A refreshing journey to Waipio Valley
Hawaiian-island hopping is one of our favorite ways to travel… especially when its for our internship programs “Inter-island outreach”.
Read about this summers trip to the Big Island, written by internship staff member, Sofie Gustavsson!
Leaving the lava fields of Kona behind, the greenery of northern Big Island made us all wide eyed and speechless, in awe of the beauty around us. At the top of the Waipio Valley Lookout the excitement was static in the air, backpacks were adjusted, water bottles refilled and polaroids taken before our group of eighteen, ten interns, six leaders and two children, began the hike down into the valley of rich Hawaiian culture. After a good forty minutes of criss crossing over the poorly paved road to conquer the steep downhill without injuries we finally reached the bottom of the valley. From there it was all jungle greens, rainbows, waterfalls and wild horses. They say pictures speak more than a thousand words, but Waipio Valley is the kind of place a thousand pictures could never make justice.
“Make sure you fill up your inner buckets of strength when you’re down here” Uncle Morgan told us when we arrived at his farm. “I love it in the valley, I hear so much better here than up in the busyness of the town.”
And we listened, for three days we got to spend time in his “Garden of Eden” just listening to nature, each others laughter and the thoughts and dreams that for too long had been pushed back by the sound of everyday life.
We woke with the sunrise and were soon ready to join the taro workers for a day of getting our feet deep into the plantation mud and our hands purple with the ancient culture of growing taro. After overcoming the fear of leeches in the water and the feeling of mud pressed in between our toes, we spent the morning harvesting the ripe plants for Uncle Morgan to make into Poi, a polynesian staple food made out of the roots of the taro. We pulled roots, weeded, got dirty – really dirty. We sang and tried our best to not fall backwards in the mud when the weed came uprooted. By lunchtime we sought shelter from the scorching sun on the lanai of the house Uncle Morgan, on the side of his farming, was under full interior construction of. Time and time again I had to pinch myself to make sure the vast mountains, the undisturbed symphony of birds and crickets and the sweet company of some of my dearest friends was not just a dream.
After seeing how much we had harvested and weeded in the morning Uncle Morgan insisted on us taking the afternoon off. One of the workers offered to show us the way to the waterfall we had been admiring from afar all morning working in the fields; hungry for adventure, we jumped at the opportunity. He led us over private properties, under fences of barbed wire and in deep jungle until the green opened up to the sound of splashing water. Knowing we would have never found this on our own we enjoyed it all the more. With no time to waste we jumped in, cooling off in the fresh mountain water. It didn’t take long until the pool at the bottom was explored and the wall of the mountain was next to be conquered. Following the water upstreams we found waterfall after waterfall, each one taller and more magnificent than the other. When we could see into the valley from over the treetops – and after we had swam, climbed, and hid behind the waterfall to take showers in the cold water – we started the slippery sliding down to the foot of the fall, and with feet dirty and cut from the hike, we dried off in the sun before heading back for the valley.
As the rest of the group headed out for a black sand beach adventure, my friend and I stayed behind for an afternoon of quiet rest. When you spend ten days straight with almost twenty people, finding time to just sit and be quiet is a sport, but to me so very crucial. In the land in between sleep and being awake a very choppy chain of thought had me thinking of what a privilege it is to get to do what I get to do. I love every single day of being part of leading the program that two years ago drastically changed the course of my life. I know that I will never be the same since doing my internship with Surfing the Nations and now getting to help create the same environment for others is an honor beyond what I can put into words. In the shade of a palmtree in the single most beautiful place I’ve ever experienced, I fell asleep with a wide smile on my face.
“When we got here and were asked what would be our challenge down at the farm, I couldn’t think of anything. Now I know it’ll be leaving. You’ll have to drag me up that mountain kicking and screaming!” was just one of the voices I heard about having to go back up, leaving the valley behind. I think it’s safe to say we all loved our stay down in Waipio Valley at Uncle Morgan’s farm. His hospitality and love had us as in awe as the nature that surrounded it and when the time came to say goodbye we climbed the mountain with inner buckets over flowing with strength and an ear tuned to even the most silent whisper of a dream. I think we would all be a lot saner and healthier if every now and then we put our lives on mute and spent a couple of days in a place like Waipio Valley. It’s not until you reach the quiet that you can hear your soul with a worn out voice cry for silence enough to be heard, and ever since our stay I feel like I hear it a bit clearer, as if it’s recovering from a cold. I have decided to not let it grow weary again.
-Sofie Gustavsson, Internship Staff