Rachel’s Death March – Mt. Pahia

Bora bora has several mountainous peaks.  One set of peaks looks like the profile of a man (with a “Whoville nose”) and jutted chin – squint hard and use your imagination when looking at the photo below (forehead on left, then eyebrow, then nose that looks like a person from Whoville, mouth then jutted chin.  Comment below if you can see the face.  Rachel decided it was time for a hike which we later learned is aka for “death march.” This expedition would take us to the top of Mt Pahia.

Mt. Pahia in Bora Bora

Mt. Pahia in Bora Bora

We had hiked Mt. Duff in Gambiers several months ago.  Rachel (Voyages of Agape) learned that both mountains were relatively the same height (Duff at 1500’ and Pahia at 2200’).  Should be “similar” hikes.  All sorts of wrong there!  We each started out with large bottles of water and great attitudes.  Our goal was to make it to the eyebrow (right where the telephone wire intersects the mountain in the top photo).

Start of Mt. Pahia hike

Start of Mt. Pahia hike

Maps.me instructed us to turn right at the Eurocar.  This is important as you will see toward the end of this post.  We happily greeted some locals camping out in the yard as we were starting up the road toward the trail.  One older man pointed to the mountain and we all gleefully nodded our heads as we passed.  Immediately following, we heard a guttural laughter coming from the old man.  What did he know that we did not know?

We were following a small dirt road that lead up the mountain.  Periodically we would be rewarded with spectacular views.  You could not help but to stop and admire this gift.

First view from Mt. Pahia hike

First view from Mt. Pahia hike

The Fun Begins

The path was marked with a red and white ribbon found on trees every 10-15 meters.  Which was a good thing as many times you could not tell where the path was due to fallen trees, debris, rocks, etc.  We Climbed up and over or under the trees which provided a great leg work out.

Then came the rappelling.  We had heard that there were several places that had strategically placed ropes to help you get up (or down) the mountainside.  Sometimes they were there because it was muddy and slippery.  While other times providing the only means of moving up and ahead on Mt. Pahia.   One of the easier rappels where I have a smile on my face.

Me rappelling up the mountain

Me rappelling up the mountain

Here is a shot of Nicola rappelling up the cliff side.

Nicola rappelling up hill

Nicola rappelling up hill

There were lots of instances where no ropes were provided and you just had to rock climb up the cliff side. Over trees, branches and fallen hillside.

Josh patiently waiting for me

Josh patiently waiting for me

Josh and Rachel are big rock climbers, on top of being young and super fit.  They often waited for me to catch up – thank goodness.

Josh & Rachel waiting for me

Josh & Rachel waiting for me

Views are breathtaking!

A little rest stop with a view of the bay.  The bottom photo is of a young shoot just waiting to turn into a branch.  It also reminded me of Whoville (The Grinch Who Stole Christmas).

Pretty views along our hike

Pretty views along our hike

Stunning Views

The views get more amazing as we get closer to the top.  On the top photo, in the center of the lagoon is a helicopter that flew by.  Notice how far below he was flying compared to our location.

3/4 of the way up to the top

3/4 of the way up to the top

Matt made it to the top of the Mt. Pahia first and he did it in flip flops!  Not sure how that man did that as I was way behind him.  Josh and Rachel made it to the top next and were celebrating with a hoop and a holler.

We had scaled over rocks, rappelled up 12+ spots on the mountain, climbed over and under fallen trees, and sweated out all of our rum drinks from the previous night.  The overall climb was 4 miles, 10,300 steps and 78 floors.  We had all completed a lot more on other mountains, but this was a challenging one!  Maybe because it was a full body workout with the rappelling, maybe the heat, maybe the conditions, who knows.

The Summit Mt. Pahia

We made it!  What a relief, what joy, what a view!  A well deserved rest before the photo shoot begins.

Summit rest break

Summit rest break

And the photo shoot begins.

Summit at the top

Summit at the top

It was breathtaking at the top.  And not only because we literally had no breath, but because it was so beautiful.  It was a lot to take in after such a laboring hike.

Photos at the top of Mt. Pahia

Photos at the top of Mt. Pahia

The four of us at the top of Mt. Pahia with the other peak in the background.

Top Mt Pahia

Top Mt Pahia

The four of us at the top with the bay in the background.

Top Mt Pahia

Top Mt Pahia

Now, the hard part, going down.  Most people preferring going down a mountain.  However, I had hurt my knees hiking the Grand Canyon when I was in my 20’s and they have never been the same.  If I walk the switch back down I am usually pretty good.  However, this trail was way too small to do that and there were a dozen rappelling sections.  Even after a 30-minute rest at the summit, my legs were still shaking and I was exhausted.  Should be interesting…

The Descent

The most difficult rappel is the first one down.  It is about 150’ straight down.  I just kept telling myself that I was given a second chance at life (after beating breast cancer) and I needed to live it fully.  I was terrified.  Yet, with every step, my foot found a spot to land, my hands held tight to the rope and I descended.  Slowly, but surely, each painstaking step was made.  Another set of hikers had told us about an “easier” trail to go down.  It was “shorter” and not as steep but landed you in Fa’anui instead of Vaiati where the dinghy was left.  We could figure out that problem once we made it down the mountain.

The challenging part was wanting to rest but not resting too long.  If you rested too long your legs cramped up so you had to keep going.  There were many instances where I went down on my butt.  Oh, how I wished Lulu Lemon had padded shorts!  By the 7th or 8th rope I realized how grateful I was for them as it gave my legs a chance to rest.  But then the rope burns kicked in.  Mental note…don’t let your hands slide down the rope as you descend, duh!

At the Bottom

It took us almost 3 hours to get up and about 2.5 to get down, but we made it.  We found a magasin and purchased loads of liquids as we were all out of water.  Sitting in the shade drinking our cold beverages was blissful, but we still had 3.4 miles to get back to Vaiati.  Here is a shot of the mountain from other side at Fa’anui.

Descent down and look back at top

Descent down and look back at top

Rachel stuck her thumb out and wouldn’t you know it, a small “Eurocar” stopped.  We squeezed all 5 of us into this car and thanked the driver profusely.  The driver works at Eurcar and had seen us start the hike as we passed by her office.  She was really impressed that we chose the path that we did as it was the most challenging path up to the top!  Oh dear, had we known.  She gave us a ride all the way back to town, smelly, muddy, and dirty and all.  What an angel!

We removed our disgusting shoes and socks, soaked our feet in the water.  Matt drove us around To’opua and back to our anchorage where we dropped the Agape crew off.  We all had plans of floating and possibly dinner later.  Matt and I jumped in with our snorkels so we could submerge our faces in the water.  It was incredibly refreshing, but not long into my swim my legs cramped up.  Back to the boat, quick rinse and stretching.  Man, my body was mad it me.  I took a few advil, drank lots of liquids and rested.  Found myself in bed at 1900.

The Reward

It might have been a “death march,” but what a reward.  Had it not been for Rachel’s persistence and encouragement, I would have never accomplished this adventure.

I was so proud of myself for being able to push my body to the limits and succeeding.  Even though we have hiked higher, faster, and farther, this was probably the most challenging hike I have ever done.  A total of 6+ hours from boat departure to boat return.  Fallen trees, boulders, and rappelling couldn’t stop us from reaching the summit.   Relishing the striking views of the bay, lagoon, towns, and peaks will live forever in my heart and dreams. And triumph would not have been nearly as special had not been done with our friends Josh, Rachel, and Nicola.

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