Gocta: The World´s Third Highest Waterfall

Bagua Grande Travel Blog

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The view of Gocta from a distance
Gocta, is actually located slightly south of Pedro Ruiz, where I spent the night after arriving from Jaen, but Pedro Ruiz is so small it isn´t in the list of places on this website. To get to Pedro Ruiz I had to take a combi from Jaen to Bagua Grande and then take another one from Bagua Grande. Bague Grande was an oppressively hot dust bowl where everyone was just sitting around sweating. The scenery around the area was much like Arizona or Utah with canyons and red rock cliffs. After waiting for two hours for the car to fill up we were off to Pedro Ruiz. There wasn´t much in Pedro Ruiz and it seems to exist mostly because it lies at the crossroads of the road to Tarapoto and the jungle and that to Chachapoyas and the multitude of ruins that abound in that region.
Gocta again
It is convenient for visiting Gocta, and there is also another large waterfall nearby that looked nice. There are no tour operators in Pedro Ruiz so tours to see the waterfall are run from Chachapoyas, 2 hours to the south. After asking the elderly couple that owned the hotel that I stayed at about how to get to the waterfall, I knew how to get there, but finding a way there was another matter. The next morning I started walking the two main streets and asking some moto-taxi drivers but they wouldn´t take me because they said it was too far. Finally I found someone to drive me there, it was only about 30 minutes to the small town where the trail starts. I was dropped off in front of the tourist office and just happened to arrive a little bit after a Peruvian man who was going to do the hike so together we went with a guide to the waterfall.
Standing near the base of the waterfall looking up
The Peruvian man was a history professor and a tour guide from Lamud, a city to the south of there, and so together the two guides were really knowledgeable about everything, from the plants in the jungle to the ancient ruins. The tour guide and a few of the people from town were so happy that I was there visiting, they thanked me multiple times for coming to visit and they encouraged me to tell all of my friends about the waterfall and to tell them to come and visit as well. It was really refreshing to have someone thank me for coming, that sort of thing doesn´t happen in the touristy places. It was a nice hike to the waterfall and after returning we had lunch in the town and then the Peruvian tour guide gave me a ride back on his motorcycle, which was really nice of him.

After returning to town and showering and packing my stuff I was ready to head to Tingo where I would hike to Kuelap.
The crazy rock formations behind the waterfall
I caught a bus to Chachapoyas and was planning to take a car from there to Tingo. Unfortunately, shortly after the turnoff for the waterfall, the road south was closed until 7pm for paving. Paving wasn´t really an accurate term because to pave a road, a road has to exist, and in many places this dirt track was only 1-1.5 lanes wide. So we waited about 2 hours for the road to open and by the time it did there was a caravan of about 30 vehicles. These 30 vehicles traveling on a dry dirt road kicked up a huge cloud of dust that enveloped our bus and blocked out most of the amazing scenery. The road followed the river and the canyons and in many places was literally carved out of the rock wall of the canyon with rock forming half of a tunnel over the road that was seemingly so low that I thought the roof of the bus would scrape the rocks at any moment.
The townspeople of San Carlos getting out of church
There were many places wide enough for only one vehicle and these were carefully negotiated, for the most part. The highlight of the trip had to be when we rounded a one lane hairpin curve and came face to face with a large truck. With no place to go, our bus was forced to back up around the curve to give the truck room to pass. Despite the darkness we made it Chachapoyas around 8pm or so and there was no more transportation to Tingo until the next morning at 4am. Why they felt that the cars needed to leave at 4am is beyond me, but I got something to eat and then went to sleep early. I got up early to get a car to Tingo but when I woke up I found that I was locked into the hotel like a jail. There was no one around to open the doors and I had to search around the place for about 30 minutes to find a way out.
Our bus backing up around the corner under the cliff
The way out consisted of tossing my bags onto the low roof over a walkway and then scaling a ledge, dropping my bags over the wall to the sidewalk and then jumping over the wall to the street. After all this I had managed to miss the car, or maybe there never was one since the office was all locked up. I was lucky enough to find a car going to the next town past Tingo and caught a ride, arriving in Tingo in the early morning. Perfect timing for the hike up to Kuelap.
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The view of Gocta from a distance
The view of Gocta from a distance
Gocta again
Gocta again
Standing near the base of the wate…
Standing near the base of the wat…
The crazy rock formations behind t…
The crazy rock formations behind …
The townspeople of San Carlos gett…
The townspeople of San Carlos get…
Our bus backing up around the corn…
Our bus backing up around the cor…
Pedro Ruiz in all its glory
Pedro Ruiz in all its glory
Strange jungle fruit
Strange jungle fruit
The lower falls, some 500m tall
The lower falls, some 500m tall
The bottom pool of the falls
The bottom pool of the falls
Three mini-waterfalls cascading of…
Three mini-waterfalls cascading o…
The surrounding countryside
The surrounding countryside
Bagua Grande
photo by: AndySD