Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Travel Journal: Big Island's Ka'awaloa Trail to Kealakekua Bay

Think twice. Those are the words of warning posted in red on the sign at the trail head off Napo'opo'o Road. Many hikers have suffered injury or required rescue here. I read most of the sign, didn't think much of it, and carried on my merry way.

After all, I can handle 3.8 miles. No big deal. It's all downhill and when I get to the bottom (after a leisurely swim) I can just hitch a ride or have a friend give me a lift out. There must be plenty of roadways leading down to the Bay, it's a popular attraction with the Captain Cook Monument being there. This is what I tell myself as I hike along through the tall grasses.

It certainly was hot, around 80 degrees and humid. But I had a bottle of water and a meal bar, plus I had about 22 oz of fresh coconut water on tap from the drupe. So what's the worst that could happen? Probably not death by dehydration.

So I remember very distinctly the sign at the trail head said it was 3.8 miles down to the Kealakekua Bay... but I passed (what I thought was) mile marker 1, mile marker 2, mile marker 3, 4, 5 and now 6! The sign even said If lost or injured, make note of the distance marker along the trail, stay put, call 911. So what else could these far spaced out numbered posts be except mile markers? But if they are mile markers why am I coming up on the 7th one?? When is this going to end?!!

But there was no 7th marker. Eventually after many cuts, stumbles, and mosquito bites the trail descended into the perfect splendor of Kealakekua Bay. Even though I was utterly exhausted and sore I broke into a jog toward the pristine blue waters.

I stripped down to my bikini, hung my belongings on a nearby tree, and slid down the algae-covered lava rock into the water. I rubbed the sweat and sunscreen off my skin and wet my hair. Then I gazed around at the majesty of the high cliffs and the deep cerulean water. Right then, it hit me...

There was no road. There was no path along the edge of the Bay. There were plenty of people but they all had one thing in common... a boat. I panicked.

It took me almost 2 hours to hike down so it was probably going to take me 4 hours to hike up the steep grade. My feet were blistered from my sandals. I was almost out of water. I only had energy from one protein bar to fuel me. I knew it would not only be miserable but quite dangerous to attempt the hike back.

After the panic subsided, I sprung into action. First order of business: procure more water. See that charter boat in the above photo, I swam out to it.

"Hey, do you guys have some extra water for me?" I shouted from blue.

"Yeah, come aboard!"

Easy. The crew was just two rough looking older guys. They filled a plastic bag with two water bottles and an electrolyte drink for me. One guy jotted down his number and slipped it into the bag as well. They wished me well but they couldn't bring me back with them because they had a whole boatload full of high paying tourists to take back to town. Picking up a straggler would look bad. Whatever.

I swam back to the shore with my plastic bag full of hydration in tow. Some kayakers were now on the rocks near my stuff and they saw me haul in the water and gulp some it down. Lucky for me they were curious.

They were a dad, mom, and daughter visiting from Southern California. They came in on one kayak to snorkel the reef. I told them about the trail and how it seemed longer than advertised. I told then about my footwear situation and how little I had eaten. They took pity.

Yet, with only one kayak, what could they do? Turns out, that one little kayak would carry us 4 adults all the way across the deep and choppy Bay to the wharf on the other side. It barely worked. We took on so much water I thought we would sink and every time we hit a wave I thought we would tip.

It was not easy. These people were novice kayakers and we zigzagged all the way across the bay. Two people to paddle, two people to bail water. I couldn't let myself think about capsizing. The bay is so deep and dark, plus we had all of our dry clothes and electronics on us. Finally, we made it to the other side! I was so thankful for these people going out of their way to help me. Seriously, if you stumble upon this blog post... THANK YOU!!!

Lesson learned. Pack extra water, plan ahead, and maaaaybe think twice. 


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