Saturday 15 August

(magnify) Street pictures for the festival

We have time this morning before our trip to Gocta to walk to the plaza and look at the street pictures that are being created by the townsfolk for the festival today of Mama Asunta. The pictures are being laid out as we watch on the road around the plaza, composed mainly from coloured sand with some flower petals.

The pictures are created by competing teams and we understand that later in the day they will be judged and the winner chosen. They are certainly very colourful and a huge amount of care seems to be going into them.

(magnify) Mausoleum near Chachapoyas

A private car takes us to the start of the Gocta trail. Rachel has somehow pulled a muscle or trapped a nerve and her leg is painful, so we explain to Alicia that we might not want to do the entire trek today. Driving back past the sarchophoguses that we saw yesterday we get much better photographs with the sun now behind us.

(magnify) Gocta Waterfall

We arrive at the trail head where we sign in. Even from here we can see the waterfall in the distance behind a couple of hills. Its existence became public only recently in 2005, and its ranking in the list of world’s highest waterfalls is between third and fourteenth depending on who you ask. The actual height is approximately 771 metres, but the fall is broken somewhat near the top by a broad ledge.

The trail is in very good condition, but the up-hill sections are very hot work and I am soon sweating buckets. I can see that Rachel’s leg is painful going down hill but she is managing and determined to carry on. The pain is apparently easing a little.

(magnify) Bottom of the falls
(magnify) Twisted rock strata

A little over two hours later we are there. It is a beautiful setting. The water cascading down the lower drop crashes onto the rocks in front of us, with banks of moss and grass either side flourishing in the spray. The upper falls are hidden from here. In the cliff face behind the foot of the cascade is the most amazing twisted and tortured rock strata formation. It is the dry season so the fall is not in full spate but it is spectacular nevertheless.

Gocta falls

We eat lunch on the steep grassy bank just above the foot of the falls, and then head back to the car.

At the bus station in Chacha we discover that buses to Celendín depart on Sunday at 6 am, Monday at 6 pm and Wednesday at 4 pm. Given our preference for a day bus, it boils down to arriving in Celendín on Sunday evening, giving us four nights at Cajamarca, or our original plan of three more days here in Chacha.

(magnify) Gocta falls

Four nights at Cajamarca is more than we wanted, but we will hope to find a really comfortable hotel where we can have some much needed chill-out time. We decide to forfeit the three nights that we have already paid for at the Casa Monsante, writing it off as part of the cost of the holiday, and go for tomorrow morning’s bus.

Dinner is in a restaurant just off the plaza, where I eat a delicious steak with a lovely sauce and onion and tomato. Rachel is also very happy with her Bisteak a la Pobre. We had been wondering just what a Bisteak a la Pobre is. We had translated it as Poor Man’s Steak, but the huge pile of food on Rachel’s plate somewhat dents our confidence in that interpretation.

Soon after our return to the hotel Tina Motley phones us to check that everything is OK and to see if we were happy with the tour. We reassure her that it was excellent and complement Alicia’s leadership. Sadly Alicia cannot meet us tomorrow morning to say goodbye, so we write a note and include the tip that we had intended to give to her then, and drop it off at the Chachapoyas Tours office a few blocks on the other side of the plaza.

Back in the plaza there is a parade in progress, led by the statue of the Mama Asunta, who appears to be on fire. As it draws nearer we can see that the rising smoke is coming from incence sticks on the base of the statue.