Home again, home again

November 20, 2013

Our return to the US from Colombia went pretty smoothly. Our plane was greeted in Atlanta by two German Shepherds and their Homeland Security handlers in the jet-way. After passing though that gauntlet we went through immigration. We sent up a small red flag because we had been out of the country for so long, and weren’t working overseas, so we got to go through the “special” line. All our boxes were x-rayed, but the only thing they seemed interested in was the several pounds of roasted coffee we had in our carry-ons.

We arrived back in Vermont to a warm welcome from Chandler’s family and our dog, Lucy! My biggest worry was that Lucy wouldn’t recognize us, but my fears were unfounded.

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Lucy

Our original idea was to spend the whole day relaxing, but with the sun shining, we headed out to the cabin. We started on the structure almost exactly a year ago, but couldn’t finish as winter arrived in force. We had a lot of work ahead of us and were eager to get started.

The boys brought out the lumber out of storage and immediately started working.

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Making a few measurements

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Tayler at work

The first order of business was getting the rest of the wall framing done. The work was relatively easy. We framed in two walls and nailed them to the floor of the second story.

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Two walls up

Getting ready to go home

November 14 – 18, 2013

The remainder of our time in Colombia was spent relaxing. We had one more day at the beach before returning to Santa Marta to catch a flight back to Bogotá. We had left our bike boxes in storage at our first hostel, so headed back there. Unfortunately, the power was out on the whole end of the city we were in. We ended up spending hours at a coffee shop in an attempt to upload several blog posts on a very slow connection.

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Primary Cathedral of Bogotá

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More Bogotá street art

At this point, we were ready to go home which was reflected in our level of activity. We had lost most of our desire to explore the city and felt content to play chess at our hostel, go to a nearby vegetarian restaurant or be at the coffee shop.

Our last night was spent at an amazing Italian restaurant that made its own pasta and gnocchi. We reminisced about our favorite and least favorite days, people and lodging. For the most part, everything was amazing and even the bad or tough times we thought about fondly.

We went to bed late, too excited about our upcoming flight back to the US! Chandler and I have a lot of plans for our return.

Ciudad Perdida Hike: Day 5

November 13, 2013

Our last day of the hike went pretty quickly. We woke up at 5am, as usual, and had a hearty breakfast. There were two huge hills to climb and Manuel had to meet up with another group, so we hit the trail right after eating.

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Hammocks

The good thing about starting so early, is that it takes a little while to become completely covered in sweat. The jungle is so humid, everyone is dripping after an hour, but the mornings are cool and perfect for hiking.

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Another lovely view

The two hills were steep and challenging, but our group made really good time. I think everybody was excited to be done and get a shower. Everyone had been wearing the same sweaty clothing everyday and only bathing in the river, so we were a stinky bunch.

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Mountains

Our hike ended at the restaurant we started at and we were meet with lunch and sodas. Manuel and his brother, Juan, ate with us one last time before saying good-bye. We hope the next group had as good a time as we did!

We took a van back into town and said good-bye to Stephen at Costeño beach. We joined ‘Ashrum and Alti, the Icelandic couple, for a little relaxation. We rented a small thatched hut with a regular bed in it, right on the beach. The shower wasn’t warm, but it was heavenly to smell like soap and finally put on fresh clothes.

We had a few well deserved beers, went for a swim in the ocean and enjoyed some time on the beach.

Ciudad Perdida Hike: Day 4

November 12, 2013

We had another 5am morning, but we didn’t mind so much because we were finally going to Ciudad Perdida, the once “lost city”. It wasn’t really lost, the native people who live in the area knew where it was the whole time, but it was “discovered” by looters in 1972. It has since been protected by the government, partially reconstructed, and now hosts a permanent Colombian Army post.

After a quick breakfast, we hit the trail, crossed a stream and encountered a long, steep set of stairs.

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Stairway to the lost city

After a 20 minute climb, we entered a grass covered courtyard. The group rested for a few minutes and than the tour began. The city had not been used for several centuries, so the guides could only speculate what certain areas were used for. My favorite was the teleportation portal. The locals would sit in a shallow, stone pit and their minds would visit other locations while their bodies remained behind. The trip was apparently aided by the use of some local medicinal plants.

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The teleportation portal

Another interesting artifact was a large rock with many scratch marks all over the surface. Manuel said that the rock was a map of the area and displayed all the rivers. I don’t think I would use it for navigation, but it was cool.

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Rock map

Eventually, we brought to the highest part of the settlement, which offered some incredible views.

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Courtyard from above

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Someone wants attention

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Basillo’s photo of the group

The layout of the city seemed to be based on clusters of raised circular areas where huts once stood. Paths wound through the non-linear spaces between the circles. There were a few of the thatched huts in the lower part of the city, both new and old. The oldest one was somewhere around 50 years old, and was covered in vegetation.

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Manuel and green hut

After two hours of wandering through the lost city it was time to hike back. We were headed back to Manuel’s place, where we had stayed two nights earlier. The hiking was much quicker, because we knew what to expect, but it was a long day and we were happy to see our hammocks. We spent our last night as a group chatting with Manuel about Wiwa customs.

Ciudad Perdida Hike: Day 3

November 11, 2013

We were pretty beat after a solid day of hiking, so we all slept like rocks in our hammocks. We woke up early again to get a jump start on the rain. After a nice breakfast of eggs, arepas, coffee and chocolate, we got back on the trail.

