Taganga & Cudad Perdida
07.08.2010 - 19.08.2010
Another ridiculously frustrating transport here from Cartagena…..really starting to annoy me now! First a guy tried to charge us double because the bus was direct and then when we got off he finally dropped the price to what normal price should have been. Then it turned out the bus didn’t even go where we wanted to go and stopped half way…..then to top it off the guy ripped our ticket up when we questioned it – incredible! By this stage we were ropable and the other bus driver probably felt a bit hard done by as we were very terse at this point but to give him some credit he delivered to where we wanted to go for a fair price.
The little fishing town of Taganga is not quite the little fishing town anymore and arriving on the weekend we got to see it at its busiest overrun with tourist both foreign and local alike. The central focus is ofcourse the beach and whilst the beach here isn’t too bad, its not spectacular though probably the best I’ve seen in South America. Here once again being so close to the ocean the fish and shrimp ceviche is fantastic though for some reason (anyone that can please explain this weigh in) there is a war for the best beef steak being fought out between two restaurants in the area! I will endeavour to eat at both of them to try and add my two cents worth.
After a couple of days lazying about on the beach I decided to take off to the jungle trek out to the lost city, my main reason for coming up to this part of the country. The night before about midnight it absolutely bucketed down, not exactly a promising sign for the trek ahead!
The first day was an interesting start to the trek with the road from the bitumen to the trailhead in terrible condition and required the 4WD, luck and vroom vroom sounds from the driver to get us through it! Once we arrived at the trailhead we were home free however just in time to wait two hours for the rest of our group to come so we could eat lunch and take off – you have to appreciate South American time. After the lunch we started the hike and trail wasted no time in giving you a taste for the challenge ahead as you take on a stiff half an hour hill climb before being nicely rewarded with a lovely little swimming hole to cool off. The remainder of the day was relatively easy and saw us arrive after only a couple of hours of trekking at our base for the night. This was one of these tiny little houses with a hose for a shower, a stove for a cooktop and hammocks for beds with plenty of roommates in the form of the feisty jungle mosquito’s that had yet to reveal their true colours as merciless insects with no respect for clothes or most forms of DEET. I managed to survive tonight by loading up on DEET, wearing long clothes and huddling in my mosquito net. With little to do after darkness set in we retired to our hammocks to rest up for a slightly earlier day tomorrow.
The second day we took off full of energy and in anticipation of adventure with our first river crossing (1 of 9 in total). We started off with high hope of keeping things dry and took our shoes off for the river crossing, this one was a little over knee deep but we quickly abandoned the idea of keeping our shoes dry, which was inevitable because my waterproof shoes with holes had abandoned the idea as well! This posed the annoying problem of having to wring out my socks at every opportunity which was still less annoying than the constantly having to wring out my shirt! Seriously it was only about 35 degrees but it was humid and my shirt would be one colour in the morning and three shades darker half an hour later. I was trying to aim for 6 litres of water a day to make up for what you lose but it was just impossible. The river crossings did however give us a nice opportunity to cool down and the countryside was beautiful to walk through. The rolling valleys surrounded by mountains covered in nothing but trees created a very tranquil setting. The odd tiny isolated house that relies not on power but simply on candles for lights and stoves for cooking would give the impression of a place that technology forgot but for the strong presence of the military in the area.
The second day ended quickly as we arrived at our second camp just on lunch time….about 2 minutes before the rain started. Exceptional timing on our behalf we thought and then the guide let us know that in the mountains it would rain pretty much everyday but only for an hour or so. The hike was also rather bland with the rolling valleys giving way to the jungle and plenty more humidity but another nice swimming hole to cool off in. The rain continued on for the next six hours – not exactly inspiring for the mud path we would walk up to our third camp……sadly enough the same place that was all but destroyed by a landslide two weeks ago. With the rain falling we were left with little to do but play cards all night before retiring once again to our hammocks in preparation for a more difficult day tomorrow – we were all hoping that the rain would subside soon.
