My backpack was full. Mosquito repellent. Layers. Water bottles. Food. Camera. Car keys. I was an over-prepared hiker, ready to debate Kathmandu vs Macpac at any moment.

My boyfriend, Campbell, was wearing his thongs and some see-through hippie shirt.

“Last time I did this hike, I only ate Macadamia nuts for three days,” he declared. “You have way too much crap.”

I stomped my sturdy hiking boots impatiently on the muddy path and we walked over towards Kē’ē beach where the Napali trail started. The sand was not as pristine white as Australia, but the tropical weather here made it seem softer somehow. Like the humidity had sunken into everything, melting it, carving the edges away.

Weekends are best spent on Kauai 🌈

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The life guards in their Baywatch red swim suits waved the hikers off in a cheery fashion and the trail head was probably the most clearly marked I had come across on the Hawaiian Islands. Most hikes on O’ahu said “Dangerous: Keep Out!” or “Illegal!”

Campbell quickly dashed forward, throwing easy smiles out at everyone. It was a crowded day, a muggy Sunday. The dirt trail was hugged on all sides by thick, green succulent shrubs. The lush tropical feel was overshadowed by Jurassic park glens.

The first time I had come to see the famous Napali coast was via boat. The dolphins came out to play with us and I saw the nearly 1000 metre cliffs in all of its plunging, jagged, razor-edge ridged glory. That’s when I decided to pay the ultimate tribute and hike straight into its valleys. The coast looked like magic. An ancient volcano that had risen dramatically and was carved away viciously by rain over millions of years. I wanted to take a shower under the waterfalls draping the deep valleys.

“You’re not wearing sandals?” An elderly lady declared as we walked past her.

She was gasping and looking at Campbell’s feet. I also decided to look at his feet and wondered why Americans just didn’t call them thongs.

“Yeah,” he smiled. “Done this hike a few times before.”

A few times HA, I scoffed in my mind. Once, you mean.

I walked faster up the muddy trail, like I imagined how Heidi would have walked through the Alps. A flouncing, fluid motion, like a nature girl. Bindi the jungle girl, perhaps.

“What are you doing?” Campbell came up behind me, “You’re about to fall off the cliff.”

The ocean was precipitously close to me on the right side of the goat trail, but I rolled my eyes and resumed my nature girl walk. The mud was getting everywhere on Campbell’s legs and it was slowly creeping up my legs too as I hiked into the jungle. The soft mud spray from my hiking boots was doing nobody favours.

“I’ll soon show you why you should wear slippers on this trail.” He yelled out and ran forward, getting close to a big stream, covered by leafy ferns at all angles.

The water was waist level. And, he just took his “sandals” off and walked straight through it, making sure to give his calves a good cleanse with his hands.

“Ta-Da!” He declared. “No mud!” And he ran off on the other side to an adjacent beach where he spotted a waterfall.

I was left with the hard task of taking off my hiking boots with its many laces in many nooks and slinging it over my shoulders. The water was surprisingly cold for a tropical island and the floor was all slippery mossy stones. I struggled to wade through the stream without losing balance.  When I walked out on the other end, Campbell was already swimming at the beach, backpack forgotten.  My bare feet also wanted to be free and run out on the soft sand without being enclosed in by leather.

I looked down at myself, realising I was covered all over in mud from my wayward hanging boots. Sandals, slippers, thongs. Whatever you called them, maybe there was merit to hiking in them.

At least in Hawaii.

About The Author

Writer based in O'ahu and Sydney. Pretty sure she spends more time hiking and camping than she does at home. Check out all her road trips on her instagram @suekang_

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