After my embarrassing attempt at riding a moped and the subsequent 2 hours I spent sulking about my inability to do everything perfectly on the first try, my friend Tiffany and I decided to go on a hike, because that is the most logical thing to do after getting scraped up pretty badly in a brush with death on a moped.
Before I left for Hawaii, I’d researched some of the best hikes on Oahu online and found several sites telling me that the Manoa Falls hike was the easiest one to do if you want to see a waterfall and experience the inner part of the island.
We drove to the starting point, paid the $5 to park and started the easy trek to the falls. It was a much shorter hike than I thought – about 3/4 of a mile – and much easier, barely going uphill. The trail was also very busy with people, which kind of made it less of an “escape into nature” than I was hoping it would be.
There were some cool bamboo forests and the trees were stunningly massive. It does feel like another world, like I was in Jurassic Park. I half expected a herd of dinosaurs to emerge from the tall overgrowth. The tree roots were twisted and big, and you could walk under their archways. It didn’t take us long to get to the falls – about 30 minutes, and that was with stopping to take silly pictures and let other more hurried hikers pass.
This site describes Manoa Falls as “a spectacular site as it tumbles down a near vertical cliff for approximately 150-feet into a small pool.” I guess this is mostly true, except for the “spectacular” part. It is kinda cool to see, but not amazing enough to warrant all the heavy recommendations and people that it attracted. There is only a small little space there to view it from, and it was full of people. Also, there are signs that warned about the major rockslide they had there in 2002, which is apparently why most of it is roped off.
I’ll be honest, the falls were a bit of a let down, but on the way back we made a decision to follow the signs for another trail that I vaguely remembered reading about online – ‘Aihualama Trail. We had no idea where exactly it went (I had remembered something about a waterfall from my research) but we decided to follow it anyways, since the falls hike was so much shorter than we thought it would be.
We ended up following the trail for over an hour, passing only a few people on the way, and seemingly not getting anywhere. It was mostly tracking back and forth uphill, through bamboo forests. Since you can’t see out past the tall trees, we didn’t really have any way to keep our bearings. It was muddy, we had no idea where we were headed, but for some reason we just kept going.
It was unnerving to follow a trail that leads into the unknown (I will resist the urge to make a clichéd comparison to the journey of life) but it was also very freeing, and a lot of fun. I had to consciously resist the urge to worry about where we were headed, when it was going to get dark, or whether or not we’d be killed by some crazy jungle animal I didn’t yet know existed. I didn’t worry about getting lost, because we were following a trail that only went one way. Our only options were to keep going or turn around and go back, having never discovered where this path leads. We hoped it led to something amazing, otherwise why would there be a trail leading to it?
About half an hour in, we came across a big guy with a man purse that reminded me of Damian from Mean Girls who was bounding towards us in a hurry. I asked him if there was a waterfall up ahead, and he said there wasn’t. He was panting pretty heavily and just told us there was a pretty overlook if we kept going, and then he told us to turn right somewhere, but we didn’t hear where he said to turn because he had kept moving in the opposite direction and his voice trailed off.
A few times, we thought about turning around, but we kept going and about an hour and a half after we started, the path dead ended into another marked with a sign that read “Pauoa Flats Trail.” There were arrows pointing in both directions, and we guessed (luckily) that this was where big dude meant for us to turn right. And about 15 minutes later, we were rewarded for our determination to keep going – we came to the end of the trail, which was an unbelievable overlook.
It was so clear, so emerald green, and so bright after spending hours in the dark overgrowth of the jungle that it made my head spin…though that may have been from having just hiked uphill for 2 hours. We could see the ocean at the break in the mountains to the right and the thick growth of trees on the mountain below us. I found out when I got back that we were at the Ko`olau summit, looking out at the Nu’uanu Valley. Though I won’t attempt to pronounce those, I definitely will tell everyone I know who is headed to Oahu to check out this hike.
It was totally worth the sweat and time it took to get up there – and to think we were going to turn around! I felt like I’d conquered a mountain. It was definitely a boost after feeling like such failure when I crashed my moped earlier in the day.
It made me think I should start taking new paths in life for the hell of it more often, without fear of not knowing where it could end up. The trick seems to be to just keep going.
Dammit, I knew I wouldn’t be able to resist that cliché for long.