With a late night text from Shayna a few days later, announcing a sudden flu, our travel plans our delayed. We leave early Sunday morning and drive to Waipio Valley, forgoing the cliff-side campsite completely.
It turns out that this what we should have done in the first place. When we drive up the road towards Waipio Valley, the view is remarkable. Lush green mountains frame a small beach. Small, slow waterfalls shoot from one side of the mountain towards an infinite ocean. Others have stopped to bask in the view, though the valley itself appears to be completely empty and still.
We are not there yet and must descend down a windy dirty road to get to Waipio’s car park. Todd drives our borrowed truck seamlessly down the road, following two other cars. We chug along slowly, carefully, all the while casting our eyes on the most amazing view I have ever seen.
I read a bit about the trail we are about to embark on, from my Lonely Planet and an online forum. Though when we get to the edge of the car park, and my eyes fall to the 30-foot wide, chest high river we have to cross in order to get to our very first campsite, I wonder if I knew anything about the trail at all. My mind begins to wonder what other surprises await us down the road…
In my running shoes and bathing suit, I strap my backpack as high on my hips as possible, in preparation for the river crossing. We are careful about our footing on the uneven rocky ground, and I almost fall in twice. If it weren’t for Todd’s hand stabilizing me, I would have been pulled out to sea.
Finally, once we are all across, there is a leisurely walk down the beach to the forest where our campsite is. As we walk along the shore, I glance towards the forest lining the beach and see a large shadow pacing between the trees. As I get closer to the shadow it comes into clear focus. It is a large coffee-brown horse with a white diamond on its nose, feasting on grub found on the forest floor. Wild horses live in Wapio Valley, I remember hearing from Jo at the Sanctuary. I never thought we’d see them, as horses are usually shy. I begin to walk even closer, under the leaf canopy of the forest, towards the large beauty. And as I do, another large coffee-coloured horse emerges with a clumsy foal. I collapse on the ground and bask in their beautiful elegance. The operate slowly and purposefully, always watching the baby to make sure it are safe. I am close enough to witness their movements, close enough to see their muscles shifting under their enormous weight, though far enough away that I am out of reach. The family of wild horses are completely unfazed by me though undeniably aware of my presence. We stay in harmony like this for a while, until I am called back to the beach by Todd and Shayna, who have found the campsite just steps away.