USA: Wild Horses at Waipio
There I was in the middle of the Big Island, Hawaii visiting a childhood friend named Kelsey in her new home of Hanokaa. The first thing that struck me after the glorious heat was the green plants everywhere. I love it! The air is sticky and hot and the trees are lush with life, just teeming with life. There are birds and lizards and geckos everywhere. I see butterflies and beetles and evidence of other critters littered everywhere. The vibe in this tiny town is laid back, easy and close to the earth. What I mean by that is that everyone seems to be concerned where their food is coming from. It’s not like the mainland, where people want it cheap and fast and don’t care where it came from. The consumers here have an interest for their health and want good food that is organic and clean and promotes well-being instead of chemically grown and genetically altered “food.” It’s like a breath of fresh air. Every shop, restaurant and cafe boasts locally grown food and supports the local businesses. As an Upstate New York girl, I have an appreciation for slow-paced, easy places. The places that don’t feel rushed but that the drivers are looking around and enjoying the view. And what a spectacular view it is indeed! Out the window of our 4-wheel drive Jeep Wrangler (I know, not very economic or green, but oh so necessary for our off road adventures) was an amazing site: the ocean on one side and gulches and ravines carved in the jungle on the other. As we drove from the airport, with our windows down and the radio up, my friend Becca and I couldn’t get the smiles off of our faces.
Our time here was short and we wanted to experience everything. Waipio Valley was just a short 20 minute drive from the apartment we were sharing via HI-240/Honokaa-Waipio Rd./Waipio Rd and our Jeep was packed full of people, snacks, drinks and good vibes. I think that day we fit 10 people inside and more joined us on the beach afterwards. The road down into the valley is the steepest in the whole country. Upon first glance, it doesn’t seem very intimidating. It started off as a paved road that winded and twisted down the walls of the valley. I made sure my seatbelt was tightened up after we had put the Jeep into 4 Low and the pavement stopped. Such an amazing view. Between the trees you see 100 foot cliffs rising out of the ocean on either sides of the valley. The rock face that is exposed is dark and looks to be baked from the hot Hawaiian sun. Our descent down was slow and carefully maneuvered by Kelsey’s boyfriend Brendan. He’s an interesting character: decked out in dread locks, a tie dye t-shirt with a hippy attitude and I found him quite enjoyable.
As we reached the black sand beach, everything came into view. The ocean was a beautiful aqua blue as it reflected the cloudless sky. The waves were slow and peaceful and the jungle provided us with plenty of shade and cover from the afternoon heat. We all kicked off our clothes and headed down the beaches into the surf. I thought white sand was hot, but let me tell you, black sand inout of this world hot. The surface is baking, but once you dig your feet in a few inches, the temperature drops and it feels cool enough to stand on. The water was of course, just perfect. It was refreshing but not freezing and enough to cool down our overheated bodies. In the middle of the valley is a river. This river is freezing cold by the time it gets to the sea. Along the banks of this slow-moving freshwater river are pebbles and drift wood and as it pours itself into the ocean you see how it carves the shape of the ocean floor. It is truly spectacular.
The valley itself is gorgeous. Not just because it is made up of my favorite things: jungle and beach, but because there are different shades of green everywhere. There are trees that reach up 40 feet into the sky and smaller shrubs and grasses everywhere. In the middle of our adventure I caught the words “wild horses.” I was enjoying some baby carrots in hummus and I jumped up and ran over to a pack of wild horses. There was a family of four or five that were grazing within 50 yards of the Jeep. They were a dark brown with black mane and tails. I had to slow down as Kelsey reminded me that I would scare them away if I wasn’t careful. My feet slowed to a hurried walk and eventually a casual stroll as I got closer and closer to these beautiful creatures. It was clear that they were used to having human visitors in their home because the biggest one stopped eating and came over to me. It was only then that I realized he was interested in the hummus I still had in my hand.
The smell of horses is one of the best aromas in the world. It reminds me of fresh cut grass and arouses warm feelings in my heart. I scrubbed the horse’s neck as I cooed in his ear. He continued trying to get to my hummus and I had to remind him that he was a horse and horses don’t eat hummus. After my not relenting, he gave up and went back to grazing. I was able to get close to one of the babies, but he wouldn’t let me get close enough to pet him. I was so mesmerized by these beautiful animals that I was still wandering around them long after everyone else grew tired and went back to the beach.
Bring Your Camera
The wild horses at Waipio are gorgeous. I was only able to see them for under an hour before the moved on, but I got plenty of pictures and even a few videos. If you wander down to the Waipio Valley, make sure to keep an eye out for the family of wild horses that live there. They are beautiful and make the trip worth it!