The Lost City Trek – Part 6

Village KogiIt’s the third day of our trek to the Lost City and we meet a Kogi settlement, where I play convincingly the role of  jungle doctor

Seven o’ clock and it’s up and go. Today we are going to make our final approach to Ciudad Perdida. We start our hike through the jungle in a fresh, pleasant temperature. One more time the absence of mosquitoes is a perfect gift for the traveller, and so are the wonderful views of the forested mountains. Everywhere one can turn his head there is total solitude and birds singing, while the colours and shapes of the jungle, ever changing, are deeply moving and tell many stories to the ones who know how to listen.

The track is initially gently rolling up and down, but after the first hour things suddenly change: for forty minutes we climb again and it is a steep ascent, like the first day, but our legs answer more willingly, either because the tough ascent of the first day took the rust off them or because it is earlier today and the path we walk under tree shelter. We sweat, silently swear and grind our teeth as we go up, but we get it done. When we stop, out of the huge backpack of one of the porters appear pineapples and bananas to reward us after the struggle. He is the youngest of the porters that accompany us, merely a boy, a tough heroic 12 years old who never stops, smiles, complains. I think of my own son of 12 and I realize how our civilization is totally gone soft.

 

We resume our hiking and soon enough we reach a small Kogi settlement. Castro says he will ask the Chief to show us how the Kogi brew a liquor from fermented sugar cane and then maybe we can taste this rare speciality. He goes to confer with the Chief but soon he is back, all apologetic: it is a no go, there is nothing he can do. The wife of the boss is sick with a strong fever, so no outsiders are to be allowed in the circular thatched hut where the couple resides with a considerable amount of children.

Then Castro asks: “Would anyone have medication for the Chief’s wife?”, so here I go, suddenly turned into a jungle doctor. I enter the Chief’s hut with my pack of meds, trying to look the part while a dozen Kogi stare at me wordless. I finally manage to fish out my Tachipirina drops, originally from mamma’s closet in Rome, and I put 20 drops in water for the sick woman to drink. She swallows, everybody stares, nobody says anything and I start to feel like those western missionaries in the wild men village of Hollywood memory. Then the Chief gets up, leaves and quickly re-enters the hut with a small plastic bag in his hands. He gives it to me, then, while everyone is still speechless, I am asked to leave.

When Castro sees the goods he says it is coca leaves; the gift, apparently, is a big one. I share the leaves with my fellow travellers while Castro explains how to chew them, as to release the alkaloid contained in them, and then to spit them out without swallowing as they could make you sick. So we resume our pace, at a faster pace now, like the native Americans of old, supported by the wave of adrenaline created by the alkaloid as it enters our system. Sure thing it’s a lot easier to overcome the steeper hills and bear the heat now fallen on the wonderful Colombian mountains all around.

When the conquistadores discovered the particular effect of coca leaves on people, they used them to work the local indigenous population to death. The best part of the 10000 Tayrona people that originally populated the area where exterminated through inhuman work conditions, starvation, diseases, war.

I remember this information from my pre-trek reading as I walk through an open patch where the forest has been cleared. Here the Kogi practice their sustenance farming. A small boy in his typical white Kogi dress, with the inevitable white brown-striped Kogi sack hanging from his side, approaches me. He signals towards my baseball cap, an orange NYPD hat made in Nicaragua that I bought on a previous trip. He then gives me a big inviting smile that says it all: leave me your hat gringo! I obviously fall for it and my head is now unprotected from the sun, while the little Kogi runs like hell to show the amazing gift he got from a white man passing by with his rucksack on.

Simone Chierchini Copyright ©2010-2011

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The Lost City Trek 1

The Lost City Trek 2

The Lost City Trek 3

The Lost City Trek 4

The Lost City Trek 5

The Lost City Trek 6

The Lost City Trek 7

The Lost City Trek 8

The Lost City Trek 9

The Lost City Trek 10

“HEART’S PLACES” ARTICLES FOLDER

“BUDO GURU” ARTICLES FOLDER

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Annunci

The Lost City Trek – Part 5

Rio Buritaca's crystal waters

After an impromptu visit to a cocaine plant production, the trek towards the city lost in the jungle resumes and the Buritaca River is reached

Castro comes back from wherever he was hiding and the Ciudad Perdida expedition resumes. It is going to be an easy day, with less walking, some inclines, but never as tough as the ones of the day before, and a lot of descents. The second day of the Lost City Trek is spent for the most time walking in a jungle where the hands of men have been not as devastating as the previous day: forest covers the mountains, forest covers the valleys, forest fights forest everywhere in a deadly embrace, direction light, skywards.

