Yeah... we didn't have any idea where the heck that was either.
However, with only one misstep we find the vanilla plantation... and several dozen tourists who are arriving for a luncheon, which is just about to start as we showed up. Our timing is incredible as always, but while we aren't able to tour the place like we'd planned (it's a very small family-run place and everyone was busy taking care of the lunch reservations), we are able to raid the gift shop there and buy some very nice vanilla-themed presents for ourselves. And maybe one or two things for other people, as well.
After that, we have enough time to make a stop in the town of Honoka'a where we stop by a roadside restaurant and I am able to experience my first plate lunch. The loco moco I have is actually quite tasty and -- other than the unfortunate name -- has nothing whatsoever to do with crazy boogers. I hope.
After our plate lunch experience, we head down to the ridiculously small town of Waipio where we hit the art gallery / gift shop / cafeteria while waiting for our tour. One-stop shopping for both tourists as well as locals is a sure sign of a town with only a double-digit population.
Once we get comfortable on the ATVs and get our Introduction to ATV Safety lecture ("This makes you go, this makes you slow down, that tree will make you stop real quick") we head off along steep, rocky, and what sure as heck seem like impassable trails on our rides. The views of the valley from right near the cliff edge are amazing.
The Waipio Valley is one of the most undeveloped areas of the big island... only a handful of people live in the valley, and only two of the houses actually have electricity. Access to the valley floor is limited to a one-lane road that's almost a 30% grade, making the drive treacherous even with a 4x4 vehicle, and impossible without one. Several waterfalls cascade from the cliff walls, though one of the larger ones was unfortunately blocked up by the earthquake that happened in October 2006. A federal grant is currently pending to get the waterway unblocked so as to once again allow the water to flow freely -- as it is, the blocked waterway has caused closure of a few businesses in the area, and is causing a hardship on some of the farms that needed the flowing water for irrigation. As if being a taro farmer weren't hard enough.