For our second day of climbing on ‘Eua island we decided to head to a crag on the North-east coast accessible from Olu Beach. Ostensibly we had a simple plan: (i) make our way to Olu Beach, (ii) walk north along the coast to the crag, (iii) climb crag. As it turned out the first step was more involved then we had originally anticipated. Having experienced the wonders of navigation the day before we at least started out using a good digital map from the outset. We also had a 4WD vehicle, although it still looked like a standard road car and didn’t have as much clearance as an SUV. Nevertheless we were hopeful of driving all the way to Olu beach. How wrong we were :) It turns out that the closest we could get (and that involved adventurous driving) was still about a 30 minute hike from the beach.
The crag is north of the beach along the coast so we walked to the north end of the beach and started rock-hopping along the rocky shore around the edges of the rock pools. We had been careful to check the tide, which was about mid-tide and going out when we arrived: just about perfect for our trip as access to Olu Beach crag is not possible at high tide. After about 20 minutes of enjoyable slow progress around the rocks we identified Olu beach crag. It is definitely possible to walk straight passed it, as the bolts are not immediately obvious, and there are only a few routes that start from the base of the cliff. But a key landmark is the muppet cave high above on the cliff.
After inspecting the three routes that are possible from the base of the cliff we decided to climb the Muppet Show (grade 19). It has a bouldery start, but then becomes less steep with a traverse into a corner and eases to a much lower grade in the top third up into the Muppet cave and awesome views. It is important to take care with quickdraw selection in the central part of this climb, as we experienced rather severe rope drag towards the top of the climb.
After climbing the Muppet Show we decided that the selection of climbs at Olu beach crag was a bit limited, especially for top-roping for Aiden. We didn’t have enough time left in the day to go back to the Whale wall, but we had seen in the guide that there was an easy route at Houma Tahi cave which might be good for Aiden to try. So we decided to use the afternoon to investigate Houma Tahi cave, which was further north along the same coast. Unfortunately we would have to walk all the way back to the car, which was quite far south, before heading north on a different track through dense forest to Houma Tahi beach.
The approach to Houma Tahi cave was indeed long and adventurous. We were much better prepared for navigational difficulties, but we still had some uncertainties and the trail virtually disappeared at some points and was very overgrown for the last kilometre or so. Again the vehicle had to be left very early on, and the hike to Houma Tahi beach took us about an hour from where we parked the car. Along the way we were rewarded by a sighting of a Koki (Red Shining Parrot), which is a native parrot species that lives on ‘Eua island. By the time we arrived at the beach it was about 4pm and the sun was low on the horizon. Given the terrain, we were not keen to hike back after sunset, so there was some indecision about whether we had enough time to locate Houma Tahi cave or not.
Aiden and Alex was keen to give up finding the crag and go for a swim instead (Houma Tahi beach is beautiful). But I really wanted to find the cave, so I started running south along the beach with my heavy pack, looking for the entrance to the cave. It was further south than I had expected, but eventually I found a hidden entrance through the undergrowth and was rewarded with the most beautiful natural archway. After a few minutes of searching we found the single bolted route and decided we had just enough time to climb it and then make our way straight back to the car, which we thought we could do by taking a shortcut out the back of the cave to meet up with the track we had come in on.
As it happened we all managed to climb the route and get back to the car before sunset. This ended up being a very long day, with just two climbs in it, but also a lot of fun adventure :)