Tuesday, April 28, 2015

International Cruising Community descends on Garden of Eden

Another day of memories, and things we will talk about for a while.

We actually made it out on time this morning, heading to the beach for an 8:30 start to our Waterfall hike, letting homeschooling be replaced by "International Culture Day in Tropical Paradise Field Trip". Heather whipped some crepes up for breakfast, and scones for the hike, so you know she was ready to go. We are getting better at prepping for hikes, adding a bit more every time to the critical list; Water, Machete, food, snacks, bug spray, sun tan lotion, first aid kit, toilet paper, backpackers towel, and this time some canvas bags for fruit.

While we pulled up our dinghy on the coral beach, our friends on Seattle-based Apropos did likewise, and we were joined by a great French family we met yesterday (the boat KoanTenn from Brittany), a 63 year young French lady from a neighboring boat (who reminded us all of our Oma with her vigor, energy and zest for life), and Marco, Enrica and Pablo from Selavi, a new family we met from Italy. Ten minutes in to our hike, we also coordinated a connection with a nice French family - Oliver, Marie Noelle and Clotilde from the ultra fast catamaran, Jambon Beurre. (A 59 foot minimalist speed machine that had 8 days of more than 320 nm in a 24 hour period on their crossing- our fastest was about 186 nm) Aside from ourselves and Apropos, all of these families have been cruising for between three and thirteen years- and have tons of great knowledge that they freely share, and very, healthy, positive perspective that is energizing to be around. They also speak multiple languages seamlessly, and thankfully for us, their English is wonderful, and they humor our feeble French attempts.

We had been told the hike was a three hour round trip trek, and we started down a well worn path that connected us with the next bay, and a small village (Hakanui) before we headed up the rapidly narrowing canyon. As we entered this small, small village, that houses one extended family, we were overcome by the beauty and the collection of fruit trees that surrounded us, laden with fruit. We started pointing at Starfruit, Pamplemousse, Bananas, Coconuts, Pomme-se-terre, Guayaba, breadfruit, nonni, and a bunch of others I couldnt recognize. Walking down the wide path, each side was adorned with Hibiscus hedges, and a wide variety of tropical, variegated plants in a multitude of colors, it was absolutely mesmerizing, and us adults kept looking at each other in disbelief. As if not enough, we came to a beautiful, shallow river that was 7 meters across and we easily waded in the clean fresh water, stepping on colorful volcanic rocks, and learning from our elderly french companion about a fresh water snail with spikes on its back. We would cross the river several times, and walked along its lazy edge as we continued through the rest of the village, and started in to the canyon and the tropical jungle.

We were quite a large group, with children ages 5-15, and we made our way up the trail at varying speeds, with conversation varying in languages and topics, as we enjoyed the discovery. The jungle started closing in on us, and then started opening again as we gained elevation, exposing a well marked trail, that included large rocks that had been clearly laid a long time ago. We often forget that the anthropologists estimate that the Marquesas at one point had well over 90,000 inhabitants, and now have less than 6,000 - most lost to foreign introduced diseases. The former large population has left behind many artifacts, and remnants of temples, tikis and other marks of civilization that are still undiscovered, and hidden amongst the jungle. There doesnt seem to be a great desire by the locals to uncover these historic places, and maybe protect them from more visitors.

About half way through the hike that was a) longer, and b) more strenous than I thought, I started feeling a growing sense of pride. Our kids can hike. Even Alina and Amaia were gamely trekking up the trail, in ferns, brush and tall ground cover that was waist high for us adults, and head high for them. We also provided them the finest hiking foot attire one wears here: jangles/flip-flops. Not any real complaints, just onward, through the mud, brush, wading through the streams and clamoring over the rocks. It was very cool to see all the kids do the entire hike- over four hours, by themselves, often leading us from the front, bushwacking and trailblazing.

After and hour and a half, I came upon one set of flip flops, blown out and broken on the side of the path. I recognized them as Olivier's and he must have been walking barefoot from there on. Ten Minutes later, Mykaelas $9.99 flip flops blew out as well- maybe not all jangles are created equal. Rather than using one, she also marched on barefoot, building callouses over the remainder of the hike up and down.

