Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Braving the Elements at Makapu'u Tidepools

The path to the top of Makapu'u Point is paved. It's one of the first stops "off-the-beaten-path" when leaving Honolulu. We cruised up the gentle slope, only the heat from the midday sun causing us to break a sweat. I wondered why weren't in the jungle on a secluded path destined for some mighty waterfall. Several minutes in, I couldn't yet see the appeal... just tourists and children.

Then he bounded away from the asphalt and over to the edge.

"You have to see this!"

I followed. We climbed up the face of a natural rock wall, slightly sloped so that if you were agile you could perhaps scaled it with no hands. Of course, he did. I crawled up using my hands and feet, occasionally my knees and butt. Every once in while, he knew to turn around and offer me his hand.

At the top, the breeze could reach us and it cooled my sun baked skin. The view was that of infinite ocean but then he pointed out a low, light shadow on the horizon which was the island Lanai, maybe Moloka'i. I was taken with the view when he pointed to where we were headed. Straight down.

"Don't worry, there are sort of switchbacks."

At the bottom was a collection of tide pools. Some the size of a bath tub and others like an olympic swimming pool. The massive oceans waves crashed into them and sent a surge of smaller waves rushing through the pools.

There was a sign posted at the top of the ridge above the tide pools informing us that people had died there recently - a father and his young daughter.  A wave simply took them out to sea and they could not survive. I wanted to stand at the top and watch for a moment to get an idea of what I was about to experience but he assured me that high tide was not until 2 o'clock and it was still morning. We would be fine.

I basically crab walked the whole way down. It didn't help that once again I was wearing the wrong shoes. I tried to follow his path but I've learned now that when he says, "This way is easier" it really means that way is more fun and interesting to him and he wants me to try it too. I'm just trying to survive here.

The closer we got to the pools though, the faster I climbed down. I began shedding my clothes on the final stretch. At the bottom, we hid our belongings and walked over the warm stones to the edge of a small tide pool. The wet rocks were covered in a slippery layer of algae. I slid into the perfectly cool water and all around me I saw periwinkle snails, gobies, damselfish, ear seaweed, and a couple of zebra blenny.

We quickly graduated from the small tidepool and climbed over the rocks into a larger one closer to the shore and the crashing waves. This pool was actually quite deep; I couldn't touch the bottom in the middle of it. I dove down and opened my eyes but the salt was concentrated in the pools and it stung badly. 

Then we saw a massive wave preparing to crash over the pool. I had no idea what this would actually mean for us. Would it be like a smooth but mighty ripple or something a bit more turbulent? He dove forward toward the wave and into the deepest part of the pool. I tried to anchor myself to the rocks at the inland edge. He was under when the wave hit and according to his retelling... everything went black. The massive wave tried to force my body into places it couldn't physically go, into the rocks. 

It was over in seconds and all I got was this lousy scrape. 

After that I stuck to the smaller pools that are more protected from the angry surf. It was peaceful then. Floating in the still waters with the sun gleaming off my skin was like a dream. I was beginning to drift off when I heard him calling me. 

God, is that you? I thought. 

Just kidding, it was Ian. He was perched on a high rock, calling for me to come over. Something about a secluded tide pool. We hiked a little ways up the coast and around a bend...

It was magnificent! The biggest of them all; it was deep, clear, and mostly sheltered from the brunt of the waves. Just a tiny swell washed over the pool every couple of minutes to keep it fresh. The best part, no people! The worst part, totally inaccessible! 

From where we stood, the tide pool was 15 feet below. The cliff was slightly inverted too, so we needed a rope to get down, which we didn't have. 

It didn't matter though. The sight of it was glorious enough. So spectacular that I forgot to snap a single pic. So please enjoy this pic of me sunning myself on some cliff, somewhere, that is not there, but very near by.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Travel Journal: The Journey to Ka'ena Point

I left Big Island when the moon was full. I took the death of two lambs and the disappearance of a cat as my cue to go. I packed all my belongings and hitched into town where I eventually found a host for the night. In his cozy bungalow I booked a one-way plane ticket to Oahu, leaving in two days.

