Whalings Hideaway

Lodging Waiohinu

Mark Twain in Waiohinu, Hawaii 1866


A 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 somber darkness.



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.


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.



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 Islands.

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 protest.

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 kindness.

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.









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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.


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 they Sprang.

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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