On the second full day of the trip, I set off on an early morning hike up Diamond Head. I walked the steep steps, trekked through the dimly lit claustrophobic tunnel, ducked under the old military lookout, and made my way to the top. I looked out at the pristine landscape. The perfect teal water swept up onto the shore and sparkled blue further in the distance. The lush mountains sprawled with crawling real estate. The white speckled beaches. Yet my attention was no where, until a large burly man at the top of the crater gathered everyone around. He looked as if he just got kicked off of Survivor. His khaki shorts matched his khaki vest that he wore as a shirt. His once mildly tan skin was now a deep Hawaiian brown from 30 years on the island. A search and rescuer, a survivalist, and a tour guide, Mitch informed the fellow hikers that he would be taking a group outside the city on remote jungle hikes, all while informing them about the natural Hawaiian surroundings. This grabbed my attention, anything to get me away from the overload of Waikiki for the day. I was all in.
|The River Used in the TV Series Lost|
We made our way through the tall peaked green mountains. The thick jungle encompassed the road, as Mitch gave us a brief history of the islands. It was King Kamehameha that unified the Hawaiian Islands, which were all ruled by individual leaders. But when Kamehameha landed on the neighboring islands, there was no way to compete with the 7'4'' warrior and his fleet of 960 war canoes and 10,000 soldiers. By 1810 he had unified all eight islands. Although Princess Ka'iulani, the last reigning princess of the dynasty, tried to keep the kingdom together, it was annexed to the United States in 1898. Although, Hawaii did not become a state until 1959.
We pulled off along the side of the road to a path that had been made through the thick jungle and bamboo forest. We walked in silence out of respect to where we were about to go. At the end of the path was Kaniakapupu, the summer palace of King Kamehameha III and his Queen Kalama. Completed in 1845, it was a place for entertainment and feasting with foreign celebrities and chiefs. The greatest of these was a luau attended by an estimated 10,000 people celebrating Hawaiian Restoration Day in 1847. It is now a sacred place, for thought and reflection.
As we were about to pull away, Mitch, being the manly man that he is, pulled a long piece of what looked like a regular fallen branch, and began to rip off the outer layer. He tore at the long skinny branch to reveal the inner thin rope lining, which would would have been used for thread, fishing line, sewing huts and clothing, and pretty much anything else you could imagine. After his barbaric act and demonstration, Mitch got on the bus, put on his headset and sweetly talked to us about the medicinal purposes of the native plants.
The bus came to a stop along the road across from a Tesco gas station. We walked down the gravel path to, what Mitch called one of THE most sacred places in Oahu. Ulupo Heiau. It is the second largest heiau, or Hawaiian temple, on the island. The temple is made of local rocks that have been piled and piled on top of one another since the 1400s. Although you may no longer add to the blessed monument, you can bring small offerings to set at the foot of the stone alter. During time of sorrow or of happiness, a rock would be blessed and prayed over by every passing hand. Each person would put all of their thought, prayer, chi, energy, whatever you may call it, into the stone and pass it to the next person. It would continue on this way until it reached the alter. Providing a sacrament to the gods. The Ulupo Heiau measures 140 feet by 180 feet and is about 30 feet high. I left there giving some of my positive energy, and receiving that of the ancient believers.
|The Road Through the Jungle|
As the bus pulled into Waikiki, and Mitch continued to share his vast knowledge about the Hawaiian culture and the benefits of a healthy diet, I was again drawn in. In just four short hours I learned much more than what I sought out for on my relaxing trip to Hawaii. I gained an understanding of the Hawaiian history and the native land. I learned about weather patterns, medicinal plants and herbs, and gained a reconfirmation of the benefits of eating natural foods. It was much better than just soaking up the sun and surf for another day. Although, I did get some of that in, of course.
Note: Not all vacations, or people, are as they seem. Some might surprise you.