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We were in the middle of the Colombian jungle, being drenched by the typical afternoon downpour, when our guide Rodrigo told us our camp had hot showers and a Starbucks. That Columbian sarcasm provided a much needed laugh near the end of our first grueling day into what was to be a six day, 36-mile trek to and from La Ciudad Perdida, the Lost City, the oldest pre-Colombian city ever discovered.

Built a millennium ago by the Tayrona Indians, and later inhabited by the Kogi tribe, La Ciudad was abandoned for centuries. Not until after grave robbers discovered it in 1975 did archaeologists begin their excavation. The beauty and historical significance of this find can only be appreciated through the adventure to reach it and the encounter with the Kogi Indians.

We hired two guides and a mule out of Santa Marta, the north coast Colombian town whose sweltering heat and humidity provided a taste of what awaited us in the jungle. On that first day out, right around the time I was feverishly shaking the fire ants out from between my toes, I questioned my sanity for signing on for this journey. However, the jungle’s beauty soon surpassed its challenges. We cooled off in deep river pools and devoured fresh mangos from the trees lining the trail. As the sun set over the misty jungle, we shared our days’ adventures, swaying in hammocks while listening to the jungle critters chatter in their nocturnal playground. Our dawn wake up call was a symphony of birds and reflections of the sun through the rising jungle steam.

The finale to reach La Ciudad was a canopied staircase of 1600 cracked, slippery, moss-ridden stones ascending from the river. I felt like I was climbing an ice sculpture, which led up to the city’s old stone ruins and a vista of a 200-foot bridal veil waterfall cascading from the hillside. What was most astonishing were the Kogi Indians living in the bamboo huts dotting the hillsides. They are considered the only indigenous tribe to survive the Spanish colonization intact; they did this by hiding in the northern Colombian jungle. They exist as they have for the last millennium, draped in white cotton garments and beaded necklaces, roaming the jungle barefoot collecting wood and fruit, and hunting wild boar. My temporary coexistence with this tribe prompted a solid gut check that evolution is best measured spiritually.

I returned to the trailhead on my last day dirty and worn, but content and emotionally satiated. My first cold beer sent me back in my chair, satisfied for pushing myself to experience an ancient culture and the fertility of a jungle that has sustained a bloodline for a 1,000 years.

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