Shortly therafter, the canyon started closing in, as the valley got narrower. The canyon walls shot straight up 1500 feet- dark red and black rock. We came upon a sign that warned of falling rocks in English and French. and we trudged on, hoping we were getting close. The narrow valley was covered in beautiful waist high green groundcover, completely overgrown, and hiding the path and started walking through the creek that zigzagged downhill. It reminded me of my youth in Menzlingen's Kupfersiefental, and I smiled as I watched Alina forging and sliding over creek rocks, and in to blind thickets of greenery, with no idea what lay beyond. We finally found the path again as it bent to the right, and the canyon curved in to a stunning deadend-almost like we had come to the center of a maze. The sun reflected off the canyon walls and to our right a waterfall shot over a lower canyon wall and in to a large pool that was surrounded by boulders and green groundcover. Tristan was already in to the pool and making his way across, and beyond an intermediary rock to where the waterfall fell.

The water was not clear, from the recent rainfall, but it was wonderfully cool, and we waded and swam, with expressions of awe coming in many different languages. The back pool directly under the waterfall was deep, and to its right, was a hidden echo chamber that had its own pool and a 15 meter high ceiling. Hopefully the photos will do it all some justice, but we've realized that they often fail to fully express the breadth and power of these natural wonders. As we snacked on Heather's scones, some Haribo and some Jamaica juice from Mexico- we were graced by several stark white tropical terns, with their long tails, doing slow laps half way up the canyon walls. They are probably my favorite bird so far.

After our snack, and after drying off, our group started dispersing at different rates back down the hill. Alexia and Alina paced us down the hill, with barefoot Mykaela firmly trekking down the trail. Upon entering the "Garden of Eden" and the small huts, we came upon Paul, a local who was starting to clear his property, and welcomed us with a proper "Kaoha-Nui". Paul had a huge smile, and spoke great English, improved by bartending on Bora Bora. He showed us the land he was clearing, and the trees laden with fruit. For 1000 Polynesian Franks ($9.20 US) we loaded up on 9 pamplemousse, some Starfruit, and a stalk of Bananas. While heavy, the beautiful walk next to the river, and back through it made life easier.

Many of the families had plans to leave that night, but the strong effort up the mountain made an afternoon of international beach play for the kids a much more prudent parenting decision. Our kids were invited in by the French and Italian, and after Tristan and Lexi swam with the international crew, Amaia kayaked over by herself, and Alina "Boogie Board Paddled" the 400 feet by herself. Games of "tip over the kayak, giggle and laugh" seem to be a universal phenomenon and language barriers, if there were any, seemed to be broken, as the kids played well past when the sun had dropped behind the mountain. Heather and I joined the parents on the beach and enjoyed hearing their stories, as well as getting their well seasoned advice on things like our "rudder wiggle" that we discovered on the crossing. Marco and Oliver, both with catamarans and rudder bearing experience were very helpful, and Oliver stopped by to look at our rudders, and wiggle them from underneath, before proclaiming them to be "not a worry". Its a very helpful and generous community and hopefully we can return the help some where down the road.

We ended the evening dinghying around and exchanging contact information, before joining Apropos for a nightcap beer. We really hope to run in to many of these people some time soon, but we also know the reality that we are moving at different rates, and its hard to reconnect. Hopefully we can keep in touch, and maybe even welcome some of these folks to Lafayette and California sometime. We are keeping a little book of boat cards and blog addresses, hoping to continue to follow these families that have longer journeys planned than our "short" two years.

We are headed back to Taihoae Bay for one night of fueling, provisioning (the AraNui 3 is due in) and hopefully some Chao Mein or Steak Frites. We are definitely starting to fall behind whatever schedule we might have- but at least its not for a lack of things to do or see. We know there is at least one more "must stop" anchorage on the other side of the island and then we need to start watching for a weather window to the Tuamotus-which will be a 3-4 day sail, and our first lesson in atoll "passes" and coral heads.

Thanks again for all of the support and wonderful emails. Hopefully all is well with all of you! CHRIS

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