Gocta Waterfall

Chachapoyas Travel Blog

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Rupture in water pipe
My guidebook had little to say about Chachapoyas and that’s probably because I’m using a 2004 edition of the Lonely Planet.  As I was to find out later, there are so many discoveries being made that the books can’t keep up.  At the Hotel Revash where I was staying, they also booked tours and after looking around the square at some of the agencies and comparing prices and tours I figured it would be ok to go with the people I was staying with.  I signed up for a 4 day trek and they said that one other guy was going along but that it would be better to wait a day and in the meantime go to see the Gocta waterfall.  So I agreed and joined a bunch of others in the van on Saturday morning to go out to see this waterfall.  Apparently it is the 3rd highest in the world, and the reason that it is not mentioned in the L.
American guy
P. is that it was only discovered last year!  

On the way out I got to know some of the others in the group.  There was a Frenchman from Nantes named Denis and his girlfriend from Nazca, a couple of Americans, from Providence, Rhode Island, and a few Peruvians.  The American guy had been in the Navy and his girlfriend Amy was traveling with him.  I didn’t get to talk to the other Peruvians until later in the trip.  By late morning we were in the small village where we were dropped off and a guide was assigned to us and we were off on the trail.  I wanted to get something to eat but the only things available in the small “shop” where we started were candy.
Valara plazita
  I left my water bottle and backpack too since the guide said it was only an hour and ten minutes to the falls.  I figured that was an easy walk in and out and that I wouldn’t need it.  He also said the way was mostly flat.  

So we followed the mountainside for awhile admiring the view and enjoying the warm sun although the path led slightly uphill until we entered a dense woods.  It was semi-tropical vegetation but it reminded me of woods back home, especially in the smell of the loamy earth, decomposing leaves and such.  I hadn’t experienced real green yet in Peru and this was a welcome change from the coastal desert and the scrubby sierra.  Our guide was an older man who had little to say unless asked a question and we wanted to know how much further it was.
View of valley
  “Oh, you’ll hear the falls just around the corner,” he said.  “It’s about 20 to 15 minutes away.”  We kept walking and walking and walking and half an hour later we asked again.  Same response.  More climbing for quite some time and he led us to a lookout point and the waterfall seemed to be impossibly far away, 30 minutes at the very least, if not 45 to an hour.  From this point he reiterated that it was 15 minutes away.  I jokingly asked if there was a guide math that halves every figure?  So we should just double what the guide said to get the correct time?  Also I was famished since we had no breakfast and it was now at least noon and we’d been hiking and sweating for a long time.  I asked if there were some animals around or leaves or vegetation we could eat?  

A quite long climb uphill (remember how he said it was flat?) and we were finally in earshot of the roar of the falls, well over two hours into the hike.
Group
  I was furious by this time, at the guide for being completely useless if not worse, and the agency for not providing us with some food or at least telling us how long it would be and letting us buy some for ourselves.  I tried to remain calm and just enjoy it and good sense prevailed.  I didn’t want to spoil the day.  I walked along ahead because Amy, the American girl, as well as the others, were stopping frequently for rests and hearing the falls I wanted to push on ahead.  I rounded a corner and emerged out of the forest and kept climbing the steep hill.  There it was!  The waterfall was spectacular.  I had never seen anything like it.  It dropped from a precipice far up to plunge into a pool and then run further down to drop again to the valley far below.
View of Valley
  This was an entirely different thing than Niagara Falls.  Here it wasn’t sheer power but height.  I waited for the group and we all took pictures.  Then I decided to go into the pool.  The spray was very cold and I knew it would be freezing in there but I just had to do it.  Another Peruvian girl named Lucia had brought part of a wet suit having planned to do the same so we both started down the slippery rocks to get in.  It was frigid and I thought my legs were going to freeze.  That was enough to get in up to my waist and I jumped out, exhilarated and refreshed.  The girl from Nazca came down too and got in so that made the three of us.  It felt wonderful.

The way back was considerably faster.  I talked to the ex-Navy guy most of the way back.
Guide with Lucia, Denis and girlfriend
  He and his girlfriend were talking about living in Italy, near Naples, and about the food, and about the food back in the States and restaurants and that was like torture since we were so hungry.  They were the first Americans I had really talked to at length since I have been in Peru for the last 2 months.  I met a couple in Lima, one or two in Huaraz and up North but surprisingly few.  I’m sure there are many more in Cuzco doing the Macchu Picchu route, but so far I’ve met close to none.  So it was nice to talk to them even if it made me hungry and homesick!  

The lunch that was provided was a piece of tough chicken, some bland rice and bland lentils and after the hours of hiking and with no food all day, and also having guzzled a bottle of water, few of us could eat.
Mountain
  The agency charged them 15 soles for the lunch and it wasn’t worth a few soles.  I got a special price so I didn’t feel as bad but on the whole I was very upset with the way things went.  But it was a great day on the whole and I just resolved to write up the tour and what went wrong and at least try to advise anyone else taking it how to do it.

When we got back Lucia invited me out for a drink later.  We met up and she introduced me to a friend of hers from Florence, Italy named Franco.  He’s been in Peru for almost 15 years teaching Italian and Art History at various universities.  Believe it or not, we spoke Spanish all night just because it’s so hard to switch from Spanish to Italian.  I could hear it when he spoke Italian too, it was mixed with Spanish quite a bit.
Distant view of waterfall
  He was a quirky guy, small and gawky with a bushy mustache.  Intelligent and lively too.  We had a great conversation all night, covering everything from art to theater to cinema to cultural differences between countries.  He and Lucia made an interesting couple.  She being bigger boned and curvy and he with his smaller frame and stature.  It was like Jack Sprat and his wife I kept thinking.  

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Rupture in water pipe
Rupture in water pipe
American guy
American guy
Valara plazita
Valara plazita
View of valley
View of valley
Group
Group
View of Valley
View of Valley
Guide with Lucia, Denis and girlfr…
Guide with Lucia, Denis and girlf…
Mountain
Mountain
Distant view of waterfall
Distant view of waterfall
Me in front of falls
Me in front of falls
Lucia on the trail
Lucia on the trail
Smaller waterfall on the trail
Smaller waterfall on the trail
Gocta waterfall - 3rd highest in t…
Gocta waterfall - 3rd highest in …
Peruvian girls at the falls
Peruvian girls at the falls
Bottom of falls
Bottom of falls
Gocta waterfall
Gocta waterfall
Below the falls
Below the falls
Leading to 2nd drop
Leading to 2nd drop
Panorama
Panorama
Panorama
Panorama
Icy cold bath!
Icy cold bath!
Panorama
Panorama
Valley Panorama
Valley Panorama
Poisonous bug
Poisonous bug
Denis
Denis
Denis and his girlfriend
Denis and his girlfriend
Lucia and Peruvian girl
Lucia and Peruvian girl
Crystal clear drinking water...NOT!
Crystal clear drinking water...NOT!
Measuring the trail...just 15 minu…
Measuring the trail...just 15 min…
On the trail
On the trail
Seventh Day Adventists
Seventh Day Adventists
The tasteless lunch
The tasteless lunch
Delicious beef on a clothesline
Delicious beef on a clothesline
Folk dancing at Hotel Revash
Folk dancing at Hotel Revash
Chachapoyas
photo by: Belluomo