex than the photos I’ve seen suggest. It has the quietness and tranquillity you’d expect from a sacred site but so much more as it’s still an active site for the indigenous people to honour the culture of their ancestors… they never lost the city! We have 2-3 hrs exploring the site with our local guides as they explain more about the indigenous culture and their use of the site.
Given our return journey is back the way we’ve come you’d be forgiven for thinking it could be boring and somewhat of an anti-climax but actually it’s great to mentally tick off the places you passed on the way up. The views are just as spectacular and you’re certainly not bored to be seeing them again, and let’s face it, who could get bored of swimming in crystal clear jungle rivers? Not me that’s for sure!
As we approach the end/start it’s funny to see the new trekkers starting out all clean and excited just as we were 3 days ago. I resist the urge to tell them how incredible but tough it is, they’ve had the briefing from the guides and now it is best for them just to experience it for themselves.
In a way I’m jealous not to be going with them and to experience it all again but I’m also looking forward to a hotel bed and tomorrow’s final trek in Tayrona National Park!
Our final trek day is totally different to the main trek to The Lost City and it’s this diversity that has got me really hooked on this trip. The trail is relatively flat (3 little up and overs) with maximum height gain of about 20 m as it winds its way along the Caribbean coast. We’re heading for Cabo San Juan which is THE premium beach on this stretch of coastline and it does not disappoint when we reach it. We’ve passed 2-3 spectacular beaches along the way which many people have been tempted to stop at but, as with the Lost City, the effort to get here is well rewarded! If you close your eyes and picture the perfect palm edged, turquoise watered, golden sandy beach and then open your eyes it’s the same view! We have a couple of hours to enjoy the beach and have some lunch before we retrace our steps back to the start. The high temperatures mean we’re still wet with sweat by the end but it’s been the perfect finish to the trekking in Colombia.
The final treat (as if we haven’t already had plenty) is some time and a night in Cartagena. It was built by the Spanish as their main trading port between Spain and the rest of their empire and colonial architecture is still very evident throughout the old town today. The old town is a network of tightly packed streets all surrounded by a high defence wall and there’s a lovely vibrant feel to the place as you wander between the main sites.
What were the highlights of the challenge
The variety of landscapes, The Lost City (obviously), the indigenous local guides, swimming in the pristine jungle rivers, the beach at Cabo San Juan, Colonial Cartagena. Finally, and a bit of a strange one (but that’s what you get with me I’m afraid), I loved the feeling of being physically tired at the end of the tough second day’s walk, it’s very satisfying knowing you’ve achieved something to make you feel like that – I’ve earned the right to be tired!
What makes it ‘Tough’?
The heat and humidity and the steep ascents (but thankfully they don’t last forever!)
5 top tips for the trip
- Travel light (simple things like only take small bottles (100ml) of body wash etc…
- Take a bandana or face cloth to use to wipe sweat from your face as well as making a cooling scarf after dipping it in a stream
- Walking poles really do help on this trek
- Slow and steady wins the race, it’s better to go at a slower pace but keep going than it is to rush and then need lots of breaks (far more tiring).
- Re-hydration or flavoured powder sachets – good for adding variety into the monotony of drinking a lot of water.
Why would you recommend it and who will it suit?
I can honestly say I haven’t been as excited about one of our trips for quite a while as I am about Colombia. As a trip it has everything – a good challenging trek to a fantastic ancient site, stunning and varied scenery, really authentic locals, interesting Colonial history and architecture and great coffee! The best thing of all though is that the whole place has obviously only just opened up to tourism and it feels really fresh. Having travelled to many other well established tourist spots in South America I’m aware of the sometimes negative side that tourism brings to a place. At the moment this doesn’t seem to exist in Colombia and it’s great to experience that. It also means that it’s not crowded, I arrived at The Lost City on what, for the time of year, was a busy day and there were only 100 people there! With everyone spread throughout the site it really felt like I had the place to myself, indeed there were many occasions when I couldn’t see anyone else – magic.
With so many varying elements to the trip I really do think it could appeal to anyone, there is a different highlight waiting for everyone.
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