Mark Twain in
Waiohinu, Hawaii 1866
story of an Famous hawaii explorer
KAU AND WAIOHINU All day the next day we fought that treacherous point - always in sight of it
but never able to get around it. At night we tacked out forty or fifty miles,
and the following day at noon we made it and came in and anchored.
We went ashore in the first boat and landed in the midst of a black, rough,
lava solitude, and got horses and started to Waiohinu, six miles distant. The
road was good, and our surroundings fast improved. We were soon among green
groves and flowers and occasional plains of grass. There are a dozen houses at
Waiohinu, and they have got sound roofs, which is well, because the place is
tolerably high upon the mountain side and it rains there pretty much all the
time during September. The name Waiohinu means "sparkling water," and refers to a beautiful
mountain stream there.
A sugar plantation has been started at Waiohinu, and 150 acres planted, a
year ago, but the altitude ranges from 1,800 to 2,500 feet above sea level, and
it is thought it will take another year for the cane to mature.
We had an abundance of mangoes, papaias and bananas here, but the pride of
the islands, the most delicious fruit known to men, cherimoya, was not in
season. It has a soft pulp, like a pawpaw, and is eaten with a spoon. The papaia
looks like a small squash, and tastes like a pawpaw.
In this rainy spot trees and flowers flourish luxuriantly, and three of those
trees - two mangoes and an orange - will live in my memory as the greenest,
freshest and most beautiful I ever saw - and withal, the stateliest and most
graceful. One of those mangoes stood in the middle of a large grassy yard, lord
of the domain and incorruptible sentinel against the sunshine. When one passed
within the compass of its broad arms and its impenetrable foliage he was safe
from the pitiless glare of the sun - the protecting shade fell everywhere like a
THE CISTERN TREE
Speaking of trees reminds me that a species of large-bodied tree grows along
the road below Waiohinu whose crotch is said to contain tanks of fresh water at
all times; the natives suck it out through a hollow weed, which always grows
near. As no other water exists in that wild neighborhood, within a space of some
miles in circumference, it is considered to be a special invention of Providence
for the behoof of the natives. I would rather accept the story than the
deduction, because the latter is so manifestly but hastily conceived and
erroneous. If the happiness of the natives had been the object, the tanks would
have been filled with whisky.
KAU INDEPENDENCE - JUDICIAL SAGACITY
The natives of the district of Kau have always dwelt apart from their fellow
islanders - cut off from them by a desolate stretch of lava on one side and a
mountain on the other - and they have ever shown a spirit and an independence
not elsewhere to be found in Hawaii-nei. They are not thoroughly tamed yet, nor
civilized or Christianized. Kau was the last district on the island that
submitted to Kamehameha I. Two heaps of stones near the roadside mark where they
killed two of the early Kings of Hawaii. On both occasions these monarchs were
trying to put down rebel lion. They used to make their local chiefs very
uncomfortable sometimes, and ten years ago, in playful mood, they made two Tax
Collectors flee for their lives.
Most natives lie some, but these lie a good deal. They still believe in the
ancient superstitions of the race, and believe in the Great Shark God and pray
each other to death. When sworn by the Great Shark God they are afraid to speak
anything but the truth; but when sworn on the Bible in Court they proceed to
soar into flights of fancy lying that make the inventions of Munchausen seem
poor and trifling in comparison.
They worship idols in secret, and swindle the wayfaring stranger.
Some of the native Judges and Justices of the Peace of the Kau district have
been rare specimens of judicial sagacity. One of them considered that all the
fines for adultery ($30 for each offense) properly be longed to himself. He also
considered himself a part of the Government, and that if he committed that crime
himself it was the same as if the Government committed it, and, of course, it
was the duty of the Government to pay the fine. Consequently, whenever he had
collected a good deal of money from other Court revenues, he used to set to work
and keep on convicting himself of adultery until he had absorbed all the money
on hand in paying the fines.
