In to the lost city

In the Vaipo valley on the island of Nuku Hiva there is a huge waterfall. The valley is only accessible by boat and cut off from the surrounding areas by huge vertical cliffs. Heidi commented that it looks like the land that time forgot.

Having anchored in the bay, we paddled the dinghy to the beach, towed it up the river at low tide and moored it to an overhanging palm tree. We took the main path through the immaculate village of Hakaui and exchanged greetings with all those we met. A fully tattooed local asked how we liked his valley and, when we gave a positive answer, presented us with a grapefruit from his garden.

Once out of the village, we followed the remains of a substantial track some three meters wide. This was raised above the surroundings and lined with large stones. At one point we had to ford the river but, despite stories from other sailors, nothing bit us. As we continued through the jungle we were continually passing ruins and the foundations of houses. At one point we passed an area that looked like the ceremonial areas we knew from elsewhere. The impenetrable jungle was obviously hiding a lost city. Heidi was in Indiana Jones mode, dreaming of lost diamonds and head hunters.

At one point we saw the waterfall across the valley cascading many hundreds of meters down the vertical cliff. Down by the river we lost the path and spent half an hour clambering over moss covered ruins and under huge trees before returning to the river. On our second attempt we realised that the fallen tree was actually the bridge and crossed it to find the path continued on the far side. Up close, the waterfall was less impressive as you could see less of it but the gorge was stunning in its size and steepness.

Back in the village we learned that before the missionaries arrived, “with their god and their diseases”, there had been 20 000 people living in the valley which explained all the ruins. The city had extended from the river up to the temples which was the reason for the “main highway” that we had followed. A local lady proudly explained how her ancestors had lived here before the Europeans decimated the islands.

Another exciting day and further proof that a boat gets you to unbelievable places that you would otherwise never see.

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