Our third day in Chachapoyas, we waste no time and head out in the morning in search of transportation to visit the impressive Gocta waterfall.
As we’re leaving the hotel the kind owner asks us about our experience at Kuelap and about what we have planned next. After explaining our plan for getting to the falls, he quickly corrects us and explains that you cannot access them without a guide, and that the only reliable return transport is through tour agencies. Coincidentally, if we hurry in a taxi we can catch up to one that left town fifteen minutes ago.
Léa and I don’t know what to believe but, unwilling to risk another grueling day, we decide to join the tour. They call a taxi for us and we hop in.
It’s about a two hour drive to get to the small village where we’ll begin to hike to the falls. It’s not as intense as the hike up to Kuelap, but it’s no gentle stroll either. We make our way up the river valley with lots of steep ups and downs.
Our legs are screaming at us, “You guys had us sitting cramped and motionless on several overnight bus trips, and now all of a sudden you expect us to carry you up and down steep mountains all day?! You will pay for this!”
Though difficult, the hike is very pretty. We are in thick, jungle forest with ever-changing weather: rain, mist, sun, clouds, wind, more rain.
We finally arrive at the falls, and we’re most surprised to realize that even though there is so much water pouring off the cliffs above – enough to feed the roaring river we hiked up – the stream of water isn’t actually hitting the ground. Rather, the falls billow through the air like dancing ghosts as the water becomes a fine mist. At the base of the falls there is a pool where the mist gathers and condenses, with an intense wind blowing across it that actually knocks you over if you get close enough.
Below the falls we are completely soaked, but happy to have reached our destination. The falls are beautiful and absolutely worth the trip. Even if you’re borderline crippled from a rough day before.
We hike back, and devour a chicken and potato meal in the small village before hopping back in the tour van to Chachapoyas. During this ride we meet two German guys who had just come from the amazon, explaining their adventures in a canoe leaving from Lagunas. Sounds interesting!
We get back to town quite late, and in search of dinner we find a very strange restaurant. Green floodlights, vines (un)artistically hung from the ceiling, chairs with personal canopies shaped like giant lemons and loud new age jazz music make Léa and I feel like we’re on the tackiest date in the history of forever. The place is practically empty.
The overzealous waiter comes to take our order. He is unable to answer the simplest of questions, but is very practiced in suggesting we order their special cocktails, which we are forced to decline several times before he gives up.
We order the Cuy to share. A tiny little rodent that had been cooked rotisserie-style, served with a very nice sauce on a curved piece of bark, the head removed and placed on top of the sprawled body, facing Léa.
“Where are we? What…what are we doing here?”
It doesn’t matter. We both attack the tiny beast like the cloud people of old, but significantly less practiced. It takes about an hour to get the meat off its bones. We pay the bill and leave the restaurant.
We’re back on the streets of Chachapoyas when, suddenly, a man appears in front of us. He asks us if we were pleased with our meal. He explains he’s the head chef and owner of the restaurant. He had followed us several blocks from the restaurant. He asks what our lunch plans are for tomorrow. We explain we’re leaving town in the morning. He offers two free special cocktails on him if we come for brunch. He finally disappears.
That was weird.
Overall, though, Chachapoyas, its people and the surrounding area is by far my favorite Peruvian spot so far. But the jungle is calling us.
We get up first thing the next morning, grab another delicious breakfast and head to the nearby truck-stop town of Pedro Ruiz for an eight our layover. We watch several hours of the reality show “Combate” in a restaurant and eventually get on our midnight bus to Tarapoto. After seven sleepless hours of being tossed around in the front row of the top deck of the bus we finally arrive, haggard, at Tarapoto. From there it’s three more hours of being tossed around in the back of a shared taxi to the hot and humid amazon river port town of Yurimaguas. Damn, those roads were curvy.
The nicest hotel in town, with air-con and wifi, suits our needs. Time for a little rest before we figure out the boat situation and whether we’re going to the remote town of Lagunas for an adventurous canoe tour, or continue on straight to Iquitos for a more touristy jungle experience.
Categories: Posts in English