Sunday, March 20, 2016

Kalalau Valley - Na Pali Coast, Kauai Island of Hawaii

After trekking the 11 mile strenuous Kalalau Trail, the beautiful remote paradise known as Kalalau Beach waited at the end. I camped on the beach the first night and captured a magical sunset with crashing waves on the Na Pali Coast. The next day was beautiful and I had one full day to explore Kalalau Valley.

Kalalau Valley is surrounded on three sides by rugged cliffs and ocean at the start. The valley is filled with thick rainforest with an abundance of streaming water. The first Polynesian settlers brought coconuts and taro root over 2000 years earlier and remnants of their habitation still exist. They built stone walled terraces for taro farming and also planted fruit trees. Taro root has been an important part of the Hawaiian diet since ancient times. Hawaiians moved out of Kalalau Valley to other parts of Kauai Island in the 1900s. Today, dozens of hippies still live in this jungle year round. They also grow taro and vegetables in the community gardens, and harvest an abundance of fruits and vegetables that grow in Kalalau Valley.

Searching for the hippie community gardens, I followed the trail deep into Kalalau Valley... The trail meandered through the rain forest along a flowing stream.

The entire valley is deeply shaded with tree canopies and lush green vegetation covering the ground. There were some signs of habitation in the valley, but the trail disappeared in the thick vegetation several times. Kalalalu Stream, surrounded with tropical greens, is a spiritual pathway up into the valley.

Crossing the stream several times, I finally found a well worn trail that led to the community gardens.  The jungle canopy soon opened up revealing patches of vegetable gardens with tall fruit trees. An irrigation channel meanders through the gardens leading to the taro fields. I felt like I was transported back to an ancient Hawaiian village. A topless woman came with a saw to do some garden work, and welcomed us to the gardens. She kindly showed me some fruit trees including the ever-present passion fruit trees. A long bearded old hippie known as Grizzly also guided us to the vegetable gardens. They were unexpectedly friendly to us outsiders. Most of the hippies live there for a few weeks to several months but some of them had settled there for several years to decades! Their life is simple and mostly sustainable; grow vegetables and pick fruits, catch fish, hunt wild goats living in the area... and sometimes trade extra camping food from hikers for locally grown herbs or vegetables or wine made from local fruits and berries. Hidden from State Park officials and government (living in State Park land is not permitted), some were likely tired of the modern world and choose to live a simple life at least for the moment.

Back to the beach to photograph another gorgeous sunset. The sky was bright red with thin clouds above the horizon that night. Each sunset is different and special. A huge cruise ship came across the sea after sunset... After all, Kalalau Beach is a remote location, but popular tourist destination to see by air or ocean if not able to physically set foot.

Here are some campsite images... Hikers can pitch the tents anywhere in the shady woods.

A small waterfall cascades down through the rocks at the west end of the beach. This waterfall is the main water source and shower for the campers.

Na Pali Coast/Kalalau Valley is an astounding place... It is a remote "Garden of Eden." I captured some beautiful moments but expressing the location's spirituality in such a short time was a challenging task... I hope you can feel the sense of this place through my images.

A few days later, I looked down the Kalalau Valley to the Pacific from above. Only a few miles above the Kakakau Valley, it takes almost 80 miles, 2 and a half hours, on winding roads to drive around the island to reach the overlook of Kalalau Valley. From above, the entire valley is filled with lush green rainforest.

As the sun lowered down on the horizon, the cliff glowed in reddish orange... and the last sun lit the rugged summit in crimson... Kalalau Valley was only a few miles below but I felt like it was far away. Sweet dreams . . .