Wednesday the 10th of July. I was picked up at 11.00 am. By now I was very excited and scared. Both at the same time. The rains have come and I really don’t know if my Keens can hold their grip! They are quite worn out by now. Anyway I had committed myself and paid for a five day hike to the Lost City! For the first day I had booked a motor bike to the top of the first very steep mountain. It was extremely scary, going on this steep road, with a gully in the centre, and lots of rocks on either side. Of course the road was also very muddy after last night’s rain. My goal was to see the Lost City, the hike there is secondary! Motor bikes, horses or donkeys, my aim is to get there and see it for myself. ( I wrote this before I started!)
My driver was really good, he kept telling me to relax, he must not have liked the extremely tight hugs I was giving him!! I have no idea how long it took, but we got higher and higher and suddenly we were at the top! This is where I was to wait for the cook, who would walk with me to the first camp, Mamey camp. I chatted away to the two men and one woman who were there. A lovely two or three year old delighted in trying to run me over with his tricycle. The more mister Bean faces I made, the more he tried. Time past fast.
Yair, the 30 year old cook, arrived and together we walked down the mountain. I had to leave my wonderful walking stick, which I found on the beach yesterday, with El Jefe, José Maron, instead I could hold Yair’s hand. This is of course much more pleasant! We passed an indigenous school. The teacher, Edward, told me he had eighteen indigenous students. Some of these students live over two or three hours walking away! Incredible. They start very early in the morning, and finish by one in the afternoon. It is probably due to the incredible humidity. The two hour walk down was no hardship, that starts tomorrow!! The camp is primitive, very basic, but has good mattresses AND mosquito-nets! This is extremely important. There are mozzies here the size of helicopters!
There is a river with a small waterfall within a ten minute walk. I changed out of my completely soaked t shirt, which probably won’t dry for the rest of these five days. The humidity is enormously high. Tomorrow, Thursday and Friday as well, are the two hard days for me. I have had my freezing cold swim. Chatted with two four year olds, about horses and did lots of animal noises. Gave away one hair tie and two bracelets. Now sipping coca leaves tea!! My feet up in the hammock!! Hasta mañana.
Well, these were the last words I was able to write, while actually on the trail. That night the heavens opened and it rained all night long. Having had a taste of the rough road ahead, I was mortified! There is no way my worn out Keens are going to cope with this. After a delicious diner, Maron told me I had to be up and gone by five thirty. An hour ahead of the main group. Yair, the cook, told me to come and get coffee as soon as I woke up. Luckily I have been up every day at about five every day. I had an early breakfast and while the others were still eating and packing Blanca and I started out. The first two hours were not bad at all. Slippery but nothing to worry about.
I was over taken by the young ones quite quickly. We reached the Mutanzi indigenous village. Stopped outside the village, take some photos ( mainly on the camera! To complicated getting out the ipad! Hence not too many photos for the blog!) and walk on.I actually didn’t see much of the other group and I wonder if they visited the village? We had another hour walk before we stopped for lunch. Then another four hour hike, which took me much longer than that! Had no time to take notes, nor time to take many photos on my ipad!! So bare with me if I tell you it was a long, long hike.about 16 kilometres altogether, but Carlos, the American Colombian said his gps told him it was over 23 kilometres. I didn’t really care! I get much shorter breaks than the main group, so while they are all having a refreshing swim in the river, I have a quick shower, and didn’t even get to see the river!! The food was basic but delicious. Beans, rice and eggs is the norm, varied with fish and chicken.
The group of five donkeys carry the heavy load of supplies, while the cooks run to the next camp as soon as they have finished cooking. Maron suggested I leave my backpack behind, only grab the necessities for the night. We were spending the last night back at the same camp Mano Romualdo ( camp 3) we arrived and after dinner I went to bed as soon. As possible. My clothes were all soaked! But you are either wet because of the rain or the humidity! Should not have bothered bringing anything, just walk in one set of clothing!!
I was to start very early to the Lost City, today involved a lot of uneven steps. I know from past experiences ( Machu Pichu and Chitzen Itza) that these steps are the worst. Luckily it had not rained the night before. So dry steps. When Blance and I arrived at the foot of the steps there was a young girl crying. I asked what the matter was and she told me she couldn’t do this any more and wanted to go home!
There are altogether about 1200 hundred steps, give or take a few hundred. I told her that she was thinking of doing them all in one go. Walk ten steps, than deep breathing, after I told her that I am turning seventy next year and she is only twenty three, how embarrassed she would be if she didn’t go on. There were four major tour groups on the trail, total of eighty people and I was the eldest! There was an elderly couple, sixty and sixty one. The rest was way under sixty if not fifty. Blanca had told me of this young man who arrived at the steps and refused to climb them , only a week beforehand! We had one young man who disappeared after only one day! It seemed he was not well. José Maron was quite worried about him! It is a lot of money to pay for one afternoon walking and one night in a camp!! So I didn’t feel too bad!
Slowly but surely I climbed up. Scary, hard, but with Blanca dragging me along, I managed. As soon as we got up there the group sat down and we had our talk! This is all very well arranged as two tour do their talks at night. So that at all time there is only ONE group on the top of the Lost City! Maron explained about how they discovered the Lost City, how it was robbed in the seventies. The Lost City was build over seven hundred years ago by the ancestors of the Kogui tribe. As all the houses were build in mud, and straw, they no longer exists, but pottery, graves, low quality gold and other items were found here. After much more talking of which I took disjointed notes which make no sense to me right now, we climbed to the top.
Here I met my group! I haven’t actually been able to interact with a lot of them but the father and son, Colombian Americans and a lovely couple from Ireland, and a young couple of Germany, these six people would often stop, chat or buy me a beer after a long hard day. Our total group had seventeen people in it. ( it was 18 but one left) So on the top we had recess together, took lots of photos, when I was told I had to leave. This upset me greatly as I just got here!!
