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  • Writer's pictureAli

How to have a gluten-free trekking holiday (like the one in Cosmopolitan)

I was pleasantly surprised to see a familiar sight in this month's Cosmopolitan magazine. Was it an old friend? Well, sort of. It was Ciudad Perdida in Colombia, otherwise known as The Lost City, and it's where I went on honeymoon.

You might wonder why a coeliac would go to a remote area where the food might not be gluten-free. I don't speak Spanish and many locals don't speak English. Plus, it's not exactly the place for good mobile phone reception when you need Google Translate. But hey, what the heck! A honeymoon's only meant to be the best holiday of your life, right?

And it looked like it would be exciting. Who doesn't want to discover a lost city in 4 days? (N.B. You can choose a longer time to do it in but then you'd miss those lovely 5am starts.)

So if you're considering an adventure holiday (ahem, not honeymoon - more on this later) and you've got to keep things gluten-free then keep reading. You might just be pleasantly surprised (on the diet front, that is). The trekking part is another matter...

Me wading through a river...that was about to get deeper

This is me attempting to trudge through a river without getting wet (I was unsuccessful).

So here I am wading through water. Given the fact I'm already wearing a hairband, it's probably already the second day of the trek. (The water that came out of the showers was brown. Unsurprisingly, I chose not to wash my hair.)

Then came the local wildlife. Here is what I can only describe as a rather annoying chicken.

The chicken in the loo. Yep, he's watching.

But no matter! What's a chicken in a loo when you've got a lost city to find?!

Ali on a swinging bridge

Ah, that's better! An exciting bridge to cross.

So onwards we all trekked (note that's ALL of us and not just the two us - we wouldn't dream of being so romantic on a honeymoon as to be alone). Let's just take a look at the accommodation, shall we?

Ali stuck in a wet hammock

This is me fighting to get comfy. I wish I could tell you it worked.

This photo shows a rather damp hammock and mosquito net, which were meant to form my bed for the night. I must have managed to sleep because at one point I got woken up by a wild boar brushing underneath me as it wandered through the place. Good times.

Ali walking down a Colombian trail

This path looks easy. Who said this was difficult?

Once again, more trekking. And I bet you're wondering what I did for food. Well, let's just say that plain and simple fayre was available and it was naturally gluten-free. Oh all right, not all of it, but some very salty fish and boiled rice was on offer, which I washed down with a can of Coke because I didn't trust the local brown water (although I guess it must have been used to cook the rice, so I probably shouldn't have cared).

Me trekking up a steep incline

I don't think I minded my shorts had got soaked in a river at this point. But I do think I began to realise it wasn't my dream honeymoon. That rather steep incline went on for a bit more than once.

Ali being rained on

I will enjoy myself. I will. I will!

There's nothing like a spot of rain to liven up a honeymoon! That backdrop is amazing, though.

And if you're wondering what on earth possessed me to do this trek, given I could have been on a beach sunbathing, then maybe this photo will persuade you. Yep, it's the place we'd been waiting for all along...

Cuidad Perdida

And here I am at the wall...

Ali at Cuidad Perdida

Of course, one cannot remain at the beautiful place for long so we trekked back to relative normality. But as you can see from the next photo, I didn't seem too bothered.

Gluten-free Colombian cuisine

After all that trekking I can probably work my way through this...

We decided to get ourselves a bit of a feast. Well, some more salty fish and rice, to be exact, but there were some beautiful side dishes, too. And they tasted so good after all that trekking.

So what's the lowdown on getting gluten-free meals the whole time? I really didn't have to ask for much. The majority of cooked food was naturally gluten-free and things that did contain gluten (like canned beer) were clearly separate. It's weirdly one of the few times when I haven't had to worry about my diet, despite having to eat whatever I was given at every meal (because there weren't exactly shops nearby).

The only thing I would say is when Amy Bannerman writes in Cosmo that this trip's not for the faint-hearted, she's absolutely right. You may have noticed in one photo that the back of my t-shirt reads 'Coast to Coast'. That's because I trekked 192 miles across England in 9 days (and that was after years of training). If you don't walk regularly (and by regularly I mean at least 15 miles in one go every other week) then it might be better to stay on the beaches Colombia has to offer instead (especially if you're on honeymoon).

If you fancy your own chicken in the loo adventure, click here for Cuidad Perdida (and let me know how you get on).

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