02 April 2009 | Daniel's Bay, Nuku Hiva, Marquesas
Cutting through a local's backyard, passing by horses grazing along the riverside, waving to the native gathering coconuts, and snapping photos of the ancient tikis.. this is just the first 30 minutes of our day's adventure. Our guide book mentions a 90-minute hike to Vaipo, the 3rd highest waterfall (350m high) in the world. We packed our DEET to battle the nonos (no-see-ums), drinking water, baguettes, bananas and fig newtons. We were ready for anything. But most importantly, the camera, which would never be able to capture the true beauty of sights we saw. The huge 800m basalt mountains surrounded us with steep vertical drops in the Hakaui Valley. They are covered with lush green vegetation, making them look like huge green carpets covered in frosting. Their edges are soft, not angular and harsh. After following the trail, which ran along ancient stone walls, man-made rock stepping-stones across rivers, and past kilometers of green ground cover with happy yellow flowers, we arrived at a place that is more than surreal. Tom looked up and said, "It's like standing at the base of skyscrapers in New York City, only a thousand times better!" Parts of it resembled the green hills of "Sound of Music", but with a much more majestic backdrop. Then you see the waterfall, cascading into a swimming basin, welcoming you to come and cool off. Which we all did, immediately, swimming right up into a cavern, letting the waterfall shower over us. Our friends on s/v Chtimagine III, a French family, with a son and daughter, the same age as our kids, had arrived earlier and just finished their plunge as we entered the pool. Philip warned us of the crayfish and eels that shared the pond w/us. They were not dangerous, but certainly added a flair to the experience! Other than our 2 families, there wasn't another soul there. You really felt like a true explorer, not a tourist. In French and English, we all agreed the hike was well worth the beauty. After a picnic and photos, it was time to return to Zen in Daniel's Bay. This time, for the return hike, the kids, having pals to keep their pace, ventured off ahead, leaving the parents to savor the natural beauty of the trek back. We were treated to a gang of kids, splashing, laughing and playing in the water near our dinghies. We are not finished cruising, but it's a lock. Marquesas will go down as one of the top 5 favorite places ever visited by Zen. We'll share some incredible pictures when we reach broadband internet in about 6 weeks when we reach Tahiti.