Saturday, June 29, 2019

The Koko Head Challenge

Lulumahu Falls
 A couple of weeks ago, I was very fortunate to be able to visit my friends Jake and Wendy in Hawaii - on the island of Oahu.  I haven't been to Oahu in 20 plus years.  I last stayed in Honolulu/Waikiki Beach.  It was kind of like San Francisco, just on better water.  Tall buildings.  Crowds.  Beautiful and I'm certainly not complaining about being in Hawaii, but it wasn't my favorite trip.  Staying with friends outside of the big city was a much nicer experience.  I got to hang with locals in cool spots and saw things I never would have seen had I been in the tourist trap.  

My first full day on the island, we hiked Lulumahu Falls.  It was funny because there were fences and signs to keep out but everyone was happy to point you in the right direction.  Even a police officer told us how to get started.  It wasn't a super difficult hike, but it wasn't easy either.  You're crossing streams and climbing over fallen trees and rocks.  But the falls are beautiful and swimming before we came back down was a treat.  I fell a couple of times on that hike.  Once trying to climb over a fallen tree or rock (got into those splits I don't have).  The second fall was a pretty awesome slo-mo fall on my face in the water when I slipped on some moss.  I also had a couple of slips on the way down.  I started chronicling my falls on Facebook because they were so funny. 
On our way to Lulumahu Falls

After that, we headed to Waimanalo, which a travel website named as one of the ten most beautiful beaches in the world.  It did not disappoint.  We saw a turtle hanging out around the rocks.  It would poke its head up to say hello every once in awhile.  My friends told me a "hilarious" story about their friend who was almost eaten by a shark and had to swim to this island to save himself.  His friends never came looking for him and he eventually had to swim back.  When they tell it, it is pretty funny, but I can't imagine how terrifying it must have been in the moment.  On the way home, we stopped at the Makapu'u Lookout and Halona Blowhole.  We ended the tour with sunset at China Walls.  I can't even describe the beauty that was China Walls.  You walk out on to this cliff and people are surfing along the rocks.  There is no beach in site.  The waves and sunset were indescribable.  It was amazing.

The next few days included hanging out, a pinup contest (Congratulations to Wendy for taking third!!!), and the full moon at a gay bar.  We did so much but if I go into it all, this blog will be a 20 minute read.  It was such a fun time.  From my friends' backyard, I could see a mountain with some stairs on it.  Koko Head.  I wanted to do that hike.  (Well, what I REALLY wanted to do was the "stairway to heaven," the Haiku Stairs, but they are closed to the public and I didn't want to risk the $1,000 fine or wrath of the locals who live near there.  Also, it is four times as many stairs as Koko Head, so I should probably be relieved I couldn't try them.)

Pinup ready
On my last full day before leaving, Jake took me to Koko Head.  Now, from far away, it looked totally doable.  Once you're standing at the bottom of those stairs, you realized you've probably made a horrible mistake.  This is over 1,000 "stairs."  Not stairs.  This used to be a railroad for the military to get supplies up to their lookout.  It is often steep and the railroad ties are not evenly spaced.  Before we even start, I know I'm going to die.  It is also later in the morning, so the sun is beating on us, and it is humid.  I am sweating before we even take our first step.  I ask Jake how long it takes him to do the stairs.  He says 20 minutes.  So I say, then I can do them in 40.  And so we begin.  I don't want to bore you with too many details, but let's just say that it doesn't take me long to realize I am not going to be able to hike this as quickly as I thought.  My heart rate almost immediately gets up to max level, and stays there.  I was often having to take breaks every five steps.  There are parts where it is steep, or you are going over a ravine, so climbing like a ladder is easier than standing straight up.  There was a point where I am huffing and puffing and I hear a guy on his way down on the phone.  He says something about grandma being up there still.  I was like, your grandma did this?!  Jesus.  I saw his grandma later.  She told me it took her two hours to get up there.  I just keep telling myself to keep moving.  Even if its slowly.  One step at a time.  But I get five steps in and I need to take a break and drink some water.  It was embarrassing.  I kept telling Jake, I know I'm not in the best shape, but I shouldn't be THIS bad.  He was super patient and just kept saying to rest as much I needed to.  I realize now that I probably didn't fuel up properly for this hike, and maybe didn't drink enough water.  There's a video of me coming up the last few steps and I look delirious.  Also, once I was on top, I took some "panoramic" photos, yet they aren't on my phone, which means I didn't do it right.  But I went through the motions as if I had taken them.  Anyway, I was slowly making my way up, and I saw an Australian girl sitting on the other side.  She said she was in good shape and had trained for it, and she was also struggling.  So we decided it was the humidity and heat.  Finally, I am almost to the top and Jake is taking a video.  Later, I'm watching myself sway and kind of lumber up the steps.  I look down and I see a squid painted on something with Lolo under it.  Although Lolo is my nickname, it means crazy or stupid in Hawaii.  I laughed and walk up the last few steps.  It totally motivated me to keep moving. 

