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On The Edges of Ka Lae

On The Edges of Ka Lae

Simas Castillo

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Part I. Blue 


The wind carries the sound of a ringing bell through the open tailgate of my car. I glance out and see a fishing pole dancing in place on the cliff. "Did you catch anything?" I ask the boy. "Nah, just my bait. Maybe next time." He reel’s in the bait that has been squirming at the end of the line for the better half of the morning and walks off.

Yesterday I chased the sunset and arrived on these cliffs just as the reds, oranges and purples became night. I reversed my car off the main road until there was nothing but a few feet of lava rock between me and the pulsating ocean below. The brilliant stars were the last thing I saw, the pounding of the surf on the black rocks the last thing I heard. I slept better that night than I had in any bed. 


Through sleepy eyes I fire up the portable stove and prepare my breakfast. There are restaurants that bet on themselves for the views they offer along with impeccable fine dining service. However I assure you that none can compare to the toasted bagel with jam and butter that I had while sitting on my food cooler staring out at the blue. The morning sun kissed my back and the salt in the air intoxicated me. Munching away with a stupid grin on my face I looked down towards the old ladder that hung over the cliff and readied myself for the rest of the day.  

At one point in time this used to be a launching site for boats. Fishermen would lower their craft over the side of the 35 foot cliff and at days end would tow them back up. Now, as my feet find freedom in nothing and I plummet towards the water below, it serves an entirely different purpose. Between the edges of the platform and the undulating waves there exists a quiet moment where thoughts seize and sound becomes muffled. By the time I recognize it I’ve already crashed through. With each jump I relive the adrenaline of the first with less and less hesitation. Making my way up the ladder a figure leaps, passes overhead and is greeted with the approval of claps and cheers upon resurfacing. 

Pulling myself over the last rung I see that the rugged lot is no longer just 4x4’s and fishing poles. One by one the rentals find their way down the dry stretch of coastal highway to this little paradise. Some stay to take pictures and jump while others refuse to leave the climatized environment of their car, offering only a moment’s glance and leave just as quickly as they arrived. As more people gather at the platform I walk over to an equally thrilling ingredient of the South Point experience. 

Within the center of the lot lies a crevice that opens up to an enormous sea cavern below. The same waters that catch our flailing limbs surge into the cave, swelling along the rocks teeming with opihi and crabs before returning once more to the open ocean. Peering down through the ceiling I watch the water climb up five feet before receding, leaving hundreds of miniature waterfalls trickling after it. I wait for the next rise and jump. As the ocean grabs hold it drags me away from the rocks out towards the opening of the cave. The sun jumps in after me, slicing through the mist and illuminating the dark rocks below.

Floating there I look up at the crevice. Within its jagged edges it frames the passing clouds and the bright blue sky. The shapes of kids and others begin to pop up along the rim. Peering down at me they motivate each other until the next one leaps. Behind me from outside the cave I hear the subsequent splashes of jumpers making their way down from above. With curiosity they swim inside to explore, the swells mixing us in together. 

The next surge deposits me on a rock ledge where I sit and take in the scene. A group of little girls no older than ten years jump in from the crevice and splash about. Their lack of fear doesn’t amaze their mother, belittles me, and embarrasses everyone else who hesitates. What a blessing is it to have been born into the hands of the ocean. 

The day continues in much the same way until the sun winks at us from its perch on the horizon. As the night sets in I gaze up at the stars and see one streak across the sky. Another light streaks across but strangely this one lands in the water. The fishermen are still hard at work, using glowing bait to lure in their prey. With each flick of the wrist the tiny glows shoot through the night and sink into the dark waters. 

Part II. Yellow


I set out early the following morning, intent on beating the throngs of hikers that are sure to soon pass through. The roads have been carved deep into the dry earth by the countless off road vehicles that have rambled on to the more remote parts of the coast. Regardless of which scar I follow they all lead to Papakolea, the green sand beach.

As I walk my feet get lost in the deep yellow dust and my eyes wander between the intensity of the blue sky and the impoverished land beneath it. Ka Lae is truly a world of contrasts where the gardens of the ocean brush against the wind blasted cliffs. The small trees and shrubs that dare to live here have all been combed in the direction of these gusts. At the peak of every hill I glance over my shoulder expecting to see a cloud of dust in the distance, the tell-tale sign of an approaching 4x4. But the horizon remains empty and I continue, happily alone. 

After about an hour of walking I come to the top of the next hill and see the jagged outcropping of an old volcanic cinder cone and the green beach beneath it. The beach gets its colors from olivine, a green mineral that was released when the cinder cone collapsed. Over the years the rocks eroded and the tiny minerals mixed in with the rest of the jet black sand. Whatever large fragments that may have been strewn across the beach decades ago have long found new homes on the fingers and necks of their travelling buyers.

A natural staircase takes me down to the deserted beach where I stand for a while, taking in the solitude. There’s only one thing to be done when you have a beach all to yourself. I strip down and dive naked into the surf. The waves roll in and crash onto the shore. I push off from the sandy bottom and ride them in again and again, washing up in a mess of sand. 

The sun is now fully overhead as I sit on the beach preparing to leave. The roar of an engine approaches and a lone dirt biker appears at the top of the ridge. He pauses momentarily before continuing down the coast. By the time I make my way up two rusted trucks have pulled up and unload their excited passengers. Those that rather not hike in hire the locals to drive them to and from, a service they are happy to meet.

I don’t want to walk back so I take a seat on an old picnic table at the top and wait. One by one the other passenger’s make their way back up. My temporary companions are an older couple from Malaysia who work for AT&T and two sisters who work as nurses, filling me in on their vacation thus far through their southern drawl. The fare is ten dollars, a small price to pay for the grueling ups and downs a vehicle must endure. We bump along back towards the cliffs, clinging onto the sides of the truck bed and breathing through our t-shirts. On several occasions the truck refused to move any further because of the choked up air filter. Beating it released sand castles and once more we were on our way. 

We hop out of the truck bed, thanking our driver and head off in separate directions. My skin is two layers of nasty, soaked with sweat and staunched with yellow dirt. I laugh as my hand gets caught while running through my hair, imagining a disheveled lion heading for the oasis. Leaping off the edge I am clean again. I can’t seem to stay out of the sea cave and spend the rest of the day there, jumping in and climbing along its walls. The sun sets, the cave grows dark and it becomes too eerie to stay inside. I swim out from beneath the rocks into the open ocean as the great fireball shines its low cast golden rays.

Throwing my bag into the back I close the tailgate, start the engine and slowly navigate over the rocks and pits back onto the main road. In my rear view the point starts to fade, pushed away by the increasing distance of the road. The last light puts on display natures best angles and curves, the waves erupt on the rocks in a final crescendo and then the world fades into night.