Rambling Robert's Travels

This blog chronicals the travels of myself, Rambling Robert, on my next adventure to South America.

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I am a world traveller. I do not work as such. I have been homeless and unemployed since 1October 2003. I worked as a chef for 30 years in America.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Update from Ciudad Perdida in the Colombian Jungle

I am now in Santa Marta, Colombia. I have been back from the Lost city for 1 day this is my second night. What a trip. The trek lasts 6 days and 5 nights. About 18 river crossings, 2000 steps to climb up when you finally reach the city and all the difficult conditions one would expect hiking the Colombian Jungle.
We got off to a late start. So when we finally began hiking the first days 6 km it was already 3pm. It is usually 4 hour hike. But of course it depends on the group. Some groups are faster than others. We started ut late anyway, and the problems are thus, it rains every day in the Jungle from about 4 or 5pm until 4 or 5 in the morning. It gets dark at about 6pm. So...You guessed it we humped in the dark for the last 90 minutes or so, in pouring down rain.
Mud up to your ankles. Thick mucky mud that makes this obscene sound when you lift up your foot and it grabs your hiking shoes and sucks them right off your feet!
Three guys two Aussies and a Brit, got ahead of the group and were detained by a group of 3 paramilitary guys. Before we began the hike in Mame we saw lots of armed youths in camoflage uniforms and UAD or CCAD patches on thier arms. Our guide Walter had a quick meeting with us and explained these guys were paras and they ran the show up here. They dont usually bother anyone but sometimes ask for donations or gifts. He said not to resist and to give them anything they wanted. It should turn out okay.
So these three guys are detained for about 20 minutes and questioned as to what they are doing in the jungle in the night in the rain. They are also fond of one guys watch and the other guys head lamp. So Walter When he learns of the situation runs off into the night and returns with them a few minutes later. We would see lots of these Para dudes out in the middle of nowhere. They were Young, mostly kind of friendly and definately not hostile or aggressive and the indian children described them to me as thier friends.
So we finally all reach camp wet and miserable. The first day was about 75% up hill and 4 river crossings. We slept in hammocks and drank river water from waterfalls beginning this night and for the remainder of the trip.No one got sick.It rained torrentially all nightr until about 5 am. Our hammocks were in a structure that had a hard dirt floor, poles sunk in cement and a fiberglass corrugated roof. It had no walls. Just beams and a roof. Oh yes and lest I forget...about 500,000,000 MOSQUITOS.
After dinner our guide plopped down a half pound bag of marijuana on the table ñand told us he was sorry that there was no alcohol available for the trekkers. but the marijuana was free. Well.....That lead to a robust round of applause by the group and we got stoned and listened to the wondrous sounds of thunder storms in the Jungle at night. A virtual symphony of insect sounds, rain beating up against all kinds of leaves, Thunder, and the occasionl flashes of lightning and the constant flash of fire flys!!!
I love my life--You aint old until you start acting old. I aint ever gonna grow up!! I was about 20 to 25 years older than the next oldest person but Walter was 6 months older than me, and I felt like if he can do it so can I. but it was hard. Really Hard!
So next day we all woke up early. This day was gonna be harder than the first which is supposed to be the easiest (4km up hill 2km down, 4 river crossings, 36degrees and 90%humidity) Well okay the second day was definately harder!
We hiked all day except for a 60 minuutes swimming break which was only a 15 minute break for the slowest of us. I had about 50 minutes as I was hiking up at the front of the group. The river was too swollen for the mules with food to ford and so we had no lunch. Our shoes are soaking wet after about 15 muinutes everyday so you have to hike all the time in wet shoes and feet, at the days end your feet are all white and wrinkly and gross. Your shoes weigh like an extra 2 kilos too when they are all wet. This was the worst in-convenience of the deal...always having wet feet. I injured 3 of my toes pretty bad on the down hill part that day. So I hiked in some pain the next 4 days.
Late on the third day we finally got to the steps leading to the Cuidad Perdida. We had 8 river crossings in a very swollen high river. We needed to use ropes to cross 3 times and twice all held hands as a human chain. Two of the times the water was chest high and we had to hand our backpacks off to the porters so they could get them across in a dry condition. It was a bitch of a day for me and I was at the edge of my endurance. If felt like if it was any longer I wouldnt be able to hack it.
Some people have to test themselves from time to time. To push the limits of what they can do. To confront thier fears and just do it. I guess I am one of them. I dont know why I put myself in a group of very fit young people and try to do a 6 day hike up mountains in the jungle, but then again maybe I do. I figure you aint old until you admit it,and I am not ready to admit it yet or maybe... I just like risky behavior.
Anyways now we had to climb first 1,200 wet, mossy, narrow, steep, stone steps to get to the site and then 800 more to get to where our lodge was that night. ¡Aye chingaso muchachos!
You can bet your last sweet potato the first joints of the night were rolled fast!!! Lots of moaning and groaning and lots of congratulating one another and a real warm fuzzy bonding feeling of having accomplished something really difficult.
The next day was spent relaxing and exploring the lost city itself. It is a nice archeological site. There are mostly round or oval structures only ab out a meter high. These are stone wsalls around mounds of earth. Aparently the Tayrona indians built these mounds and then constructed wooden structures to live in above the mounds. Then when they died they were burried in the mounds and the family moved to another place nearby. So now all thats left are the stone suports for the mounds. I have never been to an archeological site like this before. There are no touts. No one selling t-shirts sodas, posties, or anything else. It is just quiet almost surreal setting.
Hiking out was harder than hiking in. going down the wet slippery steps was quite nerve racking and a few of our grop fell but no one was hurt badly. The fifth day we had to cover all the ground we covered on days 2 and 3 so it was really grueling. On the morning of the sixth day, those who wanted to could pay an extra $9.00US and visit a clandestine operational cocaine lab. The guy who runs it makes about a kilo per month. He suppliments his income by taking trekkers on a tour of the lab. Just in case anyone was wondering if the "Whore on Drugs" is really a sham or not, I guess the DEA could find the labs if they paid to take a tour!!!
So finally on the 6th day I walked out of the jungle. A little worse for wear. I had to throw away two pairs of totally ruined socks and I tossed my shoes that I bought in Cusco because they were never really meant to wade through rivers and they are totally tweaked. As for me I think this time next week I will probably have three of my toe nails fall off. They are all black and ugly, but now 4 days later they dont hurt much. I still can only wear sandals though, but in this weather that is fine.
Tomorrow at 3pm I leave on a 65 foot (20 meters)Yacht for a 5 day trip from Cartegena Colombia to Panama via the San Blas Islands. I will then stay in Central America and maybe Mexico or somewhere in the Carribean for about 5 or 6 months I have decided to save Venezuela and Brazil for another trip.

"War is never a winning thing...You just lose all the time and the one who loses last asks for terms. All I remember is a lot of losing and sadness and nothing good but the end of it..." from "Dandelion Wine" by Ray Bradbury

Peace to all of you. Next update from Panama.


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