Monday, September 13, 2010

Daniel's Bay

Location: Daniel's Bay (Hakatea), Nuku Hiva, Marquesas 08-56.62S / 140-09.80W

We actually made 2 visits to Daniel's Bay, staying a total of a week there. The proper name for Daniel's Bay is Anse Hakatea, but among cruisers, it is known as Daniel's Bay. For many many years, the bay was home to a man named Daniel who was very welcoming to cruisers. He even went to the trouble of piping fresh water out to a bouy in the anchorage, so cruisers could easily take on fresh water from his water supply.

Unfortunately, the popular series 'Survivor' came to Hakatea one day and persuaded a very old Daniel to move to town, so they could use his isolated bay to film a Survivor series. Daniel passed away soon after, and his bay is now uninhabited.

However, there is still a small friendly village in the adjacent bay, within easy walking or dinghy distance. And there is still the '3rd highest waterfall in the world', only a 2 hour hike away. And it is still a better anchorage than the rolly gusty anchorage at the main town of Taiohae.

We made our first hike to the waterfall with our friends on Infini, who had already visited Daniel's Bay before. They knew the way, and so we had an easy hike on a nice sunny (dry) day.

The hike starts in the tiny village of Hakaui--really just 4 or 5 houses, surrounded by carefully tended gardens. There is a tiny church, no post office, no central electricity, and no cell phone signal. We understand that most people nowadays don't live full time in this village. Their main house is in Taiohae, and they visit their home in Hakaui on weekends--leaving a caretaker or one part of the family to stay in the house and tend the gardens.

The 'gardens' are a combination of flowers, ornamental shrubbery, and fruits and vegetables... including bananas, mangos, papaya, citrus, guava, manioc, breadfruit.

There is a fresh water stream that runs through the village and out into the bay. At high tide, it's possible to get a small outboard over the 'bar' and into the stream. It's a bit of a challenge--the bay is swelly and usually has some waves breaking on the rocky beach and across the river mouth. So you have to time the passage through the waves, and hope you don't miss the deep part of the small stream... grounding at the entrance is a good way to get swamped by the waves, which we did once. At low tide, it's still possible to get an inflatable dinghy with a light outboard in--you just have to be prepared to have everyone hop out of the dinghy and drag it in through what's left of the stream to the deeper water.

The alternative to surfing in over the bar is to haul your dinghy up very high on the beach in Daniel's Bay, and walk along the beach to the left to the start of the path that goes over into the village in the next bay.

The hike to the waterfall follows an old 'road', up through the valley along the stream. If you pay attention as you are walking, you can see that the path was once improved--in the low spots, there is a 2-3' high wall of fitted stones on either side, with earth filled in between. This keeps the path dry even when it rains. The path is still lined with ornamental shrubs in many places. On either side of the path, set back into the woods and nearly covered with jungle, you can see old massive stone platforms, usually surrounded by fruit trees...the only thing left from what was once a flourishing community of Marquesans in a spectactular setting.

The problem with the waterfall is that it is set in a 'fold' in the mountain, and when you are at the base of the falls, you cannot see the top of the falls at all... only the last 100 feet of the falls are visible. But, halfway there, at a wide spot on the path, there is a great view off to the left, over the jungle, over the stream, to the waterfall. (See picture, to be posted sometime when we have internet). This is also a spot where there is another massive stone platform that probably had a good view of the falls and most of the valley.

At the falls, there are some giant rocks (15 feet high) and a small pool. We swam across the pool and between the rocks to actually sit under the base of the falls. When we were there, the water was running pretty good, the falls were too strong to stand under, and there was a really wet and cold downdraft in the little cave area where the water comes down. We didn't stay long there.

We also found some fresh water eels and small shrimp in the pool. One of these eels was quite big--similar in size to a big green moray eel--and lurked just off the 'beach' waiting for handouts. We had fun feeding the eels and shrimp bits of our lunch.

After the hike, Mike and Sue took us to Ma'i and Maria's house, back in the village, facing the bay, on the far left (west) side of the rocky beach. Maria's family has been prominent in the village for generations, and she and her husband and young son are now the latest 'caretakers' of this prime family property on the beach. In addition to her native Marquesan, Maria speaks fluent French and pretty good English. Since Daniel's demise, and because she speaks both French and English well, Maria has been host to many cruisers. We traded some 22 shells and shotgun shells for a nice lunch of traditional Marquesan fare, including 'poisson cru', goat in coconut milk, and breadfruit prepared 2 ways. (They use the ammunition to go up into the hills and hunt the wild goat and wild pigs that roam the island).

Over lunch, Ma'i offered to take us goat hunting and pig hunting, if we were interested. So we set up and expedition for the next day, to scramble up the rocky, arid face of the mountain west of Daniel's Bay, in search of wild goat. By the next morning, however, it turned out that Ma'i had hurt his knee, and Maria ended up being the one who guided us up the mountain (without the gun). It was a tough climb, most of the way up a rocky stream bed. But once at the top, we had a spectacular view of the bay below us, the south coast of Nuku Hiva, and much of the western side of Nuku Hiva.

There is a big dry grassy plain at the top. We hiked along the ridge to the highest point and saw many wild horses and lots of wild goats. Since the locals usually come up here on a hunting expedition, the goats were fleeing in small herds ahead of us, across the rocky face of the mountain. We marveled at how fast they could run in the loose dirt and rock that we had to walk very carefully in.

The wind at the top of the mountain, facing east, was blowing about 30 knots, a welcome relief after the hot climb. We sat and enjoyed the view and the wind, and ate our lunch, and listened to the goats bleating (still fleeing). On a later expedition, when his knee had healed, Ma'i bagged 2 goats, and he and Maria's father each carried one down the mountain on their shoulders.

On our second visit to Daniel's Bay, Ma'i also took us on a pig hunting expedition. 2/3 of the way to the waterfall, we turned right, and scrambled up the mountain through a muddy swamp to where the pigs hang out. We saw lots of pig sign--pig poo and where they'd been rooting around and some pig wallows, but unfortunately we never saw a pig. We had 10 people on that trek and I think they heard us coming from miles away. This expedition was also to show us a 'cave' that Ma'i had told Dave about (Dave is nuts about caves).

We found not exactly a cave, but a 5-story high rock with a big overhang. Along the base of the rock, past inhabitants of the area had created burial sites by 'bricking in' (with rock) hollows at the base of the rock. Ma'i showed us one hidden in a cleft of rock that still had bones and the remains of a wooden canoe. After climbing a tree and scrambling to the top of the rock, we had another incredible vista of the valley.

You could easily spend a month (or more) in Daniel's Bay, hiking and hanging out and trading with the friendly Marquesans who live there. But alas... we had to get moving. On our second visit, we had already checked out of French Polynesia (our visa expired 1 Sep), so we couldn't stay forever. We bid tearful goodbyes to Maria and Ma'i promising to come back and visit (but knowing we probably wouldn't get there next year).

Next installment--still catching up--we cruise the west and north coasts of Nuku Hiva to Anaho Bay (where we are now staging for our trip to Hawaii).
At 9/12/2010 12:20 AM (utc) our position was 08°49.35'S 140°03.89'W

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