Nuku Hiva - Hakaui 1971

Hakaui Bay

Google Earth image of Hakaui and Hakatea Bay

At last we reached the calm of Hakaui Bay, from the distance no houses could be seen. We pulled in along the black sand beach and almost as soon as we arrived some small children appeared on the beach. There were a few small waves but we could not pull up on the steep beach, and even if we could my trunk was so heavy, we couldn't lift it out of the boat. So there was only one solution and that was to open the trunk and start taking things out to lighten it up. As soon as I had taken some things out and placed them on the beach, the children started carting them away as fast as we could unload them. The trunk was so tightly packed that almost everything large and small had to be unloaded, before we could lift it out. Literally hundreds of items had been carried off by the kids, but I didn't care, I had arrived!

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This is not my photo* but this is the place, and the boat that you see here is pretty much the size of Tunui's boat..
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Once we had everything out of the boat, we went up to Martin Taupotini's house which was up beside the mountain a few hundred feet from shore. The children had placed everything on the lawn in front of the house and it was quite a site. I immediately found Martin in the back and tried my best to communicate the purpose of my mission. Maurice McKittrick's idea that Martin spoke some English, was a bit of an exaggeration, and it was lucky that I had my tree house drawings close at hand. What I said was that I wanted to find a "big tree" and Martin understood right away and said that his son Marcel would take me back into the valley to look for just such a tree. But first he asked if I didn't want some beer, I must have looked thirsty after the work we had to get the trunk emptied. He handed me a glass of a very strange looking liquid which turned out to be lemonade, "beer?" I said, "Yes! Hakaui beer!" he retorted with a big grin.

Martin Taupotini, February 1971 Hakaui

Martin Taupotini 1971

Marcel and I then set off straight away heading back into the valley to find a suitable tree. The walk through the valley is something out of the fantastic, Massive volcanic spires rise steeply out of the valley in the form gigantic obelisks, enclosed by sheer walls rising more than a thousand feet straight up.

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A photo cannot truly show this spectacle of peaks that disappear into the sky.
(Click on this image to see an enlargement)

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To get some idea of the scale, notice the coconut palms at the base of the cliff
(probably some of these coconuts are nearly 50 to 60 feet tall, or about the height of a 5 story building).
(Click on this image to see an enlargement)

We walked about 2 miles along the old trail which was in many parts paved with stone slabs and close by, there were many stone walled platforms now all overgrown with jungle. The amount of platforms and rock walls was staggering. In a valley that is now virtually uninhabited there must have been at one time, thousands.

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This is not my photo, but is the sort of thing that is everywhere and there are plenty of
larger structures that seem to parallel those that Suggs found in Taipivai.

huge walls

The photo shown above is from: The Island Civilizations of Polynesia, by Robert C. Suggs, 1960.

house reconstruction in Taipivai

This house has been constructed in the old fashion on a typical massive stone platform "paepae" that abound in Hakaui.

At the back of this valley is the most spectacular piece of nature that I had ever witnessed, a very high waterfall that appears to flow out of the top of the mountain.

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Ahuii Waterfall, also known as Vaipo Waterfalls, is the tallest waterfall in the Pacific after New Zealand and Hawaii.
It is a horseshoe-shaped waterfall with a free-fall height of 350 meters.

(Click on this image to see an enlargement)

click on this image to see an enlargement

From the valley floor this waterfall looks like an impossible miracle,
the whole plateau that feeds the fall is hidden from view.
(Click on this image to see an enlargement)

By the time we got back to the house we had walked about 4 miles in the jungle and heat. And in all this time I did not see a tree that seemed to match my drawings, however not far from Martin's house I did see an interesting half destroyed paepae that was next to a large tree, I speculated that I could build something on this spot that would incorporate both ideas, of the older style house and a tree house. Martin said I was welcome to use the spot and so the next day I set off straight away to cut some posts and fix them into place.

first day

See the next page, notes and diagrams taken from my 1971 diary.

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