Researching a “little Galapagos” for my nature-loving husband, my attention was caught by the Channel Islands, 17 miles off the coast of California. I was delving through a travel guide on the national parks when I saw (beyond a photo of cliffs rising from ocean frilled by white breakers) the intriguing statement, “Discovering the Channel Islands is like tumbling through a time warp into a California everyone assumed had long ago vanished.”
Immediately coming to mind were the undeveloped places on our Kauai Island that still give us such a feeling of protected and preserved beauty and nature, such as the Kokee forest and certain valleys and coastal lands. How fortunate we are to be able to drive to such places within an hour or two. And for some fortunate folks, trails and forests where one may recapture a feeling of calm and centered spirit exist within walking distance.
Visiting such a place, with no manmade “creations” to interrupt or overlay nature, can bring on the feeling of “tumbling through a time warp.” Such quiet and magical places are now the rarity, especially in urban center and sprawl.
One such preserved place for me, among many others, is our own Keahualaka, part of the Kee archaeological complex tucked into the rocky cliff above Kee lagoon. A bit of an uphill climb, this ancient hula platform is not secret, but is not a usual tourist draw. Special visitors, yes; those who respect and honor the site. Beyond hula practitioners, many come on a type of pilgrimage to celebrate and experience the place. Generally, these are people of a certain mindset who honor the original people of the land, the Hawaiian reverence for nature and its balancing forces, and the site’s expression of that connection.
A free opportunity for “armchair” travel to the documentary screening, “Keahualaka, A Door to Hawaiian Spirituality” is scheduled this Friday as another fine offering of The Garden Island Film Festival. Scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at Kauai Community College (KCC), Lihue, in the new music building across from the cafeteria, the 45-minute documentary will take you back to the beginning of the site’s restoration, and beyond. Produced by Ka Imi Naauao o Hawaii Nei Institute (www.kaimi.org) and Serge Marcil/4dMedia with the guidance of Savitri Kumaran, producer, the free event, open to the public, results from a grant from the County of Kauai and in this instance, KCC as the location host.
Special guests to the 45-minute documentary showing will be James Bailey and Roselle F. Keliihonipua Bailey, now residing on Maui, who during their long residence on Kauai began the task of exhuming a jungle-covered site and restoring it in the 1970s. Ka Imi founder Roselle Bailey’s firsthand account of the project from inspired dream to final preservation and celebration is the basis of the film, creatively pieced together with segments of interview, archival photographs and segments of video footage filmed on the site during workdays and ceremonial events.
Kumu Hula Cheryl Hiipoi Ho, of Ka Imi Institute’s Oahu branch school, will also attend. A group of Ka Imi members will begin the event by chanting and dancing an original mele (song) composed by Kumu Hula Bailey. A question-and-answer session will follow the showing.
Returning to my search-and-find of the Channel Isles, I learned that the National Park Service took over the management of the islands in 1980, and it seems they’ve done a good job of it. The islands have remained a wild slice and boast rich sea life, birds and plants that are a naturalists dream. There are also remnants of Chumash villages to be seen, and a visitor center that educates about all to be seen and experienced.
We do not yet have a visitor center in Haena that will similarly educate about all to be seen and experienced, but perhaps if regulation of the overcrowdedness of the Kee area is properly addressed by our powers-that-be, that possibility might be considered. The caretaking of the site is well in place.
There are many parallels between the Channel Islands and “my” island, since the five volcanically created isles possess rare fauna and flora, offer underwater and whale watch adventures, sea cave kayaking, hiking and camping, and naturalist-led walks. The difference lies in the lack of fresh water, of which we have at this time an abundant supply. Also, it takes about 5 1/2 hours to reach Kauai by jet from California, compared with about 4 hours by boat from Santa Barbara to the Channel Islands. There are flights and a small airstrip, but boat trips are by far the most popular.
The photo of the cliffs that caught my eye weren’t as dramatically carved as Kauai’s own Na Pali coast, a place requiring resolve and good physicality to hike. Until recent storms made our North Shore inaccessible, this challenging hike affording incomparable views drew adventurous people from here and far. Like the Channel Islands, a permit was (is) required to camp in the far valleys “away from civilization.” Similarly, there are no motels and eateries at beginning or end of the cliff footpath, and certainly not along the way. All supplies must be lugged in, including drinking water. The payoff for all the effort invested is, of course, to discover and experience such a place..
Up for question is just how magical and mysterious the Kalalau and some of the other hidden valleys and camping areas at Hanakapiai and Honopu really are. Tour helicopters buzz overhead at regular intervals and illegal squatters ignore the permit rules. Then, too, we’ve read of the attempts made by the Department of Land and Natural Resources to clear out mounds of trash that uncaring people have dumped. Pristine? I wonder.
To re-focus on Keahualaka, it’s my hope that this ancient site has not been reconfigured greatly by the onslaught of rain and resulting cataracts of water. It will be some time before anyone but North Shore residents and the designated keepers of the site may visit and assess. Meanwhile, the beauty and the story of the place is available to all via this Friday’s documentary. Further information may be obtained through Film Commissioner Randall Francisco, e-mail email@example.com, (808) 241-4953 or 635-4130.
Dawn Fraser Kawahara, author and poet, made her home on Kauai in the 1980s. She and her husband, a retired biology teacher, live with books, music and birds in Wailua Homesteads. Shared passions are travel and nature. The writer’s books may be found in local outlets and on Amazon. For further information, firstname.lastname@example.org.