Water. The Alakai Swamp Trail in Hawaii and the small joys of the unexpected.
Hiking the Alakai Swamp Trail teaches us a lesson: Especially when you’re travelling, things often turn out differently than expected. And that’s exactly how it should be!


We have a common dream: To explore Hawaii’s most stunning trails by tracing the four elements of ‘Earth‘, ‘Water’, ’Air’ and ’Fire’. We, meaning photographer Manuel and design professional Nina, both from Munich, Germany. We’ve written about our adventures so that we can share them with the readers of the GORE-TEX blog.

Hiking the Alakai Swamp Trail teaches us a lesson: Especially when you’re travelling, things often turn out differently than expected. And that’s exactly how it should be!


The view from the Puu o Kila lookout point is an omen in itself: The clear morning air promises a bright, sunny day. There’s not even the hint of a cloud. Elsewhere, we’d be happy about this, but here it’s a bit of a surprise. After all, the Alakai Swamp borders on the 1,569 m high Mount Waialeale, the rainiest spot on Earth. When we were doing our research for this trip, we were inspired by the mysterious atmosphere in pictures showing the trail shrouded in mist. The trail’s weathered wooden boards lead hikers over the pools of water and marshy terrain of the swampland.

But, today we are getting to see a different side of the Alakai Swamp. At the beginning of the two-mile-long Pihea Trail, narrow grooves in the clay soil lead up to higher ground. From here there are lovely views of the Kalalau Valley. Then the path leads through an area of woodland down to the start of the Alakai Swamp Trail. When we arrive at the wooden walkways it’s clear that even the low-lying ground of the valley isn’t going to be shrouded in swirling mist today. Time to put our rain jackets away in our backpacks.

Somewhat disappointed, we make our way along the walkways that continue for a stretch of two-miles. Gradually, our conversation runs dry, each of us sunk in our thoughts. We listen to the sound of our steps on the wooden boards. The sun is now burning down mercilessly and we are soon bathed in sweat. Fortunately for us, we’d decided to wear our lightweight and breathable GORE-TEX SURROUND® hiking boots on this one day hike. In the glare of the sunlight, the landscape appears increasingly bleak and desolate. Mostly, we’re occupied with avoiding rusty nails and rotting planks. I catch myself longingly to be at the Kilohana lookout platform, which marks the end of the trail. This place is just so different to what we expected. Then I have to smile to myself. Doesn’t that make it all the more special?


Have you been anywhere that was totally different to what you expected? Tell us about it in the comments!

Travelling in the internet era means that we can get a good idea of almost any place on Earth before leaving home. The ubiquitous images of the most beautiful places in the world fuel our desire to travel to all these places and see them with our own eyes. It’s a rare traveller who dares to step out into the unknown. More often, we embark on a journey with our heads already full of lofty expectations. It’s hard to imagine what it was like for explorers in the past who travelled to unknown regions of the world.


However, it’s the unexpected experiences which permanently shape our memory of a place. Here, for example, there’s the droning of the helicopters hovering by the hundreds in the sky above Hawaii’s Na Pali coast and Waimea Canyon, giving tourists a bird’s-eye view of the most remote corners of the island. This sound is the permanent background track to our trips on Kauai. We were also not prepared for the fact that here you can run into a chicken anywhere, at any time. Since the devastating hurricane which swept over Kauai in 1992 gave these chickens their freedom, they, and their squawking, have spread all over the island. It is this remarkable kaleidoscope of hauntingly beautiful landscapes, the victory cry of civilization in the form of circling helicopters, and the cheeky rebelliousness of the once-domesticated chickens that creates the atmosphere on Kauai that is truly unique to 2017. It’s the charm of the unexpected that is the reward of travel, enticing us again and again to the far-flung regions of the world.


Looking for more reasons to go hiking in Hawaii? Click here for the hiking articles Earth, Air and Fire.

Click here for our authors‘ top tips on packing for your hiking trip.