Elizabeth Nash HIDDEN from outsiders by a legend of a fair-haired siren of indescribable beauty, the third biggest waterfall in the world has been discovered by a German explorer deep in the heart of Peru's Amazonian rainforest.
The German explorer Stefan Ziemendorff and a group of Peruvian investigators conducted a topographical measurement of the hidden cascade and found it to be exceeded only by the Salto del Angel (Angel's Leap) in Venezuela, at 972 metres, and South Africa's Tugela Falls, which are 948 metres high.
Unmarked on any map, and unknown to all but those living in small villages nearby, the magnificent cascade has been named the Gocta Falls, after the nearest hamlet. The giant cataract can be seen from a kilometre away, but until now, few have dared to get close up, deterred by their fear of powerful local legends.
People of the area say a beautiful fair-haired siren lives in the plunging waters, guarding a precious chalice of gold, and ready to inflict a curse upon anyone who approaches her domain too closely. The legend says further that a gigantic serpent which lives in the principal source of the rapids occasionally makes an appearance in the form of a jealous bodyguard to the mermaid of the falls.
The fearsome legend has from time immemorial deterred anyone from trying to get too close to the falls - which locals call La Chorrera (The Rapids). The terror was so great that villagers took care not to cultivate any fields roundabout.
Belief in the myth was given strength, supporters say, by the recent disappearance of Juan Mendoza, a local farmer who is said to have mysteriously fallen victim to the sirens' deadly charms. The waters tumble 771 metres down a giant gorge in the heart of remote Chachapoyas province, some 700km north of Peruvian capital, Lima. The falls and the fortress are now set to become major attractions on the tourist trail. Local villagers are expected to suppress their ancestral fears of the falls with the promise of wealth from curious visitors. (© Independent News Service)