In part 1 we discussed visiting Kuelap, but don’t jump on a bus back to Lima or wherever just yet. How about also witnessing a seriously impressive bit of natural beauty while you’re up here in the North of Peru?
The Gocta Falls are either the 3rd or 5th tallest waterfalls in the world, and at a height of 771 metes are pretty damn impressive. Now while this waterfall has been known to the locals for absolutely ages, it was apparently not known to the outside world until a bunch of Germans went on an expedition here in 2005. Now I have to admit I’m still a bit dubious about that bit of the story, like seriously, 2005? People of all different cultures had visited this region a long time before 2005, that’s not even 10 years ago, and the waterfall is clearly visible for miles around including from the nearby village of Cocachimba, so you would’ve thought someone would have turned their head at some point and said “hey, what’s the story with that fucking huge waterfall mi amigo?”
Whether this waterfall was only discovered a few years ago, or whether that’s just a story to make you feel much more hardcore & adventurous than you actually are, there’s no denying how damn impressive this thing is. You can actually hang out in this region for a few days to hike in the beautiful countryside & get various views of the falls, if the sight of a bit of H20 falling through the air really excites you that much, but if you’re one-daying it then a hike from Cocachimba to the bottom of the second fall is the best plan of attack. You see, much like a good dubstep track, the Gocta falls has two big drops, so if you have the time you can hike up to the base of the first drop, or right to the top, but the most impressive views are on the way to the base of the second (and much larger) drop.
The hike from Cocachimba to the base of the falls is about an hour, and it’s pretty steep at parts, so if the most demanding physical activity you generally partake in back home is doing that little half-run thing when you’re crossing the road & the little green man turns back to red while you’re only halfway across the road, then you’re probably going to be huffing & puffing like you’re trying to blow a little pig’s house down. But rest assured the effort is worth it, and the forest you’ll be hiking through is home to some pretty spectacular coloured birds, so keep your eyes peeled if you have a bit of an abnormal interest in all things avian.
While the waterfall looks like quite a thin trickle from a distance, like a giant is taking a piss over the edge of a cliff, once you reach the base you will appreciate how substantial the water flow is, and the sound is quite deafening. If you have balls of steel, or if you’re Scandinavian & therefore impervious to cold water, then you can go for a swim in the icy pool underneath the falls. Alternatively, if you’re feeling brave and/or sunk several beers on the bus on the way out here, you can try to edge your way around until you’re directly under the waterfall, but for fucks sake be careful cos the rocks are slippery & razor sharp. I saw one dude take a nasty slip on the rocks when I was there, and yes there was blood. Was it worth it, to get a perfect photo under the falls? I’m going to say “no”, but whatever, do what you want.
While it can be hard to tear yourself away from the beautiful sight of the massive falls thundering down from more than half a kilometre above, if you get your ass back to Cocachimba in time there is an old lady who owns a restaurant (AKA a little shack with a long table in it) and she will cook you some mean Peruvian food & give you a beer for like 3 bucks – just what you need after your hike through the forest. It tasted good & did not give me diarrhoea, which are the only two criteria I care about when travelling. Also if you have another night in Chachapoyas when you get back it’s actually quite a fun little town to go out in, so grab some of your new mates you met at the falls & head on out. Don’t expect much in the way of English to be spoken up this way, but as mentioned earlier, you already know “dos cerevesas por favor”, so you’re pretty well sorted.
And if you just want the essential info for visiting Kuelap & Gocta Falls, here you go:
- Step one: get to Chachapoyas. By the power of Google I have determined that you can actually fly roughly half way to Chachapoyas from Lima by heading to either Tarapoto, Chiclayo or Cajamarca, but you’re still looking at 8-12 hours on a bus after that, and about 4 times the cost of just taking the bus the whole way. So best you just harden the fuck up, make sure your ipod is charged, and get on the bus.
- Step two: either try to navigate the local transport systems to get to Kuelap & Gocta Falls, or hit up one of the guys you’ll see on the main square every morning trying to hawk organised trips there. Usually I hate organised tours, but if you’re on a tight time schedule these could be your best bet, if only so you can jump in a minibus & get taken right there. Trips cost about $20 for the full day, so cheap as chips bro.