Thursday, April 26, 2012

Hawaii: Getting Soaked

Forget the Eskimos and their dozen names for kinds of snow. The seaborne island nation of Hawaii has more than 150 names for rain. These people lived for nearly 20 centuries isolated by a 2,500-mile wide moat of saltwater called the Pacific Ocean. Rain meant life.

Fortunately, Hawaii's volcanic peaks attract plenty of moisture--up to forty feet of rain yearly at Kauai's Mount Waialeale, the rainiest place on the planet. Straying from the boardwalk through the Alakai Swamp (pictured), which is next to Waialeale, is a risky, often fatal proposition. Even Kauai's most experienced outdoorsmen know better than to be caught in a swamp rainstorm, usually accompanied by dense fog.

But most of the 149 other kinds of rain are not nearly as foreboding. Walking in a tropical garden in the rain is one of the best experiences to be had. Bring a waterproof shell and get into it. Here are a few of the rains you may encounter:
 
ua lanipili: downpour lasting several days
ua awa: cold bitter rain
he ua lanipali: heavy shower pakapaka: large, spattering drops
awa awa: fine rain that's cold
koiawe: light, moving shower
hookili: fine gentle rain, a form much loved
noe kolo: small, fine mountain rain that mixes with the thicker rain of the forests

You'll find directions to the Alakai Swamp trail in the Kauai Trailblazer guidebook.