Ciudad Perdida and the journey to happiness in the Colombian jungles.

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Since my last post I have been constantly moving, my life has been a flurry of dodgy bus rides, apartment searching, study organising and off-course Jungle trekking. I am finally in Bogota, and though exhausted in body my soul feels refreshed. My latest adventure started one morning in Cartagena when a group of us decided to drop everything and go straight to the Colombian Jungle in search of the illusive Ciudad Perdida (The Lost City).

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After a group of us missed our first bus of which our other friends were on, we had to wait another two hours and just trust in hope that we would see them again in Santa Marta. Whether it was fate or dumb luck we arrived at a hostel, and out of the 40 or more hostels, happened to walk into the one our friends had checked into. Back on schedule.

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That night we organised a four day hike, and in the morning we were on our way via 4WD to the start of the Sierra Nevada in search of the fabled lost city. I was completely taken aback by the beauty of the jungle situated next to the Caribbean Ocean. The contrast of stunning oceans, tropical jungle and ice capped mountains was incredible and something I will never forget.

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The trek was unbelievable, literally at every turn there was something incredible to gaze upon.  We trekked two days up, down and then up again, and on the morning of the third day we travelled up once more until we found the start of a hidden set of stairs, 1200 of them leading up higher still to the Lost City.

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Ciudad Perdida is stunning to say the least and perhaps one of the most beautiful things about the place is that there is no one there. There is no ticket booth at the start, no security guards, no cleaners, no bins absolutely no indications of the civilised world, apart from a small military camp with a few soldiers making sure the government’s “agreement” with the FARC is being upheld. The Lost City is an incredibly accurate description of what you see, and because the only way to get there is an intense jungle hike, the infrastructure to accommodate large groups of tourists simply does not and cannot exist, at least for several decades to come.

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There are only four companies operating, each taking a maximum of fifteen people on any tour. As a result there is only ever 40-60 people who get to visit it each day. They also stagger the groups so that when you experience the city it is only you and the people you have been hiking with. The experience is very peaceful and the lack of people lets you really appreciate how incredible these people were who lived in the jungle 1500 years ago. This is something that treks like Machu Picchu cannot offer and I cannot recommend this journey enough.

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The long hikes and lack of people made for an extremely meditative experience. It helped refresh my mind and explore inside myself as much as the jungle surrounding me. It made me realise that all anybody is ever chasing is happiness, it is what drives us to do everything, happiness in experience, happiness in seeing others happy and happiness in just being. The trap for a lot of us is suffering in unhappiness chasing what we think will make us happy eventually; money, cars, clothes, retirement. People forget that just living in the moment being happy for the sake of it and just giving into experience as learning no matter good or bad is the best way to chase happiness.

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“Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

-Abraham Lincoln

(Cartagena to Bogota via Santa Marta y Ciudad Perdida)

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