Thursday, August 22, 2013

Backpacking Waimanu Valley

waimanu valley

Backpacking in Hawaii is an incredible experience. At once it separates you from the crowds and puts you into a much deeper and more intimate connection with the island. In some locations, it feels as if you have been transported back in time. You will likely find yourself in places that seem to embody the concept of paradise.

The destination which exceeded all of my expectations, and to which I would most like to return, is Waimanu Valley on the Big Island of Hawaii. It's located on the northeastern corner of the island, and accessed by the Muliwai Trail. Sometime in the distant past, the valley was inhabited by a permanent community. The settlement was eventually destroyed by a tsunami and never recovered, but the inherent beauty of the valley remains unchanged.

In order to get there, one must first hike across Waipio Valley, which is itself very beautiful but also inhabited. What follows is an 8 mile trail which traverses twelve ravines. It's not what I would call an advanced hike, but one should be fairly fit in order to take it on. As you enter the denser rainforest, you may find the trail swarming with mosquitoes. They are not a problem as long as you apply some repellent to your exposed skin and keep moving, but they can make rests rather intolerable.

A little more than halfway through the hike, just at the point where you are getting tired and sweaty, you will come along a wonderful oasis known as the Queens Bath. It consists of a small waterfall that cascades down into a small, but deep pool. Taking a plunge here is heavenly, and refreshes you for the remainder of the hike.

queens bath

Finally reaching Waimanu Valley is a revelation. A flat valley floor, bursting with streams and vegetation, is bordered by the ocean on one side, and steep, green cliff walls everywhere else, all of which are decorated with tall, narrow waterfalls. Paradise found.

waimanu valley

When we arrived, there were only two other backpackers in the valley, a couple of locals who had come in to hunt boars. By the second day, the hunters had left, and we got the whole valley to ourselves, which was amazing. Unfortunately, the solitude was broken several times a day by helicopter tours. They would come in sometimes three at once, and buzz around the valley for a while before moving on. Sadly, it is difficult to escape civilization, even in a remote Hawaiian valley.

As with any backpacking destination, there is a mix of conveniences and challenges. The warm climate requires fewer clothes and lighter gear, and water sources are generally abundant. On the other hand, trails can be tough and hazardous, particularly if you get caught in a sudden downpour. In such situations some of the streams can become impassable. While the water looks pure, I am told that it can be polluted by agricultural runoff, so a water filter is advisable. The campsites are flat and spacious, and since they are close to the beach, mosquitoes are not much of an issue. The only facilities are pit toilets. Anything else you need, you must bring with you. Further information can be found on the Forestry and Wildlife website for the State of Hawaii.

waimanu valley

1 comment:

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