Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Valley of Kings - Waipi´o (Y-P-O)

It’s been several months since I visited the big island of Hawaii.  But I often think about my last day there trekking through the Waipió Valley.  A sacred, and mystical place, steeped in Hawaiian history and culture, it was a fascinating time spent in a very special corner of the world. 

The valley is located on the Hamakau Coast, at the base of an ancient volcano in the Kohala Mountain Range, surrounded by two thousand foot cliffs and waterfalls up to 1,300 feet.  On the valley floor taro and other crops are grown by the locals. A black-sand beach about a mile in length fronts the valley, with Hi'ilawe Stream (aka, Waipió River) flowing from the back of the valley into the ocean midway down the beach.

Known as the Valley of Kings, it truly is a sacred place. For it was the home and burial grounds of Hawaiian royalty for generations, and was inhabited by thousands of Hawaiians at the time Captain Cook arrived at the islands. In the 1800s Chinese immigrants moved in along with White missionaries and traders who established schools, churches, restaurants, a hotel, post office and jail.  Today there is little left of this settlement or the structures that housed the population, as all were washed away by the powerful tsunami of 1946.

Since that time, it is sparsely inhabited by a small community of people who appreciate the simple life, the isolation of the area, and generally avoid tourists as much as possible.  You will see several no trespassing signs throughout the valley, so it is important to remember that we are hiking in someone else’s backyard  - a place that is still sacred in the Hawaiian culture.

On the day of my visit, I’m not sure what concerned me more; the strenuous hike down and back out of the valley, or the terrifying drive down and back out of the valley. For the only way into the valley is a narrow, steep road.  At a 25% average grade and sometimes steeper, it is considered the steepest road of its length in the US, allowing for only 4 wheel drive vehicles to make the trek.  The 3-mile hike, from the overlook to the center of the beach, would be considered an easy jaunt, if not for this knee-buckling, lung-busting grade. Opting for exhaustion over terror we took the hike.

Once in the valley you succumb to a subtle timelessness and serenity. The power of the place settles upon you as you walk down the shaded path to the beach. Then at the end of the path, the beach opens to a captivating view of the black-sand beach and the rushing tide. You're not alone on the beach for there are many surfers and campers nearby, also enjoying the beach and the waves - nevertheless it was still enchanting to walk along the shore in the hollow of the valley.

By the end of the day we began our accent back up the road, sometimes passing up others struggling to reach the overlook and sometimes being passed up ourselves.  When we finally reached the top we were weary, but sufficiently fit enough to hoist ourselves up into the truck and head for home.  The next mornng I took off for the airport and back to Oregon so grateful that I was able (literally able) to take the hike to Waipió Valley before I left.

For more information about the valley, check out the 3 minute video below.  As a professional production it's pretty slick and glossy and tells the story above and then some.  More importantly it is a beautifully done visual portrait which only enhances the story.  Enjoy!

Other posts of my trip to the Big Island of Hawaii include : My Dog Has Fleas, Kona Town, Aloha Kakou! (Greetings to All)


Anonymous said...

Oh my, I'm drooling! Apple cider here I come. Love your photography, too!!

Evelyn Meadows said...

Dear Anonymous - Thanks for the comment. Really - if you're in the Corvallis area this weekend try Two Town's Ciderworks. As for the Waipio Valley - it's truly a magical place!