Trekkers return after gruelling journey to Colombia’s Lost City

Our trekkers have returned after a gruelling trek to the Lost City in Colombia, amongst them was 80-year-old Grace Prince, who is believed to be one of the oldest women to have completed the journey.

The 33 trekkers, aged from 80 to 22, faced days of torrential rain as they hiked to the 1,500-year-old Lost City of Teyuna to raise money for us. They walked between six and 12 hours a day. After their long days of walking they stayed in simple communal bunkhouses, before getting up at 4.30 am to start again.

Grace, from South Newton, whose first Stars Appeal trek was along the Great Wall of China in 2019, is believed to be the oldest woman to have completed the trek to the Lost City with Magic Tour Colombia.

She said: “I’ve never had much confidence so this just shows what you can do if you put your mind to it.”

To reach the Lost City, the trekkers had to climb 1,200 near vertical ancient stone steps.

“The most challenging moment of this year’s trek was the mud and keeping your grip while walking in it. The 1,200 steps were a challenge, you just looked at them and thought there’s no way you can do that,” admits Grace.

Praising her fellow trekkers, she added: “Everybody is amazing and achieved it. We’ve all found it a challenge in one way or another, from slipping in the mud or having sore feet, to not having enough socks or sleep and the cold showers.”

In total, the trekkers hiked over 50 miles and ascended over 3,400m – more than the combined height of the UK’s highest mountains, Ben Nevis, Snowden, and Scafell Pike.

First-time trekker and local GP Dr Helena McKeown, pictured below left, from Harnham, said: “It was the most physically and psychologically demanding challenge I’ve ever done. Seeing the Lost City was a real privilege, but what was most special was the camaraderie and support from everybody in the group. It was a life-changing experience and something I will remember for the rest of my life.”

And three-time cancer survivor Colin Ford, from Salisbury, pictured centre, who also did the Stars Appeal trek to Petra in 2022, added: “It was just incredible. The torrential rain and mud was really tough.

“Everyone that has supported you helped you to keep going. You know you’re doing it for them and everyone using the hospital.”

“The Stars Appeal helped me when I was going through treatment and raising money for the charity will help continue that support for others at Salisbury Hospital,” continued Colin.

When they reached the Lost City the trekkers received a blessing from the spiritual leader.

Colin said: “It’s such an amazing place, very serene. It is something I will never forget.”

For Wendy Christie, from Salisbury, pictured above right, who was trekking for the first time with her daughter Hermione, this was a challenge unlike anything she has attempted before.

In 1991, while living in Hong Kong, she sustained a spinal injury after a skydiving accident – resulting in paralysis from the waist down. She underwent spinal surgery and intense physical therapy which helped her to walk again. However, she still has significant loss of feeling in her right leg and weakness down that side due to damage to her spinal cord.

Describing the conditions, Wendy explains: “There was more mud than you knew what to do with. There were rivers of water running down the hills that we were trying to get up. The first two days of the trek the rain was just relentless.”

“It was the biggest physical challenge I’ve undertaken.” said Wendy. “There was an element of proving to myself that I could achieve this because once upon a time I thought I would never walk again.

“It was a very special experience. Reaching the Lost City felt like you had just finished a marathon, or three marathons.”

Lynne Rose, who has previously taking part in Stars Appeal treks, pictured above left, describes it as “the toughest one so far” and adds: “I found it challenging for lots of reasons – the weather, long trek days, and lack of sleep. The paths literally turned into muddy rivers and going up, as well as down and trying to stay on your feet was the most challenging part for me.

“It was amazing though and we experienced so much as we trekked. We saw so many wonderful things that very few people have or will ever see so I feel really privileged.”

Lynne says: “I feel lucky to be able to support such an amazing charity that does so much for so many at Salisbury Hospital.”

Salisbury Hospital Eye Consultant Dr Rashi Arora, who is also a Stars Appeal Ambassador, pictured above right, says taking part in the trek was her “ode to the NHS” and that it still feels “like a dream” that the group made it to the Lost City.

She adds: “The place had a sense of peace and calmness. A place where history met mystery in the heart of nature. I felt so much joy and fulfilment when I was there. It was like I had rediscovered myself in the Lost City.”

“I was touched by the camaraderie, the love and affection of the group as a whole. This was a group of ordinary people who became extraordinary, together. It served as a reminder of the power of human connection and the shared humanity that unites us. It was magic.”

Money raised by the trekkers will fund projects providing extra care and equipment across Salisbury District Hospital. All of the trekkers have paid for their own trek costs.

A special presentation will be held in June to announce the group’s fundraising total.

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