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We rose early and had a somewhat somnolent breakfast around the cosy kitchen table at Gocta Natura Cabins. Our host, Rocio, rustled up some eggs and we helped ourselves to large servings of muesli and freshly brewed coffee - we had a feeling we’d need to summon up a lot of energy for the morning’s adventure...

Our bellies full, we stepped out of the door and were almost immediately on the trail that would lead us to where we wanted to go: Gocta Falls. The three-stage waterfall has been known to local residents for as long as they can remember (it’s quite hard to miss, in fact!) but no-one had ever measured it or studied it in any way. Then, in 2006, a German man decided to take on the job and, according to his ruler, it turned out to be the third-highest waterfall in the world! Quite an accolade for a relatively unknown waterfall nestled in the Chachapoyas cloud forest of northern Peru.

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And so we started on a 5km hike to the third-highest waterfall in the world. Mesmerised by the misty mountains in the distance and the early morning light which cracked through the clouds casting a hazy glow across the tepui-like ridges, we almost lost our footing and had to drag our eyes back to the undulating path before us. The view of the mountains was soon left behind as we made our way deeper into the forest. Dense foliage hung all around and as we crossed rushing streams and listened to the sounds emanating from far-off corners there was a paradoxical sense of peaceful adventure in the air.

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All of a sudden our guides, Elena and Rob, halted up ahead, flapping their hands frantically, motioning for silence. We followed orders and crept as quietly as we could towards them. Pointing to the trees in front of us Rob said in a hushed voice, “Two Cock-of-the-Rock… up there!” We were delighted! While we knew they lived in this forest, everyone had been careful not to guarantee us a sighting. Their strangely shaped heads moved jerkily from side to side as they communicated to one another; we stood, captivated, and attempted to comprehend their coded messages before Rob gently roused us from our trance and, rather sadly, suggested we carry on to the falls.

Emerging from the cover of the forest we were met by a brand new view of the waterfall: we had apparently already walked two-thirds of the way and the last leg would keep the falls in sight as they became ever more imposing with each step.

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And then we arrived: crashing water plummeted into a pool of water below creating a somehow delicate spray. Enveloped by an irresistibly cool mist we edged down towards the pool and admired the swirling patterns in the dark-grey rock face, looking up in awe at the power and magnitude of the water as it sprang from its distant precipice into this limestone amphitheatre.

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Refreshed, rejuvenated and reinvigorated we turned our back on the falls and began to make our way back along the trail, saying goodbye to the idyllic pocket of peace that we’d experienced all to ourselves.

You can visit the Gocta Falls on our Treasures of Peru: The archaeological riches of the north private journey or on our Tico Tico: Culture of the northern Andes small group tour.

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