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La Ciudad Perdida

sunny 30 °C


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Hello dear reader,
this entry is going to be in english, because there are some non-german-speaking people who want to read this.. i hope my english skills are not too bad, and i hope you all speak english hehe =)

As i told you, i was going to visit the "Ciudad Perdida", a 'lost' city in the 'Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta'. It was built by indians, it is not known when. Our guide told us it was around the 11th to the 16th century. When the spains landed in colombia they brought many deseases with them and made the local indigens to slaves, they destroyed their culture and robbed their gold. But they never made it to the lost city because it's so deep in the jungle and (as the guide told us) the spains didn't like to walk and it's impossible to go there by horses.
So many locals decided to go to the 'Lost City', the indigens call it Teyuna. But the indigens from the coast brought the deseases from the spains, like fiber, to Teyuna and many people died because they had no medicine against this and their bodies were not used to something like this.
From the 5000-10000(?) people, who lived in this cultural and spiritual center, only about 30% survived. The survivers decided to go further up in the mountains and so Teyuna was left behind deserted.
Then they decided to split up into four different groups, now 3 of them are 'civilized' and one of them lives still with the traditions in the jungle. Their tribe is called Kogi (?).
the indigens use it now only as a spiritual center where they can hold the ceremonies.
Then, 1972 or 1973 some graverobbers found the city again by accident, after it was 'lost' for more than 350 years.
They were 5 people and when they went back to Santa Marta or Taganga they split into 5 different groups which all robbed the treasures in the city.
Of cause they had conflicts after a little while, people were killed, every group was hostile to each other. But it continued until 1975 when either the indigens called the nacional institute for archeology or they found out themselves, i don't really remember.
So after 1975 the official exclavations and discoveries started, but after a little while the indigens wanted them to stop, because for them this is a holy place where their grandfathers lived and they saw their cultural and spiritual treasures destroyed because for them it didn't really make a difference if there were graverobbers or official archeologists making exclavations. So after one or two years (?) they were no new discoveries any more. There are more than 200 old villages around which are only known by the indigens. And the city is much bigger than the part that one can see, most is hidden in the jungle now, there is no money and no will to restore these old parts...
It is possible to do this trip, because the indigens let the tourists in their area, because they get half of the money you have to pay for this trip & of cause because they are nice =)

It is a five to seven day trip through the jungle, we took the five days because we wanted to be 'recovered' from hike by new years eve :)
After a ~2 hour ride in a jeep we arrived in the last village before the jungle. It is impossible to reach this town by a normal car :)
Full of energy we started our trip, after half an hour we were in the 'real' jungle, it was about 30 degrees and MINIMUM 100% humidity :)
My shirt was completely wet after one hour and it never got dry again the next 5 days..

I don't know if i should, nor if it's legal here to tell all of the story, but i'am going to do this and i'll leave this online as long as i don't get any mails telling me to 'censor' this story.

