We are currently anchored in Daniel’s Bay, so named for a long term local named Daniel that apparently has moved on between the writing of our guide book and our visit. While this bay has much to offer on it’s own, it is most famous (at least among the American cruisers) for being the location of a season of the television show Survivor. After hiking through the fruit laden valley near the bay yesterday, I think anyone who couldn’t survive here might not deserve to. But then I’ve always suspected these shows were rather rigged and now I have even stronger suspicions.
On Friday, we joined Deborah and Andy from Murar’s Dream for a hike to a waterfall at the head of the valley. We tried to get a reasonable early start to beat the afternoon heat. Also because we had been informed that at 4:00 pm the cows come to the beach, and apparently have a distaste for dinghies and might gore our inflatable with their horns. This seemed like a pretty strong reason to be back before 4:00 pm, maybe even a little earlier just in case the cows came home ahead of schedule. Probably for the better we missed the warning that we needed to be off the trail by about the same time because the wild boars start to attack. I guess beautiful scenery comes with its own set of hazards, however unique.
Despite the dangers, known and unknown, our hike was nothing short of spectacular. After landing the dinghy (and avoiding stepping on any sea urchins, another warning based on sailors experience a couple days earlier), walking for ten minutes and wading across the first of six total stream crossings (three each way) we arrived on the valley floor and encountered the most active, happy Marquesian we’ve seen yet. In between heaving what looked to be 100 lb sacks of produce into his dilapidated truck sans drivers door, he chatted with us in broken English, showed us his rebar contraption to husk coconuts and shared the inside with us, and gave us all a fresh bananas. He had impressive tattoos including a war club from belly button to the top of his sternum. All done, he explained, in the traditional method. What is that, you may ask? The ink was pounded into his skin with a sharks tooth. I’m quite happy this chap was friendly, because honestly I would be scared of him if he took a dislike to me. Happily he seemed to enjoy visiting with us, smiling despite the wool hat he had on in temperatures that already produced the familiar sheen of sweat on me. He showed us how to smear coconut meat on our bodies as an insect repellent with the explanation “No no-nos,” referring to the small biting insects we are constantly worried about. Since we had some powerful DEET repellent I stuck with western methods although I wouldn’t be surprised if his method worked just as well and left you smelling significantly more fragrant.
We continued inland, walking through farmland. Just my guess, but a lot of the fruits grown here probably supply the town we had been anchored at the day before. While not exactly laid out like a traditional farms I‘ve been on, there was obvious organized agriculture going on. Probably not hard when fruit trees grow like weeds, but it made us wonder with the past large populations of these islands how long ago they developed agriculture.
As signs of the current civilization faded, we encountered signs of the past civilization. Stone walls and platforms dotted the jungle. At times the trail was supported by rock walls as high as ten feet, built with large boulders. Of course, there were no placards with information about the ruins, so far all we knew they could be a few years old but our suspicion was they were much older. We finally cleared the heavy jungle trail, which was dotted with fallen flowers and a small purple fruit which we could hear hitting the ground like small bombs when a breeze stirred the trees. We were in a canyon with steep 1000 foot plus high cliffs, and now the trail was dotted with small darting lizards, that I mostly identified by their tails disappearing into the foliage.
This turned out to be a hike about the journey, not the destination as there wasn’t much of a waterfall that was hidden from view anyway. Instead we enjoyed the birds soaring above us, the steep cliffs and lush ground cover glowing in the sunlight. We snacked and enjoyed the view which sadly just didn’t lend itself to great pictures between the scale and lighting of the location. Finally, with the memory of the warnings about the cows ringing in our ears we started back down the trail.
We encountered another friendly local on the way down, again despite his appearance. He sported dreadlocks, traditional tattoos, and his blue jumpsuit was tied around his waist. He gave us directions to the river which was rumored to have a swimming hole, something that sounded quite refreshing to all of us. He seemed to think we had not quite understand his directions, so he followed us down to the river. We didn’t see a swimming hole, but inquired if it was okay to wade here. He responded it was not, and peered into the water, then reached and pulled out a small snail with a barb on the top of the shell. Of course, now that I knew about these I promptly stepped on one during our next stream crossing which I had been doing barefoot. I’m not sure which was worse, the snail or the lesson I learned about hat brims, peripheral vision and low hanging branches when I boulder hopped across on of the stream crossing rather than wading like everyone else.
Finally we arrived back out our dinghy, unscathed by bovine horns. It was quite a day of hiking, but worth every sore muscle. We even managed to recover enough for a cocktail hour with Adam and Cindy from Bravo, a Seattle based boat I hadn’t crossed paths with till the Marquesas. We very likely met before as they have also done some Whidbey Island Race weeks. It was a fun way to wrap up the evening and pick up some inspiration for my continued cruising as they had sailed as far south as Ecuador and really enjoyed it.
To wrap up our visit the next morning, we deployed a flotilla of three kayaks and two paddle boards. The bay has a couple lobes and the once we rounded the point into the other lobe, we paddled over a bar crossing into a lagoon fed by the river we had crossed countless (okay six since I already mentioned it) times the day before. The lagoon was spectacular, clear cold water with cliffs in the background climbing into to the sky. I wouldn’t have been surprised if a teradactyl flew over head, or even if, despite a complete lack of monkeys on the island, King Kong crashed out of the vegetation. If I knew in advance a three hour tour would strand me here, I just might still get on the boat.
Paddling complete after a little more adventurous trip into the waves back over the bar, we put everything away and decided we still had time for the trip to the next island. It was only 25 miles, and turned out to be a motored trip with the jib out for a slight speed boost. We are now on Ua Pao (think Wahoo! with a P) and waiting for wind to head for the Tuamotus. The forecast isn’t looking good, but we are at least anchored out front of a town that based on our quick trip ashore last night merits further exploration. Further information to come as we explore.