Saturday, September 22, 2012

Waipo'i Valley - getting there

Ok my official favourite super wet, jungle place is

Waipo'i Valley
on the Big Island of Hawai'i.
Loved it.
Never going there again.

Here's why....
See the cliff face over there?
If you look close you can see a zig zag path near the sea end.
That's a walking path.
Where this photo was taken from was the opposite side,
from the parking lot where the guard makes you park
unless you are in a 4x4.

We were.
 Going down was fine
cause I was on the back of a ute sitting in comfy deck chairs
with Patti and some of the kids.

Read: I couldn't see how steep the road was and
was fascinated by the beauty so didn't notice the sheer drop.
I did, however ask myself why would you walk down
when you had to walk back up?
Poor souls.

Coming back up at the end of the day was how do I put it?
Once again on the back of the ute,
a manual one.
We'd had a quick, contained tropical rainstorm,
where soaking wet, getting a little chilled,
could hear the engine straining,
we were traveling at about 5 mph cause
there was no way you could go faster
and Alex's ute was in the lead and was leaking oil as he went.
It didn't help that earlier that day
Patti had pointed out a bunch of rusted, old, crashed utes
that had rolled down the mountain side.
I should have counted how many times I said
"we are going to die"
with absolute conviction inside my head.
I think I'm getting old.
Actually I think I would have said that at any age.

This is us cruising once we made it into the valley.
Waipo'i Valley is one of those hidden treasures.
The 4H crew had organised for us to meet
with our local guide Jasmine.
Apparently the valley resident's get a little toey with strangers in their backyard.
Without real roads it's hard for a stranger to delineated property boundaries.
It's not really got roads or even tracks.
The valley's river work as roads quite lumpily but very effective
because where there is a river flowing,
there is a house or a farm on its banks.

We walked up to Jasmine's hideaway house
where she lived without mains power, water or sewerage for a few years
before the commute
(down the river bed, up the side of the valley's protecting cliffs)
became a pain in the bottom
(probably because of the rocky river beds/roads).
Once we had seen and envied the beauty, peaceful simplicity of Jasmine's place,
we jumped back in the utes to park up at the horse trekking place.

(these are not the horse trekking horses)
Waipo'i Valley is a very relaxed place filled with family plots
that have been inhabited by same families
probably since the Polynesians arrived.
The valley doesn't really do fences other than those
around the actual houses to keep these guys out.
Waipo'i Valley wild horses.

They are grunty little beggars who are kind of tame
in that they come into contact with people everyday.
Jasmine told great stories of playing with her cousins when
some would herd the horses under trees
where the rest of the kids were waiting,
sitting on the branches,
ready to jump onto the backs of the horses
and have the ride of their lives.

If you go to the Big Island I recommend
taking a tame Waipo'i Valley horse treks.
We had a great and extra special time because
we were playing at being locals but
if you can't do that,
and you can't unless you know someone from the valley,
 you should take a trek.
They will will pick you up and do the driving too.

The reason we were in the valley was to walk for hours, no! 
Ok a little, but more on that later.
It was to meet Jason and see how they grew taro.
I can't say I've taken much notice of taro.
I mean I've eaten it when I've hung out with Sesi
cause she's Tongan and Tongans eat taro.
I've eaten poi when I've been to Hawai'i before.
Glue was the taste and feel that came to mind.

But I had no idea there was two methods of growing taro.
Taro can be grown in paddies or grown on dry land.
At the University of Hawaii Manoa we had seen dry taro patches
where students had native planting projects but
apparently taro does better in water.

It takes 14 months for taro to grow.
It is a starchy root vegetable that is staple in the islands.
The taro is grown traditional styles and is organic by default.
They have huge problems with a the apple snail
that eats the stalk of the plant,
hollowing it out and the taro root won't grow.

The apple snail was bought in to combat something else.
The ducks were bought in to combat the apple snail.
The wild dogs of the valley eat the ducks.
Yes there are wild dogs and wild horses and wild ducks.
Maybe not wild ducks.
Jason the taro farmer looked a bit stressed about the apple snail.
You have to know Hawai'ians to be able to tell if they are stressed.
Since I don't particularly know Hawai'ians
you can imagine how stressed Jason looked.
About a fraction of a Mid-West drought stricken corn farmer,
who would be a 12 on a scale of 1 to 10.
Jason looked like a 6 on the Mid-Western Stress Scale.
Which is about a 12 on the Hawai'ian scale of stressedness.
I suspect when your family has been farming the same land for 700 years
you tend to have a slightly different perspective on agricultural impacts.

Waipo'i Valley poi is the poi to have.
They process it themselves and
the best days to buy it is Mondays and another day of the week
that I can't remember.
You need to check it is Waipo'i though cause
there is some other stuff from Oahu thats not too flash.
Or you can just not eat poi.

Or give it to Thomas cause he loved the poi.
The rest of us endured it.
The Hawai'ians all had suggestions on how they liked it.
Maybe it's something you need to grow up with.

To finish this post
(spoiler: there will be another about the delights of Waipo'i Valley)
here's a photo of the end of the valley near Jasmine's little house.
This is why the valley is a braided river covered with sediment
passing through on it's slow way to the sea.
The water and sediment flows from the moist highlands.
Though the Big Island is having a drought at the moment.
I know for most of us drought means
next to no river flow
but in Hawai'i this is dry.

On July 5th Louly and I took ten young New Zealand farm kids to Hawaii for an agricultural exchange for two weeks. They are members of the NYZF TeenAg programme. We were hosted by East Hawaii 4H specifically the Beatons and Stouts. We visited many kinds of agricultural and horticultural operations, varied and diverse, learned that American ag folks like to philosophise about their place in the world and had a great time snorkeling and shopping in the sun. These posts are in no particular order cause I was too busy to post while in Hawaii and can be rather abstract and should only be taken as an inaccurate at best record.

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