Galley Wench Tales

Exploring the world through the people we meet
and the food they eat.

Patty, Wayne and Steve on our first Viapo Falls river crossing.
The deepest point was the rock behind Steve
(the guy without an umbrella).

“Expect three big stream crossings; 30 feet or so across.  They look impassable but the stream’s only about 1 ½ feet,” explained Tom, of s/v Ambler, regarding the hike from Marquesas Nuku Hiva’s Hakaui to Viapo, a waterfall with a 900+ foot free-fall cascade, one cruiser claimed it’s third tallest waterfall in the world.  We hiked a 17 km hike with Tom and his wife Jan on Fatu Hiva (click here for photos of that hike), so we trusted his advice.

The same river crossing point near Hakaui Nuku Hiva as before,
about two hours later.  Note you can’t even see the big rock
that was visible before.

Thus when we reached our first seemingly impossible, substantial stream crossing, as the shortest in our hiking party, I plunged ahead, figuring if I could make it, so could Wayne and Patty and Steve of s/v Armagh.  The stream was opaque with silt, so umbrella in one hand (it was raining), I “felt” my way across with my feet.  It was deep enough to get my shorts soaked, but passable.  Wayne, Steve and Patty followed, with some reluctance. 

Our trail became a stream – it got much deeper, wider and swifter
than this.  This is one of the few shots I could get before
my camera got too fogged.

It was our last full day in the Marquesas, so I really hoped to get in one more waterfall / swimming hole as we’d passed on a few, most notably Hiva Oa’s Hana Menu swimming hole and a pair of waterfalls on Ua Poa.  The Tuamotus, our next stop, are known for their lagoons and beaches, but are desert-dry atolls; fresh water is scarce; forget about waterfalls. 

We turned around a little past this viewpoint; not sure if
it was Viapo Falls.  We were about an hour into the hike.

After spending 20+ years in the Pacific Northwest (PNW), a little rain was hardly a damper.  Besides, we were already wet and it was fresh water for a change.  I’d brought my biodegradable body soap/shampoo, swimsuit, towel and cream rinse and had visions of a good freshwater pool shampoo and bath.  Plus, unlike true native PNWers, I had an umbrella and wasn’t afraid to use it (must be because I was born in California – a trueborn PNW native would never use an umbrella).

This is one of the minor stream crossings on the way back.
It tripled in size by our second crossing of it.

But it kept raining.  And raining.  And raining.  Enough for even a near-native of the PNW to take notice.

Our trail became a stream itself, oozing chocolate-milk brown “water” in a swift flow, as opaque as the stream crossing and typically six inches deep.
Our research indicated the walk to Viapo pool would take 2 ½ hours.  We were an hour into our hike and the rain was nearly unabated and our trail stream continued to build.  We became concerned that first large stream crossing would become impassible, if it wasn’t already.

When we reached the big steam crossing, it had risen several feet in less than two hours, and looked more like am angry torrent than a stream.  This time, none of us felt it wise to attempt crossing.  We began scouting for a better crossing spot, when a group of six other hikers showed up, facing the same predicament.  One of their group was a guide.  He was a tall fellow, and decided to test the crossing, but near halfway across and waist deep* he too suggested finding an alternative crossing.  Meanwhile, the rain abated just enough for the mosquitoes to begin feasting upon us.
*Check back for a video update of that – after a decent stretch of good power and internet.

Not treacherous like Viapo Falls river, but sticky enough to
suck Crocs off your feet if you were unable to sidestep it.

The guide found a slightly less treacherous crossing point, cut some sturdy stick for us to use to brace ourselves, and laid out a plan for crossing. It was dicey, but it worked.  I don’t believe we would’ve made it without his help.  We’d likely have had to wait for the “stream” to fall, however long that would’ve taken.

We were incredibly relieved when at last we returned to our boats, anchored in adjacent Hakatea Bay. 
Later, as I was finishing some passage prep cooking clean-up, Wayne asked, “Do you smell something burning?” 
While I puzzled over it – I knew it wasn’t from my cooking, which was done – Wayne headed to our v-berth bed, where he thought the scent originated.  He opened the anchor locker door, at the foot of v-berth bed to see….

Different point on Viapo Falls river, Nuku Hiva.  Better, but
still marginally passable.  The guide, rear, assists the final hiker
across the slightly shallower but swifter portion of the river.


Wayne figured out it was an electrical short fire and quickly blew it out.**  Whew!  (Sorry – no fire photos – focus was on preserving our sailboat, not “photojournalism”!)
**Watch for a later post on the fire’s cause and fix.

Even though there was almost no smoke or burnt smell, I boiled up some cloves, cinnamon, my usual boat remedy to overcome odor.
“I’ve had more than enough excitement for one day.  I’m ready for a little less adventure,” I told Wayne, who heartily agreed.
Tuamotus-bound, we set sail mid-afternoon the next day.  It was sunny.  “Great day for a waterfall hike,” I kidded Wayne.  We’ll miss the Marquesas lush beauty.  We wish we’d chosen a better day to attempt our Viapo Falls hike.  We won’t miss the rain, silty water, lack of decent beaches and hungry vicious biting mosquitos, nonos a prolific boat-loving wasps.  Watch for a “Marquesas mulligan” post if you’re interested in a single highlights & lowlights roundup of our 6-week Marquesas experience.

See the two waterfalls between the pair of palms?  And the one to
the left of the left palm? Viapo Falls? Not sure.  All these
Nuka Hiva falls were flowing full bore on our way out.

Location Location

We were anchored at Hakatea, aka “Daniel’s Bay” (S8.56.650 W140.09.808) on Nuka Hiva in the Marquesas when we took the Viapo waterfall hike.  That was June 2, 2015; the night of a full moon, when it seems weird weather-related phenomenon abounds.  This post was written on the 565 mile 6-day 24/7 passage begun the next day, to the Tuamotus.  The Tuamotus, like the Marquesas, are still part of French Polynesia, and posted from Papeete,Tahiti (S17.32.380 W149.34.210) municipal marina once we finally! regained internet access.