Remember Gladiator, the movie? Remember the huge amphitheater where Russell Crowe finally finds peace? Now, take that to a bigger, grander scale. A scale which no man can ever hope to achieve. A scale where we are left with only awe and respect. Welcome to Haiku valley – nature’s own amphitheater! Situated near the Koʻolau Range behind Kāneʻohe, Oʻahu in the Hawaiian Islands, the valley is known for its recently refurbished Haiku stairs, also known as the ‘stairway to heaven’. The valley was also a site for the US Navy radio transmitting station.
The 4000 step stairs were originally meant to reach the radio antennae located on the surrounding ridgelines. The ridge is horse-shoe shaped and is therefore was of strategic importance to the navy as the ridges allowed for excellent communication with ships as far as the Tokyo Bay. The facility was originally built in response to the attack on Pearl Harbor and it used to be a classified military secret. It was then the world’s largest radio transmitting station and during the war, it proved its worth. It became the central hub for communication with the submarines in pacific and played a key role in coordinating attack formations among them. Little is remembered of the pain that the constructors took building this communication base. Harsh decisions were taken after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and pace of construction was doubled to match the wartime needs. Cables had to be mounted between ridges and posed many engineering challenges. The construction itself is a testament to the wartime construction capability of the US navy. Their success in the pacific is often attributed to the communication base In Haiku as it was the only base that was capable of communicating with any ship or submarine anywhere in the mighty Pacific Ocean.
Today, however, the hype surrounding the valley is because of the ‘stairway to heaven’ which is officially called Haiku staircase. The reason why it is so popular today is because one: hikes there are really awesome and two: because hikes are not allowed there. But hikers seem to find ways to bypass the not-so-strictly-held law and experience the awesomeness anyway. The amazing sceneries and the thrill of looking over the sides at the sheer drop offs are totally worth the risk. Most hikers are said to repeat the words “unreal” in their heads and constantly thank the constructors for providing side rails while making the climb. The climb itself, however is not very difficult. The only thing to look out for will be the low key security guard and your footing, which you wouldn’t want to miss in any case. The best time to make the climb is early in the day because one: the sunrise will be amazing and two: because you can hope that guards actually sleep then. One must admit, the thrill of making the climb undetected and unseen calls the inner child in us and adds bonus points to the whole idea of making the climb. Climbing a 4000 step stairs to the top which is 2000ft above sea level is not for the weak hearted or the unhealthy though. It would probably restart your cravings for those burgers from McDonalds’. So the best thing to do before going there for a hike is to pack some (possibly healthy) food and make sure you have enough muscles in your thigh to survive the climb. The stairs have platforms in between where the climbers can rest and catch some breath. The staircase is very narrow, however, and one has to step over the rail to make way for people coming the opposite way. For the entirety of the climb, the only thing visible at the top are the clouds which look so thick they threaten to engulf the rest of the planet. This gives the feeling of actually climbing a staircase to Asgard (or any other interpretations of heaven) between the clouds.
After you reach the peak, you get to behold the antenna that served the American Navy during the Second World War. It has an eerie beauty attached to it in spite of it being a not-that-well-maintained dish of metal because the awe-inspiring stories of the long fought war rings in your head and all you can think about are the people in the submarines near Japan nearly 50 years ago whose only point of contact with the rest of the world was through this slightly grumpy looking metal antenna.
Tear your eyes away from things made by man and Mother Nature, as always, fails to stay modest and humble. To the north the majestic Kaawa becomes visible. The contrasting sea adds to the beauty and you start feeling you could stay there for the rest of your life. Muster enough energy to turn south and chances are you begin drooling again. The amphitheater shaped valley becomes visible and you can see the three peaks of Mt. Olomana on the left. Sea to the north and valley to the south. Choose. Once the clouds clear, you can get a very clear view of the highway that cuts through the mountains and the tiny cars on it from your vantage point.
After feeling like a king or a god (or a god-king) you have to make the climb back down among the mortals. The climb down is not bad because you know you are going to hit the ground sooner or later (jest intended). Once your feet hits solid ground, all that remains with are the sweet memories of having touched the clouds and the experience of having risen above the mortals. The memory of having felt like the king who would watch over the daily game of life happening in the valley below in Nature’s own amphitheater tends to stay at heart forever.