On my third day on Maui I hiked up to Waihee Falls and I’ll get to that in a minute but first I want to go back to what I mentioned about the cultural diversity of Maui. The Waihee Valley road travels through an agricultural area, mostly inhabited by natives, before going into a state run agricultural reserve. There is a small dirt road at the end of the paved road and as I approached it, I saw the ubiquitous Hawaiian sign: “No Trespassing – Private Property”.
Forget alohas and rainbows and cute state birds, Hawaii’s state flag should just say ‘No Trespassing: Private Property’ cuz this is definitely fuck-you territory. And its everywhere, some people even throw up ‘Private Property’ signs on public property adjacent to their place. In Wailuku Banyan Tree Park, there is a ‘Private Property’ sign on the banyan tree. Every single piece of suburban or rural land falls into one of the following categories: privately owned (farms, ranches, estates etc), commercial (resorts, golf courses, businesses etc) or public park. And not a lot is public park. Fortunately Hawaiian state law mandates that all shoreline is public so access to beaches is pretty good.
But really, how many days so I really need at the beach? In a single day at the beach I could; bodyboard, paddleboard, read an entire book, suntan, snorkel, BBQ, swim, fish, play volleyball, surf, bodysurf, windsurf, paddle-surf and build a sandcastle all before lunch. For me, one full day at the beach does it. So for the rest of the time I’m trying to do the Hawaii that I envisioned – steamy rainforest hikes to remote waterfalls with little swimming holes, exotic sounding birds in the forest and ever-present din of cicadas. Something like that, I dunno, I didn’t have time to pre-research what lives here exactly (actually not much does but more on that later). So I was starting to wonder if I’d find that, possibly on the more remote end of the island where I’m heading tomorrow. There certainly were hidden roadblocks to some of this, roadblocks that don’t really exist in Canada, and they’re a little trickier to navigate than a fresh cutblock or a washed out bridge. What it really comes down to is ethnicity and wealth.
I felt a little like I was caught in the crossfire in Maui. On one hand you’ve got the natives: their once idyllic land has been radically transformed in the last 100 years, often forcibly, and what little they have left is well-guarded. And on the other hand you’ve got the tourists: this paradise is a 5 hour flight away, they’re willing to pay a lot for it, and they come in droves. Each side is dug in like a tick and, to be honest, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of space for me: a guy just trying to string together a fun vacation on the cheap.
The first thing that comes to mind is: why don’t the natives develop their own tourism and make a killing off tourism? When you drive through Wailea you don’t see Kahinui Native Resort or Queen Kamen’ihini Spa; you see Marriot, Four Seasons, Outrigger, Hilton, Sheraton etc… And when you drive through Haiku you don’t see natives driving the sick Benz’s, you see all the white people who make a killing off $500/night rooms and $100/plate dinners at said resorts. Its not until you drive further into the sticks 20 minutes down the highway that you see the natives’ crummy tropical houses and beat up trucks rumbling by. And you wonder, “do they just not know how to market vacations to white people?”
No, they just don’t give a shit. They don’t want to roll in sick Benz’s through the mansions up in the hills by evening, at least not if it means catering to the tourism industry. I suppose it’s a bit like a cornered cat putting up a hell of a fight, if it scratches and hisses enough, maybe its aggressor will go away. And that’s what Hawaii does, it kinda hisses and spits at you, through ‘Private Property’ signs and the odd glare that Hawiians first give you before their inherent good spirit shines through in the form of a smile, ya know? You just get the impression that your presence as a non-native is barely tolerated and that they’d all be happier if everyone just got the fuck off their islands and let them live the way they used to. Like that’s gonna happen.
But they do manage to throw a monkey wrench into the works, like Luke Skywalker destroying the death star. Like, its not gonna stop the Empire, but it sure kicked em in the balls. And similarly on Maui, there was an incident last year where a solo female was turned away from the Blue Falls Trail through verbal and minor physical abuse. It bylined in papers and wasn’t a big deal but it put the final nail in the coffin for the once-bustling traffic on that trail since no tourist wants to deal with drama like that. So while some of the ‘Private Property’ signs don’t mean anything, others are vigorously enforced and its tricky trying to figure out which is which. Especially when you’ve got a rental car that morphs into a nightmare if you ding it up, regardless of insurance coverage.
So there I sat, in my insurance-nighmaremobile, staring at another, ‘Private Property – No Tresspassing Sign’. A quick double-check with the trail guide confirmed that I was supposed to ignore them. Hmmm, are you sure about that? It looks pretty official. Its got a towing company advertised. And a list of towing costs by size. My car would be about $200. That does not sound like they’re just kidding around. So what am I gonna do? Am I gonna pussy out and drive home just to read on tripadvisor that its total BS and I missed the best time ever? Or am I gonna stare these obvious warning signs in the face and say “bah… whats the worst that could happen?”
So I parked the car and hoofed it into the Waihee Argibusiness Reserve toward Waihee Falls and the swimming hole it drains into. Ah, a locked gate saying the area doesn’t open for 45 minutes, we’ll just go around that. Another sign, ignore it. Another one. And another. And now a sign charging an entrance fee with one of those envelope systems. Well, I’m on a roll so fuck that one too. It should be noted that this is a public road leading to an open public forest, and all signage and ‘entrance fees’ are installed by residents. Its like the guy who lives at the top of Mtn Hwy charging $5 to pass the gate.
The hike up to the falls turned out to be pleasant, not breathtaking, but pleasant. A good thing I suppose since it gave me time to reflect on the weirdness of Hawaii. Following an aqueduct system uphill, the trail wove through bamboo, eucalyptus, and banyan, with hillsides rising sharply on either side of the valley. There was a nice suspension bridge that would have been a real shit-in-your-pants affair if strung across Lynn Canyon. When I finally reached the falls they were deserted because, you guessed it, I started 45 minutes before it ‘opened’. I guess my gambles had some pay-off. So I took a quick and refreshing dip but didn’t linger because I knew everyone else would arrive soon. As they trudged their way to the falls I took the opportunity to get some reading done in a shady secluded spot next to the river where I had a view of a distant sinewy falls that dropped 200ft or so. I was glad to be in the rainforest and out of the sun for the majority of the day.
I’ve never really had a problem with sun – I rarely burn, even after long exposure. So its no surprise that sunscreen was forgotten on the Safeway run before Haleakala. And I certainly wasn’t about to turn around and make the hour journey back for it. So I went sunscreenless. And I paid. I burned the shit out of the tip of my nose and the tips of my ears. I realize now that the sun is much stronger in Hawaii due to latitude, especially so close to the summer solstice. Duh. Wear your sunscreen.
When you visit cities like New York or Chicago you see highways, or ‘parkways’, built along rivers and lakefronts that were originally envisioned as recreational facilities for the pastime of driving. Its always seemed hilarious to me but I’ve stopped laughing. I’m not a ‘driver’, I don’t really enjoy operating a car, even a fast one. For me it’s a process to get from a to b. But put me on a smooth scenic Hawaiian highway, with some local local reggae pumping on the system, and I gotta admit that it’s just… great. Everything is just so laid back here, no traffic, sunny and warm, and you just fly along enjoying the tunes with the warm wind in your hair. I can see how driving became a pastime in the 50’s and 60’s, especially with all the smooth freshly poured concrete and idyllic weather in Southern California. Its just easy cruising.