Swimming in Waterfalls

20150708_104821_Richtone(HDR)On our way out of Asia to the Diplomat’s next posting, we decide to fly eastwards through Japan and take a five day vacation in Hawaii; ostensibly because B.O.B and Noppadol are now residing there having given up their 9yr Ratchadamri lifestyle of truffle pizza and hospitality at the Four Seasons in order to start anew in Oahu – I have to say that being at the top of the hotel food chain in Hawaii is possibly one of the most pleasant careers you could pick. Not that travelswithadiplomat is in the slightest bit envious, no sirreee.

We fly in over Pearl Harbor into Honolulu, Isla squealing excitedly at the planes, I gaze at the fact I can see a real island in the middle of the Pacific, and the Diplomat is prodding Joshua vaguely awake. To be fair to the kids, they’ve been little gems on 95% of our flights. Luckily, I didn’t get to experience the one time that Josh lost it en route to Canada from the United Kingdom but all kudos to Nana for waltzing him up and down the 6hr aisle. Baby in one arm, desire for a whisky in the other.

You get my drift ūüėČ I owe her.

We land and spend what is genuinely a fantastic five days with B.O.B and Noppodal. A finer family you cannot meet in Ewa Beach and there will be some other blogs about the things we did and saw. This one, however, is our day trip to Waimea Valley where I fulfilled a bucket list item that I never knew was even on the list!

The Waimea Falls is on the north side of Oahu, we hop in our rented SUV and skedaddle, trying to match the breakneck pace of Noppadol and her youngest – Lochie – as she rips her 4×4 across¬†the blasted leeward scrub land of the south side of Oahu to the lush, verdant, rainforest of the north side. On the way we follow a pickup truck with locals in it. Canadian they most definitely are not as beer cans are lobbed out by the indolent drunkards bouncing along in the open back of the truck. We overtake and leave¬†them, skipping past the fields where Dole produce the cornucopia of pineapple, and plunge into the darker valleys and gorges. Dense foliage and trees are buried into the sharp acclivities, we twist and turn along the asphalt until a sharp right eases¬†us into the¬†Waimea Park Valley.

The place isn’t deserted, each car space is taken and there’s a rumbling coach lurching along ahead of us. With a swiftness born of two mothers used to handling four kids under the age of four we sashay, with a Hawaiian spring in our collective step, into the entrance, pay the fee (I forget how much it is) and hop into a golf cart to take us through the gardens. This is what we saw:

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wailele means ‘waterfall’. It exemplifies, in Hawaiian tradition, the power of the water, marking the aka section of the ahapua’a. Waimea – meaning reddish freshwater – like all Hawaiian waterfalls, is fed by rainwater that is claimed to have healing powers (don’t they all claim that everywhere on this planet?) due to the volcanic iron oxides.

What makes Waimea even more special is the valley itself. It house an extensive botanical collection, exotic imports mingle with rare endemic species. Indeed, 90% of those Hawaiian species are endemic. There are honeycreepers with curved bills to sip nectar from plants like the hibiscus. There are giant daisy silverwoods and tree lobelias in what is one of the wettest rainforests in the world. Waimea itself is hospitable to the mesic species. There is a canonball tree, all six of the native hibiscus, the Kokia with their¬†cottonball trees, the ho’awa and loulu palms.

As we¬†meander¬†our way to the waterfall we can see kamanomano, ureara kaalae, ophue, pili grasses, mountain maupaka and akia. It is truly stunning. I will say, take the golf cart option to the waterfall if you’re with kids. Walk if you’re a budding, enthusiastic botanist or are kid-free with hours to while away. This is because, despite the claims of it being a fifteen minute walk, it’s not. It’s a mile, uphill and as every parent of an under five year old knows, that might as well be as far as the moon. Add in the rainforest humidity and you’re on a hiding to the gift shop when you return to change your sweat drenched shirt.

Oh, and take a towel for swimming.

We pitch up at the waterfall, cross a bridge for the iconic photo and pick a spot on the terraced stone side. I am sent in to test the waters. Donning a red life jacket, I wince my painful sole stabbing way into the water; you’d think they’d put a wooden walkway across the rocks to the underwater shelf that drops away into the basin, or clear some of the sharper stones. There’s nowhere to put your feet that is flat.

I eventually whine and moan my way to the proper basin and plunge in. It’s cold, not bitingly so, just perfectly chill and crystal clear. The waters are dark, given the rock bowl in which the tumult sloshes and writhes.¬†Noppadol urges me to get up under the waterfall; the current is strong, pushing me away, but there’s a small ledge where you can perch precariously. It’s a cool deluge, refreshing, skin-tingling, indisputably therapeutic in a placebo kind of way. It appears I am leading the adventurous way; a dozen younger people strike out boldly to join me, parents positioning for that perfect photo…can you spot me in the ones below?


After ten minutes, I am reluctant to leave and soothingly aware of a bucket list moment. Why haven’t I done this earlier in my life? Silly really. An absolute must. Eventually, it is time to leave so we all gather the still dry kids and retreat from this special adult moment back down the hill to the gift shop where I buy a lovely little blue bowl..I can see it on the shelf across from me as I type…a memento memory as I like to call them. Then we all pack into our cars and head further north…there’s a great shrimp van we have to try…but that’s another story.

I ¬†encourage you all to visit Oahu, Hawaii. I don’t mean do the package hotel trips, but hire a car and explore Oahu. It is a unique microcosm that has something for everyone. I went with zero expectations, my only view of it being tawdry Hollywood films, and endless History Channel narrative on World War II, but it is far greater than that. Truly a stupendous vacation.

Alright, I admit it. I envy B.O.B and Noppadol. We’ll be back. That a promise!

Is this what diplomacy is all about?




Categories: Hawaii

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