I awoke after our restful day of snorkeling ready to take on the world. We needed to go on a hike, or scuba dive, or at least set foot on Moorea. The dive boats were full, so I convinced my parents to go on a hike that I discovered from a map of Moorea on the back of the $5 fish identification card I recently bought. We beached our dinghy and walked towards the trailhead, or where I thought it was.
After walking up several dirt driveways and asking locals for directions, none of which were consistent, we found the path. The resident next to the trailhead said that we were starting too late to do the entire hike, but there were good views nearby. However, she warned that the beginning was the hardest part – an opinion that I now disagree with.
The three of us started up the mountain, crouching under branches and weaving through trees. After about 20 minutes my parents decided to quit and get lunch instead. I continued even though I was woefully unprepared for the hike. My Nike running shoes were no match for the steep grade and mud, and I should have worn pants since the trail was overgrown with ferns and even wild raspberries. Additionally, gloves would have been great to protect me from thorns that frequently stabbed me when I used plants to pull myself up particularly steep portions. My biggest mistake was lack of water. I had two half liter water bottles, which I consumed completely by the summit.
While I was regretting my decisions, my parents were enjoying a delicious seafood lunch at a café owned by a hiker. She informed them that the locals start the hike at 5am and bring four liters of water since it is the hardest on the island. That did little to reassure my mom that I was going to survive.
At that point I had been climbing for an hour and a half, so I rationalized. I was roughly half way up, plus, I previously had done long hikes in Grand Teton National Park so this would still be easily manageable. People who abandon ship and evacuate to life rafts don’t drink any water for the first 24 hours, and they usually take much longer to die. I would be fine.
I brought my new camera and took a few pictures on the way, but passed on other good shots because I thought I would be less hurried on the way down. I wanted to make sure I would finish before dark, and maybe I would have a nice sunset picture if I waited. I was wrong.
Three quarters of the way to the summit, clouds surrounded me. The visibility was better underwater while we were snorkeling. I could see only 20 feet ahead, so at each ridge I thought I was done, just to discover the path continued. At times it was so overgrown I thought I took a wrong turn and was on a goat path. At this point I knew the sky was not going to clear. I was not going to get the spectacular views of the crater, or the other peaks on Moorea. Determination and not wanting to be a quitter carried me toward the summit.
Eventually, I looked at my location on Google Maps. I cross referenced it with my fish identification card map. I made it. Just ahead, there was a small clearing where I imagine people take lovely pictures, maybe have a picnic, or admire the stunningly rugged landscape. I looked around at some clouds, drank the rest of my water, and thought to myself, how in God’s name am I going to get down.
The descent was as bad as I expected. I fell no fewer than six times since my shoes were caked in mud, the soles completely smooth. At one point I thought I was supposed to pass under a tree. I was holding on to a large branch and my feet plunged through a thin layer of sticks into air. I don’t know how far I would have fallen, but I’m glad I didn’t find out. I had to do a chin up to pull myself back up to the path. My heart raced and adrenaline pumped.
Eventually I made it down, bleeding from various wounds from falling on sharp, volcanic rocks, and brown from dirt. My mom was waiting for me at the bottom with a water, which I chugged, despite knowing that when you’re dehydrated, you are supposed to take little sips. When you anticipate something for three hours, moderation is not a priority. We walked to the beach to meet up with my dad, where I was able to shower and swim to get mostly clean.
The hike was the tallest point on Moorea at 899 meters, my step tracker said I traveled nine miles, and it took six hours. Once I heal, I will hike on the next island, Huahine, this time with extra water and an early start. I would certainly try the hike again on a clear day if I return to Moorea, but would not recommend it for a casual day hike.