Vaipo Waterfall

May 25, 2012

Peer pressure was (for once) well placed when it was applied to our reluctance to hike “5 hours” to see another waterfall. We had already seen one in Fatu Hiva and it was quite magnificent. That hike was great too, but I just couldn’t motivate for a much longer hike, even if it was the 3rd highest waterfall in the world.

“It’s amazing,” “It’s breathtaking,” “You’ve got to see it, really.” We heard nothing but praise and even from people who had already trekked to the one in Fatu. In the end it was Wondertime that brought us around to the hike. They hadn’t arrived yet and we didn’t want to leave for the Tuamotus without catching up with them. For so many reasons, this was the right call.

The hike, first of all, was really disorienting and stunning. It started out on the main “road.” I put road in quotes because it was only about 3/4 mile long and then dead ended into a river. Everyone in the village had a truck though, and the road was well used. In any case this thoroughfare gave the distinct impression that the hike was going to be a bit of a yawner.

Crossing the river changed that preconception in an instant. It’s out of the farm and into the jungle in 10 eel infested steps (of course we only suspected there were eels at that point).  A mile or more into the jungle and we started to notice that we were walking along what seemed to be a thousand year old lava stone path. Some ancient Marquesan corps (it appeared) had spent the better part of a lifetime building a robust retaining wall and path through the ever consuming rain forest. That alone was worth the hike in my book. It was humbling and kind of creepy too. Those guys would have eaten me right?

We passed a ma’are with what appeared to be a pig trap and one of the trippiest patches of forest I have ever seen (and that includes the sculpted trees at Usal Beach). Then we came to the largest of the 5 or so river crossings. On account of our eel suspicions, we had been rock hopping our way across the other rivers, but this one had no such easy path. I took Ruby across first, carrying her for the last part, and then went back for Miles. I carried him the whole way and got the kids up on the (6′) high bank to watch Vick cross. She came right across (through the water) and was just about to step onto land when I heard her shriek and hop sideways out onto a rock. Then I saw a four foot long eel swim from where she had just been. I think she stepped on it’s home in the roots by the river’s edge.

Laughing and slightly off balance we walked the final mile (ish) to the falls. Along the way we were warned about falling rocks and told (by a sign) not to proceed when it was raining. This confused us as it seemed to rain perpetually there (it was sunny when we left Convivia, but had rained on and off all day since we entered the jungle).  We proceeded.

When we got to the falls we ran into the crews of Panta Ray, Blue Rodeo, and Diamond Girl. As we ate our lunch the others started pushing us to swim to the falls. The water in the intervening lake was mud brown and we both knew what lived in there. There was no freakin way. We told them about the eels. They made fun of us. We told them it was too cold, they looked at us like we were a bunch of wusses. They pushed and finally Vick snapped “We can’t go with the kids and I don’t want to go without Tucker. Will YOU watch our kids?” “That will shut them up,” I thought, but Ann from Blue Rodeo took us right up on the offer. I should have known 🙂

So it was that peer pressure provided its second gift to us. Swimming through the muddy water was indeed terrifying, and cold. When I took a mouth full I thought of some weird parasite that was going to kill me in some colorful way and spat quickly and with vigor.  But when we stepped through the crack in the rocks on the other side of the lake, and entered the final pool leading up to the falls I no longer cared. WHOOOSH, air and water buffeted us. It was freezing, and noisy and just out of this world amazing. We declined to swim under, which we later took more guff for, but I don’t think it would have added any more to my bliss. My mind had already been blown enough for one day.

Hiking back with the other sailors was a ton of fun. The kids happily raced back and forth along the line of hikers and made friends with everyone. When Miles ran out of steam (which came much later than I had expected)  Mark (again from Blue Rodeo) put him up on his shoulders for the duration.

At the end of the hike we stopped at several farms and had lime aid, fresh fruit, fried plantain, and finally, at Teiki’s house demonstrations on coconut husking and grating. As we motored back to Convivia we saw Wondertime pulling in and immediately changed course to invite them for dinner. In retrospect I’m not sure how we managed to stay awake, but we did, until 11 or so.


  1. Comment by Camanoe Steph

    Camanoe Steph June 9, 2012 at 1:01 pm

    I know everyone is watching out for the eels, but I guess I’m unsure as to what would happen if you came in contact with one.

    • Comment by Tucker Bradford

      Tucker Bradford June 9, 2012 at 4:24 pm

      Some of them can chomp down pretty hard if they think you are tresspassing. In this case they seemed pretty docile. It was freaky though because we had watched a Marquesan dude playing with on in a swamp and it was feirce!

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