4 Kohala Lighthouse to Waimanu Valley: Pololu Valley looking SE
Easy 12 mile day . We spend time sightseeing around the offshore
islands, one of which has a cave carved completely through it
by the continuous assault of breaking waves. We hook up barracuda,
losing more than we secure onboard, but plenty for dinner. We shoot
all of our, on deck, film of the numerous waterfalls and 1000' near
vertical walls, ascending up to 2000' at the rear of the valleys.
Entering Waimanu valley the normally pristine black sand
beach is missing, pulled offshore by the winter waves. Today the
waves are small but breaking directly on the steep rocky beach.
I ride a wave in, perfectly hitting the only spot with a tiny bit of
visible sand left. Getting the kayak hauled up over the steep, round river
rocks is another story and requires a Herculean effort.
Waimanu Valley view from the hiking trail
On Mik's turn he doesn't get in quite as straight
and a larger wave is following him in. I instantly decide not too
pull his kayak up (the following wave likely would have snapped off the
rudder or worse) and shove him back out into deeper water with the
following wave rolling the kayak over. Mik is pissed that I didn't
haul him out and now we're both rolling around in the river rocks
with a large fishing hook and lure dragging around somewhere nearby.
The strong sideshore current, along with
Mik's rudder being down, make it nearly impossible to get the kayak
in a reasonably safe position to haul up. Luckily there are no inhabitants to witness
our comedy routine and eventually we get ourselves and the kayak
on top of the steep rocky beach.
The only injury sustained is cuts around my
ankles which, over the remainder of the trip, will fail to heal, causing the constant
worry of infection which could sabotage our successful outcome. Looking back
out, the waves are so small. I make a mental note to not take the
small waves for granted as we land at the more difficult areas,
otherwise our trip will be ending with one or two destroyed kayaks,
like the kayak pieces we currently see strewn across Waimanu's
Paddling up Waimanu River
We explore the valley. There is some evidence of ancient
Hawaiian Settlements. It is believed that King Kamehameha, born
into a royal family beneath the Temple of War, was deemed a threat
by a rival king and would be killed if found. As a young child,
he was apparently hidden away in this series of valleys, similar
I guess to Jesus being hidden from King Herod as a baby, so Kamehameha could
grow up to fulfill his destiny of uniting (some would say conquering)
the islands and Hawaiian people.
Our next stretch will be our toughest upwind
leg, 28 miles to the next good landing at Laupahoehoe if we're able
to make it all in one outing. We're getting the NOAA weather forecast
on our 2 meter ham radio The report is still great and Mik wants
to push on tomorrow. I really wanted to stay an extra day to explore
the valleys but Mik is right. If you believe in Hawaiian spirits,
they have offered us a gift and it would be sacrilegeous to refuse
it. Our philosophy Carpe diem (seize the day) has in this circumstance
changed to Carpe Meteoroligica (seize the weather).
5 Waimanu to Laupahoehoe (28 miles, 9 hours):
On these upwind legs there will be no late starts. We are up at
4:30am breakfasting and packing. We're on the water well before first
light. We pass, Waipio, the last of the seven major valleys. There
are 100 or so residents now living in the valley.
Wild Mules at the Waipio Launch
Waipio valley in centuries past was a bustling Hawaiian community with 10,000
inhabitants or more, Taro farming being a major enterprise. When
the Europeans brought disease which the Hawaiians had no immunity
to, somewhere around 90% of the total Hawaiian population was wiped out.
That combined with tidal waves, a dangerous 4wd road and a river
that often floods are a few reasons why the valley is so sparsely populated (maybe 100 residents) today.
Passing Waipio Valley, 25 miles of cliffy coastline ahead
Mik used his last disposable water camera yesterday. I told him
there were more incredible falls and scenery coming up and now he's
mentally kicking himself in the rear multiple times every hour. This
coastline, the Hamakua, meaning fighting stroke to windward is aptly named. It's usually brutally rough and our direction taking
us against the grain should be the make or break section of the
Today is beautifully calm though, we come up to a protected bay
and see humpback whales heading in our direction. We stop the kayaks and wait hoping to spot them as they pass by.
To our astonishment, the whales surface only a few feet from our
kayaks! We didn't plan on getting this close and are not as comfortable
as we would have been if we were 100' away or more.
We stay quiet and I snap photos while we have the opportunity. The
mother whale is holding her calf balanced on her back, pushing it
up to the surface, to get a good breath of air. They have stopped
moving and for a short time give us a beautiful introduction to
the Cetacean birthing process.
We notice what looks like a large diameter rope off the back of
the baby's tail and I realize that we are seeing the umbilical cord, still
attached, and this calf was born just a short time before. The whales
soon head North and we continue South, reflecting on our experience.
It's amazing the emotions that erupt when in the presence of these
At 18 miles into our day, we anchor the kayaks and stop for a rest, swimming in
through a nasty shorebreak onto the rugged rocks. We believe the
long mileage will be easier if we take a break. In the afternoon
we continue covering our remaining 10 miles.
