Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tropical hiking

Hiking in Hawaii is definitely a different experience for those like me, accustomed to Alpine mountain trails.
First of all, the climate. The humid heat makes movements more strenuous. Also, the paths tend to be covered by the quite intrusive tropical vegetation: the undergrowth ferns hides the tracks and make it a little disorienting. Also the rocks are hidden by vegetation, so the painted signs, if any, cannot be seen. Moreover there is not a valuable service such as CAI (Club Alpino Italiano) who maintains trails and markers.
Fortunately the hikers theirselves put and renew indications with colored ribbons tied to the branches every now and then.

GPS track of Honopu excursion.
View the map in a bigger size
Honopu ridge, October 16, 2011

The signaling ribbons (orange and pink) were indeed very useful during the first of our two trips into Kaua'i island. R's son and his girlfriend came with us

Reached the beginning of the path by car, we followed the directions outlined here. You enter the forest, which, in descent, becomes more and more intricate. At one point the path becomes very humid and you end up slipping.
When the forest opens you are on the edge of a steep slope especially, pretty easy to overcome if not for people like me, who have an innate dislike of the precipices. Fortunately it's only a small part, and finally you go back into the forest. At the end the view over the beautiful coastline of Na Pali is breathtaking.

View from the end point
To tell teh truth, from here, the beach (about 3500 feet below), cannot be seen. But you see the side promontory that forms, along with the one under your feet, one of the magnificent Na Pali bays. Within the valley one expects to see emerging from the vegetation the necks of the brachiosauruses, which, exactly here, have been the protagonists of Jurassic Park. Instead, you can see the birds (they are actually just tiny white dots). Every now and then, far below, a touristic helicopter passes, barely visible. Other white dots in the ocean must be boats (the beaches in the small bays below are inaccessible from the land).
You are on the crest of the hill so, looking to the other side the view opens up to another valley. In the distance it appears Ni'ihau island, the Forbidden Island.
From here the path goes down rather steep (and apparently not very safe), always on the crest. It does not seem to promise a better view of this. Satisfied and aware that the return is quite all uphill, we head back onto the same path.

GPS track of Makaleha excursion (the inaccuracies are due
to the bad satellite receptions in the forest)
View the map in a bigger size
Makaleha Falls, October 17, 2011

Also interesting, though completely different, was the other excursion.
This time, in addition to the four of us, there were also R's brother and sisters, with their husbands. The guide was D, the brother, which had already come here long ago. The path goes up folloowing a stream, and has several river-crossings and parts with slimy mud. Warned in time by D, we have adapted our equipment to these conditions. Hiking boots were not right: we then purchased the "Tabies", special rubber boots, flexible, with soles thick but soft and covered with a layer of a material similar to velcro. Without this type of footwear it is impossible not to slip. In addition, the adhesion of the rubber to the ankle, similar to the one of a diving suit, helps to lift the foot when it is stuck in the mud.

The route is varied, almost always surrounded by dense forest. At some point it passes very close to a huge monolith shaped like a cube, which looks like a dice fallen from the hands of a giant. Then suddenly you enter a surreal place: a bamboo forest. The canes, huge and high, take the place of trees, leaving, between each other, enough space to unravel. A few hundred meters, and just as suddenly, the vegetation of ferns and tall trees reasserts itself. Here the trail is lost, even if it is not difficult to guess the direction, as you continue to follow the course of the river. But your must walk on the trunks of fallen trees or branches, covered with slippery moss, clinging to other branches or rocks to keep balance. You can not see the dirt, the vegetation is too intricate, but judging from the level of the water, you are about one-two meters from the ground.
The humidity is a lot, and after a few hours of walk, it turns into rain. The weather suddenly changes in the islands, so we judge that it is much safer to retrace our steps. Too bad, because D says that in the end of the path (another couple of miles) there is a pond where you can take a shower under the waterfall.

Wonderful excursions. When you go to Hawaii for vacation, you think about beaches and ocean waves, but in my opinion, especially in Kaua'i, the Garden Isle, it is the haunting beauty of the untouched interior to leave you breathless.

There is something intimate in the experience of walking in nature, and it was nice to share it with my in-laws. It feels as if this experiences created a bond among us.

Me, in the bamboo forest.
All the photos of this post are by Rowena

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