The Hatiheu valley is a “power spot”. Giant banyan trees flank the end of a valley, with a perimeter of rock ridges that are sharp as dragon spines. By now, we know that we can expect to find the remnants of ancient Polynesian villages in this kind of place: it is full of mana.
Unlike the overgrown rocky foundations that we’d see through the bushes as we hiked towards waterfalls in Hakaui and Hakahetau, this area was clear and well-kept, which allows us to see their full magnificence. The main sites in this area are called Hikokua and Kamuihei.
According to Lonely Planet, the sites were discovered by archeologists Robert Suggs in the 1950s, and have been maintained by villagers from Hatiheu since the mid-80s. Further restoration occurred in the late 90s.
A recent Marquesan Festival was held at this site, bringing together dancers and singers from Polynesians from as far afield as Rapa Nui and New Zealand. We heard that 15 pigs were roasted inside earthen ovens to feed the participants. Imagine this place under moonlight and torches illuminating the tribal dancing — it must be a spectacle to behold! If we can, we hope to return here in 2019 for the next Marquesan Festival, as we have developed an enormous respect for the power and majesty of this cultural phenomenon.
We decided not to take Aldebaran to Hatiheu, on the north coast of Nuku Hiva, due to time constraints.
Instead we scored a car ride with Josephine, who was born and raised in Hatiheu. “I’m a special education teacher, I’ve never given a tour before,” she warned us with a laugh. We loaded the Hilux pickup truck with our crew mates (Matt, Diyana, and Melanie) and went on a drive around the island.
Josephine first took us to Ho’oumi, in the south east corner of Nuku Hiva, where there is excellent spring water. We wanted to scope out the dinghy landing to see if we should bring Aldebaran here to load up her water tanks, before heading to the water-parched Tuamotos.
The valleys in Marquesas are so formidable, they were isolated except for access by boat or difficult treks. The French government finally finished a road across to the valleys in the north just 15 years ago. It is peppered with waterfalls and magnificent vistas. Josephine guided us along this road across to the other side of the island.
Three guests were dropped off at the Pearl Lodge in Nuku Hiva, laden with duffel bags. Tired from the long day of travel, they walked to the hotel’s infinity pool, with a beautiful deck overlooking Taiohae Bay. That’s when one of the guests, Matt, noticed a dinghy flying across the bay with… something unusual.
He reached into his duffel bag and grabbed a pair of binoculars, focusing on the dinghy heading straight towards them, driven by two dark figures with unknown intentions.
“Excuse me,” Matt turned to the hotel owner, who had just given the newcomers nice flower lei’s. He hands over the binoculars to the proprietor to see for herself. “I think you’re about to be attacked by pirates!”
The proprietor immediately saw this was no joke: it was the Pirate King and Queen of the South Seas, last seen crossing the equator south of Galapagos. She promptly opened the spiced rum stash in the bar for the invading marauders.
Luckily the pirates’ evil intent was tamed by rum cocktails, multiple hugs, and a delicious dinner after a dip in the infinity pool. The Pearl Lodge escaped major harm, but the newcomers were kidnapped and taken aboard the ship Aldebaran, laying at anchor just in front, in the bay of Taiohae.
We now had our new crew members: Matt & Diyana, dear friends from Santa Barbara, along with sister Melanie. They will be sailing with us 700 nautical miles from Marquesas to the central Tuamotos… we are going farRRRRR mateys!
the crew for the transit from Marquesas to Tuamotos
The town of Taiohae is located on Nuku Hiva’s southern coast, only a few miles upwind from Hakaui – meaning, it is a slow and bumpy boat ride.
This is the largest sheltered bay in the Marquesas, and it is a little heaven for yachts. There is free wifi (unheard of!) at the snack bar right on wharf; the laundry is “only” $10-12 per load (in contrast Hiva Oa was double that cost); and the 5am veggie and fish markets are right next to the pier.
Early morning fishermen come back with their catch of yellowfin tuna and throw their filleted carcasses to sharks in the murky water.
Depending on the fishermen, the tuna slabs were either very cheap ($2/lb) or if you’re a sweet talker like Sabrina, sometimes free. Like fruit, fish is bountiful here.
But this is the Marquesas, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and transportation is expensive. We dropped off Adam’s family along with Matt & Judy here, after a wonderful two weeks together sailing north from Hiva Oa. They paid $40 per person for the 1.5hr ride to the airport, to catch their flight back to Tahiti (the flight itself was $700 round trip).
It’s a place that costs a lot to get to – both money and energy – but the rewards have so far been exceeding our wildest expectations.
Little Leo from the Azores catamaran
Our hike to Vaipo waterfall in Hakaui Bay, the highest waterfall in French Polynesia, was unforgetable. Also, it was Asher’s 10th birthday! Wow, what a lucky guy to celebrate his first decade out here!
The rendezvous spot for the valley guide to give us our safety rules and collect money ($10 per person for visiting the valley, as many times as you want)
Only two or three families now live in Hakaui Valley, and they use this elegant and simple church. in pre-European times, an unfathomable 30,000 people lived in this valley.
The view of Vaipo Waterfall from across the valley, on the right side of the frame
The Honey Bee made a flight across the valley into the heart of the waterfall. At 1148ft, it is the highest waterfall in Polynesia outside of Hawaii and New Zealand.
Throughout the hike, we saw stone foundations of ancient village structures, built over the rocks to avoid flooding from the river.
The pool at the base of the waterfall. It isn’t possible to see the full extent of the waterfall from anywhere- except by using the honey bee drone.
Inside the waterfall it felt like a hurricane. The force was overwhelming. We put shampoo on our hair here.