Superstitious and impulsive, I won't deny it.

My first two nights I stayed in a hostel in Waikiki - towering resorts and luxury boutiques, fancy cars and packed beaches. Everyone was on their honeymoon or family reunion trip. Not my cup of tea but worth seeing.

The next four nights I stayed mostly with this guy, Dax, who was my seat mate on my initial flight out to the islands. We stayed in touch and he was happy to host. I stayed one night with my friend Ian, who is the brother of a past housemate of mine. Then I found my farm...

On the westside of Oahu in the Makaha valley about one quarter mile from the shore is a small farm where I've temporarily landed. Not many people come to the Westside. It's a local's place. I heard it was dangerous and full of meth heads but I haven't seen any yet. Lots of small family homes, pitbulls, and junkyard boats and trucks. The beaches are never packed and the sunsets are beautiful. Makaha valley, where the farm is located, is too stunning for words.

The farm is close to the end of the main road that almost encircles the island. It stops though and you can't reach the north shore unless you turn back, drive east, and then north. Or unless you hike. From our farm to the end of the road is only a few miles and then from the trail head to the western-most point is only a few more. 

So my friend Abby and I decided to hike to the point from the westside. At the same time, my friends Ian and Beth hiked there from the north shore. We made camp at the very tip. Like so...

Ka'ena Point, according to Hawaiian mythology, is known as the leaping point to the spirit world. This is the place where Hawaiian souls came for judgement. If one's earthly duties are complete, the soul may cross over and be guided to po (heaven) or the soul is sent back, or possibly stuck out of body and left to roam the jagged coast as a monk seal or crab.

On the hike out we noticed where the trail narrowed and sloped toward the shoreline; a few vehicles were not able to make the pass and rolled down onto the rocks below. Now there was nothing left but rusting sheet metal and an engine. Sometimes two feet beat four wheels.

We hiked straight on into the sun, the ocean glittering alongside. I could not have been more excited for our adventure. My mom told me that my smile is always its biggest when I've got on my hiking pack and boots. Too accurate.

After a while, we approached a huge fence with a double gate. There was little information about what the gate was for and if/when it would be locked, but we were set on camping at the point so we went through even if it meant we couldn't get back out until sunrise. Turns out the impenetrable fence was to protect young shearwaters from dogs and other predators.

The other side was covered with dozens upon dozens of holes where the baby shore birds were nesting. Even as babies they were the size of footballs, fuzzy grey footballs. The little guys need to rest because as adults they spend 8 months at sea. At night the fully grown ones soared all around our sandy camp spot. To me, they look like pterodactyls.

Abby and I reached the point about half an hour before sunset. It was so beautiful. Big waves from the north and a light current from the west converged ahead of us. The last remaining people there, besides us, were about to hike out. The point was our playground. There was a tower to climb, old military pillboxes, and lots of sandy paths leading to different rock formations and tide pools. 

Sunset was a dream. I thought we would see the elusive green flash but the last centimeter of view was obscured by far-away clouds. Ian and Beth (reportedly) arrived about 30 seconds before the sun appeared to touch the sea but they stopped to watch the show from the tower, while Abby and I were down at the beach. I thought maybe they weren't coming but right after the sun disappeared we found each other. We toasted to our night ahead at this magical place with swigs of tequila and some herb.

Later on, Ian and Beth got out there fancy cameras to take pictures of the night sky. The milky way was dense and spectacular. We saw a few shooting stars, the kind that burn orange and last for more than a millisecond. 

In the early morning before dawn, a light rain fell so Abby and I took to the tent. It was quite cold and windy; the rain fly on the tent was whipping around and making so much noise. I hardly got any sleep but it was worth it! 

The next morning, Abby hiked back to our farm on the west side and I went with the others. Hiking back to civilizations wasn't nearly as exciting but I had good company so I was still smiling. I feel like another night at Ka'ena point is happening soon. It's hard to stay away from that place. It's magnetic even though I know my soul is not ready to depart.