July 2007: The first time I set foot on Waipi’o valley on the eastern Hamakua coast of the Big Island was during my short trip in the summer of 2007. It was my first time hitchhiking, and I was picked up in Hilo by a man called Frank. Frank was going back to his house in the cowboy Waimea and would drop me off in Honoka’a, a small town 10 miles before the valley. During our chat, Frank revealed that he was a Vietnam vet and had had some terrible nightmares. We connected, and the initial 40-mile ride turned into a 6 hour trip. He stopped to show me waterfalls, drove me down to the coast of Laupahoehoe wherethe waves are forever crushing down on shore, took me to his place in Waimea for lunch, drove me through the saddle road to go back to Hilo, and most memorable of all, he introduced me to Waipi’o. It was a typical misty day on the windward side; the whole valley was shrouded in a white mist. He drove his 4WD down to the valley and there we stood. It was verdant, moist, quiet. But you can’t quantify feelings. I took in deep breaths, listening to the soothing Hi’ilawe in the distance. Since then, I have always been very partial to the windward side of the Big Island, and Waipi’o has a special place in my heart.

Waipio valley, Hiilawe waterfall, Big Island, Hawaii

Waipio valley, Hiilawe waterfall, Big Island, Hawaii

April 2011: A quick trip with H. to the Big Isle the weekend before Merrie Monarch for a special project that H. was working on. We weren’t officially together at that time, but the tension was always there. We managed to squeeze in a quick trip to Waipi’o. Hiking down the valley and then to the waterfall in a late afternoon, we found the place empty, which was rare as it is a popular spot. Just the two of us. I went down to the pool, closed my eyes, kicked my feet gently and floated on my back. My body caressed, my soul lulled. The chute of the water, the sharp dropping into the pool, the leisurely widening of circles. My eyes softly opened again, and in that instant, part of me almost went up in the air to take a look down below, a look down at me, tiny in the giant arms of the mountains. We kissed, in a small nook under the stream, and again in the cave under Hi’ilawe. Intoxicated by beauty, by love’s sweet taste.

December 2011: A month long trip on the Big Island, going around to all my favorites, including Waipi’o. I found a small farm that lets people stay in exchange for a helping hand, and there I pitched my tent. Every day, I dug my bare hands into the rich soft airy black soil as puffy fat worms wiggled their way around. I strolled past houses with no one there except for a couple of quiet cats. I sat by the river swollen up after months of rain. I walked back into the lush mountains with dozens of waterfalls trickling down the slopes. We’ll be gone in no time. But this valley, this water, this energy will stay. Time is immortal.

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