Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Ciudad Perdida Part three: Playing with the Military

I heard a rumour in the hostel about some girl who was kidnapped by the FARC but fell for one of the guys who kidnapped her and joined the cause. She sent a photo to her boyfriend in her bikini holding a rifle with ammunition trapped across her chest and her new Colombian boyfriend standing behind. That was how she broke up with him. An American girl told me this story. Sometime later I was talking with one of my long term guests in the hostel who was telling me about the Ciudad Perdida trek. He mentioned he found some guys blogs

which gives a fantastic account of the trek, really well written with great photos. The best part he got to hang out with the military protecting the site and there was a photo of his girlfriend holding a rifle with ammunition trapped to her and a cheesy military guy standing behind. Underneath the photo was written, “I dared her...she did it....now it is a rumour on the Gringo trail.” The exact rumour I heard!
My friend Joe and I both agreed it was an amazing blog but I could do a better photo. The girl looked good but the guy was smiling, that is so not tough. So when I decided to do my Ciudad Perdida trek Joe said to me as I was leaving the hostel, “You know what you have to do.”
I came prepared. On the day that we left to hike the 1800 steps to the top I threw a bag with packages of cigarettes and a lighter in my backpack. One of the girls in my group had injured her knee and another ripped the nail off her toe so they were moving quite slowly. I knew I didn’t have much time to accomplish my mission so I kept a steady pace and tried not to slip on the wet uneven stairs. Once we got to the top and had a bit of a rest I was off on my own. I ditched my group in search of the military. I was told I would see them all over the place during the trek but I really had to search for them. It was getting very foggy and you could hardly see anything through the jungle. I kept on hiking further to the top until I saw a phone cable. I knew I was close then they noticed me and told me I wasn't allowed up there. I held up my bag of cigarettes and told them I have presents. They started to trickle down from their makeshift station and I did what I do best, chatted them up. I waited until we were all good friends, listened to some Daddy Yankee, made a few jokes while they smoke my cigarettes then I ask for a photo with the gun. It was the head commander guy I was asking and he wasn’t a fan of the idea. He asked me how I was going to convince him, at first I thought he wanted me to “do” something for him but he meant verbally convince him it’s a good idea, give him a reason. I told him I knew of a girl who came here and got a photo with the rifle and I wanted one as well. He didn’t buy it at first but wanted my IPod. That wasn’t going to happen. After much pleading and my putting my best flirting skills to the test he agreed. He told me I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone else and only I could do it. He didn’t want every tourist coming up asking for a photo (Sorry!).

I had my camo bikini and American Eagle Military shorts just for this occasion. My camo Che Guevara hat added to the effect. I posed alone without a cheesy military guy smiling behind me. The fog swirled around me as they showed me how the hold the rifle and took the photo. They seemed to like them quite a lot because after they all wanted to be friends with me on facebook.
We left early without seeing much because of the fog and it was starting to rain, a bit too much like Machu Picchu. What is with me and rainy ancient sites? I couldn’t imagine going up those traitorous steps again but our guides said it would be possible for us to go up again in the morning and I knew I had to.

The morning was bright and sunny and the steps were so much easier the second time around. I made it to the top in no time. I wasn’t preoccupied about getting my gun photo this time so I was able to enjoy and take in the site. No it wasn’t Machu Picchu but it was still equally incredible. Take away the dramatic landscape of Machu Picchu and take away Wayna Picchu the tall mountain that towers over the city then what do you have? Ciudad Perdida was a 3 day trek in the jungle. It is surrounded by lush vegetation and cascading waterfalls in the distance. Up until the end of Feb tourists actually camped right on the site. I was unaware of this, had I known I was have got my butt there sooner instead of spending an entire month on the beaches of Santa Marta. Our guide showed us the circles which used to be the houses and the shaman throne. In the centre of the site is a rock pointing towards the sun which is the fertility rock, I stirred clear of that rock; don’t want to be fertile just yet.

We saw my military boys coming down as we were going up. Had a little chat and kept walking. There is so much history in this site going back to the Tayronas and they believed it was a very sacred place. Some of my group agreed they seemed a lot like Avatar; I had yet to see the movie. You did feel a mystical presence there in all the beauty but I wasn’t as moved as the actress’s friends were telling me. They must be some of those movies stars that are into the whole new age voodoo. I was just taken back by the beauty of the place and the remoteness. There was no one up there but our guide, me, the Belgium girl and the Israeli guy from my group. Where else can you go to an important archaeological site and be the only one there?
Before going back down to camp I took a few more photos with the military guys that were left up there. I still wanted to play and I had one more mission yet to get accomplished. I needed to get a Colombian Military dog tag. Joe would be more than impressed. I asked to see their dog tags and asked questions about them. It was all fun and games until one guy pulled out a zip lock bag with a few tags in it. He told me they were friends of his who were killed near Medellin. You forget every now and then that this country isn’t stable and there is a civil war going on. No matter what I like to tell people back home kidnapping has happened and there still are dangerous parts to Colombia. This military guy’s comrades were just killed the year before. I almost felt guilty when he eventually let me have his dog tag. We were going to trade my necklace for it but my necklace wouldn’t come off, then he just ended up giving it to me. I gave him a kiss on the cheek for a thank you and walk away with my Colombian dog tag in the palm of my hand. Missions a success!!


  1. great blog Tracy! I am going to send you a link for you to watch a doc on the group that actually was taken hostage by the farc on that trek and then eventually were released but went back to meet their captors...it's really good so watch it one day on a long bus ride or something,(or anyone else that wants to see more about Ciudad Perdida). -Paul(Matagalpa)

  2. loving your blog!...although i can't get past the fact that after your great story, the one thing that stuck with me is that daddy yankee could be used for something other than just guilty pleasure dance music. :-)

  3. Thanks for the comments! Thanks for the link Paul thats fantastic!!

    Daddy Yankee has many fantastic uses!


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