Saturday, September 2, 2017

Seeing the Gocta Waterfalls with the French (Part 2/2)

Me: Viewing Gocta Waterfalls
While we were hiking to see the third tallest waterfall in the world, Dimitri told me a crazy story - where he was "trimming" at a Californian plantation and a young guy from Virginia pointed a gun at his head. I don't know what trimming was until I met him. Apparently, it's one of the favorite kind of under-the-table jobs that European backpackers want in America. In short, it means that you harvest marijuana - where it grows so greatly in Northern California apparently.

Getting back to the story, after the morning, we started a bit late because of all the hustle and bustle. First, we had to go to the bus terminal where we paid about $3 to get to ground level; after all, Chachapoyas, the city we were staying at, is in the hills.

Inside the van, I was trying to talk to them, but because the roads were so windy - I started getting car sick. I told them, I have to stop talking, and I closed my eyes and tried to lay down as much as possible.

The driver dropped us off where the river flowed - meaning it was at the foothill of the mountains. From there, we asked a mototaxi to take us to the village of San Pablo. The guy wanted 35 soles, but we weren't dumb. We already asked how much it cost; 10-15 soles for all of us. He didn't want to go. Dimitri was smart and said, "If you don't want to take us, we'll get the next mototaxi."

His friends around him said, "Take them!" 

So, he accepted our offer of 15 soles for all of us. I was still feeling car sick. He drove us all the way back up to the crest of that mountain. There, we were at San Pablo village. We arrived around 10:00AM. 

There, we had to register and pay. We were looking for a local restaurant. There, we asked if they made sandwiches. The lady said she didn't make them, but then we found out she fried meat and had bread. So, Dimitri asked them to put a sandwich together. She said she could. We ordered two each.

Meanwhile, I told Dimitri that driver was lazy. And Dimitri said, "Nope, he was coming off a high. I can tell." 

We started on the trek to Gocta. 

Beautiful ferns, the spiral is called a Koru, 
in Maori and represents new life.
Some background on Gocta. It's apparently the third largest waterfall in the world. Some German guy, who I won't acknowledge, found it in 2005 by measuring the length of the falls. I don't mention him, because other sources I read said all the locals knew about it being a large fall. They just didn't want to publicize it. (The whole thing just reminds me of imperialism; take for instance that everything in New Zealand was named after Cook or Abel Tasman. The Maoris discovered those places first.)

In any event, the Peruvian government didn't know about it, and because of this German guy - it made Peru happy to be acknowledged as having the third largest in the waterfall. Some dispute the claim that Gocta is the third highest waterfall, because it's made up of two waterfalls or two cascades, instead of one straight fall. You can see the two cascades in the pictures, even the one above. 

Back to the trek. The sign said it would take us 6 hours in total: 3 hours to the top of the first cascade, 1 hour to the bottom cascade, and another 2 hours to the village, Cocachimba. (For those of you who stumble on my blog, you can start the trek from either Cocachimba and end in San Pablo, or do the trek the way we did it, starting at San Pablo. The Lonely Planet has directions wrong on this. You need 8 hours from Chachapoyas and back to do the entire trek.) We could have hired a guide to take us to the top of the first cascade, but all the tours out of town only do half the trek. We wanted to do the full thing.

While entering through the jungle - there were various signs that described the village and the flora and fauna. The signs mainly stated that the primary industry around was sugar and coffee. Having the French around was helpful, as they explained reflexive verbs to me. 

Even though I had Spanish for 2 years in high school and a quarter at UCLA - and months of practice - I stilled struggled with reflexive verbs. We quickly realized, however, that it was a cultural problem and not a linguistic one. In the English language - everything is about the self, and the self affects objects. But in Romantic languages, objects affect the self. Therefore, in Romantic languages, the object is more important than self.

For instance, in Spanish, it's common to say, "It broke." In English, it's more proper to say: "He broke it," or "I broke it," or "The cat broke it." (I never liked this part about the Spanish language - as it always reflected the belief in some mysterious force or luck acting on people, absolving the principle of accountability.) 

One important language lesson I learned though, was that the they told me that "I love you," is not a beautiful saying for the French. They preferred, "Je t’aime"to "I love you," because the focus starts on You and not I. In Spanish, it's "Te amo," which almost says - "YOU make me love you." 

She told me in French thinking that the love is inside a person, and that the right person brings it out of you. The focus is on other person - who draws out the love. But in English and English-thinking, "I" is the more important focus, and the sentence focuses on how important it is for "I" to love "anything," instead of the "You." I hope that makes sense. (Obviously, it was Solan - the French girl - who was teaching me this.) 

Reminds me of the road to the Temple of Doom
To be sure, they're explanation of reflexive verbs and thinking in a romantic culture helped me understand Spanish better. It was so clear to me how much easier it was for them to pick up Spanish, as they knew all the difficult words on the sign and would then always say, "Oh, it's the same word in French." 

To also pass the time, Dimitri told me how he was held at gun point in California. Dimitri said he was trying to calm down a guy that was flipping out on the marijuana plantation, but then the guy provoked Dimitri as well - at which point Dimitri reacted. Then the Virginian turned the gun and pointed it at his head. Then Dimitri's friend pointed a gun at the Virginian, and Dimitri managed to flee to some shed. And the Virginian followed him. And without getting paid well, Dimitri left the place. 

Upon listening to it, I told him he should write it all down and have it published. I said, I could help. 

