White Roads

Mael Sherman

03/22/2016

As I wake up to the harsh morning sounds of the jungle, I find my way out of the mosquito net surrounding my bed, making the difference between risking dengue fever and a good night's sleep. While I prepare my bag for the adventures ahead, I listen to the two dragonflies dancing over the water tank near my bungalo. Then I notice Kristen, my co-worker, who’s probably returning from the nursery where she just finished irrigating the extensive array of plants and seedlings we are responsible for keeping alive. As I nod her way, she shoots me a smile and asks “ Did you feed Bart yet?”. Bart is the farm’s pet rooster, who is blind and must be hand fed an assortment of organic whole grains, papaya, kale, and mashed banana. I roll my eyes and tell her I will in a minute. After scarfing down my PB&J with banana and washing it down with some fresh coconut water, I head down to Bart’s enclosure to feed him and have our morning talk. Once Bart is satisfied, I walk though a precarious forest floor that is heavily scattered with macadamia nut shells down to the Taro plantation to irrigate and check if the wild pigs ripped any out of the soil the night before in search of critters to feast on. By 9 o'clock Kristen and I are packed and ready to go so we call our friend Matt, who works as an elevator salesman in Honolulu, to get his ETA. “Yo, Matt where you at?” Kristen teases, “I’ll be there in five” He replies. As we board the Mattmobile and bid farewell to the Kona Keei farm for the day, we begin to discuss our strategy for reaching the forbidden trail we plan to trek.
About an hour and a half north from the farm is a trailhead that leads to some water flumes, which are abandoned aqueducts carved into the mountains of Waimea. The issue here is that the only way to get to the trail is to trespass through government owned reservoir land. As the three of us pull up to a dead end in the road, we notice a man standing behind the gate marking the border between public land and government property. The three of us glance at each other and quickly decide to take the chance. The man on guard, we soon found out was just a dude named Jun with a Ukulele asking for us to pray with him for a few minutes and for each of us to pay him a small fee for letting us through. We had a good laugh while we started our hike through the reservoir land to find the infamous trailhead, clueless of what was to come.

***

Armed with only a gopro, a knife and a water purification straw, I felt pretty confident that I was ready for whatever came our way. The scenery quickly changed from grassland to thick jungle, to bamboo forests, to foggy emerald cliffsides. We encountered several hidden gems throughout the hike including fascinating water transportation infrastructure, roaring waterfalls, and an austere lava cave that burrowed deep into the mountainside.
We encountered a couple Hawaiian girls on the trail who gave us a vague explanation on how to find the aqueduct tunnels that lead to the water flume. After making a wrong turn into one of the aqueducts tunnels, we came out the other side at the top of a 60 foot waterfall. We quickly walked back upstream to where we came from only to enter another extensive aqueduct that took us upstream for a few miles in sometimes thigh deep water. After what seemes like an eternity of tunnel exploration, we arrived upon the water flume, with hundreds of gallons of water pummeling down the chute each minute. After checking the bottom for it’s depth and any obstructions that could harm us, we took our turns flying down the slide at unnatural speeds. Although the water was cold and the sun was hidden behind a thick layer of bright white fog, the exhilaration I felt in the moment was so raw and pure that a sense of joyful satisfaction overtook my conscience, making me forget the fact that I was freezing. The walk back was a rough one, considering a few of us took some falls and that my lips started turning blue. But later on, as we sat down at a brewery to have an early dinner, I think we all shared the same feeling of contentment and peace of mind knowing we each took full advantage of the day taking part in an extraordinary adventure. 

March 2016
Waimea, Big Island, HI

Over and Out.