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Worth the hike

It was a long day of hiking. The trail followed a swiftly flowing river, and occasionally pinched us out onto some narrow ledges perched above the churning water. A new suspension bridge finally led us across the river canyon, replacing a hand car which looked a little worse for wear…

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That looks safe

We wandered through a small native village, made up of small round, thatched huts. The people were understandably stand-offish- we were just another short parade of westerners wandering through their town. Outside the village, fields were cleared out of the jungle where we saw some cattle grazing. We saw lots of pigs tied to trees along the trail. They didn’t pay us much notice though, lounging around in the shade.

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Tiny village

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Moooooo

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Little piggy

We trekked along ridges, through pasture, on narrow paths through dense jungle. We weaved back and forth across streams, giving up completely on trying to keep our feet dry.

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Waterfall

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Chandler on a bridge

Eventually we made it to the final campsite before the lost city. It was a large camp set up to accommodate about 50 people. We were given the odd luxury of sleeping on a ratty mattress, in a tent, on the second floor of an open wooden building. We had a big pasta meal, then went for a swim in the river, which was frigidly cold. The other tour group shared the site with us, but thankfully they all seemed pretty exhausted, and went to sleep before 10 PM.

Ciudad Perdida Hike: Day 2

November 10, 2013

Having not ever spent an entire night sleeping in a hammock, I didn’t get the best sleep. 5am came too early, however Manuel had delicious cups of coffee waiting for us. I couldn’t think of a better way to wake up.

Chandler and I were ready to go shortly after eating breakfast, so we headed off early with Basillo, a young boy in charge of the pack horse.

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Our young guide, Basillo

He basically ignored us until we encountered a red and black snake on the side of the trail. Basillo pointed it out, let us take a photo and then promptly whacked it with a stick until it was dead. Basillo didn’t speak any English but conveyed that the snake was poisonous and could bite us or the horse.

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Red and black snake

Once he realized that we were interested in everything around us and in him, he got much friendlier. Suddenly, he was making sure I knew where to walk so I wouldn’t slip or pointing out plants and naming them. We were impressed by the little guy. Not only was he hiking faster than us but he knew almost every plant and bird around.

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Tripping or dancing?

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Cocoa pods

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Basillo and a macaw

The hiking was pretty easy going for the first few hours, it might have been because we were going downhill. We started up a decent hill, which was bad until it just kept going. It was so humid and hot that I started sweating as soon my shirt was soaking again. Things don’t dry out too well in the jungle. I didn’t fall too far behind, but another group caught up with me, then sort of enveloped us while we all took a break.

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Up the hill we go

The other group had around 30 people in it, and was kind of annoying. They were mostly American and European kids in their early 20’s yelling up and down the trail. Some of them had portable speakers playing pop music. We had been enjoying the relative quiet and interesting quiet conversation when we stoped to rest, so we were anxious to put some distance between us and the mob. Luckily, we stopped at Manuel’s home while everyone else continued on to another camp up the trail.

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Big frog

We were introduced to Manuel’s family and had a huge dinner. We spent the night getting to know our hiking mates better. Stephen was a semi-retired computer programmer from California in his 70s and had some crazy stories about his world travels in the late 1960’s. Atli and ‘Ashrum patiently answered all of our questions about everything concerning Iceland. Basillo danced around us trying to get our attention with tickling and showing us some huge frogs.

Ciudad Perdida Hike: Day 1

November 9, 2013

Our taxi arrived at 7am and we had to scramble to get out the door, because they were early. The taxi took us to a supermarket, where we waited around for about 45 minutes for the driver or something. They loaded about 50 pineapples into our car. And we waited. We were driven to Taganga to pick up another hiker and to pay for the excursion. We then turned back around and drove back to Santa Marta. At this point Chandler and I were a little frustrated with the situated as it was 11am, we were back where we started, and we still had to pick up two other people.

After another hour of messing around, we had everyone in the car and were on our way to the trailhead. Things progressed smoothly once we were out of the car. We were given cold sandwiches while our guide packed up the horse and were soon on the trail to Ciudad Perdida, the once lost city.

We were going to be spending the next 5 days with three other hikers, Stephen from San Francisco and Atli and ‘Ashrum from Iceland. Our guides were Manuel and Basillo, local Wiwa indians. We made a good choice by going with the indigenous guide company because we had a wonderful group.

Our hike began by crossing a few shallow streams and then up a hill. At this point, the skies opened up, garbage bags were produced to keep our packs dry, and we were soaked within seconds.

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The hike begins

The hill got steeper and steeper with water coursing down at our feet. I felt like we were hiking up a stream. I had no idea what the surrounding scenery looked like because I had to keep my head down to watch my footing the entire time. The day’s hike was only 2 hours, so we weren’t in the rain for too long. At the top of the hill was a house with an open kitchen and a large covered area filled with hammocks. The rain let up long enough for us to get a look at the view of the mountains and jungle.

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View from the top

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Our sleeping quarters

We were given a hearty dinner loaded with rice and beans, with a delicious glass of fresh juice, before being encouraged to go to bed early, as we would be waking up at 5am! The rain comes pretty regularly each day during the rainy season, so as long as we were off the trail by 3pm or so, we’d stay dry.