So, after a *really* hard climb for the next hour we suddenly saw a coca field in the middle of the jungle, next to our path.. What can i say? this is colombia! :P
After one more hour or so we met some soldiers, they were chilling in the sun, cooking food, leaving their machine-guns around them without taking care too much of them :P
After a little chat, they asked me if i have some weed, because they wanted to smoke! But i had none..
Here is a photo =)
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Then we arrived in the first camp. There were like 5 houses and there were some rumors that there was a 'cocaine factory' close, a little bit further in the jungle :P
The guides told us, that we can see this if we pay 20.000 pesos, which is about ~9 Dollars. Of cause we wanted :P
The next day we stood up early and followed a young girl on a small path into the jungle. She is the daughter of the man who owns the 'fabric'. Then we arrived there, it was a place in the middle of the jungle, everywhere were bottles of chemicals and some tons, smelling after petroleum.
The guy who runs this was a friendly, 62 year old 'maestro de coca' as the guides told him. He allowed us to take pictures and he explained the whole progress 'how to make coca leafs to 90% coca paste'.
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He uses so much chemicals, i can't remember all this stuff, but i think you are not interested in this anyways, isn't it? :)
But it is impossible to use this paste, because the final step is missing, it is not allowed for him to make the actual powder out of it, because the substance one needs for it is also used by the paramilitaries to make bombs out of it, and so the military forbids this..? Something like this, i didn't understand it right.
It was a strange feeling, standing around in the jungle and there is an old guy explaining how to do this paste as if it was the most normal thing in the world :P
Anyways, after this 'excursion' we continued our hike, leaving fields like this behind:
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after 4 hours of walking we came to an indigen village, the houses were all made out of wood, we could only see women, they told us that the men were at a meeting, which takes place always at the end of the year and they discuss their problems together while they eat powder of coca leafs and sea shells.
The women have to produce this powder for them :P
The young girl is 16 years old and pregnant:
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Then the second night.. The sounds of the jungle are really nice, in the night they get louder and you lie there and listen.. nice feeling =)
The next day was 'the hard day' =)
8 river crossings like this:
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and after this 2000 steps upstairs to the city..
The nature was just amazing..
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After approx. 6 hours we finally arrived the top and i was a little bit disappointed because there were no buildings or anything, there were just circles like this:
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But i was to exhausted to think more about this, we went to bed early =)
The next day we went to explore the city a bit and our chef-guide, Wilson, explained us much about the culture of the indigens, he really knows well about this. I translated this into english with help of this dutch guy whose name i forgot :( (if you read this, please mail me if i understood everything right..)
So this is what i understood:

First of all, they kept their religion and cultures simply because they didn't belief what missioners told them. They have many gods, like the frog-god, the sun god, the god of the water and so on..
The mountain where the ciudad perdida is on is the heart of the world.
They are ruled by a shaman which knows everything about their culture, medicine, gods, ceremonies and so on. Surprisingly there are also women shamans which have less power than the men but are still shamans.
You can get a shaman if you were born when there was full moon. At the age of five a shaman was separated from his family and lived with the old, wise people from now on. He couldn't eat meat, milk, vegetable oil and many more things which i can't remember. Many children died and so they have more liberate rules nowadays :)
The shaman right now has two women, like every indigen man has.
For us this constellation is really strange: He married a woman and her daughter, whose husband has died. The woman shown him how to have sex and so on, then when the daughter is old enough, he has children with her! Men and women life in different houses on the same circle.
At the age of 15, women start to have children. After a child is born they wait 6 month to get pregnant again. This continues until there are not able to get any more children. They don't have sex for fun, they have sex to get children :)
The girls get married to men who are chosen by the girls parents.
Women have a harder life than men:
-They have to prepare the food and they are the last eating
-They can't wear shoes like the men do, because they get energy from the earth, the rocks which makes their bones strong, from the trees which has something to do with their hairs and they get good enery from the rivers for their blood.
-Women have less to say
-Women have to prepare the drug for the men, which consists of sea-shells- and dry coca leaves powder
It's a hard life for them.. But they also have the rule: if someone threats his wifes bad they get the sentence that they have to go into a house for a few days without food and water and after this they have to carry stones from the rive up to the city, which is 2000 high stairs while 20 men have to wipe him all the way up. And if one man doesn't wipe hard enough he gets the same sentence!
The same is if a wife sleeps with another man, then women have to do this..
The rules are very strict in this culture:
If a women has twins, she has to kill one of them because she can't take care of both of them, because she has to do a lot of work and she can't carry both of them on her bag while making e.g. a bag.. Men don't have to do anything with the raise of the children..
If you are too old and can't take care of yourself anymore you get killed because others can't take care of you because life is too hard..
If you rob or kill someone you get the dead sentence..
They belief in life after dead. They think you get reincarnated into animals. If you made everything right in your life you get reincarnated in a so called strong animal, which is e.g. a frog or a butterfly.
They are happy if someone dies because they think the life after dead is a better one than they had before. They are only sad when a child dies, because you have to do work after dead before you are reincarnated and small children can't do this..
In one way they are really far more modern than we are:
They consider themselves as the big brothers, while we are the small brothers. This means: They take care for the environment, for the jungle, their world while we pollute everything and can't keep the jungle like he is now. But they forgive us because we are the dumb small brothers...!
It's incredible stupid: Because the indigens found batteries in one of the rivers a little bit more up, no tourist can go to the other big city any more...
They think that we tourists take more care of the nature than our guides, but i couldn't see this sadly.. i found some trash in the jungle and i collected it while other threw it away without thinking. Here i really have to criticize *some* of us touris..
Nowadays because the Ciudad Perdida is visited by about 200-300 tourists a month in the high season, the indians can't hold their ceremonies uninterrupted any more, that is why they have a day in the year which they choose when no tourist is allowed to be in the city.
They have about 200 small villages in the jungle, most of them no stranger has ever seen..
If an indigen goes to a big city without permission they go there and kill him..
This is the house of the shaman, the houses of the city might looked like this:
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This is what i heard about their culture. It is very likely that i didn't understand everything right because my spanish is not good. So please forgive me if there is something missing or wrong. But i think this is better than most of the articles i've red in the internet..
I think that if you go to the ciudad, you should go with Wilson as guide, he really knows everything i asked him, he was there first at the age of 15!

