3rd Highest Waterfall and ruins again

Trip Start Jan 19, 2006
Trip End Jan 19, 2007

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Monday, October 9, 2006

After breakfast headed on our day trip to Gocta Falls not far from here. These were recently ´discovered´ (as in this year although locals obviously knew about them) and are the 3rd highest in the world. However I have just consulted a website to discover they are actually the 5th highest - must be some dispute going on. For anyone interested the top 10 highest waterfalls are:

Angel Falls, the world's highest at 979 m (3212 ft), in Venezuela - DONE!
Tugela Falls, the world's second highest at 947 m (3110 ft), in KwaZulu-Natal province, Republic of South Africa.
Ramnefjellsfossen, the world's third highest at 808m (2685 ft), at Stryn, Nesdalen, Norway.
Victoria Falls, the world's widest, on the Zambezi River, on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe
Boyoma Falls, with the world's highest volume, 17,000 m³/s (600,000 ft³/s), on the Congo River, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Gocta, the fifth highest in the world at 771 m (2533 ft), located in the province Chachapoyas, Peru - DONE!
Yosemite Falls, arguably the tallest in North America, located in Yosemite National Park, United States - DONE!
Niagara Falls, most voluminous in North America, on the border between the United States and Canada - DAVE DONE!
Rhine Falls, Europe's largest, located in Switzerland
Iguazu Falls, a tall and extremely wide fall located in South America on the Argentina/Brazil border - DONE!
Jog Falls, India's highest and second highest in Asia, located in Karnataka state, India
Jurong Falls in Singapore is said to be the tallest man-made waterfall in the world

Have got a few more to go though!

Anyway did the trip in a minibus with Hostal Revash and our guide Carlos who was very good. We got kitted up with wellies (A MUST AT THEM MO!!) and then headed out of town following the river and some very dodgy rock overhangs up the valley. After an hour or so we got to the small pueblo of San Pedro and most of the group stopped for breakfast but we were keen to carry on.

We had a local guide take us through the small town where we were greeted by everyone! We then went on the path out towards some big cliffs where we could seem some small waterfalls in the distance. (May have been just as well it rained overnight!) Was pretty humid and the walk got progressively more muddy and several times we had to hoist our legs out of mud without losing the welly. Fortunately we didnt fall over though unlike many others. Were told the walk would take an hour and a half. Over 2 hours later we thought we must have gone the wrong way but carried on anyway. Eventually we reached a clearing as it started to spit with rain. We then saw the first huge drop of teh falls with water gushing down. Pretty impressive and got very close and able to take photos (unlike at Angel Falls). After sitting down for a while and admiring it plus eating our King Kong bought from Chiclayo the rest of the group joined us.

Dave walked closer to the falls themselves but I prefered to stay drier for the timebeing. We then started our walk back through the mud slides and the rain starting pelting it down. Fortunately we also have rain ponchos (full length and most attractive - see photos) otherwise we would have been absolutely drenched. We were walking towards the viewpoint to see the whole falls as they consist of 2 big drops with a small river in between. At this point in time all we could see is cloud about 10 metres away from us across the whole valley. I was about to say to Dave lets not bother with the viewpoint when we got there and the weather miraculously cleared to give us a great view of it all! Flukey or what. Rain stopped completely and we all had our photos taken in turn etc. Very cool.

We then carried on walking back out through the mud and it was at this point we realised most of the walk to the falls had been downhill! Didnt see another tourist which was good (they all go to the lower viewpoint apparently). We stopped not far from the end at a small farm house. I was one of the first to arrive and saw a big cauldron of mud in front of me and I was offered a cup of it. I tentatively asked what it was and if it was safe. Hot sugar cane juice. Nice but too sweet for me so tried to palm it off on Dave. We then went to see the way they crush the cane with a scary metal contraption that you put the cane in and hold it and two horses then walk around in circles to get the grinders going. I was terrified of losing my fingers. Was a good stop and not one you would normally get on a tour. Carlos is trying to find other things to interest tourists and involve the local community too.

