12 Feb–10 Mar 2016: Hooumi to Taipivai, Nuku Hiva – 08 52S 140 02W
Following In Melville's Footsteps
After our stressful evening of “will the dogs have the goat for dinner?” (if you missed the previous posting you will have to read it for the answer!) we moved a mile or so to the central bay of Taipivai. Taipivai's claim to fame stems from the author Herman Melville who, in July 1842 deserted the Ascushnet, a whaling ship that he was crew on and fled into the jungle.
For a few weeks he remained hidden among the Typee natives, rumoured to still be cannibals. He then jumped on another whaling ship (before they put him in the cooking pot) and headed for Tahiti. Melville's first book Typee describes his time living ashore here, and his novel Moby Dick was inspired by is time aboard the whaling ships.
But back to us, we have anchored adjacent to a pocket sized white sand beach, thick green vegetation covers the hillsides, waterfalls plunge down distant cliffs up the valley, a small village lies along the river which flows into the head of the bay, and an abundance of majestic manta rays often feed around Balvenie in the calm waters.
Provisioning has reached a new level on the challenging scale. There are a couple of small grocery stores with the usual canned and frozen goods but NO fresh produce is available for sale, so I have taken to investigating what trees people have in their gardens, if I see ripe fruit then I knock on their doors, practice my ever improving French and ask if I can buy some. So far we are doing ok, we returned laden down yesterday with pamplemousse, soursop, papayas and guavas.
A World of Waterfalls
With the rains come the waterfalls, they appear from nowhere up the valley, arching over cliff tops and dropping dramatically into the jungle below. They form streams, who in turn feed into the river which then flows swiftly in to the bay. After the heavy rains abate most of the waterfalls disappear but the run off appears hours later in the bay when we watch the brown waters creep towards Balvenie, for awhile we feel like we are doing a side trip up the Amazon but they don't last long, clean waters return in no time at all.
We did a hike one day up to the main waterfall we can see from the anchorage on the western side of the river. It was a gentle incline up a four wheel drive track for about an hour and a half, then a quick river traverse, a clamber up a side stream and we were there. It was a lovely spot, huge boulders lay at the waterfalls base creating inviting pools and presenting an ideal spot for our picnic lunch.
So we enjoyed a cool dip followed by a buggy lunch stop, unfortunately the mosquitos and nasty nono’s (teeny little bitey bugs) rather liked it there too and they came out to play just as our sandwiches were unwrapped! A speedy lunch was consumed and we were on our way out of there, we fared better as moving targets although my final bite count was 62, eekk! (and yes I was covered in bug spray)
On another day we attempted the hike to the “Trois Casades”, in company with Jeff, Katie and their niece Nancy off Mezzaluna who joined us at anchor for a few days. We had a rather vague map indicating the way to these three waterfalls separated by natural swimming pools on the eastern side of the river.
It was a long and exceptionally hot day with little breeze finding its way up the enclosed valley. The map was just a little too vague and we didn’t arrive at the correct turnoff from the road until mid afternoon, having already had 3 side trips to the river and a lunch stop!
It was then a 20 minute walk to the small power station, and all that was left was to find the trail to the waterfall, how hard can that be? We had glimpsed two of them enroute, but do you think we could find any sort of trail …….. it was even more overgrown than the above photos suggest!
We tried every direction, we even continued on the dirt road past the hydro station until fallen trees blocked any further progress, eventually we admitted defeat, cooled ourselves in the tiny falls we found and made our weary way back to our boats.
Turning Our Attention to Tikis
Next up on the sightseeing list was the small Tikipaeke Site, and it even had a sign on the road, how easy is that! About a 20 minute hike (or hitchhike) up the road, followed by another 20 minutes up the trail to the ancient tiki site (the 500m more like 900m).
It was just a small site, but it was in a pleasant setting, the hike up from the road was shady under the trees, and were weren’t too many bugs around, all up a worthwhile outing and good exercise.
As we sit and wait for the waters to cool we are making our way through the ever present “to do list”. Oil changes and engine maintenance have been completed, the broken Air Breeze Wind Generator has been removed, further attempts to repair the slight leak in the water tank have been undertaken, underwater anodes have been changed (while manta rays watched) general maintenance continues.
All the lockers have been sorted out and the bilges cleaned, not such a fun job but finding 12 bottles of wine tucked away from St Maarten was an unexpected bonus!
Tom the 8hp Tohatsu Outboard has finally been pensioned off and now sits enjoying retirement on the pushpit. He’s never quite recovered from being severely beaten up when he was hit by a big steel yacht in Mexico. Meanwhile new crew member Toby the 9.8hp who joined Balvenie in St Maarten last year has been commissioned and is slipping into his new role without hiccups. He is eager to please and seems up for the job.
The Aranui 5 called in for 4 hours the other morning. While the landing craft deposited over 100 people on to the beach the freight barge brought much needed supplies to the stores, yes we have onions, potatoes, carrots and chocolate again! 36 pickup trucks lay in waiting for those that had reserved tours and were soon on their way up the valley to explore. Meanwhile the freight barge returned laden with copra for export and crates of empty beer bottles for refilling!
After the morning sightseeing tour the village ladies prepared a big feast for Aranui 5 passengers, they even had salad! The Aranui 5 left without them, guess they rendezvoused round in the main harbour of Taioha’e, or did they end up in a huge ancient Typee cooking pot??
Peace & Tranquillity Has Returned to Taipivai, Not to Mention the Rain!