I told Blanca and Maron that I would not be returning to civilisation. I would found an indigenous man over fifty, at least, and he had to have all his teeth, as I am losing all of mine and that wouldn’t do! But I was NOT going back!!When Blanca explained that Maron was worried about the rain, which meant the steps would be too slippery, I agreed, but wasn’t too happy about this. Afterwards I found out that the group was blessed by a shaman and all received a bracelet as a gift!
This peeved me off big time, but then I have to be honest, I got to sit down with a family of Kogui children, who allowed me to take photos! On the way down we also met a young family with a baby. The father didn’t want to be in the photo but the the baby was okay. One of my best photos, which I will print and enlarge. ( it is on the camera, not iPad) at the bottom of the twelve hundred steps, I slipped in the one and only small wet patch. Nearly knocked Blanca over! We laughed about it. Jarring my knee just a tad. Bit of a wriggle and rub and all was well. Back at the camp I changed into my dry clothes, packed up the rest and walked back to the camp of the day before, there we had lunch, I picked up my back pack, and all was well.
Until after lunch. The cold, the sitting still, the moment I got up I knew I was in trouble. I put my knee brace on my other knee and tried to do some warming up. Still a four hour walk to go! Well, to be honest I have no idea how long we took but it seemed like it was forever and ever. The knee ached constantly, and every stone jarred it with a stabbing pain. To top it all off the rains came down, heavy. We made up the end of the group, the couple in their sixties, the crying, fat girl and me! In the end it was me who was last!
However I did get to see toucans, only the small ones, but six of them very close up! Also many vultures and one big fat bush turkey. I have made it sound as if it was just one big hard slog, but Blanca and I joked a lot, laughed a lot and talked.
Maron was very funny, he tried to give me stern looks, like my father used to do! I told him off for looking like that at an old lady! He is the same age as my son and as he called me mami, I called him mi higo. The two of them had been married for eighteen years, I believe, and still as much in love as ever. On easy stretches the would walk ahead of me, hand in hand, smoothing when ever they could! Turtle doves they were! So sweet. So it wasn’t all hard slog, the three of us bonded very strongly. Though the joking, laughing became harder and harder, not one dry stich on me, cold, in pain, slogging on. I needed my glasses to see where I was putting my feet, but I was in need of windscreen wipers! Maron kept telling me only five minutes more, but he did this for hours!
When I finally was ready to drop, my legs refused to move, the camp was in sight. It was dark! The main group was eating. I plonked down, and when the wonderful Irish man came to congratulate me and offer a me a beer, I burst out in tears! So embarrassed I was! Couldn’t stop at all. His wife came up to me, Saoirse is a dentist and carried painkillers, which she gave me. Then she gave me a talk that I wouldn’t be able to walk the next day. I told her I wanted to see how I felt in the morning. Sometimes it gets itself right.
However, Maron came to put some magic cream on my knee, and in a very sweet way told me that the walk had ended right there and then for me. I was deeply disappointed, couldn’t stop crying, embarrassed as well. Mind you poor Maron and Blanca have been dragging me up and down these mountains, it has been so hard for them as well. I was blubbering my apologies for being old, slow and a burden for him, his wife and the complete group really. He kissed me on the top of my head, called me mami, and said the nicest things, I was the ” light of the group”, I was positive, helping others along the way. Cheerful, helpful and positives!! Yeah, sure! I blubbered even harder. Just couldn’t stop. So incredibly embarrassed I was. That evening Maron gave a talk about the customs of the indigenous people. I missed most of it. But people from the group came, hugged me and then said nice things about me!!
The things I do to get attention! ( not on purpose believe me!) there was a strong déjà vue, as I had damaged my knee on Machu Pichu as well!! Hmmm!! There is a lesson in there somewhere! I can walk on flat ground forever, but up or down seem to be a problem for me. Of course I owe an apology to the young man I booked the tour with, as he told me my hiking sandals wouldn’t do! He was right! The uneven ground really means you need to support your ankles, so I made it extra hard for myself! Hiking poles are an other great invention, and I will buy both items when I get back home. More practise would have been good too! I mean sun baking for ten days is great, but no good preparation for a four day hike! A donkey for me!
The whole group formed a circle, and waved to the queen of the donkeys! Mind you, after this Keto weight loss, I was glad that my bottom still has sufficient padding on it! Because, man, my arse hurt more than both knees together. The last stretch was on a motorbike like I did on the first day. They say you are only as old as the man you feel! I hugged my twenty nine year old rather tight!
Although on dry ground it was much better than on day one, when we slip and slided all over the place! Then a beer at the end, waiting for the others. Lunch, shared stories, lots of hugs and promises to keep in touch. Mental note to self! Never again!! ( which I will promptly forget about!) back to El Viajero, were I rested up, drank a lot, and turned my knees and ankles back to the normal size again!! One of the boys asked me if I enjoyed my hike! I couldn’t answer him then, but now I can say I enjoyed the bonding with Blanca and Maron, I loved the beautiful surroundings, the birds, butterflies, I enjoyed interacting and meeting all these wonderful people! The food, all was a great experience! Would I do it again? NEVER!
But I am extremely pleased and proud that I did this, I got to see the Lost City, not in a photograph, but in real, real life! Was it worth all the suffering? Oh god, yeah, yeah for sure! All the hard stuff is forgotten! It was even hard to remember it for this blog. It is the kindness of the people I met, the beauty of nature and the magical, magical Lost City which I will remember for EVER
P/s some of the photos are from the google search! I took quite a few, but mainly on my camera!