June 7, 2010
With winds from the ESE of 10-13 knots and sunny skies we sailed on a beam reach north to Nuku Hiva, a distance of 34 miles on June 3. Five hours after leaving Ua Pou we arrived at Hanga Haa, the middle arm of the Baie du Controleur at the southeastern tip of the island.
Hanga Haa rests at the end of the Taipivai valley, made famous in Herman Melville's Typee and Omoo. He and another crew member were not happy with the captain of their whaling boat so jumped ship in the main anchorage of Taiohae. They escaped into the mountains where they encountered a tribe notorious for their cannibalism.
Hardly able to walk with a lame foot, Melville was well taken care of by his captors but could not abandon the idea that he was being prepared as a meal. Once able to walk he fled back to the sea via the Taipivai valley to board another whaling ship.
To reach the anchorage at Hanga Haa we motored deep into a wide fjord-like finger surrounded by high green mountains. Only four other boats floated lazily, no other Americans. We set our anchor, then set a stern anchor to keep our bow into the swell. Once settle we readied the dinghy to explore on shore.
We hauled and yanked the dinghy up the angled shore until the painter reached a tree. We didn't want our trusty transportation to flood or float away in the rising tide.
The road to Taipivai follows the river and is lined with neatly trimmed flowering trees and shrubs. Horses graze as colorful chickens prance about. A pleasant breeze stirred the floral fragrance as we savored the serenity and beauty.
We have decided to reach Papeete, Tahiti in time for the Pacific Puddle Jump's festivities on July 18-20. That means we will be leaving this gorgeous island sooner than we would prefer. On June 4th we sailed to Taiohae 10 miles to the west and on June 5 we sailed six more miles west to Hakatea.
Taiohae is the main anchorage on Nuku Hiva and one of three Ports of Entry in the Marquesas. Having visited them all we have concluded this is the nicest anchorage with the most pleasant town. Like most anchorages in these islands, it gets a bit rolly.
The only downside of making landfall here is that because it is most leeward it would be a beat to windward to visit any of the other islands except Ua Pou. It is a beautiful island though, so if a yacht were to only visit one island on their way through the Marquesas I would suggest stopping here at Nuku Hiva.
Dinghies are tied to a concrete quay across from Yacht Services which provides propane, laundry and internet assistance among other things. A few cafes, a creperie and a artisans compound are just beyond the quay.
It is a short walk along the shore along a grassy path under the shade of large trees to the grocery stores and boulangerie.
A lovely large park and archeological site is located along the way. Many stone tiki watched warily as we wandered among the stone walls and platforms.
Hakatea, better known as Daniel's Bay, is the eastern lobe of Taioa Bay at the southwestern end of Nuku Hiva. Once a setting for the Survivor series, steep green mountains brushing the clouds rise above a beautiful palm-lined white sandy beach.
Hakaui is the small village at the head of the other lobe of the bay. Reaching it is exciting as the dinghy must be driven through the surf to reach the river which is only navigable at high water. Other times the dink must be carried or dragged over the dirt a short distance until the water deepens again.
On the way out this means the engine can't be fired up and the prop lowered setting the dinghy into motion until it is right smack in the middle of the small breaking waves. As long as the bow stays pointed ahead all is good.
A scenic path from Hakaui leads to a spectacular waterfall 1.8 kilometers up the valley past coconut and banana groves. Above loom steep, verdant mountains with huge volcanic rock outcroppings. Again, horses graze and chickens strut about.
Along the path sits a humble Catholic church unencumbered by walls. The sweet scent of gardenias floats on the air and a statue of the Virgin Mary wears a lei of frangipani.
The path crosses the river several times. Sometimes the water is ankle to knee deep, other times it is just very muddy. Always there are rocks to step on.
As we hiked further up the valley the canopy of green grew more dense above our heads. Mist shrouded the rocky precipitous peaks beyond. Ancient walls, platforms and even some tiki are found along the way of what appears to be an archaic rock-lined path to a long deserted village at the base of the waterfall.
As we rounded a bend beneath smooth rock walls over 300 meters high, we found lush green ground cover leading to an inviting pool. But there was no waterfall. Beyond another bend, on the shore of a clear pool, we could see parts of the waterfall through the narrow chasm of vertical rock walls.
To view Vaipo Waterfall fully one must swim through the first pool, climb over some rocks and into the next pool, into which the cascade falls. This time of year there is not a lot of water flowing but it is impressive nonetheless.
Not interested a bit in tossing off his shirt and jumping in, Jim stayed on the shore as I plunged into the calm, refreshing water. Ahhh... it felt absolutely wonderful.
The second pool opens up to the right in a tall, rounded grotto. Vertical stripes of brown, copper, orange and white stream down the cavern walls.
Treading water under the sparsely falling drops, I revelled in the cool, fresh water before slowly making my way back to Jim.
The anchorage is filled with sailboats anticipating a traditional pig roast this afternoon. Roger and Norma on Sea Fury have organized what promises to be a fun experience.
Tomorrow we go back to Taiohae to retrieve our filled propane tank and purchase some fresh groceries before heading to Tahiti, literally sailing off into the sunset.
We plan to stop at Rangiroa in the Tuomoto Islands in 4-5 days if the weather is good. Then we will continue on to Papeete, Tahiti 2-3 days further on. Jim will update Tenaya Travels Facebook page with our progress. Kaoha.