May 24, 2018

AIR. THE FEELING OF FREEDOM ON THE NUALOLO-AWAAWAPUHI CLIFF TRAIL IN HAWAII

We have a common dream: To explore Hawaii’s most stunning trails by tracing the four elements of ’Earth’, ’Water’, ’Air’ and ’Fire’. We, meaning photographer Manuel and design professional Nina, both from Munich, Germany. We’ve written about our adventures so that we can share them with the readers of the GORE-TEX blog. The spectacular view from the ridge of the cliffs of the Na Pali coast gives us a sense of freedom, clearing our minds and heads.

 

We have a common dream: To explore Hawaii’s most stunning trails by tracing the four elements of ’Earth’, ’Water’, ’Air’ and ’Fire’. We, meaning photographer Manuel and design professional Nina, both from Munich, Germany. We’ve written about our adventures so that we can share them with the readers of the GORE-TEX blog.

The spectacular view from the ridge of the cliffs of the Na Pali coast gives us a sense of freedom, clearing our minds and heads.

Even before the sun rises, we are woken by the sound of roosters crowing. Here in Kokee State Park, there are large numbers of domestic animals who returned to the wild in the aftermath of the Hurricane Iniki that hit Hawaii 25 years ago. We thank them for the wake-up call by half-heartedly throwing a stone at one especially vocal bird roosting in the tree above our tent.

At this altitude, the air is cold and damp. The plan for the day is to hike about 9.5 miles and climb ascents totalling 550 m. We try to make the most of the fact that our legs are well rested and set off at a good pace. Although it’s not that easy on this part of the path: It heads downhill through dense woodland and is very slippery in places. Soon the trail lives up to its name – it’s a cliff trail, after all. The woods become sparser and we catch our first brief glimpses of the narrow valleys and their lush green vegetation. The wind blows fiercely on this exposed ridge. We put on our windproof jackets so that we can enjoy the view despite the wind. We can see for miles: Steep rocky cliffs tower above the deep blue Pacific Ocean, while on the horizon the sky and the sea blur into one shade of blue. Soon, a deep sense of peace sets in. Exactly the same feeling that urges us on at home when we’re climbing the highest peaks of the Alps. It’s interesting how you get this same feeling wherever you’re hiking, high up above the hustle and bustle of the rest of the world. Each time anew, and each time it overwhelms you. The air up here is just different; it smells like freedom. Anything seems possible.

Which is your favorite mountain? Where do you like to go to clear your head? Tell us about it in the comments!

Needless to say, if you’re with a photographer in this kind of scenery, you’re not going to get anywhere very quickly. It takes us a while before we tackle the steep descent into the valley and climb on up to the next ridge. The view here is at least as spectacular as from the last lookout point. Where an outcrop of rock juts out over the void between the cliffs, we allow ourselves to be tempted into a daring bit of climbing – out to the tip of the outcrop. As we look into the dizzyingly deep abyss, we feel the movements of air around us.

 

Then it’s time to tackle the last few miles of the trail. The weather changes again and within a few minutes thick fog has engulfed the cliffs, eerily transforming the landscape and swallowing up most of the light. We pull up the collars of our jackets to keep out the damp air, stopping again and again to take in the mystical atmosphere. On the last part of the trail, our progress is slowed by marshy terrain. Our legs are beginning to feel sore from the long hike. We plod on for the last few miles back to the car, exhausted. All we want is to get back to the camp site. The last half hour hiking along the paved road seems agonizingly long. At last, we reach our Jeep, totally worn out. We drive back as if in a trance. Even before the first stars appear in the sky above our tent, sleep overcomes us.

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