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.

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