The morning after our whale watch, we all woke up with the urge to go on a hike through the forest. I had been dreaming about some of the bamboo forests in Hawaii and I really wanted to check one of them out.
We would be going to Kane’ohe, a region of Oahu just west of where we were staying in Kailua. Kane’ohe is perhaps most famous for Kane’ohe bay, the largest sheltered body of water on the island of Oahu, but we were going further inland. Tucked into the mountains was a beautiful stretch of bamboo forest that contained the entrance to the fabled Haiku Stairs. These steps ascended up into the mountains with a total of 3,922 steps. These steps are not open to the public because they are so dangerous, and you can be arrested for trying to climb them. The only way to get up here is to come at 3:00 in the morning before the guard shows up. I never did this climb because the last time we tried we got there too late. My parents got to do the climb the subsequent year however.
We weren’t climbing the steps today, we just wanted to enjoy a nice hike through the forest. We parked our car in a nearby neighborhood and began walking along the road until we found ourselves in the dense bamboo forest. It was so cool to be here, surrounded by thick vegetation that dampened the sounds coming from the nearby road. Up ahead, we noticed a huge building in the middle of the forest. We think the building was an abandoned warehouse. Now it is covered in graffiti and has become a popular hangout spot. We walked inside the building, looking for ways to climb to the top. Although the place hadn’t been used in years, it seemed that the stairways were still workable, so we were able to quickly find our way to the top.
Being in this abandoned warehouse was a bit creepy, and I brought a sharpened bamboo pole with my just to be safe. After walking around the dark hallways of the warehouse, we finally emerged to the roof, and saw a beautiful view of the emerald green mountains against the blue sky.
The mountains here were spectacular. The unique texture made them unlike any other. The waterfalls carved deep canyons into them and the sun casts dark shadows in between the ridges. It was no wonder that so many movies are filmed here because the views of these mountains are incredible!
Just when we thought we were on the top of the building, we saw another ladder leading up. We were already like 3 stories high at this point, so it made me a little bit nervous to climb yet another ladder, let alone one that looked like it was about to fall off the side of the building. Despite the possible danger, we all climbed up and saw a view that made it all worth it. From here, we could see all of Kane’ohe bay to the north and to the south we could see a huge stretch of mountains. We stayed up here for a little while, took some nice family pictures and then carefully headed back down.
We walked back through the forest and a few of my family members were ready to go home. For my cousin and I, this was just the beginning and we really wanted to pack in one more adventure while we were here. She joined my parents and I in the car, and the four of us drove to the beach to swim to Mokoli’i. Mokoli’I is more commonly referred to as “Chinaman’s hat” because of its resemblance to a conical hat. This island was not much bigger than a football field and it was located about a third of a mile offshore, making it the perfect distance for a quick swim. We had been told there are a few sharks in Kane’ohe bay, but I tried not to think about this too much as I swam deeper and deeper into the water. The water around Mokoli’i is very shallow, and you could almost walk there if it weren’t for a few deeper parts.
Once we got to the island, we were dead set on climbing to the top. It looked simple enough, but there would be a few challenges along the way. First of all, there were no real hand-holds on this cliff, only a combination of rocks, dirt and sporadic vegetation. After a few fallen rocks, my mom decided to drop out and head back to sea level. It was just my cousin and I left. We pretty much breezed through the first ¾ of the climb, but then we came to the vertical ascent towards the top. If you look at the island, there is a point towards the top where the cliff shoots straight up, that’s where we were. We walked around the island a few times to see if there was a safer way up but soon realized there was no way around it. We would have to do a vertical climb to scale the wall. Once you get a few feet up, the concept of going back down is almost off the table. You have to keep climbing and sometimes that can be very difficult if there are no good grips. I went up first and then offered my cousin a hand. Finally we had reached the top. We took a few moments to take in the view and noticed some sea turtles in the water below. In addition to being whale season, it was also sea turtle season, and this would be the first of many sea turtle sightings throughout the trip. After a minute or two of being up here, the thought occurred to us: it would be even harder to get down. This thought frightened us and we joked about having to call a rescue helicopter to get us off the island.
A few well-placed feet later, I was able to make it through the steep part and I started climbing my way down the rest of the island. I had taken my sandals off a little while ago and was barefooted for the whole hike. I find that this really makes a difference when you are climbing because you need to be very mindful of where your feet are and sometimes this is challenging when you are wearing shoes. It also helps you get a better grip because you have more maneuverability.
I felt so accomplished and I felt blessed that I was in a place like this where I could challenge myself each day. It was turning out to be a fun day. We had a hike through the bamboo forest, a 2/3 mile swim and about a half hour of rock climbing. On the way home, we stopped by the poi factory for a little snack. Poi is a traditional Hawaiian dish that is made from the root of the taro plant. This particular one was very sweet and made for a nice dessert that night.