Wednesday, January 6, 2016

4 Day Jungle Trek To The Lost City- Days 1+2 (Colombian Rainforest Adventure)

The suggestion of spending four days trekking through a snake infested South American jungle to a "Lost City" (what, we have to find to it?) doesn't play like a siren song to 99% of the world.
Yet, those 1%, those chosen few who hear the music, those society refers to as intrepid (a word derived from the Ancient Greek words- "intre" meaning 'brains of' and "pid" meaning 'tapioca') explorers continue to provide joke fodder, and more importantly revenue, for local tour companies who are able to sell such experiences for actual money.
"Internally we refer to customers purchasing the Lost City Trek as "mosquito bait," explains Colombia's tourism minister, Angel Martinez, "and sure, we send out guides with them who might not exactly have Harvard diplomas, but hey, at least they're getting paid."

the deadly free range South American cow- video

So, armed with canisters of repellent, water, snake serum, and cameras, our group of intrepid explorers began the journey from the small jungle village of Machete (good luck finding it on any map.)

"very poisonous + carnivorous snake" warning
sign along trail
The intense heat and humidity which engulfs us is exacerbated by the lack of shade early on; here fences still cordon off the local ranches and small plantations. I stop to the wipe the sweat and dirt off my face, attracting the stare of a local cow.

Hiking further, the forest cover starts to thicken, the path narrows, and a reminder of the danger lurking around us is prominently posted on a wooden sign- "very poisonous snakes."
While the ups are more strenuous, the downs are far more dangerous. The total trek covers nearly 50 km through these jungle covered mountains, and it's one of the last places you'd want to break an ankle, or even get a slight cut of the skin for that matter; bacteria and infection have big time game in this environment.

We make camp shortly before nightfall. As the sun drops behind a far away hill, the valley is flooded with darkness of a purity city dwellers rarely, if ever, experience. As I lie in a hammock, covered by a blanket and mosquito net, thought leaves with the light, an inner feeling of tranquility taking over. On this moonless evening, there is no difference between between eyes open or shut, and sleep quickly overtakes my body.

Day 2
a macaw joins us for breakfast at camp 1
wading through the forest in the morning
We wake shortly before sunrise, refreshed and ready to go. Breakfast is calorically nourishing, nothing more. We gather our backpacks, lather on mosquito repellant, and begin hiking.
A few miles later we arrive at an Indian village.
the Indian village
We're asked not to photograph without permission, but that's easily gained from the children by bribing them with treats. I'm told the only Spanish words they know are "dulces" (sweets,) "Oreos," and "Pepsi"; we learn what we most desire.
The tribe lives today pretty much as they have for centuries. many miles away from civilization, always wearing white, the color of the morning, the color of life. They live in relative harmony with nature, never abusing it, harvesting crops (ranging from bananas to coca) as well as raising small amounts of livestock. All is for personal consumption, not trade.
It's rumored, from multiple sources, that the Indians here often live in excess of 100 years.

We come upon a small coca plantation, the leaves not only part of their culture, but sacred to the tribes. Yes, this is the same plant cocaine is derived from.
When we meet people in the US, our custom is to shake each other's hands. When two Indian men meet on a jungle path, they greet each other by reaching into their coca pouches, grabbing a fistful of leaves, and placing it in the pack of the other.

I myself have purchased a bag of coca leaves prior to the expedition. Stuffing larger amounts in my mouth does create a numbing sensation, but there seem to be little other discernible effects. Regardless of my experience, our guides swear by the leaves and continuously chew on them as we navigate the forest.

The coca plant in the jungle

Indian children
jungle river

Leaving our Indian friends, we follow a jungle river until we arrive at a "piscina," an area where the current has momentarily slowed and the water collected. I excitedly dive in, my shirt still on.
With the lush beauty of the South American rainforest surrounding, out of reach of the mosquitoes, I battle my way as far as I can upstream, until the current becomes too strong and I allow my body to go limp, and the flow of water to take me back downstream like a log. Then I repeat.
Unfortunately, the current of our trek leads us away and back up the hill from this momentary paradise. Making the next camp before nightfall is a must.

the swimming area
after the swim- if something gets wet in the jungle, God himself couldn't get it dry

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