Laupahoehoe Point on a normal windy day
The clouds deepen and the rain starts, the headwind is light
as we view the unmistakable protrusion of the flat but rugged Laupahoehoe Point
that juts out from the seemingly unending miles of cliff. We round
the rugged point and pull into the nicely protected boat launch area. We
walk our stuff up a short 50 yards to a beautiful campsite in
a public park with showers for once!
Memorial listing the tidal wave victims
We camp just yards from the memorial that marks the spot where fourteen
schoolchildren and their teachers (on a field trip) had their lives
extinguished on April 1st 1946 as a tidal wave roared onto this
coast with no warning. We are only two days short of the anniversary
of the tragedy. Day after tomorrow the memorial will again be covered
with many flowers and leis remembering those that were lost.
Day 6 Laupahoehoe to Hakalau
Sporting tired muscles from our long paddle yesterday
we are more than happy to have our easiest day yet, only 10 miles!
We soon arrive at Hakalau Valley and we both surf perfectly up onto
the beach and set up camp in a beautiful valley with freshwater
I am sleeping soundly in our tent when a couple
walk by and along the beach area. Mik goes out to introduce himself
and share our story. It turns out he is talking with the new owner
of Hakalau Valley! This semi-secret spot has long been a local
picnic area and camping hideaway.
It turns out that the new owners have gated
the entrance to discourage camping but are still allowing the public
to park outside, walk in and enjoy the beach area.
The owners enjoy hearing our story and are happy to allow us to camp in their spectacular valley. We catch a ride as they head out so we can get to a phone and make a few calls to let the outside world know that we are ahead of schedule and staying healthy.
(Kawaihae Breakwater on a happening kayak surf day!)
1 Day 7 Hakalau to Hilo (Richardson's Park) 15 miles
We are again out at dawn, packing the kayaks in the dark. We inadvertently miss packing the anchor that had been lying in the deep grass. During the night the swell picked up and after a challenging paddle out through dangerous surf conditions neither of us is volunteering to go back for it.
head for Hilo and the rare reverse trades are again picking up. On this side
of the island they call them Maui winds (blowing from Maui) and
amazingly what should be one of the tougher sections of our voyage, we are
flying downwind covering the 15 mile leg in only 3 hours.
Coming in through the surf at Richardson's park,
Mik snaps off one of his Nico-crimps on his stainless steel cable controlling
the rudder. His right rudder now useless, the bungee holding the left
puts him in a strong left turn and has him flirting with a large
lava rock. Thinking quickly he retracts the rudder and is successfully
able, after a few choice words, to glide into the calm lagoon. We
land on a quiet black sand beach at only 9:30am.
Hilo has been ravaged by Tidal Waves twice during
the past century. April 1946 (same one that hit Laupahoehoe) and
the last one (in 1961) reduced the Hilo ocean front to rubble. Since
then the bayfront was not rebuilt and is now a large public park. We call
a taxi and hit the Wall Mart, Safeway and hardware store to get
supplies for the remainder of the trip, to repair the rudder cable
and set up an alternate anchor so we'll again be able to anchor
offshore and swim in, if needed, onto difficult coastline.
Hilo to Pohiki (29 miles)
Out at dawn in stormy conditions. Anyone knowing the weather here will understand we are lucky dogs. The Maui winds
(reverse trades) are continuing to push us East. We pound into a crosswind getting
past the first point until we are able to turn downwind. I'm pretty
sure we could find a camp spot somewhere along this 29 mile leg,
but with the strong tailwinds we feel obliged (Carpe meteorologica)
to take advantage of the rare conditions. We cross the fairly deep
and long bay on a straight line staying well offshore and finally round Cape Kumakahi
(the islands easternmost point), spotting the only shark (about
6 feet long) of our trip just before entering Kapoho Bay. The Kapoho Hot Ponds
This bay has spectacular hot ponds and we stop for a welcome jacuzzi.
We've covered the last 25 miles in only 5 hours. It's low tide and the pond
is separated from the ocean by dry rocks. In the pond (about 300
yards long) we find about 30 turtles gathered in small groups around
the volcanically heated vents, looking very much like health club
members, each monitoring a hot jet, after a moderate workout. The
water is crystal clear and we get some great underwater photos while
enjoying the 90+ degree water.
our chart and find that an additional 4 mile paddle will get us to Pohiki, our
next good camp site, so off we go riding the winds of hope to Pohiki.
We have now covered over half the miles (by far, the more difficult half) of our Big Island
circumnavigation. We are now confident that barring any major problems,
(infection around my ankles now being my constant worry), we should be successful in our circumnavigation attempt.
Kona to Upolu Point (Through day 3)
Downwind past Puna To South Point (Day 9-12)
South Point to Kona (Day 13-16)