It was a nice feeling for me to know that there were treasures around, undiscovered and hidden in the jungle. There were many stairs which you just can't climbed because they are covered with plants:
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only the indians know where they lead to..

Then we had the way back.. again 8 rivercrossings, 2000 steps, walking , sweating =) But i really enjoyed it =)
You have to have some energy to do this trip, i think it was one of the physical hardest things i've ever done in my life, but i'm a lazy city child :)
The way down was not that hard i think, the last day i looked like this =)
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(exhausted but happy) :)
When we came back to the civilisation i had the impression that everything was noisy and stressful, it's really strange after 'so long' only in the jungle.
I wrote this article in english because i hope it will educate, help more people and i hope i get one or two comments from people who did this trip with me.
I'm sorry for my english, i think is is my first long written text since i was in school =)
i can definitely recommend this trip, enjoy the walking, enjoy the nature, the sounds, the feeling, the culture, the histories and everything else, i did it so much!
One of the graverobbers still lives in a small village in the Tayrona park, i didn't have the time to visit him, but i heard that he likes to talk a lot, so if you talk to him, please let me know what he says =)
All the pictures which i did you can see here
If you have any suggestions, complains, additional information or anything, just make a comment please, you just have to click on 'subscribe on the right top corner of the page, under 'navigation'. (You won't get any spam because of this!)

I wonder if anyone read this entry to the end, i hope it was not too boring =)
Now i'm in Medellin, Colombia..
I like Colombia a lot!! It's not dangerous i think..
There are much more stories but i think you and me had enough for the next 2 or 3 weeks =)
Greetings to everywhere in the world,
Jonas

PS: i updated the photogallery, to see it click here!

PS: Marlis: thanks for the information about the islands..
i know that it's not very smart to go onto a boat like this, but if you are on a sailboat for the first time in your life and you ask the captain if everything is right with the security, and he answers yes..
and: i don't tell false stories here everything what i wrote down what i did is true. If i hear storys about something then i write down that i heard from it, not that i had this experience myself.
There are many people reading my blog, and with some of them i was traveling together and this is my self control not to exaggerate things (too much ;)), if you know what i mean.

See the itinerary of this trip, and details about each destination.

Posted by cosmocrat 23:19 Archived in Colombia Tagged backpacking

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try to keep yourself nice and in the middle of humanity and think about your health in the jungle of bother, if the god of fortune is smiling unwillingly to your droppings, if you unterstand what I´m saying in my helpless insignificance (all in all) - uncle M

by Madenpaul

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