Back to the village we had lunch in a small restaurant - was about 3pm and we were starving before sitting in the square for a bit and then heading back. We stopped on the way to see some petroglyphs (stone carvings) allegedly pre inca although we suspected the kids from the house over the road did it in an attempt to get tourists to stop and a restaurant will be set up before long.

Rest of journey was painful as the man in front of us (from Lima) did not stop talking to the whole way (his longest not talking was for 9 seconds. Believe me we counted). It didnt help that he spoke the fastest Spanish in the world. Even the guide looked like he wanted to thump him one and I certainly did by the end of the journey. Were very thankful to get back to Chachapoyas by about 18.00 and went to our fave restaurant. Met several of our tour group there too!

Had arranged to go to the pre-incan site of Kuelap today about 3 hours away. Fortunately had bumped into 3 other tourists who also wanted to go today and early to avoid the tourists. Unfortunately this meant getting up for a 5am start. We got in our minibus for the drive and were all somewhat subdued going through some lovely scenery but some hair raising roads. Past through a few small villages and arrived at Kuelap by 8am. We walked up the hill to the ruins to find we were alone which was great.

The ruins themselves consist primarily of huge walls overgrown with plants with a few entrances and inside a number of circular houses or other buildings in various states of renovation. In some of the walls you could see bones as people were buried here to be part of the wall. There is a lot of work going on the site at the moment but Sunday was there day off so we could go and see everything. The site was huge and very impressive. Some people reckon its as good or better than Macchu Pichu. I wouldnt go that far but it was certainly well worth coming to see especially as we had the place to ourselves.

Also enjoyed seeing orchids growing in the trees and hearing numerous different birds but failing to actually see them! Our guide, Janet, was great and we spent a good few hours here learning about the Chachapoyan culture and how the Incas used the site subsequently. In some ways it will be less impressive when its all renovated as it looks a bit new but it is all being done with great care.

As we were about to leave the first other tourists arrived but we failed to see the hordes that were predicted on the road back (its holiday weekend here). Stopped for lunch at a town on the way back lovely trout and salad (really miss fresh veg) and continued northwards for our next stop, Sholon.

Sholon is another of the many archaeological sites around here (there are loads) and we had a good hours walk to the site from another village, mainly downhill and past a river. We had a local guide who literally had to hack his way through jungle like vegetation to get to the viewpoint to see the site. There are 3 relatively small sarcophaguses/i carved in the cliff face of people. Were very mystical looking but we were a little disappointed. We then hacked further to see some houses built into the side of the cliffs and the ´brick´ walls created with bones inside and a very creepy hand. These were pretty cool. Particularly cool was meeting the guy that discovered them in the late 80´s here too who asked for our names for some reason.

Dave and I were getting a bit nervous about getting out as it was edging towards dusk and didnt fancy walking through the forest in the dark, without a torch! We were heading back to the path to leave and our guide was really having to hack away and the ground was very dry and steep. I was thinking to myself this really is not very safe and we should be going out the way we came in. The ground beneath seemed to sense my fear and gave way at this time and I slid down the side of the hill and manage to break my fall and stop. Dave came rushing to my rescue (how heroic!) but I was ok just grazed my hand a bit and a bit shocked. We walked down to the river and I washed it out. Somehow we had a needle and some alcohol in our bag (organised as ever) and our guide kindly removed all the dirt from inside my cuts while I downed the rum which was purely medicinal obviously. We had a long walk back uphill to the minibus and managed to reach it before it was completely pitch black.

At this point there was a bit of a fracas as apparently the guy that discovered the Sholon site was very angry that we had a different guide to him and was going to create trouble. Somehow our guide manage to calm the situation down and we headed out and back to town.

Arrived back to our room and the owner kindly agreed to get us some snacks and hot water for our tea as we had no break. It was lovely to sit in bed with a cup of tea and some jam sandwiches before we went to bed. Sad I know.
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