A travel into the Peruvian north – off the gringo path – Part III

From Huanchaco to Cajamarca – Leymebamba – Chachapoyas – Kuelap – Gocta – Tarapoto – Yurimaguas – Amazon river boat cruise to Iquitos and Leticia (Colombia).

This series is about a trip the the less travelled paths of northern Peru. It is about Pre Inca cultures, indigenous people, friendliness, new friends and encounters and slow travel on the amazon river till the border of Colombia.

Part III: From Leymebamba to Chachapoyas (incl. the ruins of Kuélap and the Gocta waterfall)

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Read Part I here and Part II here.

After the great morning in Leymebamba visiting the ruins of La Congona and having a great lunch for only 5 Soles, our full belly sits in a bus enjoying the windy roads again, this time direction Chachapoyas! Arriving on early evening we have still the chance to get some veggies at the local market to prepare a nice dinner and enjoy some beers before happily going to bed! Not without making plans for tomorrow: let’s go to KUÉLAP!

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Like many ruins in the north of Peru, it is related to the Chachapoyas culture and was started in the 6th century AD. Unlike in La Congona, this ancient village is well known and right now the construction on a teleférico is ongoing. So far, there are two ways accessing Kuélap, overlooking the Utcubamba River. One is by car (we booked a full day tour) or hours and hours of uphill hike. It takes about 3 hours by car to arrive and again we get a great guide! Lucky with the guide, kind of unlucky with the weather it keeps raining almost the whole tour. At least it gives us a mystic feeling about the place when the clouds rise till our feet on 3.000m above sea level. Kuélap is surrounded by massive stone walls, protecting the 400 houses. It consists of a higher part, built for the rich people and the lower part for the farmers. Some Lamas are starring at us as we are walking on their lunch!

PNIII4There is no water source in the city, meaning that the siege of other tribes could be successful after a certain period of time. Houses are round with a hole in the middle. This hole served as food storage, but sometimes also as a grave.

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Lessons learnt today: ALWAYS bring a rain jacket in the Amazon mountains, even tho the weather is crystal clear in the morning!

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Same same the next morning. Did you know the third highest waterfall in the earth is hidden in this part of the world? You can take a tour, but it is much more fun and adventurous going on your own!

To do so, go to the bus station in the morning and take the next collective direction Pedro Ruiz. Tell the driver you want to get off to go to Gocta („Por favor, bajo donde empieza la caminata Gocta“). Once you are there, knock on the door at the house and ask for a Mototaxi. If they don’t want to take you (happened to us, it was Sunday), walk 500m back to the other house and ask there. The Moto taxi brings you up a muddy road for 40 minutes till reaching the next village. The engine was fighting to bring the four of us to where our wonderful hike shall start. Once on the market square, register and pay your entrance fee. They might tell you you need a guide for the tour. Ignore them, you don’t. Follow the street out of town into the jungle and start your hike. Don’t forget greeting everyone along the street. They are not used to Gringos and are very friendly and happy to see you. A nice „Buenos días, cómo está“ makes everyone happy!

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Follow the path for around 3 hours until reaching the impressive Gocta waterfall. On the way you will find several viewpoints, glimpsing Gocta and the sister waterfalls.

Definitely climb up the last stairs, although it is loud, wet and slippy. You will get soaked but it is amazing!

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To finish the hike, go back some 20 mins and turn right. After 3 more hours, you arrive at another village. If you want, check in for a coffee and cake at the Gocta Lodge. An amazing Eco Lodge with pool and view to the far away waterfall!

As it was Sunday, everyone in town was drink. Really drunk! We had some fun chatting with the guys almost falling out of the local bar who still thought they could give us a ride home 1,5 hours. Finally we found a sober guy willing to take us back all the way to Chachapoyas! What a perfect day!!

Where to stay: 

I stayed at Chachapoyas Backpackers. It is run by an Peruvian couple, spotless clean, right in the center but quiet. Has a kitchen, warm showers and a nice vibe! What else do you need?