“The place you are about to access is as sacred and requires as much respect along the path as the Sistine Chapel or a Muslim mosque“. That’s what Marrón -our guide in this voyage- said with solemnity.
We had been walking for two and a half days through the mountains and the rivers of the Sierra, and we were about to begin climbing the thousand two hundred stone steps that would lead us to our yearned goal.
It is said that the true and profound reason of everything we do or aim to do in our life has to do with certain feelings associated with such a search. For example, the desire of a bigger and nicer house, is not because of the house itself, but the sensation of comfort and abundance that it will give us.
Recently I had made my own list of Core Desired Feelings (1) and one of those states of being that quickly came to my mind was that of adventure. Although that feeling really resonated deeply in me, I have to say that I hadn’t experienced myself like that for ages.
After taking the decision to make the journey to The Lost City, I was totally thrilled. By means of an activity of some physical demand, which allowed me to be in great contact with nature, I was going to meet an archaeological and spiritual relic in my own country!
Everything from the beginning was absolutely and pleasantly surprising.
The biggest surprise I found was that I was the only Colombian within the twenty tourists who began the journey the same day I did. All European! It is worthwhile saying that that number of people begin the journey daily!
The group of ten people that I belonged to, was the most diverse in every sense. Different ages, most of them in their twenties, just three of us in our forties :), coming from England, Austria, Spain, Germany and the Netherlands. One of them, gay, a charming, fun and genuine man that made us die laughing many times! Most of them were touring South America and this trip had originated from different reasons as well. One had been laid off, other one had taken a leave from work, students on a sabbatical, someone who was self-employed, another one had quit her job, etc. I think that besides our love for traveling, we all were united by our very own personal searches.
Chatting about our trips showed how similar we all were, in the sense of knowing other countries more than our own! And I thought how much that happens to us not only in this instance but in so many others, that we seek out adventure, the warmth of the people, new cultures, new experiences and we end up realizing that everything that we seek is here, now, within ourselves. Perhaps that’s the pleasure of traveling, recognizing ourselves in every place we go to.
Finding myself in the middle of so many Europeans, gave me a weird exciting feeling, I felt almost as a foreigner in my own land, a land with which every one of them was fascinated. I liked to ask them what was the thing they liked the most of Colombia so far, and they always answered quickly, genuinely and repeatedly “the people, always kind and willing to help”.
And as for my own experience, I could say exactly the same about them!
As we climbed the mountain, I (the smallest of all in size and with a backpack weighing a quarter of my body weight) had difficulties climbing through the mud. However, one of them helped me and remained near me in case I needed help, to literally give me a boost.
The other challenging place for me was the river. I thought I only had ‘respect’ (real fear) for the open sea, but I realized that I don’t feel comfortable with the currents either… They also scare me. Thus, where I felt less confident was stepping over the stones to cross the river. Fortunately, there was another one of them, waiting for me to give me a hand so I could cross the river fearlessly.
I have always admitted that I am not fond of water. I love to see it, hear it in a river, stream, rain, or in the sea waves that are currently cooing me as I write on the beaches of Palomino… But getting wet…feeling the water fully…I don’t like it at all.
I know I have a fear deep inside me in relation to water and I once had the opportunity to face it but haven’t overcome it yet! It was a pool of those that are formed in the river, three meters deep, where you can jump from a distance of another three meters. I wanted to do it -as all the rest did- and I have to say that I had never felt so scared before. I was literally shaking and my heart had never pounded so fast before. I looked at the water, thought, turned, came back, looked again, trembling all the time… Until I did it! with a scream that didn’t last long because I was already going deep into those three meters to then be pumped to the surface in a matter of seconds! If one decides faster, fear only lasts milliseconds…
Sometimes we get stuck suffering, thinking, and worrying, for an unnecessary time, to deal with something that is much less painful than that previous distress. It’s just a matter of making decisions with determination and taking action.
However, the big test with water was not precisely that one.
The second day of the journey, after a nice lunch when I was dreaming of having a nap and with the fact that we would stay that night there, I realized we had to keep on going and this point was the beginning of the toughest day – no doubt- of the whole trip. That night we would sleep in the camp prior to climbing the thousand two hundred stone steps that would lead us to The Lost City (Ciudad Perdida).
