2 Months in Peru—May 7, 2015—Day 39.
Rough night, after losing the wallet, but in the morning we got onto the tasks of canceling the lost bank cards and making arrangements to transfer money to the last accessible account. We had planned to go to Gocta Cataract (Falls) today, but had given up on that plan, even though many of the Kuelap group had agreed to go there together. Ega and Pamela had encouraged us to go to Gocta later in the morning after we finished our financial tasks. They were very kind in saying they would wait for us and we could go together! Well, that’s what we did.
The other big issue last night and this morning was the Hostel we were at. The showers were cold last night and luke warm at best, this morning. Further, they said that no eggs were available to purchase for desayuno, even though we had seen them for sale all over town yesterday. Ega was very fed up with the treatment they had received and decided to move to another hostel! We said the slow internet, cold showers, and poor breakfasts made us ready to move too. So, we checked out and walked our packs up to the Casa Vieja, a hostel Karen had marked as a good possibility in our guide book. They had rooms for both couples, and the entire experience was wonderful! HOT showers, fast internet much of the time, and a fine desayuno in their adjoining cafe. The rooms were even warm, with a down comforter on the bed. This move helped balance out the lost wallet.
We were on the road by 10am for Gocta. The 4 of us had been joined by a sweet couple from the city of Huarez in the Cordillera region of Peru. The drive to Cocachimba, the trailhead for Gocta Falls was 1.5 -2 hours long. At Cocachimba we made our choices, as before, for the post visit meal. Then to the visitor center to pay the trail fee and be assigned a guide ( no one gets on the trail or to the falls without a 30 sole ($10) guide)!
Gocta Cataract is a new tourist attraction in Peru. It was “discovered” in 2005 by a German traveller hiking in the hills around Cocachimba. No one except the locals knew about it, not even the Peruvian Government! This is somewhat surprising because it is likely the third highest water fall in the world ( although some others with different affiliation dispute this)! The falls were measured by a survey team and returned a total height of 741meters! The upper falls are 201 meters high, and the lower falls are 540 meters.
Local lore believed that Gocta Cataract was enchanted and evil. The folks of Cocachimba believed that there was a golden vase at the bottom of the falls, protected by large serpents. A mermaid guarded the pool and enchanted anyone who came near, then the serpents would devour him (or her, but mostly him)! No one ventured near the falls, no one talked about it. The German adventurer who hiked to the base of the falls had to beg the town folk to provide a guide to accompany him. Finally a local hunter with a good reputation agreed, to lead him via old Inca trails to the falls. They returned unscathed, and the town was amazed!
We hiked a newer, easier (Ha Ha) trail built by a group of Italians, and now maintained by the local people.
We started a bit higher in elevation than the base of the falls, but the trail was relentlessly up and down. About half way to the falls we came to a hut that could be rented out for groups of up to 22 people who wanted to be there early in the morning to see the birds and monkeys that reside in the area.
A bit farther on we came to a structure that sold snacks, water, cerveza and shots of liquor! Ega bought the 4 of us cervezas and we drank them as we hiked! As we got close to the falls we met most of the group from the day before at Kuelap. They were pleased to see us and said they were sad when we were not on their morning tour.
The hike to the falls was challenging, due to the altitude, 1900 meters at the start of the hike, 1700 at the base. The falls were amazing up close, the wind generated by the falling water, impressive. The free-fall of a drop of water from the top of the lower falls to the pool, by the way, is about 20 seconds! By the way, the falls are named Gocta after the sound the local monkeys make - goc - and the sound of a drop of water hitting the pool below the falls - ta. We lingered a while at the base of the falls, celebrating our accomplishment in a variety of ways, then started our return hike.
It was even more difficult than the approach. The same up and down trail, but we were tired and hungry, and the daily afternoon downpour did nothing to make it easier.
At Cocachimba we were happy to sit, dry out, and enjoy a warm meal.
Then the long ride back to Chachapoyas, where we finished the evening at the Fusion Cafe with a celebratory Coca Sour!