On foot or on horseback? That is the dilemma. The only dilemma It is not as deep or philosophical as the already classic and famous to be or not to be, but given the circumstances and considering the context, it is presented as a question that must be analyzed and resolved before stepping, step by step or riding towards the imposing cataract of Gocta, following a path that intrudes restlessly and winding through a mountain forest.
Yes, on foot or on horseback from the charming town of Cocachimba (Amazonas), located five kilometers from the pool formed by the second fall of this 771-meter-high waterfall. A fun challenge for a safe path, signposted and surrounded by huge trees. During the journey, Gocta is admired from different angles, images that refresh, inspire and motivate to continue the journey as a horseman or roving horse.
And beyond the dilemma, the adventure will always be comforting. We must not give up knowing the best of Peru for fear of a misstep or lack of experience with the trails. Overall, the horses are docile and the trail is calm, looking for the yellow-tailed woolly monkey or one of the more than 100 species of birds recorded on the route to La Chorrera, as the locals call the waterfall.
Outside, beyond the towns of Cocachimba -the main access to this natural beauty-, and of San Pablo -where a longer route that allows you to approach the two falls- is called Gocta. That was the name with which it would be presented to the world by the German explorer Stefan Ziemendorff, who would lead the group of explorers that measured it in 2006.
Since then, Gocta would be included in the tour packages to Peru. You could not ignore the cataract that, at that time, was ranked as the third highest in the world. A destination to discover in the Amazon region. A destination whose name would come from the onomatopoeia of the voices of the woolly monkey or the pounding of the water on the rocks. A destination protected by a snake that obeys a mermaid.
Fear and respect in a patch of the cloudy forest, that is the habitat of the cock of the rocks, the national bird of Peru. Rupicola Peruviana is its scientific name. The males are colorful and showy (their plumage is orange and black), the females do not dazzle, they are opaque and unattractive. They expose themselves, show themselves, and attract predators to preserve the species.
But in his life, not everything is sacrifice. The cockerels are great ‘singers’ and ‘dancers’. They have to be. It is their way of getting a mate and reproducing, although the exemplar that is on the side of the path, neither dances nor sings. It only hides and moves away. Fly, as the energies are flown in this route that has not yet finished, which is a challenge, a challenge and, also, a more intimate way of connecting with nature.
It is this closeness that encourages me to continue, to persist, to arrive triumphantly at the foot of the waterfall formed by the rivers Shique, Zuta and Upa. There, on the path that borders the pool, the waters roar, soak, deafen, while the wind shakes me. Thus, it receives foreigners one of the tourist emblems of the Amazon region. A magnificent welcome to the little visited and almost unknown Peruvian northeastern.
A region that is jungle and mountain in Gocta, which is pre-Hispanic past and stone legacy in the Kuelap fortress, which is a quiet city in Chachapoyas, the regional capital founded on September 5, 1538 by the Spanish capital Alonso Alvarado. It is there where we return after solving the Cocachimba dilemma. This is where we will leave for another scenario, towards another attractive traveler.
Visit without dilemmas, without horses or long walks. Here you can “fly” by a cable car to the outskirts of Kuelap, the archaeological complex that was the bastion of the Chachapoyas, the pre-Hispanic town that developed between 800 AD. and 1570 AD Lords of the mountains, the forests and the clouds, they cemented their civilization in a wild and exuberant territory.
Kuelap, a stone wall at 3000 meters above sea level, with walls 19 meters high that protected a fortified city with areas inhabited by elites, astronomical observation areas and decorative friezes on some of the walls of its circular enclosures (around 400). It’s narrowed accesses were designed to prevent the invasion of enemies. Those who tried to pay with their lives such daring.
But, in spite of the colossal fortress erected on the top of a hill, the Chachapoyas were defeated by the Incas at the end of the 15th century. It was not an easy task. The armies of the son of the sun could not take it by assault, then, they besieged it. Hunger and thirst would subdue the defenders of Kuelap, one of the most impressive archaeological sites in the country, so much so that some voices have not hesitated to describe it as the Machu Picchu of the north.
Truth or lie … we must see it with our own eyes to have an answer, although beyond comparisons and similar assumptions, to get here to observe the walls and feel small in front of them, is an experience that reveals the greatness of the pre-Hispanic people, those who settled among valleys and mountains, to live in harmony with nature and mother earth.
That nature that surrounds me in Gocta. That nature that is projected to the horizon when the panorama is seen from Kuelap. That nature that drives to continue exploring the magical and always surprising roads of Peru.
Destination: Chachapoyas, at 2234 m.s., is the capital of the Amazon region. It is located 1222 kilometers from Lima. It is accessible by land and by combined area-land route. It is the main starting point to visit Gocta and Kuelap. The tours are done in one day each, although in Cocachimba and in the town of Tingo and Maria (near the fortress) there are hotels and lodges.
Localities: Cocachimba and San Pablo are located in the district of Valera (province of Bongará, Amazonas). Kuelap is in the district of Tingo (province of Luya, Amazonas).
Another waterfall: Amazonas is also the waterfall of Yumbilla, located in the district of Cuispes (province of Bongará, Amazonas).
Falls Tour: Gocta has two waterfalls; the first has 231 meters and the second, 540 meters.
Complete Tour: If the starting point in the town of San Pablo, the traveler knows the two waterfalls of Gocta. This circuit, which ends in Cocachimba, is much more demanding and is not the favorite of tourists. Distance: 15.5 km.
Cable Car: The Kuélap Cable Car System covers 4.5 kilometers and was inaugurated on March 2, 2017.