I was fortunate to be invited on a 5 day ʻāina clean up trip at Nuʻalolo Kai this past Memorial Day weekend. Nuʻalolo Kai is the site of an ancient village on the Nā Pali coast of Kauaʻi, accessible only by water.
It was home to at least 200 residents since the 1200s, if not earlier. The Nā Pali Coast ʻOhana, a group of Kauaʻi residents who saw the need many years ago to protect the ancient sites of the Nā Pali coast that were being degraded, manages the area, sending in crews at least twice a year, who do clean up, maintenance, archaeological mapping and restoration. Although there is fresh water from a spring, the tour boat companies who have permits to land on Nuʻalolo Kai bring in water and ice in every day for the camper-volunteers. There were 12 of us on this particular clean up trip. Most of the people were regulars, so everyone knew each other, and this being Hawaiʻi, chances of my knowing someone were reasonable, and as it turns out, I knew the group leader, Sabra Kauka.
This was 5 star camping to say the least, complete with an excellent cook who brought in organic and locally farmed produce and fed us amazing meals three times a day! We worked in the morning before the sun came over the ridge, then did other things the rest of the day, from hike to swim to pound kapa to play music or just talk story. There are many archaeological sites in the area, from house sites to heiau to a canoe halau. The biggest degradation has been caused by goats, who easily scale the cliffs and ridges that are otherwise inaccessible to humans, although there is evidence of human activity, including burials in the caves on the sides of the steep cliffs. What an incredibly special place to spend 5 days, on land that hasn’t been altered much since the ancient ancestors lived on it, in a location that is far removed from the noise of ‘civilization’. It is easy in a place like this to understand why the Hawaiians were such a spiritual people who thrived, living in harmony with nature and who saw the spirit in all things.
Equally special, which I havenʻt experienced in awhile, was being outside the radius of cell phones and internet, and, for that matter, anything needing electricity. I didnʻt miss my phone, email, wine, and when a Sunday paper was delivered along with our fresh supply of ice and water, I couldn’t even bring myself to look at it. Being removed from the constant bombardment of news, time becomes irrelevant, as does what’s happening in the rest of the world. I enjoyed the company of the people I was with, spending time with each person to discover our commonalities and enrich each other with the stories we had to share about ourselves and our experiences. It was a rare opportunity to step outside the relentless pace that drives our daily lives and to remember that contentment doesn’t always come in the material things we acquire, it comes just as much in our ability to connect with the gifts of nature – the gift of snorkeling, the gift of simple yet delicious food, the gift of friendship. Mahalo e ke akua for your many, many gifts.