Yesterday we flew from Lima to Tarapoto, about an hour flight, to meet our French friends we got to know in San Gerardo last year. We also spent time with them in Cuenca last November. They had been visiting some points of interest the past few days and then drove us to Chachapoyas where they live about five and a half hours away. I enjoyed the steamy heat for a bit after two gray chilly Lima days.
Upon arriving at their town we checked into Xalca Hotel and then continued to their new residence not far away. Chachapoyas is an old town about 375 years old built by the Spaniards. Every building is white. There is a huge plaza and pedestrian street to be later explored. A light dinner was at Cafe Fusiones where Philippe has helped them be more organized and efficient as well as wait tables.
Today we were on the road by 8:30 to drive about forty-five minutes away to the village from which we would hike to Gocta Falls. There we hired a guide, who didn’t have much to say, to take us 5.3 km to the falls. There are two sections. The upper one is about 240 m while the lower one is 530 m. Although this hike is rated as moderate we all found it to be much more intense. There is a lot of up and down and three bridges. The cascades are superb and worth the energy to get there.
After lunch, made by 13 year old Maxime, we began the trek back. Since we were pretty weary we had our guide radio for horses to be brought up so we could ride back down. We had to walk the first two km and then mounted the four footed friends. Martina and her ten year old son had mules!
The falls have been well known by the locals forever; however, they strongly believed in a couple of myths which led them to avoid this wonder. One was that if you went to the bottom of the falls mermaids would take you away. The other is that if you got wet from the water you would have bad luck. It was until ten years ago that these beliefs were held strong! The change factor was a German man, a friend of our friends, who was looking in the area for sarcophagi and came across these falls. The following year he returned with people who could measure them. That was followed by a worldwide press conference to tell the rest of the world about his “discovery” of one of the highest in the world, and it quickly became a tourist destination for the few who even ventured to this part of Peru. The next night while out for pizza Stefan and his fiancée joined us for dinner! He is actually a water specialist and was working on a watershed project in the area when he went for a walk on a day off. The rest is history!