This little bay Vaiehu is truly beautiful. Caves, blow holes, and water spouts border the ocean and bottom of the mountains. As you look up you see rich browns, vibrant green trees and bushes, and tall rolling mountains. The vast differences in the mountain face are astounding. The surface has a wide variety of contours ranging from smooth to jagged, raked, indented, and covered in trees. And the colors are magnificent including pinks, deep purples, maroon, chocolate, tan, and black. It is just breath taking.
Baie de Vaiehu, Ua Pou
Technically, there is not a safe place to land the dinghy as the shores are covered in rocks. Sweetie has a long-shaft outboard which would make it even more difficult for us to reach the shore safely (see bottom photo below). So, we took the paddle boards to shore (1/4 mile). We then hiked up a bushy path to a little house on top of the ridge. In the top photo you can see Sugar Shack over the rock
Hut at Baie de Vaiehu
We continued up to a beautiful white cross that protects the bay and the small village of Haakuti. Vaiehu bay is uninhabited, but one can access the tiny village of Haakuti after a 2-mile hike. View from half way to the cross.
View from hike in Vaiehu
At the base of the cross is a little monument which caught the sun just perfectly.
Cross at the top of the hill
The cross was in direct sunlight which made it super-hot, so we did not stay long.
Cross at Baie de Vaiehu
Miles Walked: 3.4
Floors Climbers: 49
Stunning Rock formations and Caves
We took the dinghy around the Vaiehu bay to see the caves and blow holes up close. The colors were just stunning.
Cool caves inside the bay
Hike to Village Haakuti
Continuing on the path to the cross and to the left you can reach the “main road” which takes you to a small village in Haakuti. They had 2 churches, 2 small magasins and lots of lovely, friendly people. We stopped by their “harbor” where they launched their pangas and outriggers. Found a skin of a cow that they were drying to make future drum skins and lots of pretty flowers and plants.
Our first Marquesan island was Nuku Hiva. Primarily, because we needed to refuel, reprovision, catch up on internetting, and just relax after our passage. But our goal was to get to Ua Pou, the island with the legendary pinnacles and the official host of the Marquesan festival that only occurs once every four years.
Marquesan Festival in Ua Pou
Matt and I had been doing recognizance in Nuku Hiva to try to determine how we can attend this once in a lifetime opportunity. We learned that there are only two small areas where anchoring is allowed for cruisers which will only hold 10 boats each. And there are issues with both locations. One has a horrible swell and is known as a “surf spot” and the other is actually located in part of the marine protected area.
The other bays have anchoring available but there is no way to get from there to the main village. The island only one main dirt road with only 10 licensed transport drivers. The main village will have 4 cruise ships (not sure where how they are going to fit into the small bay of Hakahau. So, at this point we need to head to Ua Pou to scout it out for ourselves.
Passage to Ua Pou from Nuku Hiva
Ua Pou is a short 28nm sail from Nuku Hiva. Before we pulled up the anchor, Matt spent some time cleaning up the bridle which was covered in muck. Nuku Hiva has some stuff in the water that dirties our waterline and makes a mess of the anchor chain. It gave us an idea of what to expect when the chain came up and it was spot on – gross! The pressure washer was needed to clean off the chain as we pulled her up and stowed her away. I mean it was disgusting!
With clean (or cleaner) chain, we raised the main with 1 reef and let out the jib with 2 reefs. We were sailing along at 8-9kts in 18-20kts of wind on a beam reach. It was a lovely sunny sailing day. About an hour out of Ua Pou we pulled in a 2nd reef in the main as we were seeing over 20kts of wind and 11kts of boat speed. We made it to Ua Pou in a little over 4 hours – excellent timing!
Ducking in and out of Anchorages
We swung into the main anchorage of Hakahau to try to determine the small approved anchoring area. There were 4 boats already in the harbor and only one of them was in the approved areas (and that was just barely in the corner). I’d say that half of the area is not safe to anchor in due to the swell. We also passed by the airport anchorage Baie Aneo but there was no way to get to shore. The next bay was Hakahetau which had another small approved spot. When we swung in it was really rolly and we decided not to stay there either.Sugar Shack dropped the hook in Baie de Vaiehu. There is no village in this bay, just beautiful, colorful mountains.
About Ua Pou
Ua Pou, has a very picturesque geology. It has been described as having a collection of 12 pointy pinnacles that soar like missiles from the basaltic shield. They form one of the Marquesas’ most photographed scenes even though they are almost constantly shrouded in swirling mist. In addition to these massive pillars are a few oasis-like valleys bursting with tropical plants and beaches.