It is hot, but breezy and fresh fruit is always at hand to replenish the litres of liquid spent in sweating. A film of dust and sweat covers anything that moves, like during the first day, the difference being that today my muscles answer the challenge, my lungs seem to have expanded, my left knee regenerated by the many lovingly attentions received during rest time.

It feels alive, it feels happy, it feels free to be walking among these wild but compassionate mountains and their trees. It feels like being at home. Four hours vanish in a sweaty wonderful flash and at the end of a steep descent we hit water: we have reached the Rio Buritaca. My clothes end up in a tangled bunch before any word is said and my sweat washes away in the cold crystal flow of the river.

The river Buritaca snakes through the forest, calm in appearance, but possessed an inner power that surprises the swimmer with a drag that is almost invincible. We try body rafting and someone manages to test the rocks for resistance using their head. The day is too beautiful, however, to allow anything bad to spoil it. I dive into the river from rocks high on the water, letting then the water flow make a leaf of me. The current carries me downward for a while, until my body is brought to rest, kissed by avid sunrays, upon an almost supernatural pebble beach.

Again I surprise myself feeling like at home, thoughtless and in harmony with nature, which is loving me back, motherly, warm, protective. I start to believe that nature is a woman, the warmest one can ever find, and I guess I have always been in love with her, sometimes scared by her energy and unable to understand her secrets, still ready to give her my soul, my enthusiasm, my miseries, my life. Nature will never betray me, abandon me or punish me for my mistakes. She is an experienced partner that all sees, understands, comprehends.

I want to get lost in her.

End of Part 5

(To be continued)

The Lost City Trek 1
The Lost City Trek 2
The Lost City Trek 3
The Lost City Trek 4
The Lost City Trek 6
The Lost City Trek 7
The Lost City Trek 8
The Lost City Trek 9
The Lost City Trek 10

Copyright Simone Chierchini ©2011Simone Chierchini
Per le norme relative alla riproduzione consultare
https://simonechierchini.wordpress.com/copyright/

Il Cammino della Citta’ Perduta – Parte 1

Il Cammino della Citta' Perduta

Il Cammino della Città Perduta

Meglio partire spingendo a tutta. Quale miglior inizio di una serie sul viaggio che il miglior travel che ho mai fatto? Gennaio 2010, un anno appena da un’operazione al crociato anteriore e con pervicacia al limite del masochismo mi cimento con quella che per molti neo-soldati israeliani e’ una dura prova di iniziazione prima di entrare in servizio nei territori occupati in Palestina

di SIMONE CHIERCHINI

Sto parlando del Camino de la Ciudad Perdida, il Cammino della Citta’ Perduta, un’esilarante massacro di 6 giorni in immersione totale nella giungla colombiana,  all’interno del massiccio della Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, un enorme massiccio roccioso delle dimensioni del Veneto che si affaccia sul meraviglioso Atlantico della Colombia.
Durante questi 6 giorni di giungla colombiana ne ho viste e sentite di tutti i colori, sia intorno a me che dentro di me. Le mie esperienze durante The Lost City Trek vi terranno compagnia per buona parte del mese di Dicembre.
Oggi partiamo con un po’ di storia e geografia. Cerchiamo di capire dove siamo e cosa capita da quelle parti e inquadriamo El Camino della Ciudad Perdida (spagnolo per Lost City) nel suo mondo.
La Citta’ Perduta è il sito archeologico di un’antica città nella Sierra Nevada di Santa Marta, in Colombia, fondata intorno al X sec dC, ossia oltre 5 secoli prima della peruviana Machu Picchu,  cui buona parte dei viaggiatori a torto o a ragione attribuisce il titolo di citta’ perduta. Il sito e’ noto come Buritaca, ma i nativi americani chiamano le rovine della citta’ nella giungla Teyuna.  I Kogi e gli Aruachi che abitano a tuttora la zona raccontano che Teyuna fosse il cuore di una grande e potente citta’ ragnatela, un centro politico ed economico abitato da diverse migliaia di indigeni Tayrona, arroccato su serie di 169 terrazze scavate nella montagna fino ad un’altezza di 1300 metri. Una rete di strade pavimentate in pietra e varie piazzette circolari e un labirinto di scale collegava le varie terrazze scavate nella roccia, ma alla citta’ era possibile accedere solamente attraverso una ripida ascesa su circa 1.500 gradini di pietra attraverso una fitta giungla.
La Ciudad Perdida e’ stata abbandonata ed e’ divenuta tale ai tempi dell’invasione e conquista della zona da parte degli Spagnoli nel XVI sec. L’arrivo degli spagnoli ha prima messo in crisi l’economia della comunita’ Tayrona, bloccando la rotta commerciale con la costa, poi demograficamente, con il rapido diffondersi di nuove e letali malattie, come sifilide e vaiolo, per i quali gli indigeni erano sprovvisti di anticorpi. Nel breve volgere di qualche decennio la civilta’ che era fiorita sulla montagne di Santa Marta venne completamente spazzata via e dimenticata, mentre la giungla ne inghiottiva e iniziava a digerire i prodotti, obliterando abitazioni, strade e ricordi.

