We visited Waipi’o Valley, Thursday. Waipi’o is on the Hamakua Coast near Honokaa. The valley is reachable by a steep, narrow, twisting road which only 4WD vehicles can negotiate. We went with a shuttle tour. Guidebooks recount horror stories of people who have foolishly attempted the road on their own.We visited it earlier when the kids were still here, but went only as far as the lookout. Checkout the post from 6/26. Waipi’o Valley extends about seven miles back from the coast. It was formerly populated by Hawaiian royalty and chiefs. Sometime early in the monarhy, Hawaiian commoners moved in and built fish ponds and taro farms. It sustained a sizable population until the tsunami of April 1, 1946 wiped out most of the farms and dwellings. No lives were lost, but few people returned to the valley Now about 40 people live there, mostly farming taro and raising fruits and vegetables. A herd of wild horses make their home in the valley. They are descendants of survivors of the tsunami. At the back of the valley is one of the largest, most powerful waterfalls in Hawai’i, Hi’ilawe. which drops about 1,450 feet into the valley into Lalakea Stream, and eventually into the ocean. Much of the water of Lalakea is diverted for irrigation.
Hi’ilawe i immortalized in a classic Hawaiian song of the same name. It has long been one of my favorites. It’s a standard of the slack key genre and has been performed by nearly every great Hawaiian slack guitarist. Here is Gabby Pahinui’s version.
And here is the first verse with English translation below.
Kümaka ka ‘ikena iä Hi’lawe
Ka papa lohi mai a’o Maukele
Pakele mai au i ka nui manu
Hauwala’au nei puni Waipi’o
All eyes are on Hiÿilawe
And the sparkling lowlands of Maukele
I escape all the birds
Chattering everywhere in Waipi’o
Sunset last night at Kona: