Another early start for the training swim. Over breakfast we had a serious snd productive review of the guide books, maps and websites to review the myriad fantastic places and activities on offer in Big Island. Manta Ray night snorkelling - booked. Mauna Kea observatory tour - tried to book but it seems that everyone else has the same idea! Volcano and lava flow tour - sounds good. Green sand beaches, verdant deserted valleys with waterfalls...all sound amazing!
Bill endures another frustrating but partially successful trip to Wallmart and the boys take a much needed trip to the barbers.
After lunch we head north west to Waipio Valley, also known as The Valley of the Kings. This is a remote green valley, way off he beaten track and inaccessible to all but the most rugged 4WD vehicles. It was considered a sacred place and had a large farming population prior to a tsunami in 1946z it is now home to a community of 50 rather alternative people who live without electricity, water or telephones in the company of two herds of wild horses.
We set of with Chris at the wheel, up into the middle of the island. At higher altitudes, as expected, it was cooler and cloudy and the surroundings become green and lush with and odd undulating landscape similar to Telly Tubby land. We are now in cowboy country and the surf dudes in beach shorts and Hawaii shirts driving jeeps are replaced by 'paniolos' in blue jeans and cowboy hats driving flat bed trucks. We pass between the Kohala volcano to the north and Mauna Kea to the South before heading diwn to Honokaa and then north towards Waipio Valley. She we reach the Waipio Valley overlook we stop and park as the rental car company forbids us to drive any further. We can see why. A 25% descent that drops 990 feet in 1 mile. It's possible to take a shuttle or horse to go down, but we decide to walk. The views are astonishing. Steep sides on either side of a deep U-shaped valley with tumbling high waterfalls and a black sand beach. The walk down is straightforward enough although it is very humid and the road surfaces are incredibly slippery where wet or oily. We slip and slither down, grabbing the crash barrier where necessary. Various locals pass us on the road, bumping and sliding their way down in their trucks. Some give us a cheery wave and a shout, some hippy types with dreadlocks and bare feet stare past us, clearly resenting the tourists who invade their reclusive home.
As we walk, humidity levels rise. It is cooler here than on the west coast, but still hot and very humid. A light misty drizzle starts to fall as we arrive on the valley floor and by this time there is water dripping from our chins and elbows...
At the bottom of the road we turn inland and walk along the mud track towards two huge waterfalls of Hi'ilawe falling 1450 feet down the back wall of the valley. One has a free drop of 1200 feet. These are the highest in the island.
All around us green and lush and unseen birds chatter noisily. Occasionally we are treated to a flash of red or white feathers but the only positive identification is a Red Cardinal. After seeing the the falls we retrace our steps down to the black sand beach. This is an error and peaceful place, regarded as sacred by the locals. It feels almost prehistoric with very tall dark trees riding up from the back of the beach, which is a mixture of black and white lava boulders and pebbles and black sand. The surf throws off a fine mist which adds to the eeriness. After posing for numerous photos, some acting as dinosaurs, we start to climb the long and sweaty one mile (feels like five!) road back to the car, with the aid of jelly babies and a lot of determination.
Back in the car we are soaked and muddy. And hungry. On the way home is Waimea, a mountain village known for its beauty, artists, cattle farming and restaurants. Top choice for us all is the Village Burger - gourmet 1/3 pound burgers made from locally raised beef. Perfect! It us bizarrely located in a shopping mall, but that's perfect as we sit outside and no one raises an eyebrow at our wet and dishevelled appearance! Burgers stacked with avocado, greens, 60 minute onions, and fried egg over-easy all slip down very well indeed, especially when accompanied by parmesan fries and huge milk shakes. The altitude also means that for the first time since we arrived, we almost feel cold!! Mike drives us home through the darkness and we are very pleased to shower and be in bed by 9.30!