In September this year, 5 very lucky STA Travel agents we’re whisked off on a whirlwind week long trip to Colombia, for a short, but very sweet, trip to experience the very best of this fantastic country. One of those Experts, Martyn Bone, couldn’t wait to spill the beans about his first time in Colombia, and explain why he plans to come back again and again.
So, imagine how you feel when the manager phones on your day off… you ignore the ringing and wait for a more convenient time to call back right? Well in my case, that changed when the flashing message was to say there’s a trip to Colombia with my name on it! It’s safe to say I was back on that phone straight away and to be honest, already thinking about stepping off our plane into the Colombian sunshine!
I’ve spent over 3 months in Latin America on a previous Round the World adventure, but never reached the historic cities, tropical jungles and glorious beaches of Colombia. The continent has so much to offer any type of traveler and really is a place where you can get totally immersed in the culture, luckily for me, it’s still a land less travelled in relation to some other places in South America. Whatever your ‘thing’, be it history, food, music or just the great outdoors, Colombia’s got it all.
Starting out on the Lost City Trek.
Our trip would end up being a whistle stop tour, but a good mix of both independent and group travel. The highlight for me would be a trek to the Lost City which is run and takes you on a 5 day hike through the jungle to an ancient Colombian civilization. Think Indiana Jones & you’ve got the general idea! As Travel Experts here at STA Travel, we’d all done other hikes around the world before, but I don’t think any of us really knew what to expect and that probably just added to the excitement and anticipation of the trip.
Before the trek, we had time to explore other parts of the country, so after flying in to Bogota & dropping in to see the president (we’ll his house at least), it was on to the beautiful city of Cartagena. Set majestically on the beautiful Caribbean coastline, the city itself is just as impressive with historic old colonial buildings surrounded by the city wall and fortress – all of which are UNESCO World Heritage sites. The government actually runs a competition each year for houses within the city where they all attempt to be crowned as having the best dressed balcony. With a year’s free ground rent on offer, residents take this very seriously! It’s not uncommon for balconies to represent jungles themselves & all the plants bring a brilliant burst of colour as you wander the streets.
Part of our time here was spent on the Rosario Islands, an archipelago of small inhabited islands off the coast of Cartagena and our own little spot of paradise! The day trip included speedboat transfers out to the resort and a glorious, super fresh seafood lunch. It proved the perfect place to soak up the sunshine and relax our bodies before our upcoming trek. That said, if you want to be a bit more adventurous, there are also scuba diving, sailing and loads of other activities on offer.
The culmination of our trip finally arrived & the Lost City trek definitely lived up to expectation. After a bumpy ride up to the park entrance, we set off on our intrepid trek through the jungle and our new home for the next 5 days. As expected it’s hot, humid and tough going, but the rewards are endless, especially paddling in the clear, cool waters, on one of the many river crossings which give a great chance to cool down! Any budding David Attenborough’s would be in their element as the national park has one of the largest range of bird species in the world, not to mention the frogs, butterflies, snakes & if you’re really lucky… a puma!
Our group and tour leaders.
On the hike, not only do you have the experiences that only a rainforest can offer, there’s the chance to visit Ciudad Perdida – the archaeological ruins of an ancient city. It’s not easy to reach and after 44km’s and 1,200 stone steps up to the site, you realise why it remained lost to treasure hunters for so long! No sign of the gold these days unfortunately but an amazing sight of ancient ruins set upon stone terraces carved in the mountainside. It could be compared to Macchu Pichu but in reality is a lot more of an intrepid adventure and off the beaten trail, so a very unique experience in South America. Just like other treks you’re looked after amazingly well too, with an experienced guide & porters to cook tasty meals, essential to re-fuel! The permanent campsites with both bunk beds & hammocks give you that experience of sleeping in the middle of nowhere but in relative luxury. There’s nothing quite like hearing the sounds of the jungle while you go to sleep!
Unfortunately we did have to come home at some point, but after 5 days in the jungle and 5 very sore pairs of feet, everyone was happy to have one last night on the town in Santa Marta and celebrate what had been an incredible trip. It’s safe to say that all of us are planning to be back again very soon!
Martyn’s top 3 essentials to pack for the Colombia’s Lost City trek;
1. Mosquito repellent. The jungle is full of mozzies and you’ll probably want to have a bath in this to keep them at bay! Don’t worry… you can wash it all off in the river each day!
2. Good pair of shoes. Take what you feel comfortable wearing but be aware the trek is quite hard and you’ll regret it if you don’t plan ahead!
3. A phrase book. Colombia is a wonderful place but made even more special if you can interact with the locals and order your Cuba Libre’s!