Yumbilla and Gocta Waterfalls
The border crossing to Peru was simple and fast, and the road to our first destination pretty calm and eventless. The towns we drove through were drab compared to what we’re used to so far on this trip. But the landscape was pretty spectacular, as were our first two major stops!
The Amazonas district is full of waterfalls, and in the rainy season there are more than we could count. The most famous of these is Gocta waterfalls, which by some measures is the 4th highest in the world. (There are many ways to measure a waterfall’s height, and they naturally go by the one that ranks them highly). First, we stopped by the 3rd highest, Yumbilla Falls. There is a lovely 2 hour hike to the falls that passes by and behind two other waterfalls. The falls are still off the tourist radar, so we had a trail and the falls to ourselves.
After the morning hike, we drove to the town at the trailhead of Gocta. We had lunch at a hotel restaurant with a fabulous view of the falls.
After lunch, it was too late to hit the Gocta trail and we decided that we didn’t need to twiddle our thumbs while it rained, so off we went to Mirador Huancaurco – A quiet place to camp with great views to the valley below.
Kuelap and Leymabamba Museum
Our first Peruvian ruins were a bit of a disappointment. It didn’t help that we were there on a Sunday and surrounded by the Selfie brigade. Kuelap is an old Chachapoya fortress that sits on a mountain top, which is best reached by the new tourist gondola. On paper it sounds great and the views from the gondola were pretty spectacular. The site didn’t have much information and just didn’t strike us as worth the high entrance fee. Maybe we are just ruined on ruins — Sorry, I’ll see myself out now.
After we visited the Leymabamba Museum. They had the information that was lacking at the archaeological site as well as mummies! Creepy yet cool.
Laymabamba to Cajamarca is a super scenic yet crazy drive. Single track with 50m drop offs on the side but beautiful scenery! Close to Cajamarca we stopped at a remarkable church covered in mosaics. Unfortunately, it was closed when we there so we could only see a portion of it. However we did meet the sweetest dog ever here! If we didn’t suspect she already had a home, we would have taken her along with us.
Cajamarca was the first city we visited with a pretty center. Also the first Starbucks since Medellín! Outside of the city we visited prehispanic burial tombs. We took the chance of being in a big city by restocking our groceries and do some car maintenance.
Our second Peruvian ruins were everything we could hope for: Free, quiet and spectacular. Following an excerpt from Wikipedia about the history of this site: Construction of Marcahuamachuco began around AD 400, and continued until approximately 800 AD. Before being conquered by the Incas in the 14th century, Marcahuamachuco was known as northern Peru’s most important political, economic and military center. Marcahuamachuco is set atop the nexus of three mountain valleys at an altitude of more than 3,200 meters (10,000 feet). Encompassing more than three kilometres of land, the site is celebrated for its massive castillos and unique circular double-walled archaeological structures.
Back roads and canyons
We took more beautiful and windy back roads through Tablachaca Canyo and Cañon del Pato. These are the roads Ben dreamed of and Rachel feared when we started this trip! Long, slow going very narrow one lane roads with steep drop-offs on the side but beautiful scenery!