Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Raiders of The Lost City

A 6:00am flight means a 4:30am check-in, which means a 4:00am taxi and a 3:30am alarm. Coupled with mosquitoes in the dorm room means barely any sleep which overall equals bitchy and irritable Nicole. Add to that a drunk guy kicking my seat from behind and making a general nuisanse of himself, arm rest hog and serial nail biter to my left and a distinct lack of cafe con leche and those of you who know me can guess the rest....

Happily the second leg of my journey was much more pleasant; Max a great conversationalist I had met a couple times in Uruguay was also on stopover and I then had the company of a pair of handsome Brazilian twins on my flight to Bogota.

The idea of being in yet another heavily populated, smoggy city was less than enticing so I had already planned my exit to the Carribean coast and purposely limited my time in Bogota to a day and a half. I escaped the metropolis for a day by exploring the underground salt cathedrals of Zipaquira and upon my return a familiar face greeted me. Andre, a fellow traveller I met in Mendoza, Argentina was checking in at the hostel. Although a little weary from him journey I dragged him out to experience with me what had been described as a "must see". Andres Carne de Res is a quadruple level mega restaurant/bar that features kitsch decor, salsa dancing table hopping eccentrically sequinned entertainment and a choice of seating options; Heavan, Purgurtory, Earth or Hell! Not to mention a menu that resembles a glossy magazine and all kinds of Columbian gastronomical delights. We left with substantial food babies and sashes which promoted us from Purgurtory to Earth....or is that demotion? I´m not sure!!

I had some serious ground to cover on my last morning; the clouds cleared just long enough to take in a view of the sprawling city from high above La Candelaria, to whisper a little Easter Sunday prayer at El Santuario de Monserrate and make a quick visit to Museo de Oro; a golden wonderland that I could have easily spent the remainder of the day exploring. 

I had places to be and friends to meet though so I passed on the 16 hour bus ride in favour of a one and a half hour flight to Santa Marta.


It was lights out at 8:30pm at the Arrecifes camp in Parque Nacional Tayrona, I lay in my hammock overlooking the Carribean coastline as an electrical storm played out overhead lighting up the night sky and I ruminated how lucky I really am. Randy Pausch said in his Last Lecture that "Luck is - where preparation meets opportunity" so I guess my three and a half years in Dubai was my preparation and my opportunity came through being single and unbridled, two qualities which their value I often question.

The day before I had finished the Ciudad Perdida trek, 5 days in the Columbian jungle, an experience that was both challenging and amazing. The trek is 56km through the hot and humid jungle, 3 days uphill over rocks and crossing rivers to reach the 1400 steps that lead to pre-Columbian ruins dating back to the 7th century. 

We met coca leaf chewing indigenous Kogi tribes who believe chewing the leaves activates the powers of concerntration, memory and speech; all powers I desire so I gave it a go! It was mostly unpleasant, as a mouthful of dried leaves I guess usually is. We encountered watermelon seed eating ducks, frogs that whistled the night away and slender and venomous serpents. The night time jungle sparkled with lightning bugs and we had our very own entourage of dogs that we had affectionately named Tosser and Blanco who accompanied us all the way to the top. 

We were fortunate to have a small group, fun and interesting guides and rain-free days. Despite a bout of dehydration and nearly being trampled to death by a mule thanks to Alex´s piss poor "Mule Alert" the entire experience was sensational. The most tedious and awful part of the trip was the transportation back to Taganga, a 1970´s Landcruiser held together with cellotape and string - literally. 

Throughout the five days (less so on the last day as I was a sweaty disgusting bug bitten mess completely grossed out by myself) I was in continual amazement and couldn´t help repeating to myself "I am in the Columbian jungle, this is AWESOME!"

Back in Taganga we spent one night in yet another hell hostel (Trudy, Alex and I seem to know how to find them) before we set off for a few days of R&R and just the right amount of hiking on a visit to Parque Nacional Tayrona.

Ciudad Perdida - The Lost last 


1400 or so steps

A well deserved lie down


An army of Leaf Cutters

Now thats a tree

Angels...probably not!

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