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If I Tell You a Secret, Do You Promise Not To Tell Anyone?

Don at Kuelap

I’ve been everywhere man” sang Johnny Cash. While I cannot claim to have been everywhere “man,” I can now claim to have been everywhere in Peru with my recent visit to Gocta Falls in the country’s far north. Not many people venture to northern Peru, which is a shame. The area is filled with pre-Incan cultural history, spread throughout stunning cloud forests and avenues of waterfalls.

This northern region lies just an hour’s flight from Lima and is accessed via the farming town of Jaen (pronounced highen), currently the only airport in the region. From here, it’s a 3-hour drive through some of the least travelled valleys in the Andes, climbing to around 2300 meters above sea level. The journey follows roads cut into the mountain side, along with rivers punctuated by waterfalls, plants, and flowers that almost seem lifted from the popular film Avatar.

Local tours in Chachapoya
Local tours in Chachapoya

When it comes to accommodation, the 4-star Gocta Lodge offers unrivalled views of Gocta Falls an hour up the road, and so is the perfect base for your trek to the falls. By contrast, the Sapalanchan Lodge offers all the tranquility and hospitality of the rural town of Lamud, with personalized service, and an amazing choice of homemade meals. Goway’s expert suggestion is a night in each!

The walk to the base of the falls begins at Cocachimba, the small town where Gocta Lodge is located. It is here you register for your trek, and begin the 11km return hike to the base of the world’s 3rd tallest waterfalls – after Angel Falls in Venezuela, and Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.

The distance may not be too challenging, but being in the Andean Cloud Forest at about 1200 meters (3937 feet), the temperature is surprisingly humid. That, combined with some extreme up and down tracks, makes the trek an achievable but challenging one.

The effort is well worth it! As you come out of the cloud forest to stand at the base of Gocta, you are face to face with water plummeting from the secondary section of the falls. The falling water displaces the warm air, and after the humid trek you are met with a refreshing spray blasted from the falls. Those that want to walk that little bit more can continue to the pool formed by the falling water. Just be warned, you will get very wet this close to the base of the falls.

Gocta Falls is a location for those wishing to escape the “gringo trail” of southern Peru and explore a region few have visited. It is a physical undertaking, but highly rewarding. The region also boasts Kulep ruins – the “father to Machu Picchu ruins” – as well as the Leymebamba Museum, where over 210 mummies of the Chachapoyan civilization are on display. All four sites make a perfect 5-day add on from Lima, which Goway will have available within the month.

Kuelap Fortress, Chachapoya

Having done multiple Inca trails, Amazon treks, and Patagonian circuits, I think my days of jungle trekking are over. My kind of trekking now is along long, white, flat, sandy beaches with the ocean waves breaking in the background; which reminds me… If I was to tell you a secret about where you can find long sandy white beaches and glorious ocean swimming spots in Peru, you wouldn’t tell anyone would you?

Head north on Goway’s 5 day Peru’s pre-Incan Past Gocta Falls, Kulep Ruins and Revash – Northern Peru

Story by Don Forster, Product Manager, Central and South America

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General Manager, Central & South America - Born in Australia and raised in Canada and Papua New Guinea, Don took his first solo trip to Bali – aged just 13. Since then, Don’s travels have taken him to every continent. He’s been a backpacker in Asia, Europe and Egypt, an overland adventurer in East and Southern Africa, and an overland driver in South and Central America. He is especially fond of Peru, Patagonia and Namibia, though his longest adventure to date has been a London to Kathmandu run via the Middle East.

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