The next day for our longest day so far we would have to get up at 7am and there were many groans when that was announced but the groans gave way to hostility when the guides & cooks decided to wake the entire camp at 4am such was the noise the generated! The trek was also slightly more challenging with a couple of long uphlls and a long downhill, made very difficult by the slipperiness of the track that saw most people succumb atleast once. In fact we had a rule that once you fell you retreated to the back of the line so you atleast could console yourself with seeing the next fall no matter who it was! The path also had the challenge of crossing the river four times, the first being the most interesting trek wise as we individually hopped into a man cage and were pulled across the river the old fashioned way. The rest of the river crossings however we were on our own but for a simple guide rope that we had to try and hold onto despite holding our bags over our heads and attempt to thwart the wishes of the furious river current, with the water level up over waist high this was no easy feet! We finished the day off with a walk upriver anyways arriving however once again with amazing timing as the heavens once again opened. We found out here that they were considering closing the track to tourists if it kept raining due to the high river levels!
The campsite here is still in the process of being reconstructed after four of the five buildings were destroyed in the mudslide and people were more than a little nervous as the rain kept coming. Here we had the option between sleeping in extremely cramped bunk beds or utilising a three man tent. A quick look at the ridiculous argument that was developing told me that the tent was less painful option! Here the entertainment was more cards but our common enemies in mosquitoes were even more viscous and my luck did survive and they got me real got on this night and I still have the souvenirs to prove it. We finally retired with sleep hard to come by but with the rain eventually giving up allowing us to prepare for tomorrow what would be the toughest day of the trek.
We started with a nice early river crossing before ascending the 1200 steps to our destination “The lost City”. As we ascended up the stairs we arrived at the first of the ruins, some of the 600 or so that make up this so called Lost City. Continuing up the stairs we arrived at the plaza principal and the spectacular view over the nearby mountains and valleys. The plaza principal also gives a full view of the remaining plazas and terraces up and down the mountain.
It was here that the guide told us the remarkable story of how the place was discovered 35 years ago by a father and son in the area. As they travelled to nearby towns to sell the riches from the city it began to be noticed and after a short time eight friends of the son turned up to further try and pilfer the place however the father and son held firm. After many weeks of standoff the son was finally persuaded to kill the father and a war broke out between the bandits, resulting in only three of the bandits ultimately surviving. Finally one of the bandits named Frankie Ray went to the government and said that he was prepared to restore the ruins and help them to promote tourism here, for a very reasonable fee ofcourse. The first tourists started arriving here in 1982 and the local people have been taking their cut ever since but for three weeks when the city was closed due to a neighbouring village dispute over money.
The amazing thing about these people is that once somebody died in the house they would bury them inside the house with some treasures and then they would build a new house. Sadly very little else is know about these people of in fact this setting but it does offer an incredible location and as you wander amongst the jungle.
Amusingly and somewhat sadly given where we were the biggest excitement of the day came when soldiers ran from all angles to one spot. We weren’t sure what was going on and thought perhaps there was some activity but it turned out however that the blonde german girl in our group had stripped down to her underwear for a photo with the military and soldiers were running from everywhere to get into the photo. After she put her clothes back on the excitement stopped and the guys retired to their individual spots - I guess here this probably is the equivalent of the old bunny drop from the Vietnam war! Next we visited the local Sharman’s houses, one for the boys and one for the girls. Amazingly these two tiny houses house up to 28 people. After this we raced back to the camp however the half hour wait for the german girl cost us the chance to stay dry and we arrived in the rain.
Since the rain was coming down thick and fast and we still had a three hour walk back to our campsite from the previous night we wrapped our stuff up in plastic bags and set off. With the path nice and slippery a few of us decided to try and go straight though and we arrived quicker than expected soaked but happy to be there. We did however end up on our butts on more than a few occasions such was the quality of the track. This time we were the only ones here and had only to share the campsite with a couple of dogs, a lot of very noisy frogs and a jungle full of very bright fireflies. We are all anxious to start early tomorrow morning so that we can get home and have a shower and do some laundry.
The next day didn’t start so great with three of us (including myself) feeling a little but on the crook side, so the first two hours of constant uphill wasn’t exactly what we needed. Still we all survived and managed to get back into town soaked as always but in time for lunch and without anybody really falling over today. Once we finished lunch we had the real adventure of the day trying to back to Taganga with the 4WD slipping and sliding all over the road, that was worse than when we came in and we even got held up for half an hour after we got bogged and we all had to get out and push. Not exactly what we needed after five days of hiking through the jungle!
With a couple of days left here in Colombia I spent a bit of time in Taganga before heading back to Cartagena, coincidently where most of the people from the trek were also headed. We all caught up there for a few drinks to celebrate the end of our trip as we were all to exhausted after the trek to do so. On Friday its time to leave South America and fly off to Panama to see the world famous canal and the famous islands.