Planning on hiking the Kalalau Trail? Man, I really wanted to do that one. Yeah, after some evaluation I assumed it wasn’t a good idea considering the rain season. Due to the rains, most trails on the Nā Pali coast were closed and Kalalau was one of them.
Awa’awapuhi Trail was not only opened but fairly close to my campsite. And even though this hike is supposed to be quite easy, the rains made it… interesting. Yes, that is the right word to use.
Right at the beginning, I saw a pile of hiking sticks left there by the survivors. For a second, I considered taking one of them – but hey, this was supposed to be easy. I didn’t need that stick.
Yeah, right. People, there’s something I should tell you. When there is any significant amount of hiking sticks at the beginning of a trail, it might be a good idea to grab one of them. The more sticks lay there, the bigger the chance you might need one of them somewhere along the way. Just… try to keep this in mind, ok?
I found out very quickly that I might use one of these. First teeny-tiny uphill made me gasp for air as if I was hiking to the top of Nevada Falls in Yosemite for the first time all over again. Thanks to the mud, I had to repeat every step about three times before I got enough traction to be able to actually move forward. Mind you, I was wearing my (quite new back then) trail runners that have always (up until this point) had great traction, even on mud. I don’t know what the Kaua’i mud is made of but some completely new type of soles should be developed so that one can walk on it.
But the trail was just awesome. Even though walking (although “walking” is quite the strong word to be used to describe whatever I was doing there) downhill on the mud was… interesting. (And do you know what else was interesting? The thoughts I had about the fact that I was going to have to go this same way back up.)
It was beautiful, all green (and, yes, wet), and living – and I loved having to struggle through the green tunnel sometimes. (Yeah, here and there it looked like I could do with a machete.)
Soon, I found my way through the lush rainforest. The trail ended here. The view… ah, the view… Do you want to see a picture of what I saw? Let’s play a little game. Are you sitting in a room with white walls? Yes? Then you don’t need me to post a picture of what I saw there. Just look up from your laptop or phone, right on the wall. Now, imagine… well, nothing, that’s it.
I was standing in between the land and the sky, there was the ocean somewhere deep below me and the rugged coast all around me. But I couldn’t see anything but the thick white wall of clouds surrounding me.
There was nothing to be done but to play the waiting game while remembering all the pictures Chris Burkard took here.
And it paid off. Partially. After about half an hour of trying to will the clouds to open at least for a few seconds, it happened – the clouds danced away and allowed me to take a peek (still very hazy – but it was there) on the beauty of the coast.
I was standing on a ledge beyond the partial railing that was put there to tell me not to go farther. I could’t not go farther. I had to see what I could see, I had to experience it, I had to feel it and live it. I didn’t break out of my little personal jail to be stopped by a piece of metal built there.
The clouds were falling over the sharp edges of the mountain like magnificent waterfalls, slowly and calmly, like if all the time in the world belonged to them. Shall we call this little piece of miracle “cloudfalls”?
The sky was on land and the land was in the sky and I was there in between, existing in a world that is not our own but belongs to itself alone.
I can not describe what I saw, I can not describe the feelings and the life I felt back there, I can not tell you about the weightlessness that engulfed my body. I could fly. I did fly.
I could see a stream winding through a narrow valley so deep below me that for a second, I became physically worried that I’d left the Earth, a flash of panic swept over me. But then I felt the ledge below my feet, slippery but steady and convinced myself that I was still in connection with Mother Earth.
I have to admit, I had to do some post-production work on this one so that you could see what I saw. The camera I used to get the zoom couldn’t pick it up, whatever I tried to do.
It didn’t take more than three minutes and the clouds rolled back in. It was time for me to leave the ledge, crawl back to the end of the path on the slippery slope and get on my way back. It started to rain harder and the muddy path turned into a river here and there.
The green tunnels turned into caves filled with water, I got an almost-drowning feeling when trying to find my way through them.
But it all was unbelievably amazing. It was life itself. To this day, I’m infinitely grateful I could have done this.
I made my way back to the car, making a mental note about the walking sticks when I passed the pile of them once again.
My legs looked surprisingly well thanks to the fact that I really did my best to save my shoes (because they were the only hiking shoes I’ve brought with me on this trip), finding ways around the biggest puddles of water and mud, balancing on fallen logs, rocks, and otherwise using the environment to keep my feet more or less dry.
Clean water and clean dry clothes back at my campsite were very welcome and I tried my best to get as much of the mud as possible cleaned up because that night, I was to go to Hanapepe.
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