My legs used to be my best physical feature.
I am 6’1 and – my fondness for cake aside – I have the genes of two relatively skinny parents.
As a result, I have long legs. They are reasonably shapely and, most importantly, they were always generally unmarked.
I mourn this fact.
My legs are now among the most disgusting physical specimens you will ever see.
They are covered in bruises the size of my hand.
My many mosquito bites look like angry welts, dotted up and down my legs like a disease from the history books.
The blisters covering my feet have slowly turned into scabs.
It looks damned sexy.
And it is all the fault of the Colombian jungle.
Still, I would happily swap my last shred of vanity to repeat the week I spent tramping through that untamed undergrowth.
I went on a five-day hike to the famed Ciudad Perdida, the remains of a lost Tairona city in the Sierra Nevada, a couple of hours south of the city of Santa Marta.
Experts think the city was founded around 800 years before the birth of Christ and abandoned when the Spanish conquered the region.
Looters discovered the remains in the 1970s and it is now a very popular tourist hike.
But, boy, do you have to work for it.
I must have been walking for less than 15 minutes on the first day when we came to our first river crossing.
It was a novelty that soon vanished – although I will never forget the six or so swollen rivers we were forced to cross during our journey.
The current was so strong we had to join hands and support one another to ensure no-one was swept downstream in the waist-high water.
I was the source of much humour because I religiously tied my boots around my neck to keep them dry – whereas everyone else sloshed around in their soaking footwear.
(Okay, so I can’t bear having wet feet. But on the last day – ten minutes from the end – I finally gave up and walked through one of the rivers.
Walking along with those wet boots, even for such a short time, was horrible and, all banter aside, I was so glad I chose to be a princess about it!)
One time we crossed a river using a rickety trolley, pulled along by our guides.
Other times, crossing rivers was just an excuse to swim. When you are constantly drenched in sweat from the hot, sticky, humid jungle air – there is no feeling like it.
We slept in hammocks, we rose each day well before 6am, we played a lot of cards and we generally worked hard for the four days it took to reach the city.
Five years ago, tourists were frequently kidnapped in the area so it was reassuring to pass so many patrolling soldiers on our route.
We continued up and down hills, we squelched through thick mud, we climbed over rocks and boulders and we scrambled under low-hanging branches.
Finally, we had to negotiate 1,200 slippery, moss-covered steps to reach the city.
Thank God it was worth it.
The Lost City is serene and it is peaceful, raised high amid the surrounding jungle and framed by an enormous waterfall in the distance.
It is beautiful.
You can see the remains of the circular buildings everywhere and they all rise above one another – those Tairona folk seemed to have a peculiar fondness for steps.
I only came to Colombia because I wanted to visit the Ciudad Perdida.
I heard it was “like something out of Indiana Jones” and I have loved Indy for years, sitting and watching the films with my dad.
It was easy to imagine old Harrison there – whip in hand, lip curling at the prospect of snakes in the undergrowth, frequently losing his hat.
Even when the heavens opened on our way home and we found ourselves drenched, skidding through rivers of mud, it was worth every second.
But seriously, who invented mosquitos?