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History of the Valley of Kings
on the Big Island of Hawaii
Located along the Hamakua Coast on the northeast shore
of the Big Island of Hawaii, the Waipi`o Valley
is the largest and most southern of the seven valleys
on the windward side of the Kohala Mountains.
The Waipi`o Valley is a mile wide at the coastline and
almost six miles deep. Along the coast is a beautiful
black sand beach lined with ocean smoothed boulders..
On both sides of the valley there are cliffs reaching almost
2000 feet with hundreds of cascading waterfalls,
including two of Hawaii's most celebrated waterfalls - Hi`ilawe & Hakalaoa..
In 1989, the Hamakua Sugar Co. diverted the headwaters of Hakalaoa
Falls into a tributary of Lalakea Stream. This ceased the flow over the
Hakalaoa Falls and directed all the water over Hiilawe Falls as a single
waterfall, but total flow to the ocean remained unchanged. Thus, the scenic
value of the historic twin falls of Waipio has been absent since this time.
However on a rainy day The Twin falls beckon to the love
of two ancients,and both falls will meet in a great splash on
the valley floor as was meant to be for the inseparable lovers
Hiilawe and Kakalaoa, who were turned into a 1,300-foot beautiful waterfall
and a large boulder set below, rather than be parted by the god Lono
(looking for a bride), have not yielded an inch, even to 55-foot tsunami waves.
The road into the valley is very steep (a 25% grade).
In order to travel into the valley, you must either ride down
in a four wheel drive vehicle or hike down to the valley floor.
Waipi`o means "curved water" in the Hawaiian language.
The lovely Waipi`o River flows through the valley
until it enters the ocean at the beach.
The Waipi`o Valley is often referred to as the "Valley of the Kings"
because it was once the home to many of the rulers of Hawaii.
The valley has both historical and cultural importance to the Hawaiian people.
Many Hawaiian alii were buried in Waipio where a section of the beach
is called lua o milu, doorway to the land of the dead.
Great chiefs lived in the valley long before Kamehameha made it his
base of spiritual power. According to legend, a priest from this valley
gave Kamehameha custody of Ku, his war god, before he set off to conquer the islands.
This legendary gateway to the other world was favored by Wakea,
creator of all the islands; prankster demigod Maui's head was
smashed against the rocks by the great god Kanoloa,
making blood colored earth forever in the upper valley.
According to oral histories as few as 4000 or as many as
10,000 people lived in Waipi`o during the times
before the arrival of Captain Cook in 1778.
The population of Waipio dwindled from these numbers at the time
Captain Cook arrived in Kealakekua to about 1,300 in the 1820s,
and down to about 150 a hundred years later.
Waipi`o was the most fertile and productive valley on the Big Island of Hawaii.
It was at Waipi`o in 1780 that Kamehameha the Great
received his war god Kukailimoku who proclaimed him the future ruler of the islands.
It was off the coast of Waimanu, near Waipi`o,
that Kamehameha engaged Kahekili, the Lord of the leeward islands,
and his half-brother, Kaeokulani of Kauai, in the first naval battle in Hawaiian history -
Kepuwahaulaula, known as the Battle of the Red-Mouthed Guns.
Kamehameha thus began his conquest of the islands.
In the late 1800s many Chinese immigrants settled in the valley.
At one time the valley had churches, restaurants and schools
as well as a hotel, post office and jail. But in 1946
the most devastating tsunami in Hawaii's history swept great waves far back into the valley.
Afterwards most people left the valley, and it has been sparsely populated ever since.
A severe deluge in 1979 covered the valley from side to side in four feet of water.
Today only about 50 people live in the Waipi`o Valley.
These are taro farmers, fishermen and others who are
reluctant to leave their simple lifestyle.
Aside from its historical importance, the Waipi`o Valley is a sacred place for Hawaiians.
It was the site of many important heiaus (temples).
The most sacred, Pakaalana, was also the site of one of the island's
two major pu`uhonua or places of refuge, the other being Pu`uhonua O Honaunau
Ancient burial caves are located in the sides of the steep cliffs
on either side of the valley. Many kings were buried there.
It is felt that because of their mana (divine power), no harm will come
to those who live in the valley. In fact, despite great devastation in the 1946
tsunami and the 1979 flood, no one actually died in those events.
Waipi`o is also a mystical place. Many of the ancient stories of the
Hawaiian gods are set in Waipi`o. It is here that beside the falls of Hi`ilawe,
the brothers of Lono found Kaikiani dwelling in a breadfruit grove.
Lono descended on a rainbow and made her his wife
only to later kill her when he discovered a chief of the earth making love to her.
As she died she assured Lono of her innocence and her love for him.
In her honor Lono instituted the Makahiki games -
a designated period of time following the harvesting season when wars
and battles were ceased, sporting competitions and contests
between villages were organized, and festive events were commenced.
Another story set in Waipi`o tells how the people of Waipi`o
came to be safe from the attack of sharks. It is the story of Pauhi`u Paupo`o,
better known as Nanaue, the shark-man.
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