Along the hike up, almost everyone who passed me offered encouragement. You can make it!  It will be so worth it when you get up there!  Jake wanted to make it a drinking game but we would have died from alcohol poisoning.  You're probably wondering how long it took me to get to the top?  Only 0.7 miles, but it was practically straight up.  An hour and 20 minutes.  That's how long.  At least I beat that guy's grandma.  And people weren't lying.  The views were worth it.  Once I had the chance to sit and eat a snack, I was a whole new person.  Jake and I made a friend at the top of the stairs that day.  She was an Australian girl traveling alone.  She hiked down off the mountain and came to Cockroach Cove for a celebratory swim later. 

Climbing Koko Head "stairs"
Jake and I talked about that hike later.  He said some people give up.  I couldn't imagine being that close and not finishing.  There's certainly no shame in respecting your body's limits, but I just kept telling myself, "take one more step."  There were points where I was literally pushing down on my knees to keep myself moving.  Failure was not an option.  It was a mini version of my Half Dome trip.  I was going to finish that climb no matter what.  And I owe that to the encouragement of the friends who took me on those hikes. 

On the hike down, Jake ran ahead and our new friend Mallory stayed with me.  Within the first couple steps, I tripped and scraped my leg and elbow.  Then another couple of steps later, I twisted my knee.  I could put weight on it, but bending it hurt a lot.  Getting down one sided was going to be a challenge.  So I sat on my ass and crab walked down most of it.  Way easier on my knees.  Not so much on my butt and hands.  I ripped my pants.  But we made it down in under 30 minutes. 

We then went to Cockroach Cove to swim in the ocean.  The beach is beautiful.  We bobbed in the waves for a bit.  Then I ran to get my phone to go up along the side to take some photos of Jake and Mallory.  I hit some weird sand cliff and did another slo-mo roll down the sand, completely covering myself in this super fine white sand.  It took me forever to get that sand out of all of my crevices.  It was hilarious.  I don't know why I fell so much on this trip, but I provided some good entertainment for others. 
China Walls

Once we left the beach, Jake's coworker took us out in the ocean on his boat.  We saw turtles and rays.  The water was so beautiful.  It had rained, so we worried it was going to be too cold or rainy to be out, but it cleared up perfectly.  He took us to Kaneohe Bay Sandbar.  You're in the middle of the ocean but you can get out and you're just in waist deep water!  It was so beautiful.  His friend's three year old son kept telling me he wanted to look at turtles or find treasure.  ("Aunty, let's look for treasure!!"  He is so adorable.)  So we picked up coral and looked at it (don't worry, we left it there).  Once we were done, as we were driving back, he goes, "oh look over there, its a tiger shark."  What.  The.  Fuck.  We were just swimming in this water!  Still, so amazing. 

I haven't taken a "real" vacation, an entire week off just for fun, in a long time.  I've done long weekends.  I've hung with the family.  But mostly, for the last few years, I've just been saving my time off work for surgery recovery.  This trip was so wonderful and I am so grateful to Jake and Wendy for hosting me.  It's sad how quickly time gets away from us, and we look up and years have passed without taking any significant time to recharge and do something for ourselves.  While I do have to have another surgery this year, the recovery should be much shorter, and this is going to be my last for the foreseeable future. 

I'm super proud of myself for that Koko Head hike.  One thing I appreciate about myself is that I rarely give up once I decide to do something.  Even if it takes me longer than someone's grandma, I will get there one step at a time.  If you want to check out some other photos of the hike, as well as some videos, check out Nature Goddess Adventures on Facebook:

Waimanalo Beach
Cockroach Cove
Climbing Koko Head
View from Koko Head
View on the other side of Koko Head
Made it to the top of Koko Head
Made it back to the bottom of Koko Head
Celebration swim at Cockroach Cove
Kaneohe Bay Sandbar

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