Although now uninhabited, Ciudad Perdida is in many respects a living monument. It’s surrounded by villages of Kogi Indians, who call the revered site Teyuna. You may be able to interact with the Kogis as they drift on and off the main trail you’ll traverse as part of the trek. As it comprises only a fraction of the wilderness they call home, they are increasingly less present on this popular tourist trail. The men are recognizable by their long, black hair, white (or off-white) smocks and trousers, a woven purse worn across one shoulder and trusty póporo, the saliva-coated gourd holding the lime that activates the coca leaves they constantly chew. Women also dress in white, and both women and girls wear necklaces; only the men own póporo. About nine thousand Kogis are believed to inhabit the Sierra Nevada.
When flower power was in full bloom in the US in the 1970s, the Sierra Nevada became a major marijuana factory, and an estimated seventy percent of its native forests were burned to clear the way for untold amounts of the lucrative Santa Marta Gold strand. As the forest’s prime inhabitants, the Kogis suffered dearly from the arrival of so many fast-buck farmers, one of the reasons why they’re sceptical of the outside world; while Kogi children may well approach you, asking for sweets, don’t take pictures of adults without their permission.