Friday, December 5, 2008

Hike to Hanakapiai Falls

"Na Pali" - "the cliffs" in hawaiian - is one of the most beautiful yet remote places in Kauai. It can only be accessed by hiking, kayaking or by a helicopter ride. The Kalalau trail is a 11 mile treacherous trail along this coastline. We had read and heard so much about it that we knew our trip would be incomplete if we didn't experience the Na Pali coastline by attempting at least a part of this trail. We decided to hike the first two miles on Kalalau trail - starting from Ke'e beach going till the remote Hanakapiai beach and then two more miles up to the Hanakaipiai falls and then back out. This was to be an 8 mile roundtrip and roughly a total of 2800 ft in elevation (that's counting the elevation gained on both legs of the hike) - the most challenging we have done so far with Kabir.
Start of the trail. As the notice says we start "at our own risk"

Almost immediately we are rewarded with beautiful views of Ke'e beach

Another pic of the beautiful Ke'e beach from the trail

This one is from a somewhat higher elevation
Enjoying our first view of the Na Pali coastline
Na Pali Coastline

Pic taken by a fellow hiker

Kabu is fast asleep by now

We arrive at the Hanakapiai river.

This was the first point where we were surprised. We didn't expect to see such a full river. While some hikers were turning back at this point, there were quite a few who crossed the river.
A back-packer crossing the river

There was a rope tied across the river to make it easy. Saurabh decided to "test the waters" before deciding if it would be sensible for us to keep going.

Reasonably confident that it was safe to cross, Saurabh takes Kabir across this time and I follow.

Right across this river is Hanakaipai beach -the half way point to our destination. Other than us, there were only two other people on the beach and we were not surprised!

The currents in the ocean here are very strong so we decide not to go close to the water. In fact this was one of the warning signs posted on the trail :

We took a short stop and decided to part from the Kalalau trail here and go up to the Hanakapiai falls. We soon learnt that this trail was not maintained half as well as the Kalalau trail. Since it had rained hard the previous day, in parts the trail had literally converted into a stream so we had to often trace our steps back to ensure we were still on the trail. Shortly after starting from the Hanakapiai beach, we met a couple that was coming back from the falls. They encouraged us to go ahead but warned us that there were few more river crossings coming up, one of which was more difficult than the one we had just crossed and this time it didn't have a rope to help cross. Undeterred, we kept going.
The first crossing was not an issue but when we got to the second one we realized what the couple had warned us about. Although the stream was not too wide, the current was strong here and the water was about knee high. At first we decided not to continue - we were both disappointed at the thought of turning around but in our minds we knew that would be right thing to do. We decided to sit there and have a snack and wait to see if we see any other hikers get there and decide to cross. After some time a couple got there and after contemplating for some time, they went ahead and waded through the river. At this time our determination took over our senses and we decided we had to cross too.
Saurabh contemplating before crossing

This time I decided to go first. The current was indeed quite strong and I had to hold on to the rocks with both my hands as I crossed. Immediately I knew this wasn't going to be easy with a baby. Saurabh came after me carrying Kabu in front. I watched with bated breath from the other side. To my horror, just when I thought he was almost there, Saurabh lost his balance and slipped - he managed to get his control back in time for Kabir to be safe but both of them got completely wet and needless to say, Kabir gave a scream that I will never forget. I can say that this was one of the most terrifying moments for that I've relived in my mind over and over again.
Although we kept going, the hike wasn't fun anymore. We knew that to get back, we needed to cross the same stream back. But we continued with a couple of other hikers until we got to a point where we could not continue anymore. The stream had to be crossed one more time and this time it was waist deep. Without a thought, we decided to turn back. We were about 50-100m from the falls. This is the closest view of the falls that we had.

Other hikers turned back with us and one of them took this pic for us

Had it been a drier day with less water in the streams, here's what we had hope to experience:
(courtesy Google images)

To see this in perspective, here's another pic of the Hanakapiai falls (again courtesy google images)

We turned back around and didn't stop until we got to the same river crossing again. This time we had enough sense to carry Kabir on the back in stead of the front, so that even if Saurabh slipped there was less chance of Kabir touching the water. For the first time ever during a hike, I was praying hard when Saurabh & Kabir crossed. And thankfully, this time there were no incidents. We turned around and took one last picture of the river where this had happened.

The rest of the hike back was long and tiring and we had no energy left to take any more pictures. When we finally got back to the trailhead we were glad to see our car.
In retrospect, this will be one of those hikes that I will always have mixed feelings about. While we got a big thrill out of the hike, it was certainly not worth the risk we took. Saurabh and I have had many discussions about this since, and one thing this hike has made us realize is that as parents we are now responsible for someone who is completely dependent on us. And even one irresponsible decision can prove to be too costly. It can be argued that we have the right to take risks with our own lives, but by no means can we take the same risk for Kabir. We feel fortunate that everything turned out well at the end of the day and that we had the opportunity to revel in the beauty of the Na Pali coast. For more reasons than one, this will be a hike we will never forget.


Shiva said...

It is totally wrong. You do not have right even to take risk with your own lives. There are so many people dependent on you, including parents.

Abha said...


When we had attempted this hike there wasn't half as much water as I see in your pics but even with that the hike was quite slippery and I too slipped and fell in the river. I am really glad that at the end of it you all(esp. Kabbu) came out of it ok...but bad bad idea to take this chance with Kabbu. Please do not take such risks with Kabbu.

Shiva said...

I really admire your determination and bravery. Hiking with a baby has got to be tough, specially going on a difficult hike like this. I would have been squealing myself, trying to cross that river.

Bidisha said...

tera dimag kahan tha amma :-)

Geeta said...

Itna kaha par sunte hi nahin. Mana kiya to bolti hai ki kya main kabu ki dushman hoon. Kuchh hojata to kya hota. Hamesha manmani karti hai

Brian said...

I admire your perseverance. We love hiking with our small children. My wife and I are planning on doing this hike later this year. Do you recall how long it took you from start to finish?

Sephroth Revival said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sephroth Revival said...

Poor Kabbu