Kuelap & Gocta

Dear friends,

Going forther up north in Peru, Chachapoyas was one of our first determined destinations when planning our trip. Chachapoyas is one of the entries to the peruvian Amazon and indeed you can tell as soon as you get out the bus. It’s very wet (raining when we arrived) and very green. Chachapoyas was on our radar because of many different pre-inca ruins that you can visit. There’s mausoleums and tombs built at the wall of steep cliffs and Kuelap, a citadel on top of a mountain. Not only man made s8ghts are worth the visit but also the unbelievable nature like waterfalls, cloud forrests and mountains.

Let’s start at the beginning though. As you know, if you read our last posts (otherwise please go back now) we are still in a rush to get to Ecuador, thus decisions have to be made and priorities set. Therefore, as soon as we arrived in Chachapoyas and checked-in in our hotel, we went to the local bus station to take a combi direction Kuelap (8 soles). We arrived in 1 hour close to a cable car station which takes you all the way up to Kuelap for 20 soles in 20 min, pretty handy. Once at the final station it’s a beautiful half an hour walk to the ruins. It was sunny and warm, not many tourists and most of them peruvians.

Kuelap is very different from the ruins we had seen before. It’s built on the very top of a mountain, which of course is not flat, thus the Chachapoyas (who are also called Warriors of the Clouds) built a 20 m high wall and platform, on which they built the city. The ruins date from around the 10th century and is one of the biggest and most important powers of that time. The location of the citadel is very strategic: The city could only be accessed via 4 different corridors, which become very narrow until only 1 person at a time can pass through it. This was their strategy to eliminate any invading army one by one. The town itself was made of cylindrical houses all close to each other. Archeologists found many mummies in those houses which leads to believe that the Chachapoyas lived with their dead probably under the floor. Unfortunately, not much is known about them, except their very hyrarchical structure and broad influence over the valleys around Kuelap and beyond.

Back in Chachapoyas we had some difficulties finding a place to eat and nothing we had there was overwhelming, thus I won’t mention much about that. However, the next day was great!

We went again to the bus station to take a minivan direction Gocta waterfalls. It’s almost the same road as the day before, very curvy and from the storm the night before full of stones that had fallen from the cliffs. It didn’t help that the driver went crazy fast through all the obstacles, but we survived. The combi leaves you at an unpaved road where tuktuk drivers are already waiting for you. They take you up the mountain for like 15 min to the last village Cocachimba before your hike starts. We had a quick breakfast, payed the entrance fee and started walking. It’s very easy to find the correct way and it’s a lot of up and down but not heavy. You pass a few bridges, sometimes you have to jump over some small rivers and from far you see Gocta already! Maybe it’s useful to mention here why Gocta made our list of top priorities: The Gocta waterfall is the 3rd highest waterfall in the world with a total height of 770m. It was very long unknown to the public and only in 2004 some Gringo was led there by locals while actually looking for something else. The reason it took so long for even the peruvian government to know about it, is that the locals believe in a legend of a mermaid living there. They were not supposed to make the location public and people say the mermaid is now very angry against the locals living in that area.

Anyways, we started our walk (you can also go halfway by horse) through the last farms and then more and more into the cloud forrest. The closer we got to the waterfall the denser the vegetation became and the more humid the air got. With every curve we saw the waterfall closer and from a different angle and it was from far away already an amazing view. The very last bit though (after 1.5h) is breath taking. It seems like it’s raining (rain coat very much advised!), the wind and noise are overwhelming, it’s truly magical! With the water in our face we just stood there taking everything up, of course trying to take photos and videos but nothing will show the true energy of that place.

It’s not a place to go swimming although you are completely wet after 2 min. We had planned to have a small Picknick there, but the shed that is built there can’t hold up the water, so we just started our way back. Still with the impressions of what we had just seen the way back went really fast. Halfway at least. Then it started pouring down and not waterfall water but real rain. We tried to find a big tree but nothing helped so we just walked in the rain. Once we arrived back in Cocachimba the sun came back but we did not dry completely anymore.

A tuktuk and combi drive later we were back in Chacha. Luckily our hostel let us use the shower again so we were fresh for our nightly bus ride.

I’d like to end this post with a quick description of Chachapoyas. It has a cute old center with white houses and shopping streets. Unfortunately all the plazas were under construction when we were there but from what I could sneak peak they are very nice too. People in Chacha are super helpful and friendly, which is true for most of Peru, but there I really noticed it. On the way to and back from Gocta two different tourist guides that passed us stopped to shake our hands and welcome us. They had a big smile, asked from where we came.. We were left a bit confused but with a very good feeling too 🙂

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