Friday 13th July - Hiking in Hakaui

Jon & Carol Dutton
Sat 14 Jul 2012 02:39

8:56.67S 140:09.84W

Friday 13th July –  Hiking in Hakaui

Wednesday, 11th July saw us leave Taiohae Bay.  It was the last place that we would be able to get any significant provisions before we reach Rangiroa in the Tuamotos in just under three weeks time.  Having decided that we were not tempted by imported white sliced loaves that cost the equivalent of £5, Carol experimented with a packet of bread mix that had not exploded.  All of these had been stored in a plastic box but the heat and humidity had caused the majority to self-destruct as the yeast fermented.  Sadly, the packet used had passed its expiry date and the dough hardly rose.  Ever optimistic, Carol baked it for the requisite amount of time but the result was quite inedible.  However, it could have been used as a spare dinghy anchor!  The next challenge will be making bread from scratch.

Our next anchorage was only about 5 miles away; whilst Taiohae was peaceful, Hakatea Bay is tranquillity itself, but in the most majestic surroundings.  We hoped that it would be less affected by swell than Taiohae so that the unpleasant job of cleaning Arnamentia’s waterline could be tackled.  Certainly the water is cleaner in here.  On the subject of water, we were amazed to discover that there is no drinking water to be had in Taiohae, yet the place is served by a smart hospital, good schools, decent roads, satellite communications and the internet.  Everyone keeps plastic bottles and jerry cans in the backs of their pick-up trucks and they all drive over the mountain pass to a village in the next bay where there are a couple of stand pipes – a round trip of about an hour.


                                                                                Arnamentia in Hakatea Bay

The other reason for coming to Hakatea Bay, or Daniel’s Bay as it is sometimes known, though he died a good few years ago now, was to walk up the Hakaui valley to the bottom of the Vaipo waterfall – reputedly the third tallest in the world at 800 metres.  Early on Thursday morning, we donned our hiking trainers and set off.  Landing, and later launching, the dinghy was a little exciting – the waves were breaking just a little too ferociously.  Then it was time to carry the dinghy thirty yards or so up the beach as we’d landed at half tide.  The Zodiac and Mercury engine are quite a bit heavier than the old Avon and Mariner – so that took a little time and a lot of puffing.


                                                                                The dinghy landing spot

The walk was about four or five miles in each direction and not challenging at all, apart from a couple of the half dozen or so river crossings required.  It has rained a great deal recently so the river is in full spate but there were enough rocks to use as hand holds whilst crossing it and we managed with only a few slips and no total immersions.  The track was laid several centuries ago when the valley was home to a number of settlements.  But whilst the population of the Marquesas as a whole was estimated at the beginning of the nineteenth century at over 60,000, it had fallen to around 10,000 by the end of the twentieth century largely as an indirect result (disease, alcohol and tribal warfare) of the arrival of European seafarers of one sort or another.  So, not much remains of the original settlements.  Nonetheless, a walk along the track reveals, within the dense forest, remains of what were once substantial and substantially built dry stone buildings, outhouses and enclosures now all overgrown.   


                                                                                First section of the track

The majority of waterfall could be seen from about three quarters the way along the track.  However, its base is at the end of a canyon, obscured by over hanging cliffs and rocks so one can never see it in its entirety.  We had to swim across a pool and scramble around the rocks to actually see the base – a very refreshing experience.  Standing in the natural amphitheatre leading up to the waterfall is an awe-inspiring experience and one to which no amount of camera work could do justice – so we haven’t tried.


                    First sighting of the Vaipo waterfall                                Base of the waterfall and pool where we swam

These days the lower reaches of the Hakaui valley are scattered with a few smallholdings where bananas, papaya, mangoes, pamplemousse and limes are grown.  The somewhat makeshift houses are surrounded by a riot of gloriously coloured shrubs, bougainvillea and hibiscus.  In one of the houses (the one next to the most incongruously placed telephone box we’ve ever seen) we had arranged to have lunch on our return from our walk.  We were expecting something simple – a piece of chicken probably, but were stunned to be presented with crevettes, caught that morning in the river, cooked in coconut milk, plantain, savoury banana fritters, papaya, tomato and cucumber salad with vinaigrette, and coconut bread steamed in vine leaves, all washed down with home made lime squash.  It was absolutely delicious and one of the best meals we’ve had ashore.  We were also able to buy fruit, freshly picked off the trees, which should see us through to our first atoll in the Tuamotos.


                                                                                                Lunch stop


                                                                                            A gorgeous garden

Also in the hamlet is a tiny chapel, with a table cloth covered altar and a large stone as a font.   Very simple, but obviously well cared for and used.  On the altar is a small plastic food storage tub containing donations left by visitors.  It was apparent as we made our contribution that many have been pretty generous.  Naturally there is absolutely no danger of any of the locals rifling it.  The consequences would probably involve a complete bypassing of Purgatory en route for a hotter reception elsewhere.  


                                                                                                    Hakaui Chapel

That evening we invited a young Swedish couple, Henrik and Kiki, on board for drinks.  They are quite a remarkable pair; they too are sailing around the world, but in 28’ canoe-sterned (or, double-ended, depending upon your terminological preference) sloop called Birka.  And, being canoe-sterned it is, internally, a very small 28 footer indeed.  Instrumentation?  Well, they’ve got an iPad with GPS, an electronic speed log that doesn’t work and that’s it.  Electronic echo-sounder?  Pah!  They have a large rusty padlock connected to a length of string knotted at one metre intervals.  Henrik observes that it doesn’t work terribly well unless the boat is at a standstill – the padlock not being lead and therefore not sinking quite as readily as it would if it were.  But, hey, you get used to it.  Shades of Slocum’s second-hand tin clock which worked well enough for his sun sights once he’d boiled it, even though it was missing its minute hand.  Shades also of Miles Smeeton, when informed by an aspiring ocean sailor about the sort of electronics with which he thought he’d equip his boat, throwing open his bedroom door, indicating the clockwork radio by his bedside and saying “That’s the only electronic navigation aid we had on Tzu Hang for 18 years”!  Shame on you, Arnamentia!  Henrik and Kiki say they catch fish almost daily on passage and survive well enough on that.  They did a spell as skipper and galley slave on a large charter catamaran based in Antigua – despite the fact that Henrik hasn’t got the Yachtmaster qualification normally required.  The charter company knew he could sail and, presumably, weren’t so bound up in ‘elf’n’safety anxieties that they felt unable to use a bit of discretion. Not entirely surprisingly, Henrik and Kiki hated it – 7 times round Antigua sailing to a schedule with crews made up of those who were delighted with the prospect of sailing in the Caribbean but not generally inclined to do much to aid the process. Yuk!           


                                                                                                    S/V Birka

Tomorrow we will set sail for the Tuamotos.  We could have left today but didn’t want to tempt fate on Friday, 13th!

P.S.  Omitted from the last blog were the photos of some of the tikis in and around Taiohae; they are mainly modern reproductions but nonetheless are quite remarkable.  Some could well be models for the next aliens to bother Doctor Who.