(By Jack) I don’t know about you but normally I wouldn’t go looking for a waterfall. Don’t get me wrong, I like them, but let’s just say that I wouldn’t climb three miles through a jungle in ninety degree heat and humidity just to see one, and if you factor in a beach landing in surf, well normally that would put paid to it, but there I was reconnoitering a landing site for just such a trek. I have to admit that when I first putted Cat-Nip around the corner, as Marce says, “around that little stick-out” the spires and volcanic ridges of Anse Hakatea, Nuku Hiva, took my breath away. Another crazy out-of-this-world Marquesas experience. It had something to do with the light but being surrounded by these four thousand foot sheer cliffs is awe-inspiring.
The plan was to call for our friends and neighbors, French Curve and Enki II, at first light, pile six adults plus three rolling fenders, snacks, water bottles, bug spray, line, six pairs of wet and dry shoes, a dinghy anchor, many back-packs, and I don’t know what all else into Cat-Nip, find our carefully chosen landing spot and hop out while dragging her up the beach. We only took one wave over the transom. The skipper’s only comment is that the beach looks totally different at high tide.
After anchoring the dink high and dry we found the path which is actually said to be part of the Royal Road and parts of it still have ankle spraining round pavement rocks. Sheer craggy rock cliffs rose up thousands of feet on either side while we walked through a rich verdant garden of Eden on the valley floor, chock-a-block with flowers, fruit of all description, palms, giant versions of colorful leafy plants that you probably have in your house right now.
Some of the plantations looked more like large carefully tended gardens and while near one of these we heard a voice call out something in French. It turns out Monette runs a kind of Marquesan restaurant out of her house and for 1000 CPF per person she will serve lunch on our way back down. Why yes, yes we’d like that. Next it was Alexandre’s turn to yell bonjour and he sold fruit from this fertile valley right off the tree. Why yes, yes we’d like fruit right off the tree. Don’t ask where we’ll put all of this stuff.
Paepae, platforms built up with volcanic rocks a meter or so off the valley floor, gave evidence of a large ancient population and were everywhere but spaced in an orderly fashion, on either side of the royal road, but what now could only be called a muddy path. This royal valley was once home to tens of thousands, and we saw paepae all along our two and a half hour trek, ranging far up the river, some quite overgrown. Energetic builders, these Marquesans.
Next it was the first of three fords. I couldn’t tell you how deep it was but at one point I got the thermometer wet. Yes it was cold. We had a line to help keep the unwary from being swept down stream and we all made it with a certain amount of decorum if not grace.
There were times when without the cairns we would probably still be wandering around up there, and there were times when we’d just follow the obvious path. Suddenly we noticed the distant thunder of water pounding rocks and through a hole in the jungle we could see the worlds third tallest waterfall. Magnificent.
Inspired, we headed off at an energetic clip and soon found we’d entered a narrow box canyon of craggy rock cliffs towering a thousand feet above us with a narrow valley floor covered with green leafy stuff and a swift running stream to one side against the sheer rock face.
And then, coming around a rock wall, there it was. Well, you could kind of see the bottom of the falls through a hole in the rock wall. It was as though it was around the corner that you couldn’t get to without a swim and a climb.
Close enough I say.
We stayed quite a while, it was crazy beautiful, but soon I found myself thinking of Monette’s lunch so as M. would say it’s shank’s mare for the wayward sailors. It’s funny how just turning around affords a completely different experience and we found the carins more difficult to spot going back but after another two-and-a-half hours we straggled into Monette’s eatery. While we ate, her husband worked on the estate.
The fruit man, Alexandre, so generous of spirit, threw in many extras as I followed him from tree to tree with his wheelbarrow. Kind of like a used car dealer that tears the price tag in half after cutting a deal.
Marce, working hard.
The beach had changed in the interim and we could see where we went wrong this morning but I found we could load the dink and float down a little stream which was what was left of the waterfall, two hundred feet to the bay.
This was executed without incident and on the way back, a look at all the tired faces told me that sundowners would have to wait till tomorrow.
So maybe chasing waterfalls is not such a bad thing.