HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Thirty Meter Telescope protest camp at Mauna Kea has attracted thousands of people who’ve come to the mountain for a variety of reasons.
For many, it’s become a pilgrimage and a spiritual journey.
About three-quarters of a mile from the encampment at the intersection of Daniel K. Inouye Highway and Mauna Kea Access Road, there are many empty tents, a wooden frame of a simple shack, and symbolic mailboxes. There’s also a makeshift home in a lava cave fortified by sticks and a no trespassing sign.
“That’s how I discovered this cave. This cave I believe discovered me,” said Kewa Hauanio, of Hawaii island.
The husband and father of four children says he’s living in the cave to protest the Thirty Meter Telescope, past injustices and is mourning a recent tragedy.
“I recently just lost our baby girl in a freak accident. That’s one of the reasons why I pursued myself up to the mauna. It’s a spiritual walk,” said Hauanio.
Ryoko Osaka is also on a spiritual trek, but typically without shoes as she walks 30 miles from Hilo to Mauna Kea each Friday.
It’s a journey that takes two to three days and she sleeps in the lava field by the highway.
"Couple weeks ago I got drenched. Everything was dripping soaking wet, but it was a huge blessing to my oneness where I'm constantly praying to my ultimate," she said.
Back at the camp, a small group gets their shoes scrubbed down before a guided tour up the Puu Huluhulu trail. The 20-minute walk up included two visitors from California and a couple from Liliha, former Honolulu police officer Walter Kekoa Nihipali and his wife, Bobbi.
"I think the fire is burning. The lahui will still be here," said Bobbi Nihipali of the smaller numbers at the camp.
From the top, there's a unique perspective of the camp, but no one seems to know what will happen next.
“It was a calling to come feel this and everything over here. It gets emotional,” said Walter Kekoa Nihipali.