Pinnacles of Ua Pou
Four high basalt pillars are in the center of the island. These pinnacles are Poumaka at 979m, Matahenua at 1,028m, Pouake at 1,034m and the tallest Mount Oave at 1,203m. Oave is the highest elevation in the Marquesas. They reach high above the surrounding mountains.
Ua Pou Pinnacles
Legend of the Pinnacles
Legend has it that Ua Pou symbolizes the entrance pillars to God’s house. Huge basaltic columns reaching the sky and holding the names of legendary warriors: Poutetaunui and Poumaka. In 1888, they inspired poet Robert Louis Stevenson, who mentioned them as “volcanic arrows looking like a church bell tower.”
We are blessed to be visiting during a time when these majestic pinnacles are often standing tall and free of clouds. From what I understand, this is a rare treat. Yet, we have seen these giants at least 4-5 times per week since we’ve been here.
As we discussed in the history of the Marquesas’ islands, many inhabitants were ravaged by diseases introduced by European explorers and traders. However, the Catholic priests on Ua Pou were able to preserve the population by quarantining the native population in the churches whenever visiting ships arrived. Thereby reducing their exposure to external diseases and making Ua Pou one of the most populous of the Marquesas Islands until the 1980’s. Today, the population is estimated to be 2,300 inhabitants which is roughly 1/3 the population of Nuka Hiva.
Matt and I were determined to get some exercise traversing across these mountainous ridges. Our quest was to explore all 4 “known” hikes during our short visit. Our first hike was to Baie Colette (read about it in the last blog). A few days later we adventured to a gazebo atop a mountain, a waterfall, and a sacred site called Koeva.
Taiohae anchorage is actually inside a caldera. Probably one of the coolest anchorages we have been in since not many people can say they parked their boat inside a volcano! At the southwest side of the caldera, atop a mountainous ridge sits a gazebo with spectacular views of the bay. The photo shows the gazebo from the half way point in our hike.
Gazebo at top of Hill
It was labeled as a “gentle” hike. I’m not sure what that means as it seems like an oxy-moron to me. But we ventured on this quest. The first 2-2.5 miles were a gradual climb up the hill on a paved road. But, the last 1-1.5 miles were straight up a dirt, rocky path with lots of switch backs. It was steep, but worth the view.
Many benches and rock tables were scattered about at the top of the ridge. The rock tables had really cool carvings showing what the view was in front of you.
Maps carved in stone at top of hill
The gazebo faces Baie de Taiohae and gives sweeping views of this beautiful caldera
Taiohae Bay from the gazebo
After cooling off, we decided to stop at the “pebble” beach which is another hike just off the main path for the gazebo. As it turns out, it was not much of a “pebble” beach but rather a rock beach. Either way it provided a nice opportunity to dip our feet in the water and cool off from the hot day. The top photo shows the beach in the lower right corner.
Total Miles: 6.5
Total Steps: 16,653
Flights Climbed: 55 floors
Most of the cruisers we know make use of a compendium that has a lot of data on each of the archipelagos and islands. It is crowd sourced and managed by a boat called Soggy Paws. In this document, a cruiser mentions a nice hike to a waterfall. We gathered our friends on Maple and began a new quest.
It was pretty easy to find even though there is no true trail. A lot of the directions were similar to “turn right at the banyan tree.” But we found it or rather we found a waterfall but not exactly what we were expecting. It certainly was water cascading from the mountain, but it fed the village’s main water supply. Which meant no swimming, no dipping, and no cooling off. But it was pretty.
Our waterfall hike ends here
Total Miles: 3.5
Total Steps: 10,435
Flights Climbed: 6 floors
We believe Koeva to be a holy spot with some historical or archaeological significance. Unfortunately, there is very little information on Koeva both locally and online. The entire site was spread across a grassy area and covered in trees and wildlife. There were dozens of 1-sided huts with thatched roofs. Elaborately carved poles held the roof and wall up.
Koeva tiki poles
Lots of tikis were peppered across the region. Some were hidden by wildlife while others were in prominent locations.
Tikis spread throughout the site
The huts reminded me of separated areas for families or clans to pray or pay homage to their gods. But honestly, I do not know.
Huts in Koeva
Some of the huts had things inside like an outrigger or tiki
There were plenty of beautiful views along the way.
Views along our hikes
Total Miles: 6
Total Steps: 15,821
Flights Climbed: 50 floors
Some pretty photos of the black sand beach and Tu Hiva Tiki: