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Found in the Lost City

The ancient ruin of an abandoned outpost was not the only spiritual treasure to reveal itself on Lydia Bell’s 30-mile trek through the unforgiving Columbian jungle
The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is an isolated mountain range in the Colombian Caribbean. Peaking 5,700m, it is one of the world’s highest coastal ranges

When I was commissioned to trek into the Colombian jungle to reach an ancient abandoned city, I jumped at the chance. What could be more romantic than a solitary contemplative odyssey into a mystical mountain territory? I would emerge from the jungle fighting fit and imbued with new wisdom, any issues troubling my life resolved.

The destination was Ciudad Perdida, which means the ‘Lost City’, a settlement that was deserted after the time of the Spanish conquest and only reemerged from the undergrowth in the 1970s. Deep in the heart of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, it is only accessible on foot or by mule, on one of Colombia’s most thrilling hikes. ‘A magical constellation of 170 stone terraces, structures and stairways; Colombia’s answer to Macchu Picchu,’ I was informed. ‘Ciudad Perdida cascades o. a 1,300m ridge in the upper Río Buritaca valley.’ I was sold, even though I’d heard the hike was tough and the conditions basic. However, on arrival at the travel company’s headquarters in the coastal city of Santa Marta early on the morning of departure, it became apparent that my vision of being alone – with only a guide and my friend Rama who was taking the pictures – was a delusion. The room was heaving with backpackers and a flurry of gear. I had flashbacks to enforced group-travel trips in my youth. Most people here were in their 20s and looked extremely fit. In fitness and age terms, I was a very average 40. We were squeezed into a minibus for the 90-minute drive into the foothills (three hours as it turned out, as we had to wait for a broken bridge to be fixed), during which time I sulked inwardly.

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About Psychologies

If you're feeling depleted, out of sorts and ready for a holiday, then this issue is for you. Our 18-page dossier on how to renew your strength shares scientifically proven ways to fill up your tank and keep it full. If you’re hitting the beach but want to revolutionise the way you see yourself, turn to page 46 and learn about the new mindset to adopt to finally find peace with your body. This month, we invite you to train your brain to think differently but we also invite you to sing, dance and play. Why? Because it’s not only good for your soul, it’s good for your health. Learn how the arts can help you live a long, happy life. Here’s to a long, happy summer!