Visiting the Bay of Penises
29 April 2016 | 8 52.81'S:140 02.95'W, Nuka Hiva, Marquesas Islands
Yes, that is the correct name. "Baie de Verges" comes from the early wooden sailing ships that visited here and noticed the impressive conical rock formations found here. However, the missionaries slipped in an Ã"i', changing the name to Baie de Vierges, which translates to Bay of Virgins.
But I digressÃ‰
After leaving Tahuata Island, near Hiva Oa, we set off of the 40 nm sail to the Bay of Virgins/Penises on Fatu Hiva. It was hard on the wind, not an optimal angle for a catamaran, so we were very pleased when after about 6 hours we passed into the lee of Fatu Hiva Island.
This is a very striking place with steep cliffs, completely covered with greenery, that reach right down to the water. The bay itself is narrow, deep, and incredibly gorgeous. No matter how nice, it is a very challenging anchorage with poor holding in deep water. After three attempts we managed to get the hook to set in 75' of water. We were warned to 30-40 knot gusts through the anchorage so we slept with the anchor alarm on and one eye open.
Getting to shore was challenging as well. Even behind their little breakwater, there was quite a strong surge necessitating a good dinghy stern anchor and nimble timing to climb onto the slimy cement sea wall. My dinghy anchor is too wimpy for this surge, so we headed to shore with our friends John & Deb from Moonshadow and their very skookum dinghy anchor!
But, it was all worth it. The small town here is very friendly with every local saying "Bonjour!" as we walked by. Our goal this morning was to reach the 200' waterfall and swimming hole about 90 minutes up the valley. After a few wrong turns we found the right path and started climbing up through the jungle. Everywhere we walked we could see "pae pae's which are foundations of ancient Polynesian houses. Although there are only about 150 people living in the valley now, there were thousands before the European explorers arrived.
We continued climbing through the jungle, passing so many fruit trees that we stopped counting. bananas, pamplemouse, noni, papaya, etc were nearly everywhere. Combined with the wild boar and wild goats, it would be impossible to starve here.
Finally, we could hear the waterfall and quickened our pace to get to the swimming hole at its base. Even in the 32c weather, the water was cool and refreshing - even chilly at first. The waterfall itself is just what you would imagine a tropical waterfall to be. It was about 200' high and had carved itself a round shaft out of the solid rock over millions of years. Instead of pounding water, it was more like a heavy rainfall as it landed in the deep pool at its base. We took turns treading water under the falls as we hoped that a rock or log was not about to come down!
Back in town, we visited the one store in town to pickup some refreshments. I bought a 1.5L bottle of Tahitian Cola for the equivalent of $5 Canadian. Yikes!
Next, we sailed back to Tahuata for a couple of nights, and then enjoyed a partial overnight sail to Nuka Hiva, about 85 nm away, where we are now. This island is famous as the place where Herman Melville jumped shipped off of a whaler in 1842. His book Typee is set here and is a very good read with great descriptive passages about life on Nuka Hiva in the olden days. Now that we are here, tucked in securely at the end of Baie Hakahoa, I can see why he risked it all to stay here! Steep green cliffs, calm seas, and warm breezes - what more could you ask for!
Our mission today is to head to shore, visit the small village, and find the trail to another great waterfall. Another day in paradise.