26 Sept, 2012 - Yep, as expected after the horse ride, my leg muscles were screaming. Small price to pay for the experience, I know. But as it’s happening, the pain is all-encompassing. Unsure of what the day would hold for us, Peter and I opened up our laptops and both found an identical message from Leokane, our host.
“I’m off to the pool today, want to join me?”
By “pool”, Leokane was referring to the local natural swimming hole known as “Waioka Pond” or Venus Pool. Peter and I had made mention that we wanted to accompany him one day.
Unmarked from the road, Waioka Pond was formed on the shoreline by a series of waterfalls and pools. Legends say it was used by the "ali`i" or Hawaiian royalty. Unfortunately, some ugly tourists came along and, in all their arrogance, tore the fence and left their trash in this pristine pool. As a result of their insensitivity, the landowner, Hana Ranch, is now enforcing trespassing laws and the locals are remaining tight lipped about any more directions to tourists about this sweet swimming spot.
When Leokane, a well-respected local who cares for the land, issued Peter and I with an invitation to accompany him on one of his swims at Waioka Pond, we leapt at the chance.
At 10 o’clock, as agreed, Leokane was at our front door, cap on head, towel over shoulders. Turning left from our cottage and walking for 10 minutes until we hit the one-lane bridge, we slipped down a dirt path and came to the Hana Ranch property. Slipping under its metal barred entrance, we walked through knee high grass, down a dirt path, to the shoreline. We thanked our lucky stars that none of the steers had us within their sights that day.
Discovering this sweet little pond was a moment that I live for in our travels, those times when a local trusts you enough to reveal a local secret. A private little lagoon, the waters at Waioka stay fresh and clean because of the sea at its mouth, flushing fresh water in and out again.
As Peter worried about the strain on his knee climbing down the rocks, he elected to stay up top and enjoy the tranquility. Leokane and I navigated our way down to a lower rock ledge and from there, dove into the crystal clear waters of the pond. Incredible! As I savored the pristine and cool silkiness of the waters, I pondered on how many simple pleasures we miss out on in the civilized world, swimming in a clean and isolated watering hole being one of them. I looked to my right and spotted a random styrofoam coffee cup that someone had thrown in, bobbing up and down in the water. I instantly understood why the locals wanted to discourage visitors from visiting the hole. To the locals, this place is sacred; to the tourist, it’s just another attraction to be taken advantage of and trashed.
Drying ourselves off and walking back through the property that led to the pool, Leokane showed us the ruins of an old Portuguese oven used primarily for baking bread. Still fairly intact, this oven transported us to another era, when Western contact was cultivated with sugar from the 1840’s to about 1945.
After our swim, we invited Leokane back to our cottage for some lunch and a glass of wine. As is always the case when you’ve just experienced something magical, we didn’t want the day to end.
Travel Tip: Unless you’re in the company of a local who has permission to enter the private property that leads to Waioka Pond, I recommend that you skip this pond and keep driving to Haleakala National Park down the road. The park has adequate parking as well as restrooms. If you hike just 10 to 15 minutes upstream from the national park's parking lot, you will find many pools to swim in.