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:
What a surprise Bora Bora turned out to be. I can only imagine your response as you read that opening line. “Seriously, Christine? Who doesn’t love Bora Bora?” On previous posts, did you read between the lines? Could you tell that I was not enamored with the island? All I could see were the tourists, cruise ships, pearl shops, and visitor activities. However, we’ve taken the time to get to know her a little better while waiting for a weather window to leave. We snorkeling with lemon sharks, black tip sharks, sting rays, and tons schools of various fish in jade colored waters. We hiked through the lush vegetation to the tallest peak of the island and overlooked a striking island, bay, and lagoon. I am a Bora Bora convert.
Southeast Side of Bora Bora
The southeast side of Bora Bora had yet to be tamed. For the most part we stayed on the northwest side (near the main town of Vaitape and the tip of the island). There is only one way to get to the southeast side of the island and that is to go all the way around the top to the other side. It is a 2-hour motor over several shallow spots. In fact, two boats have run aground on this passage in the last few weeks.
There is another route that is more direct which takes you around the bottom tip of the island. However, this passage is not accessible to large boats. No surprise here, we were reluctant to make this journey. But as they say “Suck it up Buttercup!” We wanted to snorkel the “aquarium” and visit the long, white sandy beach. Both of which are over on the southeast side.
See the map below. We are anchored near the purple arrow and want to go to the green arrow. Once anchored at the new location we want to snorkel the Aquarium located at the blue arrow.
Map of Bora Bora
Rachel and Nicola wanted to snorkel the aquarium as well but they did not want to bring Agape through the shallow waters. So, they came aboard Sugar Shack for the ride. Nicola and I were at the bow looking for “bombies” or “coral heads.” Rachel was watching the computer charts and depth and Matt was at the helm. We crossed over some really shallow spots putting all of us on edge. The lowest point was 1.8 meters and we draw 1 meter! Not much wiggle room. Only one time did we abort our direction and head a different path. We made it in 2-hours with plenty of time to snorkel before dark.
Made it Safely to the Anchorage
Our anchorage is off Motu Fareone which has a beautiful, white sandy beach. We loaded our gear and made our way over to the private Sofitel Resort island. Just off this island is the aquarium. We visited on a day that gave us crystal clear water showcasing the large variety of friendly fish. One clever entrepreneur had a private surprise message for his snorkeling clients.
Aquarium at Bora Bora
The coral was struggling in places, but for the most part there was lots of sea life. A wide variety of fish who all wanted to get to know you better.
Sea Life at the Aquarium
We dropped the girls off at the mainland where they hitch hiked back to Vaitape. Matt and I enjoyed a quiet evening on the boat (still recovering from Rachel’s death march). Another stunning sunset.
Sunsets in Bora Bora
PASSAGE TO TAHA’A
The next morning we got motivated early. We left our mooring ball around 0800, headed around the island and out the pass toward Taha’a. We were able to follow our tracks over the shallow parts, but it was still nerve racking. On the way out, we passed by all the lovely huts over the water. Four Seasons, Intercontinental, and Le Meridian.
Hotels along the motus in Bora
We were joined by a kayaker about 20 minutes into our journey. He easily fell into our wake and managed to keep up with our 6 kt speed for well over 30 minutes. Evidently, he was training for a race from Taha’a to Bora Bora. Last year, the fastest person has completed this kayak race in 3 hours. Keep in mind it will take us 5 hours to get there by boat. This guy was well into his 60’s and was all muscle. In fact, he had to slow down several times to avoid going under our boat.
Kayacker along for the ride
Matt captured the Bora Bora’s caldera perfectly in this photo. What a surprise to see it from this perspective – so stunning!
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
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
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
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
Here is a shot of Nicola rappelling up the cliff side.
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 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
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
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
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
And the photo shoot begins.
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
The four of us at the top of Mt. Pahia with the other peak in the background.
Top Mt Pahia
The four of us at the top with the bay in the background.
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 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
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.
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.