The first section of the Kalalau trail is steep and muddy. I take my first few steps tentatively along the rocky path and quickly realize I definitely did not wear the right shoes! With each step I gain confidence and soon forget about the difficulty of the terrain as the beauty of the landscape engulfs all thoughts of hesitation.
On my weekend visit to beautiful Kauai, I only have a short window of time to experience a taste of the famous Kalalau Trail - its magnificence leaves me wanting more.
The 11-mile trail is the only land access to the rugged Na Pali coastline - it crosses above towering sea cliffs and dips into lush valleys. It was built in the late 1800's as an access to the remote valleys for the Hawaiians who were living there.
The trail winds through mossy forest and weaves a path up and down large rocks - the place is a magnificent garden. Trees overhang creating an archway. I am enveloped by every possible shade of green. Tangled vines hang and leaves shaped like hearts wave gently in the breeze. Castle turret-like mountains surround and tower over me, beckoning me to explore and discover their secrets.
I am inside of a 'hallway' made entirely of green, looking through nature’s windows, catching glimpses of a calm ocean through the frame of trees. As I climb higher, I see Ke'e Beach down to my right. The nearby reef creates a safe haven for swimmers to enjoy the calm waters. A pool the colour of jade and amethyst and surrounded by coconut palms is a postcard-perfect snapshot of paradise. In the sunset-lit sky, the hues of blue, gold and silver light are intensified by the dark contrast of gathering storm clouds. Out of the rain squalls on the horizon a double rainbow appears. My heart soars with delight - I always see a rainbow as a blessing. What is a visit to Kauai without a rainbow or two?! Hawaii is indeed the land of rainbows and Kalalau is a place that is frequented by these radiant gems of light and color.
Indeed, I feel blessed as I walk on this land. Each corner I turn is a new discovery, and after about half a mile of climbing I reach the highest point between Ke'e and Hanakapi'ai: 500 feet above sea level. At this point I can see the Na Pali coastline stretching out before me - miles of monumental 'Pali' (cliffs), stunning valleys and remote beaches. At this high vantage point I take in the sunset and enjoy the blast of golden light emanating through the clouds.
I feel the light filling my heart with warmth and joy. It's just me and a vast expanse of wilderness - no other hikers cross my path this late in the day - and I feel the freedom of being alone in nature, alone in this most sacred of places.
As the sun disappears below the horizon, and dusk begins to fall, I realise that although my heart yearns to explore more of this trail, I must turn back if I am to walk the muddy terrain in the last of the daylight. But the call of the spirit of this place is strong, and there is so much more to explore. I can almost hear the echo of the voices of the people who lived in the valleys beyond - the original Hawaiians who lived in traditional ways before Westerners arrived. For now I decide to be satisfied with just a taste of this place, and I make a silent promise to myself that I will return soon.
On my next trip I vow to venture deeper into the heart of Kalalau.