Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Waipio Valley

My first trip into Waipio Valley—the Valley of the Kings. The travel brochures say it’s 1200 feet down in about a mile. I don’t know which is worse—going down or coming back up. I guess it depends on the state of your knees and lungs. Suffice it to say, I didn’t go down without help. I took a van down and then went on the mule-drawn wagon tour. Two mules pulled the wagon with 10 of us aboard. Bob, the muleskinner, said mules are much stronger than horses—and much smarter. When they get tired, they quit (that would be the smarter part…)

Looking up the valley—one way in and one way out of the valley. Back in the valley is more taro patches and private land. Bob said most of the people live back in the valley—very primitive back there. Near the mouth of the valley there is electricity. Further up, it’s solar power, propane or candles. In order to get back in the far part of the valley, you have to cross five streams. The mules grudgingly took us through two.

Hi’ilawe Falls marks the 1200 feet drop—tallest waterfalls in all the islands. There has been a drought the last several months, so there hardly any water coming over the falls. The top part of the falls had a little water, but by the time it got to the bottom layer, it was hardly getting the rocks wet.

Some families grow taro, but aren’t always around to tend the patches, which grow up with weeds in no time. The taro is for family use only—no commercial enterprises growing taro. In Kamehameha’s time, Captain Cook estimated there were 20,000 people living in the valley. Tsunamis and floods wipe things out occasionally. The last big population was estimated at 3,000—pre tsunami in the ’60’s. After the tsunami, no one. Slowly the population has grown to about 50 full-timers now.

My friend Lani’s father won a little piece of the valley in a poker game. There used to be a small house, but it burned down. Now there is a tree to mark the spot.

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