No Cheek, No Christmas Pudding: Kahanu Garden & Black Sand Beach, Wai'anapanapa (Hana, Maui)
Sept 24. 2012 - “Bummer. Closed on the weekends.”, I said.
“Doesn’t matter.”, said Peter. “There’s a gap on the side of the gate we can squeeze through.”
Now this went against my strict Catholic "good girl" upbringing, which firmly stated that one must always follow rules or risk the wrath of the powers that be. Peter, on the other hand, was raised in Communist Prague, where authorities were never to be trusted and rules were there to broken.
“C’mon, Vick. We’ll have the place to ourselves.”, he said, noticing my hesitation.
“Okay. But we have to remain respectful. This is a sacred place”, I said with great reluctance.
Rolling his eyes at my statement of the obvious, he added, "Vick, what did you think we were going to do there?"
Making our way into Kahanu Garden, we relished the splendidness of our isolation and the sheer scale and abundance of our surroundings. Being a clear sunny day, the colors of the vegetation were all the more vivid, their scent almost heady. This was nature in its full glory.
Located along the far eastern shores of Maui, on the rugged Hāna coast, Kahanu Garden is nestled in the one of the largest, untamed native hala (Pandanus) forests in the Islands. An abundance of plant species from all over the Pacific Islands are the focus in Kahanu Garden. Here, one learns the cultural relationships between the people and these remarkable plants that were transported around the Pacific on ancient voyaging canoes. Kahanu houses the world's largest collection of breadfruit cultivars, which serves as a germplasm repository for this South Pacific food crop.
Kahanu Garden is also home to Pi`ilanihale, a massive lava-rock structure that is believed to be the largest ancient place of worship (heiau) in Polynesia. Built over 500 years ago, the stone platform - 341 feet by 415 feet with a 50-foot high front wall - is still intact. This awe-inspiring cultural site is registered as a National Historic Landmark. It was here that we said a little prayer, paying our respects to the Hawaiian ancestors and thanking them for the privilege of being on their land.
Secretly thankful to Peter for insisting that we enter, we left Kahanu feeling quite elated. It was a rare gift to experience something so exquisite in isolation.
Upon leaving the Garden, getting back into our car and heading towards the Hana Highway, Peter noticed a fellow in his late 60's, with hair and beard past his chest, mowing the front lawn of a home. We guessed that he may have been originally from the Mainland and, like so many from the Mainland, came to Hana so as to "drop off the grid". Our thoughts were confirmed when Peter stopped the car and struck up a conversation with him.
Originally from Monterey Bay, our new friend told us that he just got tired of life in the commercial world and came to Hana to find his sanity. While telling us his story, he waved to every single car that drove past, without exception, whether he knew the passengers or not. This is how things are done in Hana. If they don't wave back, you know they're not locals. We told him that he had made the right choice because he was truly living in Paradise. Giving me a flower and Peter the most perfect avocado we have ever seen (and tasted afterwards), we bade him "Aloha" and were on our way.
On meeting people like this, who live in such a beautiful place in the world where the simple things in life still matter, I constantly ask myself if it's us, amidst our busy lives who work to the bone for the accumulation of wealth and "toys", that have it all wrong.
Wai'anapanapa State Park:
Heading back towards our cottage, we noticed a sign that read "Wai'anapanapa State Park." Remembering that this was where we'd find the famous Black Sand Beach, we drove in and parked our car in the designated parking area. Following the trail to the beach, we feasted our eyes on the rugged coastline and the even more rugged seas.
Black Sand Beach was smaller than we imagined it to be. However, the black sand fascinated us and we stepped down to have a look and feel the texture of the pebbles - no fine white sand here. Like the colour of shimmering black coffee, it almost glittered. In case you were wondering, the recipe for black sand is this: Take one cool, hardened lava flow, beat it with the ocean relentlessly until little bits fracture off, and then roll the bits in the surf for ages until the hard edges smoothen and are swept on to the shore. Oh yeah, and it really retains the heat, so don't even think of walking barefoot!