Nuku Hiva and the Hike to Vaipo Waterfall

One of the main reasons we went to Nuku Hiva instead of another island before departing Ua Pua was to get an Internet connection. We almost wish we didn’t because the connection was so unreliable, so slow, and so expensive, it was more aggravation than it was worth. But, we did manage to get a few important tasks done by spending hours and hours trying to coax (and curse) the connection. For example, I took me over two days to get the one photo album on Hiva Oa to upload. I guess we should consider ourselves lucky, because just a couple of years ago they didn’t even have WIFI connections in the anchorages here.

UPDATE 29-May: Here is a photo album which we finally got uploaded in Rangiroa:

View full-sized with descriptions

We did a bit of sightseeing in the main town off Taiohae Bay, and got checked in with the Gendarmerie (you’re required to check in to each island in the Marquesas). Several boats we know were in the anchorage. I went over and spoke with “Songline” and we also saw “A Small Nest”. We invited the entire family of “A Small Nest” to come over one evening and the adults had some drinks while the kids played Wii. It was great catching up with them and comparing notes for future routes.

Daniel’s Bay

We decided to follow “A Small Nest” over to a place called Daniel’s Bay a few miles to the west. They reportedly had a great walk up to a waterfall there. The waterfall is the tallest waterfall in French Polynesia and is called Vaipo. We had a nice short downwind sail along the coast. The approach into the bay was awesome. There is a huge mountain cliff along one side of the bay entrance, then you make a sharp right around another cliff wall into the hidden bay. There we found over a dozen boats at anchor. It was close to lunch, so after setting our anchor we sat outside admiring the view of the cliffs and the beautiful sandy beach nearby.

After lunch, we got ready to go to the beach. I took a bunch of beach toys ashore: hacky sack, frisbee, and juggling balls. I knew the kids from “A Small Nest” might like to play. Jason and I played hacky sack for an hour or so, and then the other boats started coming ashore. The kids first did some wake boarding behind another boat’s dinghy. Then they came to try out hacky sack. Later we played frisbee as well. I’ve been gradually teaching Septka how to juggle.

We met people on other boats: “Elena”, “Quarter Moon”, and “Asia”.

Early the next morning we planned to hike to the waterfall Vaipo. We had discovered that the waterfall did not have water falling at the moment. They have had a drought for about 4 months now, so the water has mostly dried up. But, we were told the hike is definitely worth it. And, it was!

We first had to dinghy up a river to get to the trailhead. It was high tide, so we got up the river pretty easily. “Elena” has two young boys – about 2 and 3 years old. And “A Small Nest” has 7, 9, and 11. So, we had to adjust our hiking speeds a bit. The start of the hike is up a road through a beautiful valley surrounded on one side by a sheer cliff wall over 700 meters tall. The valley has several families living there who farm the fertile ground with mostly fruit and coconut trees. Fruits can be found everywhere – Papaya, oranges, mangos, bananas, and a dozen other varieties.

After passing through the farm village we started on the trail. It went through a variety of terrain types, crossed several mountain streams. In a couple of cases, some of us had to take off our hiking boots (several folks just had sandals or crocs on). One stream actually had huge rocks and trees to get across. One of the kids lost a sandal in the stream, but we managed to dig under the rocks and find it. We had areas where the trees enshrouded the trail so thickly it was almost dark. And, once in a while, we had a clear spot where we had amazing views of the cliffs. We saw a huge dark streak going down between some of the cliffs and realized that much be the waterfall location. It was amazing! The
We started going up a canyon toward the waterfall, and we were surrounded on both sides by 700 meter cliffs. The terrain was more moist and vegetation kind of mossy. Suddenly we entered a big meadow covered in some clover-like vegetation. I immediately set up to do a 360 panorama at that point, but soon heard the others reach the end of the trail just a hundred meters over the hill. The trail ends at a big pool at the base of the fall. I wish we could have been there when the water was falling – although the sound must be tremendous and it would be very wet. Everyone immediately jumped in for a swim in the very cool water. We were all hot and sweaty after the hike up. You had to climb some rocks behind the pool to get to another series of deeper pools where the water fall actually falls. That spot was really amazing. Fortunately Lara and Jason took their waterproof camera and got some pictures.

On the hike back we stopped in the village and met some of the farmers. We all bought some fruit for our boats as well. We took pictures in the village as well. I will post the photos as soon as we have a good connection. Lara has posted about the hike as well.

It was a truly awesome hike! Well worth all the arduous effort. We all had a few bumps, scratches, bug bites, and bruises. But, we didn’t notice or care.

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1 Response to Nuku Hiva and the Hike to Vaipo Waterfall

  1. Rose says:

    Thanks so much for all the detail and finally explaining where this mysterious Daniels Bay is in relation to other places! I have been told by a fellow cruiser in Mexico to be sure to see this place and it sounds incredible. I can hardly wait!!!

    Yahoo! Leave Mex in 3-4 weeks! S/V Aussie Rules, from Gabriola Island, BC

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