That day demanded not only one of the last climbs, but crossing the Buritaca river twice more. When we left the lunch place, it began to rain and it was the heaviest downpour one could imagine in those lands.
And this is not one of those plans you postpone or cancel because of the rain. No. Our itinerary was immovable and besides we had to get to the camp before sunset.
I had never had such intimacy with water. It was not only how wet my bag (everything inside was in a plastic bag) and I were, but my soaked feet began to blister… It was at this precise moment, feeling discomfort and pain, when I had to bring the awareness of the state of being from where I should live this experience.
Knowing our Desired Core Feelings allows us to remember the state of being that our souls chose to experience in this life, and from that place we should live everything we do. That’s the reason why our DCF are the reference of our alignment with our soul’s agenda.
There couldn’t be a better scenario than this to experience myself as adventurous.
The images crossing the river that afternoon will only remain in our memories, because we didn’t have time nor room to get the cameras, and most of all we didn’t feel like taking pictures!! However, those images might be the most beautiful of the trip. I have them vivid in my memory. Ten adventurers led by Marrón, bringing out our best in order to reach our desired destination.
Those three hours climbing on the mud, getting wet and choosing to remember myself as an adventurer, made me understand crystal clear the meaning of being present, wherever I am. Of course I wanted to get to a dry and comfortable place where I could rest and have a hot meal. But if I walked under the rain thinking about that future, I would miss the beauty of the majestic and -that day- impetuous Sierra, I would miss experiencing myself as a warrior, brave, strong and calm in such a challenging situation, which thank God, I chose… And thinking about that made me happy for realizing how free I was.
I couldn’t have experienced myself in all those ways if it weren’t for being fully present. That’s how I understood that the freedom to choose how to be in each moment is what make us complete and also it is this freedom what makes us experience life in the most varied and even contradictory ways.
It was clear that the “Diana” I chose to be in that moment was quite different from the one I usually like to experience: comfortable and sexy. Although, who knows if in that smelly, disheveled state and with no make up at all, being so genuine (!) could be sexy under the gaze of someone! ;).
Once finished with that day of intense intimacy with the water, I also thought that the freedom of choosing how to address our emotions is what leadership of our own life is all about, and, in order to exercise that leadership, one is required to be fully present.
After two and a half days of climbing, getting to know our stories while we were walking, helping us and making each other laugh, being amazed by so much natural beauty and after the solemnity of Marrón’s words, we were finally getting to that famous sanctuary.
A lovely ritual with which we would set a special and personal intention for our walk would frame the beginning.
As we had been told by our guide, the place exuded peace and energy beyond words. Retaining walls, irrigation systems and all of that brilliantly designed infrastructure, took us back in time to 700 a.d., when the city was built with the items availab
le in nature (stone, wood, palm trees) and in such challenging geographic and climatic conditions, that years later in the seventies, the Guaqueros (tomb robbers) called the zone: the green hell.
Physical and mental strength supported the mystique of the construction. It was as if all that spirit was still there, more alive than ever. It was fascinating to walk around and while we walked up through the city itself, we were able to achieve a broader perspective from above. This masterpiece looked more spectacular with the perfect circles that at one time were homes of those past cultures… It was as if the city had been built for the delight of the gods because from the top the City looked more beautiful and impressive.
There was no doubt that the mud, the rain and the river had been worth the effort.
Something similar happens in our lives. Although we have decided our destination, and deep inside we know it will be worth the effort, we sometimes forget it along the way, when we tend to lose ourselves in the uncomfortable challenges we find by complaining and expecting things to be different.
The memory of such ineffable sensation of the presence of the spirit and the physical evidence of its grandeur and majesty will always remain in my mind and in my heart, as reminders not only of our soul’s longings but also as reminders of the journey’s hurdles and that the best way to overcome them is by totally accepting them.
I recommend this adventure trip to work on leadership, attitude and presence of the here and now, while discovering this archaeological wonder in the company of sweet and chivalrous, young European adventurers. Thank you to my memorable companions, including Marrón, our guide, who with his spirit of service and long term vision, proved to be a leader truly committed to the Sierra, with its history and legacy.
I am infinitely grateful to God for allowing me to have this significant experience.
An special mention to Cristina Rodriguez who helped me with the fine-tuning of this english version of the post.
(1) The Core Desired Feelings are the core idea of the work of Danielle Laporte in her book The Desire Map
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