Ciudad Perdida: the journey, not the destination.

Now. Before all this goes too far, I want to nip a few of your preconceptions in the bud.

The title does, I admit, allow for an assumption to be made with respect to the nature of the post.

I will let you know now that I haven’t used it in the “metaphorical bollocks” sense that has been floating around popular culture in recent years.

I know, I know, even while I write this, I can feel the reaction it promotes; “but you quit your job and have gone travelling around South America for an undisclosed period of time. You obviously have no career prospects to speak of so this is the first step on the way to becoming a motivational speaker!”

I promise (through a furrowed brow), this is not the case.

To be perfectly honest, I wish it were the case, at least then, I might have a shred of dignity still somewhere around my person, character or spirit.

I am a man of my word and the “metaphorical bollocks” are not something I indulge in too much, in the case of the following tale of intrepid heroism and adventure however, metaphor will be one of the only things keeping it decent.

To set the scene, the “Ciudad Perdida” is the name given to a set of ruins in the jungle just inland from the Caribbean coast. The name directly translates somewhat romantically into English as “The Lost City”.

In my mind, it conjures images of old Dicky Attenborough in full safari kit with echoes of a John Williams theme.

The reality is disappointingly practical.

It was once an indigenous settlement which was abandoned soon after Juan Diaz de Solis and his merry band of Spanish Conquistadors decided to attempt to destroy as much cultural diversity as they could.

The city was then overgrown and left ‘untouched’ until 1976. I must admit, I do find this a touch hard to believe as it would not be exactly unjust for the indigenous communities that did survive to find trusting the Europeans (or people of non-indigenous descent) with their secrets.

In fact, there is actually a tribe that lives high in the Sierra Nevada who to this day live with only secondary or accidental contact with anyone who isn’t part of the indigenous population. Before I reveal the chip that rests firmly on my shoulder too much, back to the story.

The place has now become a pilgrimage for many a gap year thrill seeker.

A four day trek through some fairly intense jungle will allow for a few hours on the top of the impressive terraces that once formed the foundations of the city. It was a very informative hike to all intents and purposes with guides who gave a full background and history of the area around the paths and tracks.

Passing numerous indigenous villages, swimming in waterfalls that flowed directly from the mountain peaks and seeing and hearing hundreds of different species was quite an impressive experience for the relatively un-travelled city dweller.

Day one and two continued in this vein through thirty degree heat. No complaints whatsoever.

Not to quote “Worlds most extreme natural disasters” (or a similar re-run on Dave that consumed far too much of my youth) too closely but, “things were about to take a turn for the worse…”.

After day two I had dinner and was just settling in to a nice cold Aguila (cheap Colombian Lager) I’d bought from the small shop at the camp, I began to feel a touch feint.

Fast forward 4 hours and I’m curled around the bowl of a toilet expelling everything and anything my body could muster. Throw into the mix that it is pitch darkness with the only exception being a failing head torch I found by my bed and that I’m in the middle of the jungle so as expected, that brings with it a multitude of inquisitive/hungry bugs and animals.

Most of my night was spent near sobbing into the crook of my elbow playing a mental game of Cluedo trying to establish just what it was that had caused me to be this ill.

When the morning eventually came, it was time to ascend 1200 steps (a loose description – they were basically just rocks lined up the final mile or so to the terraces). I nearly told the guides to stick it as they tried to motivate me but, tears in eyes and bit between my teeth (or was that just left over bile?), I soldiered on.

No food or water would stay inside me at all and Bear Grylls was narrating my every thought and action.

I made it to the top. Admittedly, I arrived 20 minutes after the rest of my group (which included a 65 year old lady wearing flip-flops).

I hated each and every one of them for issuing a mocking smattering of applause as my head crested the hill.

After a quick rest (15 minutes sound asleep while the others were receiving a historical lecture on the origins of the city) we were allowed to explore the ruins.

Perfect, time to take some nice photographs.

Wrong.

In my state of nausea and general disarray, I had left my camera tucked in to my bag at the camp. This is the reason for this article being almost entirely devoid of photographs. If you want to see the place, feel free to pop it into google as I will be of no assistance on that score.

Following a morning on the top we headed back down and began the long walk back the way we had come. Multiple stops every hour to quickly dart into the bushes and another day, we made it back to the starting point. The experience left me scarred and bitter as you are probably able to tell and writing this has brought back that keen sting.

I could continue writing and list things that furthered my anguish at that time but I assume you are bored already and I could go on for days.

Moving on, I returned to the hourly rate hostel with the plastic sheets from one of the previous posts where I remained for six days consuming pro-biotic powders in as many ways as humanly possible, just to try and accelerate the healing process. Medellin was next on the list, I had to go there as we all know what it is famous for; the first cross city metro system in Colombia!

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