Thursday, April 8, 2010

Ciudad Perdidad Part one: Tejo in Machete

I didn’t have much time left in Santa Marta before heading off to Bogota for Semana Santa. I wanted to go on the Ciudad Perdida trek and return to Santa Marta for the weekend to make a rumba in Rodadero. As it turned out my planning was a bit off I wanted to leave on Election Day when everything was closed. I eventually found one company going. Because of the elections our group was very small we had just 5 of us.

Ciudad Peridad is older than Machu Picchu. When the Spanish came over they killed and forced the natives (The Tayronas) out of their land so the city was left to be forgotten under the thick jungle. It wasn’t until a group of grave robbers years later stumbled upon the location that it was discovered. Archaeologists uncovered it but because of its location it was a hot bed for many years of fighting. Even recently back in 2003 a mass kidnapping of tourist took place at the site. Now there is a huge military presence and has been safe for many years.

To get to the area that the indigenous believe is sacred and powerful you have to take a jeep for two hours into the mountainous jungle on a bumpy trail. You then arrive at a small village known by the locals as Machete. The hike to the site and back can take from 4 to 6 days depending on how much you want to walk in a day. I decided on the 6 day hike, my reasoning; it’s the same price no matter how many days you do it, I am getting my money’s worth of food, drinks and accommodations.

My group arrived too early to Machete as we wanted to avoid the police on Election Day. It was 10:00am and hot, so we did what any sane person would do, start drinking beer. The local men shirtless with machetes hanging from their jeans were playing a traditional Colombian game called Tejo and drinking beer. Always up for anything I decided to join in with the men. The game is somewhat like horse shoes which we play in Canada but instead of a horse shoe you use a tejo, a heavy round disc. Instead of hooping the horse shoes around a post you are throwing the tejo towards a frame of wood filled with clay. Inside the clay is triangles called mecha filled with explosives. Yup that’s right explosives, come on this is Colombia. I have been telling you all along there is fire and passion in this country. To get point you have to set off the explosives. It quite a masculine game but the guys accepted me in the game and were eager to show me how it was done. With a sip of my beer of threw my first tejo which went nowhere close to the clay and a few guys had to duck out of the way. So I needed to warm up a bit. My next one was perfect, I didn’t set off the explosive but I had fantastic aim and was quite proud of my throw.

Eventually we had to say goodbye to our new friends and leave them to their beer and games. We started on our trek toward Ciudad Peridad, 5 of us plus our two guides and mule.

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