I Kogi hanno sempre segretamente visitato le rovine nella giungla

Anche se ufficialmente Ciudad Perdida è stata riscoperta nel 1972 da un gruppo di saccheggiatori di tesori locale,  i discendenti degli antichi abitanti, le odierne tribù locali degli Aruachi e dei Kogi, dichiarano di aver regolarmente visitato le rovine nella giungla prima che queste fossero riscoperte, ma di aver mantenuto il segreto per preservarne l’esistenza. Fatto sta che nel 1972 un tal Florentino Sepulveda e i suoi due figli, la cui professione principale era saccheggiatore di tesori, nel loro girovagare alla ricerca di manufatti preziosi si imbatterono in una serie di gradini in pietra che salivano sulla montagna e li seguirono fino alla cima, dove con loro enorme meraviglia trovarono una città abbandonata.  Da quel giorno inizio’ una guerra fra bande di saccheggiatori rivali che si contendevano gli oggetti in oro e ceramica che ancora arricchivano le rovine, al punto che il primo soprannome moderno di Teyuna divenne Infierno Verde.
Le autorità governative colombiane intervenirono per normalizzare la situazione e tentare una qualche sorta di protezione delle rovine della Ciudad Perdida a partire dal 1975, appena in tempo per vedere la zona coinvolta nella guerra civile che a tuttora insanguina la Colombia. Il 15 settembre 2003 il gruppo di guerriglia para-militare ELN (Esercito Nazionale di Liberazione) rapi’ 8 turisti stranieri che stavano effettuando il trek nella giungla verso la Ciudad Perdida. Gli ostaggi vennero liberati illesi tre mesi dopo, ma per tre anni il cammino verso la citta’ perduta usci’ dagli itinerari del turismo estremo. Dal 2008 l’esercito colombiano ha ripreso il controllo della zona e pattuglia attivamente l’area dalla piccola base in cima alla Ciudad Perdida, che ora è considerata perfettamente sicura per i trekkers.
Dal prossimo articolo entrero’ nel vivo del nostro viaggio di 6 giorni nella giungla, dove il fisico combatte con la fatica, la calura e l’altura su un terreno accidentato che rende l’andare una continua conquista, ma gli occhi e la mente volano e si espandono per le meraviglie del paese. Oltre a giungla, attraversamenti di fiume e ascese di montagna, incontri con gli indigeni Kogi, bevute di rhum e partite a scacchi a lume di candela e ululato di scimmia, leggerete del nostro imbatterci nel laboratorio dei locali narcotrafficanti di cocaina, dell’attacco di un serpente velenoso ad un compagno di viaggio e della sua odissea verso l’antidoto e la salvezza, e, infine della conquista meritata della cima della Ciudad Perdida.

Fine della Prima Parte

(Continua)

PARTE 2
PARTE 3
PARTE 4
PARTE 5
PARTE 6
PARTE 7
PARTE 8

Copyright Simone Chierchini ©2011Simone Chierchini
Per le norme relative alla riproduzione consultare
https://simonechierchini.wordpress.com/copyright/

The Lost City Trek – Part 1

Il Cammino della Citta' Perduta

The Lost City Trek

A 6-day long initiation into the Colombian jungle between fatigue, sweat, snakes, drug traffickers and an increasing joy to be alive

di SIMONE CHIERCHINI

Better to start pushing all the way.

