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September 15, 2012

Vagabonding Field Report: Hiking to the Lost City, Colombia

Cost/day: $50

What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen lately?

The reverse side of the aptly named, Butterly 89

As we were standing around pondering the fate of the inhabitants of the Ciudad Perdida (The Lost City) in Sierra Nevada, Colombia, a butterfly caught our group’s attention. The butterfly is nicknamed “Butterfly 89″. From the photo, you can see why.


Describe a typical day:

Hiking to the Lost City takes 6 days typically. Our group would usually have a small breakfast of either fruit or eggs with a shot of coffee. Then we would hit the trails around 7 or 8am. The path through the forest is either constantly climbing or constantly descending but rarely flat. It’s an exhausting, sweat drenching, sun scorching, bug biting affair. Some days, we’ll pull up to a natural swimming pool at the base of a waterfall and take a swim, often before noon or so.

By 2pm, we have usually arrived at our next camp which is great since it always rains in the afternoons. And I mean always. Although by the time you arrive, you are already soaking wet and so hot from the hike that a rainfall is a welcome change to the humidity and heat.

The reward

Afternoons are spent lounging at camp, playing cards, reading or just snapping photos of the incredible surroundings. Dinner can involve a soup, chicken and rice or lentils and plantains with some pasta. After dinner, without power of any sort, you either chat for a few hours with your fellow hiking mates by candle light or hit the sack early, around 9pm at the latest. The accommodations are usually a simple bed with mosquito netting or a hammock. Often you’ll fall asleep to the pitter patter of rain falling on the shelter’s metal roofing.

Describe an interesting conversation you had with a local:

I met a fellow back in Bogotá who was travelling all over South America, teaching creative writing to disadvantaged kids. He explained how the power of controlling something as simple as the creation of a story can help kids who have very little control over their daily lives. He recounted some of his experiences while strumming a guitar and interrupting our conversation to sing a few stanzas.

What do you like about where you are? Dislike?

There’s so much to love about Colombia. You can visit a tropical climate like the coasts and get the ocean experience, go diving for a song and then escape the heat up into the mountains to visit coffee plantations. The natural beauty of Colombia is breath taking and because of it’s long history, all of this can be yours with barely a hint of other backpackers.

Don't try this at home

It’s difficult to find fault really with Colombia. There is, of course, still a lot of security concerns in parts of the country but the risks have decreased significantly over the past decade. Non Spanish speakers may feel isolated as English is very sparsely spoken but for me, that’s part of the attraction.

Describe a challenge you faced:

On the hike to the Lost City, a destroyed my pants and almost got washed down the river I was crossing. The reason? I had torn a seam in my left pant leg along my knee. While crossing a fast flowing river, the water was able to fill my pant leg, grabbing me violently and filling my pant leg like a parachute in the wind. I ended up barely getting out of that one but not before I completely tore my pant to shreds.

What new lesson did you learn?

Don’t cross a fast flowing river with a major tear in your pants where water can enter.

Where next?

Heading south to see the Galapagos.

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