It’s funny – When I was a kid, as most kids in the early 1990s (or any year after 1960 for that matter) any sort of mention of Hawai’i you think of baggy Hawaiian hibiscus flower t-shirts, family vacations, and big barrels peeling in on the north shore to the tune of dick dale’s classic surf rock hit ‘Miserlou’.
The intrigue and mystique of Hawaii, as a Polynesian landmark in what is considered one of the most isolated of archipelagos in the world, extends deep beyond what you would imagine based off the laypersons knowledge of the place from a north American perspective.
The adventure to the deeply rooted ancient islands of Oahu, and Kaua’i was more powerful than we sought. The people here live according to the spirit of Aloha, the spirit that makes the islands warm, friendly, and welcoming even to strangers. Around 1500 years ago the indigenous people of the south Polynesian Islands of Marquesas and Tahiti discovered the volcanic outcrops. The goodness of their hearts mirrors the pristine beauty of this land, untainted by the hand of evil. This place and these people are a true blessing from nature.
We landed in Honolulu, on an impromptu cheap flight from Toronto, Ontario – with little to no plan other than to follow the road, meet to new people, and find some new trails and new waves. An assortment of characters, whom have never traveled together as a network of three, we thrived – my brother Matt, our friend Chris Evans and I.
When you allow your self to ride on intuition with a smile, as opposed to plan every detail – life can provide some interesting scenarios. We arrived at our first air bnb, booked the night before in Toronto – on the North shore of Oahu with Geoffrey, a native of Sao Paulo Brazil. As we approached the yard littered with surfboards, a jet ski in the driveway, and a wide open door, the energy was high and already hilarious. Geoffrey was napping on the living room floor with a small amphibian called the Jackson’s chameleon crawling on his back. Quick to realize our presence, he sprung up and welcomed us to our new home on the infamous pipeline drive. From here it was only and uphill non-battle, with the worlds most chill hotel concierge.
In the north shore you can feel the power of a deeply rooted surf culture. As you approach sunset beach, you see the small gated houses along the strip owned by the likes of professional surfers Jamie O’Brien, 2016 world champion John John Florence, Kelly Slater, the Ho family to name a few. This strip from Haleiwa to Kawela Bay is home to some of the most iconic waves of all time at Waimea bay and Pipleline, and is set in pure paradise. A place you’d be certain of heaven consisting of, if and when we ultimately go. We were there for the very first of the winter swell – while the waves were small with long periods, we got a good taste and a few sea urchins buried in our feet. You don’t go un-scaved surfing in a new territory, not even in the most beautiful place on the planet.
Four days of surf, hiking the pillbox trails of the north shore, and simply driving around the beautiful island of Oahu more than 2 times – we set our sights to the next Island of Kauai. Known as the garden island, Kauai is the farthest west of the archipelago islands (along with Puuwai, although inaccessible to the common traveller). Yes, it’s home to the opening scene of the 1993 Jurassic Park movie, filmed on the island’s north west Na’Pali Coast.
After a short one-hour flight from Honolulu to Lihue, we were on the next Island. Stepping off the plane onto the tar mac you could feel the difference. It was hotter, the air was even thicker, and the breeze damp with bamboo and tropical ferns. An airport with, again, wide open doors and windows and a whisper of indigenous Tahitian music just barely making it’s way out of the airport’s sound system.
As we approached the vehicle rental port, the option to upgrade was not going to be turned down. Soon we were peeling back the soft top of a brand new Wrangler and driving straight into the mountains. First stop, was Waimea Canyon on the south shore and within days the north shore to Na’Pali Coast State Park.
With the departure of Chris, we committed to doing a part of the Na’Pali Coast hike, roughly 8 miles in to the Hanakapiai Falls. The winding trails hugging the volcanic mountains, a near vertical drop at any given point – the Na’Pali Coast hike is remote. It’s about as remote as it gets in the world in fact, and it feels amazing. We left at 11 am or so, pushing it a bit as last light is roughly 6 pm and we had 8 miles to hike. As we made it to the falls, it was a powerful feeling. Not busy, as it was late in the day and we were aware. The smell of fermenting dragon fruit and papaya on ground filled your nostrils. Deeply embedded in the rainforest amongst 40’ bamboo trees, the falls had an aura able of sucking you in against your will. The water was dark, but clear, freezing cold but warm and inviting. You feel this place had been there for a long time, but not alone. It was alive, then and now. With spirit and invitation. The wind created by the waterfall it self was enough to take your breath away, literally. The sun began to sink, and our time here was coming to a close, as we dashed back through the fruit riddled rainforest trail back to the trail head we passed a desolate beach, saw the sun set, and truly felt the power of this environment.
As T.S Elliott put it in his fourth and final poem of his ‘Four Quartets’ – a series of poems that discuss time, perspective, humanity, and salvation – “We shall not cease from exploration And the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time. Through the unknown, unremembered gate when the last of earth left to discover is that which was the beginning; at the source of the longest river the voice of the hidden waterfall and the children in the apple-tree.”
Aloha, and Mahalo Hawai’i.