I didn't really tell them much. I did tell them I was a lawyer - which they knew about, because I told them I lectured in Aix. They asked what I specialized in. I told them I do general practice, which I think is the current trend for young lawyers. That was hard to explain to them, what general practice is. But like I said, I think the market is looking for those skilled in litigation - more than any subject speciality. I did tell her, I did a lot of civil rights work against evil local cities. 

The bottom of the top of Gocta cascade,
the water crashes into the first basin.
Walking through the cloud forest reminded me of being in video game. I wanted to tell my younger brother Scott that we were going to find that wind temple located deep in the forest. And after we defeated all the monsters, we would meet the mini boss - a wind dragon. And if we defeated it, we'd get the magical wind crystal, which was our mission in the first place to get to save the world. But I knew the French didn't grow up with video games, so, I only told them that it was like finding Indiana Jones's Temple of Doom.

The top cascade of Gocta
After two hours, we made it to the first cascade, where there were a group of tourists. We ate our sandwiches, while we waited for the tourists to come down. I poured spicy salsa in my sandwich. I didn't think the French would like spicy, but they did the same with theirs.

I also brought some macadamia nuts from home. I shared it with them. They knew it was expensive, but I insisted. They tasted fatty and roasted and toasty and good. 

Then, we hiked up to the top of the cascade and embraced the cold and brisk and misty air and water. But it gets cold and cold fast. So, we left.

After, the guide from their group met us. He told us to be careful going down, to look for fossils, and to only cross the swing bridge one person as a time. We thanked him. 

After, we had to get to the base of the river, next. It was all downhill.

Solan walked it the fastest, then me, then Dimitri. On this journey down, Dimitri told me about stories from his young past - which made me sad to hear. I can't really post it on here. All I can say and repeat is that it was sad to hear. I can't imagine growing up in such a world. 

While getting to the bottom, we saw caves with a lot of spiders. It reminded me of Stephen King's It for some reason, and the spider would turn into big monster and change into our greatest fears manifest. We'd have to kill it to be free. When I told Solan, she scolded me and said to stop talking about such scary things. 
Swimming at the bottom of the basin;
it's freezing. 

When we reach the bottom of the river, I say I want to swim. They tell me, I can. So I strip off my clothes and put on my bathing suit and swim in the freezing river. And it's cold. 

It's good we took a break there, because that's when Solan finds fossils everywhere embedded into the rocks. We all take a small piece of petrified wood with us, each that had an embedded fossil in it. 

The next part of our journey is up back to the next village. And it's steep and difficult. If it wasn't for that part, I'd rate the track as really easy. But the steep part of it, makes it neither an easy nor difficult track. It's moderate.

Dimitri was chewing on a lot of cocaine leaves. So, this time, he was ahead of the pack. I'm not really that good at hiking steep treks, so I was slightly behind Solan. 

See the shell fossils, the whole area was under sea
thousands of years ago.
About two kilometers from the village, a local caught up to us. Solan, Dimitri, and I were all back together. The local keeps staring at me. Then he kept walking and turns and stares at me again. He says, "Your eyes are small."

I smile. I said, "No one's ever told me that before. I think you mean slanted." 

He smiles and tells me how a Japanese guy died last year in the area because he was trying to take an awesome selfie, kept moving backwards, and fell off the cliff. 

Solan says, "I think he's fascinated that you're Asian." (I told y'all once, the world is coming down with Yellow Fever.)

I said, "I know, and it happens quite a bit to me in Peru, actually almost every time I travel." Maybe, the two are jealous that the white Europeans aren't getting all the attention. Blonde young guys tell me that Peruvians always want to snap photos with them. Sometimes that happens to me. But in general, people often seem keen on talking to me and getting my attention or approval.

I told him we need to get back to Chachapoyas. 

He says, "You need to get back to the valley before 6:30. The last ride goes back then."

"The place where we started at?"


After about another 20 minutes, we get to the village. There, a lady is selling juice. We all want one. Her table is full and the guys leave to make us room. But we all refuse. (Something those dumb Canadians and English guy didn't do for Dimitri.) I find a large bucket and turn it upside down for a seat. 

The woman making juice is so happy we came. We all order a lemonade. We're tired. We've hiked six hours.

She tells us that they're starting a new hostel. We could see them building it in the back. She asks our advice.

I say, "Hot water. Wifi. Clean rooms."

She says, "I have all that."

"Well, you need a good living room, then."

She's confused by it. So, the French jump in and say it better: "We like a saloon, where people could chat and have fun and play."

She understands. She asks for a name. The French don't have one, but I do. 

I said, "What about Cloud Hostel or Hostel in the Clouds?" I explain it sounds romantic to westerners and fascinating.

"I like it." Then she writes it down in a notebook.

The French talk to the family building the hostel. I relax a bit, but the local we met earlier comes. He says, "You have to go now. Otherwise, you won't catch your bus back."

We thank the hostel people and the lady and her family. The local calls for a mototaxi. He tells them to take us back to the valley. He touches my shoulder and smiles. I tell him, "Thank you for everything." 

* * *

After getting in the bus, I sat down for five minutes. Then, without warning, exhaustion hits me. In one moment, all the energy that was in me leaves. My body is worn. I can't sleep, because even the windy ride back is uncomfortable. But, I feel a force leeching power out of me. That hike took everything out of me. 

* * *

Back at the hostel, we all have a hot shower. The French cook some angel hair pasta with vegetables. I buy some wine. We eat and drink, but we aren't as lively as the first night. We're all very tired. 

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