What better way to start a new series on travels with the best trip I have ever done?
January 2010, just one year from surgery on my anterior cruciate ligament and with an obstinacy that borders on masochism I attempt what for many neo-Israeli soldiers is a sort of rite of initiation before entering service in the occupied Palestine territories. I’m talking about the Camino de la Ciudad Perdida, the Trek of the Lost City, an exhilarating massacre of 6 days in total immersion in the Colombian jungle, among the mountains of Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. This is a huge massif the size of Slovenia that overlooks the beautiful Atlantic Ocean of Colombia.

During these six days of the Colombian jungle, I have seen and heard things of all colours, both around and within me. My experiences during my Lost City Trek will keep you company for most of the month of December.
Today we start with a little history and geography. We will try to understand where we are and what happens over there as we frame El Camino de la Ciudad Perdida in his world.
The Lost City is the archaeological site of an ancient town in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Colombia, founded around the tenth century AD, ie more than five centuries before Peru’s Machu Picchu, whom most of the travellers rightly or wrongly attributed the title of lost city. The site is known as Buritaca 200, but the Native Americans call the ruins of the city in the jungle Teyuna. The Kogi and Aruachi still living in the area say that Teyuna was the heart of a great and powerful web city, a political and economic centre inhabited by several thousand indigenous Tayrona, perched on a series of 169 terraces carved into the mountain up to a height of 1300 meters. A network of cobbled streets and several circular squares and a maze of stairs connected the various terraces carved into the rock, but the city could only be accessed by a steep ascent of about 1,500 stone steps through a dense jungle.

La Ciudad Perdidawas abandoned, becoming such, at the time of the invasion and conquest of the area by the Spaniards in the sixteenth century. The arrival of the Spaniards first undermined the economy of the community Tayrona, blocking the trade route to the coast, then threatened it demographically, with the rapid expansion of new and deadly diseases, like syphilis and smallpox, for which the natives had no antibodies. In just a few decades the civilization that had flourished on the mountains of Santa Marta was completely wiped out and forgotten, and the jungle swallowed it and began to digest its products, the now obliterated houses, roads and memories.

Kogi have regularly visited the ruins in the jungle

Although officially Ciudad Perdida was rediscovered in 1972 by a group of local looters of treasures, the descendants of the ancient inhabitants -today’s tribes of Aruachi and Kogi- have regularly visited the ruins in the jungle before they were rediscovered, while trying the secret to preserve their existence. The fact is that in 1972 a man called Florentino Sepulveda and his two sons, whose main profession was plundering treasures, in their wanderings in search of valuable artefacts encountered a series of stone steps going up the mountain and followed them to the top where, with their huge surprise, they found an abandoned city. From that day started a war between rival gangs of looters who were fighting for the gold and ceramic objects that still enriched the ruins, to the point that the first modern nickname of Teyuna became Infierno Verde or Green Hell.

Colombian Government authorities did intervene to stabilize the situation and organised some sort of protection of the ruins of Ciudad Perdida in 1975, just in time to see the area involved in the civil war that still bleeds Colombia. On 15 September 2003, the paramilitary guerrilla group ELN (National Liberation Army) kidnapped eight foreign tourists who were making the trek into the jungle toward the Lost City. The hostages were freed unharmed after three months but for years the trek to the ruins exited the itineraries of extreme tourism. Since 2008 the Colombian army has regained control of the area and actively patrols the area from a small base at the top of Ciudad Perdida, which is now considered perfectly safe for the trekkers.
With my next article I will start a chronicle of our journey of six days in the jungle, where the body fights fatigue, heat and mountain sickness on a rough terrain that makes the going a continual conquest. The eyes and mind though fly and expand taking in the wonders of the country. In addition to dealing with the jungle, crossing rivers and ascending mountains, my tale will delight you with our meetings with the indigenous Kogi, our jungle rum drinking sessions and the games of chess by candlelight in the company of the howling monkeys. Moreover you will read about our encounter with the laboratory of the local cocaine dealers, the attack of a poisonous snake to a fellow traveller and her odyssey toward the antidote and salvation and, finally, the conquest of the top of Ciudad Perdida.

End of Part 1

(To be continued)

The Lost City Trek 2
The Lost City Trek 3
The Lost City Trek 4
The Lost City Trek 5
The Lost City Trek 6
The Lost City Trek 7
The Lost City Trek 8
The Lost City Trek 9
The Lost City Trek 10

Copyright Simone Chierchini ©2011Simone Chierchini
Per le norme relative alla riproduzione consultare
https://simonechierchini.wordpress.com/copyright/