Geoff's Notes

Sat, 12 Feb 2005

Yesterday turned out to be quite an adventure. The day was organized so that we could do something which for native Hawaiians is sacred, to touch the water of the ocean and the water of the clouds on the mountain in the same day. When we gathered in the morning at the Bishop Museum, Noel Kahanu pointed toward the mountain tops that were obscured by cloud, saying that was where the earthly communicated with the gods. By day's end we would be in those clouds.

We began by driving to a beautiful beach nestled around a lagoon inside a reef at Ewa in Koilina. The lagoon water was delightful, just cool enough to refresh after walking on the reef and lying in the 80 degree + sun. We spent a very peaceful two hours there, ate our boxed lunch of breaded ahi (tuna), spam, chicken and rice. We gathered up our things around 2:00 p.m. and headed for the Makakilo Community Center to meet Mahi La Pierre who took us for a hike in Waienae last year. On this trip we were headed for Palikea in the Honouliuli Forest Preserve, Nature Conservancy land open only by special arrangement. Mahi worked for the Conservancy a few years ago, and still has access to the key for the two gates of entry. I should mention that at this point, nearing 3:00 p.m., the weather was still lovely and warm. I had come somewhat prepared with decent boots, jeans and even a flannel shirt, but I had foolishly left my windbreaker at the hotel. I was to rue that oversight.

We carpooled our party of fourteen into three vehicles, and headed up the mountain. A twenty minute drive brought us to the last communication tower (primarily for all the military services on the island), and we prepared for our ascent. In that somewhat ironic setting, in the shadow of the tower, but looking beyond to the mountain, our Hawaiians (Noel, Mahi, Nohea, Hi'ilani and Kealoha) sang oli (chants) requesting permission to enter that special ground. As always when I hear these chants, I was deeply moved. Then we began our trek. Mahi had warned us that some portions of the trail were along steep escarpments, and that we needed to take care with our footing. Two of the group had expressed some fear of heights, but were game. The round trip hike was only 3 1/2 miles, so even starting at 3:30, it seemed we would be in fine time to get back for dinner by 6:30.

By 4:15 we had only made it about half way to the top, and the weather was closing in. Mahi asked if we wanted to go on, and we all agreed to stick it out although we were already getting rained on and most of the party was ill-equiped. We had, however, a shared sense of the significance of the venture, particularly for the Hawaiians who don't get this opportunity very often because this is now protected land, and not many natives have an in with the Nature Conservancy. So on we went, getting wetter and colder by the minute. Before all visibility disappeared we did get several spectacular views of the leeward side of Oahu from Pearl Harbor over Honolulu to Diamond Head, and of the rugged terrain of the windward side. Then the clouds decended, or rather swept across the valley and engulfed us, and the rest was a determined, wet slog. We did reach the top, a bare spot of about 10' x 15' and visibility of about ten yards in any direction. We did not linger long before beginning our decent, which was for some more frightening and difficult than coming up. Even though I heard some native bird songs, my focus was on getting down out of the wind and rain. We all made it safely back to our point of departure where we gathered again while our Hawaiians sang once more to honor the spirits of that land we had just traversed. Despite the cold and wet, it all was a remarkable experience, and that last fairly wild remnant of Oahu is a place I should like to linger in and appreciate better sometime in the future. For this day, it was good to get into a hot shower an hour later in hopes of fending off a cold or worse.

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