The Lost City | Day 1
And the adventure begins
The first day of this great adventure got me out of Santa Marta and onto the small town of Machete Pelao (aka Mamey) via a four wheel drive truck. After lunch we embarked on the trek. walking for four hours to our fist camp. the humidity was the key factor, even more so than the walking. We stopped by a few rest areas where we enjoyed fresh fruits.
On this day I traveled from Santa Marta to the Sierra Nevada.
It was a beautiful morning in Santa Marta. You could smell the sea from my balcony. I headed up to the rooftop for some drone shots and then enjoyed a quick breakfast at the courtyard.
I checked out of the hotel and walked a couple of short blocks to “Parque de los Novios” or lover’s park and to the tour company. I decided to go with the only indigenous ran company in town, wiwa tours, to get the full authentic experience.
I left my bag in the storage room, paid for the tour and met both Gabo, my guide and a fellow hiker. From there it was a taxi ride. First stop it was at the guide’s apartment to pick up forgotten items. By the way, I took the opportunity to go to the corner store and get a bottle of water and a soda. The second and final stop was at a gas station on the outside of town.
Pico y Pala is a system in Colombia where each car is only allowed to be on the road certain days in the week. Is an attempt to curb traffic jams.
We climbed on the back of a four-wheel SUV packed full of supplies and drove on a paved road for two hours to Aguataquera on the Sierra Nevada. We got off for a snack and to stretch out our legs. From this point on we say goodbye to paved roads for the remaining of the drive. This is also where I got to meet indigenous people from the area selling souvenirs to passing tourist.
I got a bottle of water and a guava shake before heading into the park. At the gate, we got a wristband from the park rangers and our information was noted on the park’s log. Then it was an hour drive on the most uneven and rough terrain to the small village of Machete Pelao aka Mamey.
This is where all five-tour company have their departing and arriving huts or offices. You can see guides, cooks, and porters unloading the cars. Hikers getting their backpacks and getting ready. There was a group of hikers that had just arrived from the lost city and were having lunch. You could tell from their expressions and body language that this was going to be hard.
Lunch was served and what a feast it was.
We took the main street out of town and headed for the first camp. A map on a wooden board outside of town showed the layout of the land. Gabo, our guide, gave us a brief explanation of what was in store for us.
First, we crossed a stream and made a quick stop to catch our breath and then walked past a school for indigenous kids. The first stretch is highly trafficked by motorcycles taking supplies and people back and forth to the end of the dirt road some kilometers into the park.
It was fresh fruits for snacks at strategically placed stops along the path. They come when you need them the most. Gabo pointed out every tree, medical leave, animal and bird we came across. He truly made the immersion into the land and his culture an easy.
Although it was overcast with a 10% chance of rain for the majority of the day the humidity was the killer. I was sweating buckets as the saying goes and it did not get any better once we made it into the forest canopy and indigenous territory. I had my rain gear at an arm’s length but prayed I did not have to use it at least on the first day.
Took another break at a rest stop and had a glass of orange juice as I chatted with the locals. Saw our mules with our food rations walk by. There is donkey poop all over the trail.
At 650 m El Mirador is the highest point of the day. You get 360-degree views of the Sierras from here and they are breathtaking. Flew the drone a bit to my guide’s surprise. This was the first time he had seen one and was like a kid at a toy store.
It was an hour and a half trekking mostly downhill to camp Adam where we were originally supposed to stay but decided to go on to the next campground. Unfortunately for us, it was uphill. The temperature started to fall, and it felt like it was going to be a cold night.
Total time walking today was about four hours in total through some 16 km of some of the most rugged terrain I’ve come across. No doubt this was only the prelude of what’s to come. I settled in my mosquito net covered bunkbed and took a cold shower before the sun went down.
During the raining season, the bugs become a hassle. I got a yellow fever vaccine in Miami just in case but luckily it wasn’t so bad.
The generators were fired up and we shared a meal with the other groups of trekkers. Gabo told us a little bit of the history of his people and what to expect tomorrow. Eight hours or double today’s walk with a break in between for lunch and a dip in a river.
With that said we called it a night to catch some rest but not before saying goodnight to Paula the parrot.