Thursday, April 28, 2011

Taioa Bay . . .

. . is also know as Daniel's Bay, after a man who lived here for many years and was known for his kindness to cruisers. After four uncomfortable days in Taiohae Bay (uncomfortable because the boat was rolling almost gunwhale to gunwhale for the entire time we were there - I slept even less than I normally do) we left early Wednesday morning for a whopping one-hour passage. The coast line of Nuku Hiva is almost entirely sheer cliffs and the trade wind-generated waves pound against these cliffs sometimes with earth-shaking reports. So our concern grew as we approach the waypoint on our chartplotter and all we could see are these massive cliffs and waves pounding against them. We have a lot of trust in our electronic charts so we made the turn towards the shore and the frothy water. It looked like it was going to be the end of Rutea and us all. But as we approached, we could see a narrow patch of waveless water and it corresponded to the electronic chart. Off to the port side of the boat where towering cliffs, almost completely vertical and off to the starboard side was a rugged point of land, too close by. We slipped in between the two land masses, made a hard right turn and found a indescribably beautiful bay of calm water, a sandy beach and lush shore vegetation. The vertical cliffs extend several kilometers inland, forming a deep, deep gorge up the island. Behind the beach are steep hills, the tallest in the perfect shape of a woman's breast with a very erect nipple.
It was such a relief to be in calm water that I seriously considered moving ashore and making this my new permanent home. After a quick tour by dinghy of the small bay and the one adjacent to it, we picked up Corie and her surfboard and she caught a few small waves at the western lobe of the bay. There was one other boat when we arrived and several others pulled in after us, all of whom we know. I slept for 9 hours last night, an unheard of amount of sleep for me, interrupted only once by a rain shower that had me scrambling through the boat closing hatches.
This morning we packed up a couple of rucksacks with all our hiking paraphernalia, took the dink to the beach and set out for Ahuei Waterfall. For the most part the trail was well-marked but it wasn't an easy hike - moderate would probably describe it better. The path itself was usually rocks, roots or mud and we were often climbing over or under trees as we made our way up the gorge next to a river. Sometimes the canopy overhead was so dense that I couldn't see in the darkness - even removing my sunglasses didn't help. From time to time we'd come across patches where the ground was covered with fruit that had fallen from the trees and the odor of the rotting sweetness came close to triggering a gag reflex. We wished that we could see some of the birds that were singing but we could not through the thick jungle. Their songs and calls were completely unrecognizable and very exotic. At one place we lost the trail and crossed the river, crossed back, found the trail and continued on. We had been told that we had to cross the river four times (now we were up to 6 times) and it's not that it was hard but the rocks in the river bed were often large, sharp and slippery and the water was swift enough that you had to place your feet well in order to keep your balance. The water was cool which was a refreshing respite from the hot and humid air.
Shortly after we made the third river crossing (the fifth for us) we came to a warning sign that said, essentially, that rocks can fall from very high up and cause serious injury. It also advised not to proceed if it was raining. Since it wasn't raining, which was unusual, we decided that we weren't going to turn around, after coming so far. Now we were between two towering sides, barely 200 meters apart that rose straight up more than 1,000 feet. The trail ended abruptly at a pool of water and whereas you could only see a part of the waterfall from there, you could certainly hear and feel that the bottom of the waterfall was near. We had been told that the Ahuei waterfall is the third highest in the world (would someone fact-check that for me?). I put on my bathing suit and swam to the far end of the pool where I spotted a hole in a large boulder that would allow me to get closer. I squeezed through the hole and into another pool where the water was more turbulent and the wind generated from water falling a 1,000 feet was strong. The roar that the water made as it hit the rocks after falling 1,000 feet was like thousands of drummers hitting a rock drum. I continued swimming closer though it was more difficult the closer I got. Finally, I reached still another pool only about 10 meters from where the water was hitting the rocks at the bottom of the falls. The wind and the noise were intense but just being in this pool with these sheer cliffs surrounding me was incredible and thrilling. I swam back to the first pool to get Ruthie, Corie and the camera although once there, Ruthie pointed out that it had taken us three hours to hike up there, it was all ready 2:00pm and we didn't want to be on the trail when it was dark (it gets dark here around 5:00pm). So Corie and I swam back to the top pool and I snapped a couple of pictures which in no way capture the waterfall.
Our hike back took us through a small village and as we were passing a small house, a woman hailed us and invited us in for bananas and a cold fruit drink. Our communication was difficult as she spoke only French (probably Marquesan as well) but we did manage to understand a few of each other's words. She's going to replenish our stock of bananas, mangos and grapefruit, which we pick up tomorrow. Once back on the boat, I stripped off my sweat-soaked shirt and dove into the water but it's really too warm to be refreshing. Perhaps I'll hike back up to the waterfall and take a shower there.
At 4/29/2011 3:13 AM (utc) Rutea's position was 08°56.67'S 140°09.78'W
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