Fatu Hiva Waterfall & Grotto
Dan and I aren’t the type of people to let a little setback keep us down so we woke up this morning with a renewed vigor and dedication to make it to the ever elusive waterfall here in Fatu Hiva. Of course this time we have made certain to get a little better directions. Ernie of SV Patience was happy to provide a bit more information to us so we’re pretty sure we’ll make it this time. If not, we just won’t see it. I’m sure we can find some photos online if we ever get internet again. LOL
With a blister the size of a half dollar on my left heel I’m not going to be wearing my trusty hiking boots. Nope, I’m relegated to my tennis shoes. They are great shoes, Sketchers, in fact, but they don’t have any ankle support. Ahhh, it will be fine. How hard can this hike be anyway?
We hop in the dink and head to shore. I’m not going to lie, we are both a little sore from our mountain hike yesterday. I mean, after all, we aren’t kids anymore and four hours of serious hiking took its toll on our bodies. Neither of us has that spring in our step today that we had yesterday but we are bound and determined to get there.
As we head down the road we get to the place where we took the wrong path yesterday and it hits me…we are going UP, UP, UP! There is a sharp, switchback in the road to the right that goes at a very steep angle upward and this is where we are headed. My thighs and calves are already burning and I’m thinking to myself that we must be gluttons for punishment. I mean honestly how great can this waterfall really be? I’ve seen lots of waterfalls in my life. What makes this one that I have to see? Oh yeah, I’m whining but I’m still trekking. We get to a halfway point in the steep ascent and take a water break. It’s hot today! The sun is out and there’s not a cloud in the sky right now so we are baking. Dan won’t let us stop for long though. He keeps telling me it will be worse if we do so we keep walking up the hill from hell.
At the top of the hill we come to a fork in the road and there’s a local man walking a large horned cow from one tree to another. You know, they use them to maintain the grounds and apparently it’s time for him to mow the other side of the road. Yes, this is the cow we were supposed to see yesterday. We also see some people walking down from the path to the left. Dan knows one of the men from cruising in Mexico. We stop and chat for a bit and he tells us where to find the trailhead and also says the waterfall is just a “click or so” up the path. GREAT! We are almost there. I can’t wait to cool my aching feet in the cold water.
We continue on up the path and pass a small home. There is one man there working. In the yard are a bunch of banana trees and it appears he is harvesting them to sell. There are a couple of dogs running around with a lot of bark but one move toward them and they are gone. Not far past his home we finally see the trailhead. It is marked with carins. Carins are small groupings of stones that are arranged and used to mark trailheads.
I’m finally starting to get excited as we exit the main path onto this narrow trail. Of course, it’s going up but at least I know we are “just a click or so” away.
As we traverse this new path I realize this is not going to be an easy trek at all. It’s narrow and pretty steep in places. There are rocks covered by forest floor leaves that are wet and slippery. There is some wonderful shade from the trees and it’s pretty cool compared to they hike up to this point but it’s a bit treacherous. This is when I should have my hiking boots. I need the ankle support today.
So, this guy we ran into that said this is “just a click or so away” clearly has no concept of distance. He’s the guy that says it’s a block or two away only for you to find out it three towns over. Yes, I have a few choice words for him if I ever see him again!
The forest does have a magical beauty about it and the strong, pungent scent of decaying foliage envelopes us. We can see the river down to the right about thirty feet below the trail. At one point, however, I’m so exhausted I can barely lift my legs to step up to the next level of rocks. Talk about feeling the burn…Oh yeah I’m feeling it. Just about the time I’ve had all I can take Dan hollers back to me to tell me we’re there. Thank you Lord!
Now if you count yesterday’s hike I’ve hiked close to six hours to get to this mystical waterfall and grotto and honestly I’m expecting something so spectacular that it will take my breath away. Well, you know how it felt when you were a kid and you wanted that one special toy from Santa and you open your last present expecting it to be inside only to find a ducky sweater knitted by your Aunt Thelma? Yep, that’s how I’m feeling right now.
Don’t get me wrong, it fine and it’s pretty, I guess, but it’s certainly nothing I’d have hiked six hours to had I known what I was going to see. In fairness, there hasn’t been much rain in the past few days so that accounts for the fact that there’s not much water running down the face of the rock. The grotto itself is okay. The water isn’t very clear and I certainly don’t see myself jumping in for a swim. You know they do have fresh water eels in this part of the world so I’m not going for a swim if I can’t see what’s coming up around me even though I know some who did swim here.
We do stop, take off our shoes and cool our tootsies in the ice cold water. AHHHH! That feels amazing! I could sit here all day but of course there’s the matter of that two hour hike out of here so we hang out for twenty minutes or so and then head back. By this time my legs are like jello and I’m feeling pretty weak and unstable. Dan promises not to get far ahead and help me through the more steep and narrow parts. He tells me to step exactly where he does and I do. We aren’t ten steps away from the falls when I put my right foot down on this large rock in the path and it collapses under me. Suddenly I’m sunk down to my knee. I smack my right elbow against the rock wall beside me. “Son of a biscuit eater” I yell. Dan looks back to see me half in and half out of this hole. He steps back and helps me out and all I can think is “Thank you God that I didn’t break something”. Yep, this is going to leave a few marks but I’m still able to walk so on we go.
I kid you not we haven’t gone another thirty steps when I step on a rock…exactly where Dan had just stepped, and I go sliding down on my butt into the dirt and mud. Well now, this is getting more fun by the minute. NOT! By this time I’m tired, I’m frustrated and I’m questioning whether or not I’m going to make it out of this jungle alive.
Somewhere along the trail Dan stops to wait on me and he looks down at the river. “Come here. You’ve got to see this.” he calls back to me. I muster up a bit of speed and he starts pointing into the river. “Look at it. It’s an eel” he says. What? An eel, really? Sure enough there is a freshwater eel making its way upstream. It’s about three to four feet long and maybe four or five inches tall! It’s snaking its way around the rocks in pretty shallow water. Only Mr. Observant would see an eel in a stream thirty feet down in the middle of a jungle. I’m just glad I didn’t jump in that grotto!
We keep moving even though we are both exhausted. I keep telling Dan I’m not sure I can make it but he won’t let me give up. He keeps telling me jokes and prodding me along and before I know it we’ve exited the main trail and are on stable ground again. Of course now that we are out of the forest we are back in full sun and it’s even hotter than before. The only good thing is that it’s all downhill from here baby and soon we’ll be back on Dazzler enjoying an ice cold Pacifico. Dan keeps reminding me of that. He’s using it like a stick and carrot to keep me moving. I think he’s afraid I’m going to just sit down and quit but I’m a pretty tough ol’ broad so I keep moving.
Back on the boat we put up our hammocks again and relax and enjoy the rest of the afternoon. It really is a spectacular island and I’m glad I’ve been able to see so much of it but I’ll tell you this right now….I’m done hiking for a few days! This old body needs some well earned rest and this hammock is where I’m going to find it.
Until next time,
Note: If you aren’t somewhat athletic and able to negotiate tough, rocky trails then I’d recommend that you forgo this hike. And, if you want to make this hike and not make the mistake we did on the first day, check back in a couple of days as I’m putting together a “visual map” to guide you there.