On Saturday 24th May I turned up for my 4.45pm bus to Chachapoyas, only to find that the bus was from Trujillo to Chachapoyas…schoolboy error! Still, after some help, I reorganised the tickets and finally arrived in Chachapoyas at 6.00am on Monday 28th May. Actually, if I was keeping to my vague schedule, I should actually be arriving in Ecuador now…oh well!
I found the Plaza des Armas and had a friendly tout take me to the Chachapoyas Backpackers hostel...18 Soles (£4.00) for a dorm. I also arranged a tour, so at 8.30am, after two bad nights on buses and 12 hours in a bus terminal, I was in a minibus on a three hour journey to Kuelap with no need for artificial stimulants!
Kuelap was, quite simply, fantastic and I much preferred it to Machu Picchu. Yes, Machu Picchu is stunning but it is just too clean and well maintained; it looks as if it could have been built last week, à la China. Kuelap pre-dates Machu Picchu and, as you walk around, it’s as if you are the first to find the place; it is far more mysterious and ethereal. Another plus was that only 30 people visited the day we were there, rather than the 2,500 at Machu Picchu. The only drawback was the limited time we had at the site, but our guide never hurried us and was very knowledgeable (as well as bilingual!).
After returning, it transpired that most of the tour group was were staying in the same hostel, so we all arranged to head off to the Gotca waterfall the next day; we also arranged to meet for a beer later on and a good evening was had by all.
Arising early and packing my bag (as I was leaving for Chiclayo in the evening), it was a quick breakfast in the market and then off to the waterfalls. This drive was only an hour or so and as we approached the drop off point we saw at least a dozen different waterfalls flowing over the massive escarpment. The two-hour walk was a bit hilly but not too onerous, although it was a hot day, but the waterfall was definitely worth the walk. We did not actually arrive at the point on the advertising literature as that is up a different path but the view was great.
I did try and head to the base of the waterfall but the spray and wind make it so difficult to get too close; I ended up soaked anyway. We did have one unexpected site when a base jumper made an appearance, jumping off the escarpment and parachuting to the base.
Returning to Chachapoyas, I wish that I had spent more time here; the north of Peru has a lot to offer with the added advantage that most tourists head south to the main tourist hot spots of Cusco, Puno and Arequipa. However, all of the great tour group were leaving to different places and I had my lovely cama-bus booked. So, after a quick drink with the guys it was off to the bus station for the 12-hour bus trip to Chiclayo; it wasn’t all bad though as both Amelie (German) and Dorien (Dutch) were also heading there on a different bus, so we arranged to meet up.