The adultery law has been so amended that each party to the offense is now
fined $30; and I would remark, in passing, that if the crime were in variably
detected and the fines collected, the revenues of the Hawaiian Government would
probably exceed those of the United States. I trust the observation will not be
considered in the light of an insinuation, however.
An old native Judge at Hilo once acquitted all the parties to a suit and then
discovering, as he supposed, that he had no further hold on them and thus was
out of pocket, he condemned the witnesses to pay the costs!
A Kau Judge, whose two years commission had expired, redated it himself and
went on doing business as complacently as ever. He said it didn't make any
difference - he could write as good a hand as the King could.
THE PROCESSION MOVETH AGAIN
Brown bought a horse from a native at Waiohinu for twelve dollars, but
happening to think of the horse jockeying propensities of the race, he removed
the saddle and found that the creature needed "half-soling," as he
expressed it. Recent hard riding had polished most of the hide off his back. He
bought another and the animal went dead lame before we got to the great volcano,
forty miles away. I bought a reckless little mule for fifteen dollars, and I
wish I had him yet. One mule is worth a dozen horses for a mountain journey in
The first eighteen miles of the road lay mostly down by the sea, and was
pretty well sprinkled with native houses. The animals stopped at all of them - a
habit they had early acquired; natives stop a few minutes at every shanty they
come to, to swap gossip, and we were forced to do likewise - but we did it under
Brown's horse jogged along well enough for 16 or 17 miles, but then he came
down to a walk and refused to improve on it. We had to stop and intrude upon a
gentleman who was not expecting us, and who I thought did not want us, either,
but he entertained us handsomely, nevertheless, and has my hearty thanks for his
We looked at the ruddy glow cast upon the clouds above the volcano, only
twenty miles away, now (the fires had become unusually active a few days before)
for awhile after supper, and then went to bed and to sleep without rocking.
We stopped a few miles further on, the next morning, to hire a guide, but
happily were saved the nuisance of traveling with a savage we could not talk
with. The proprietor and another gentleman intended to go to the volcano the
next day, and they said they would go at once if we would stop and take lunch.
We signed the contract, of course. It was the usual style. We had found none but
pleasant people on the island, from the time we landed at.
To get through the last twenty miles, guides are indispensable. The whole
country is given up to cattle ranching, and is crossed and recrossed by a riddle
of "bull paths" which is hopelessly beyond solution by a stranger.
Tour The Hobbit House @
P.O. Box 269
Waiohinu, Hawaii 96772
IN FAIRY LAND
Portions of that little journey bloomed with beauty. Occasionally we entered
small basins walled in with low cliffs, carpeted with greenest grass, and
studded with shrubs and small trees whose foliage shone with an emerald
brilliancy. One species, called the mamona [mamani], with its bright color, its
delicate locust leaf, so free from decay or blemish of any kind, and its
graceful shape, chained the eye with a sort of fascination. The rich verdant hue
of these fairy parks was relieved and varied by the splendid carmine tassels of
the ohia tree. Nothing was lacking but the fairies themselves.
THE KINGDOM OF DESOLATION
As we trotted up the almost imperceptible ascent and neared the volcano, the
features of the country changed. We came upon a long dreary desert of black,
swollen, twisted, corrugated billows of lava - blank and dismal desolation!
Stony hillocks heaved up, all seamed with cracked wrinkles and broken open from
center to circumference in a dozen places, as if from an explosion beneath.
There had been terrible commotion here once, when these dead waves were seething
fire; but now all was motion less and silent - it was a petrified sea! The
narrow spaces between the upheavals were partly filled with volcanic sand, and
through it we plodded laboriously. The invincible ohia struggled for a footing
even in this desert waste, and achieved it - towering above the billows here and
there, with trunks flattened like spears of grass in the crevices from which
We came at last to torn and ragged deserts of scorched and blistered lava -
to plains and patches of dull gray ashes - to the summit of the mountain, and
these tokens warned us that we were nearing the palace of the dread goddess Pele,
the crater of Kilauea.
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