At five am, after 4 nighttime pees, I’d had enough. I waited for it to get light and then decided to do the trail again and see about getting to the park boundary. Kai was awake and I left her my phone so she could make herself a hotspot since I had data and she didn’t. I packed my backpack with water and my journal and grabbed the dSLR camera, and Kai waved me off. I said I’d be about an hour but luckily she didn’t hold me to that. I should have known better – once I get started, I don’t want to stop!
I made it to the place we’d turned around the night before in only a couple minutes, and then made it to the park boundary in maybe twenty-five minutes.
The trail was rough, all lava stone with occasional respite that was more like sand. At the park boundary, you had to enter a tiny little gate. No latch or anything and no signs saying you couldn’t be there. I saw old monuments and walls from days long past. Lava stone walls are very popular in Hawai’i and often you don’t need any kind of mortar because the rough surface of the stones secures them together. There was an intentional gap in the wall so I went through and walked to the ocean. I sat on the black stones where the ocean had carved out huge gaps for the water to swirl through. I took a lot of photos and then settled on to a lovely smooth rock to write in my journal.
I try to do so every day that I travel, so I can make sure my impressions, memories, and the order of events are all there for posterity. As I wrote, I watched an invasive Indian mongoose slip in and out of sight. I had brought some chips on the hike and because I was a little tired, I munched on some and watched the waves bash the rocks. It felt like its name: a Place of Refuge. I meditated for a time but I was conscious of how long I’d been gone, or rather, conscious that I didn’t know exactly how long and didn’t have a way of finding out but suspecting I’d already been an hour.
I headed back feeling light and wholehearted. I smooched Kai hello and changed out of my sweaty shirt just as a car was pulling up. A white guy in his late fifties got out of his car, along with his wife (presumably) and two small dogs. The exchange went as follows:
Man: “Do you live here?”
Man: “Well, are you staying here?”
Me: “No. I just finished hiking the trail.”
Man: “Well, how did you get in?”
Us: “We… drove.”
Man: “Well, there’s a gate. How did you get in?”
Kai: “The gate wasn’t closed…”
Man: “Well it was supposed to be!”
Kai: “I’ll be sure to let the gate know that.” We snicker.
Man: “We pay a lot of money to live here and have a gate!”
He tells us to leave and we just kind of roll our eyes. He was vibrating with anger, probably at being disobeyed. Honestly, the gall – for a white man to buy land in Hawai’i, where there were NO TREATIES to cede land to colonizers, gate it off, including an entrance to the Place of Refuge, and then act like HIS MONEY should mean something to us! We were absolutely beside ourselves. He and his wife took the dogs to the entry to the trail, and as I’m starting to get changed into dry clothes, we hear him shout through the trees, “Leave NOW!” and Kai’s like, “What’s that?” and we burst out laughing.
I mean, we’d been on our way out, but you know we took our time now. Imagine living inside that guy’s head? All the money in the world couldn’t buy him peace of mind. We felt sorry for his wife, the undoubted receptacle of all his rage.
We drove to Ocean View and had lunch at a place called Coffee Grinds, where they had no wifi but did have kittens for sale for $1.99. We watched kids playing ‘kitten hide and seek’ and ate our lunch – I had a sausage croissant and a white hot chocolate, and Kai had a BLT bagel and an iced frappe that I stole sips of.
From there, we drove south and there was a sign on our tourist map that say Do Not Enter South Point Road, which led to the southernmost point of the island and therefore of the united states. There were no signs on the actual road so we decided to drive as far as we could. It was a long, dry stretch of road, very windy and lots of cows.
After driving about half an hour, we get to a point of the road that looks like it’s winding down, but to our surprise, we ran into a dusty parking lot with a tonne of cars! Turns out we’d driven right to the access point for Papakolea – the Green Sand Beach! And we’d never have found it if the map hadn’t told us not to enter…
We overheard the unofficial tour guide offering rides to the beach for $20 per person, which we felt was a little steep. We made a dumb decision and decided to walk it ourselves, with a litre of water, me in a long-sleeved shirt but no sunscreen, and about 5 kilometres to go with no cover from the sun.
We probably got about half a kilometre when a beat-up green pickup with a rack around the truck bed stopped and offered us a ride there – for free! We got into the back and I went to sit, but the driver said to stand up and hold on. So we did – and it was a WILD ride!
To be honest, we never would have made it. It took us at least fifteen minutes to drive there, up hills and over countless overlapping dirt roads and trails. The ride in the back was a blast and we got to the beach happy and healthy. The driver said he’d be back in case we, and other people in the front seat, wanted a ride back. The climb down to the beach was steep and intense. Kai decided to hang out about halfway down, and I nannygoated my way to the bottom. The green sand comes from the gem peridot, which, when ground down to sand size, is known as olivine. So the sand really was green! I took lots of photos and then climbed back to Kai where we sat for a while before taking the steep ladder the rest of the way.
The driver of the pickup asked for $30 to take us back, which we thought was fair, considering it was now the peak of sun and we knew what would be awaiting us if we tried to walk. I rode the truck backwards, trying to take video of the route behind us. This totally impromptu side trip ended up being a highlight of our trip, and we only did it because we trusted our instinct to leave the beaten path. Much kudos goes to Kai for this, as the driver during most of these adventures.
We made our way back out and drove for a while, but our appetite had reared up so we stopped at a food bus called Aloha Mix in Naalehu and got a shrimp combo to share. Very delicious with all homemade marinades. We also had kombucha, which is very common in Hawai’i, and in fact the food truck didn’t even had pop, only kombucha. Another thing of note about Hawai’i is that almost all their disposable food containers are compostable. Most of the ‘plastic’ is made from corn, and the boxes are easily biodegradable. This was amazing to see because I didn’t even know some of the stuff could be made compostable. It shows how absolutely behind the times Canada is, with us barely getting into paper straws. Ridiculous!
In no time we were off again, now to the Kau Coffee Mill for their recipe tasting! We happened to be in the area and lo, our energy was waning, so what great timing! When we got there, there were about nine coffee flavours set up to taste. I made about two rounds and felt right perky!
We ate some chocolate covered coffee beans, bought some coffee for friends, and watched a video on the process of the mill, which was very interesting. While there, we booked our airbnb for the night, desperate for a real bed after our rough night in the car. I didn’t say it at the time, but I wondered if I could manage another night in that vehicle.
We decided to go to McDonalds because we’d watched videos where they served all kinds of local food, but this one did not so we got the requisite burger and fries and I got an iced coffee. Cheap but still not worth it. We saw a wild boar and her babies cross the road, and we also stopped into a pawn shop to ask about a ukulele. I really wanted one! But this wasn’t the right spot.
We drove down a really long, narrow, remote road to KMEC, which is the Kirpal Meditation and Ecological Centre. We drove through swathes of lava-covered landscapes. One moment you’d be in a lush, canopied rainforest, and then the brand-new road would spit you out into a barren wasteland of black rock. I can only imagine what it looked like from overhead: stripes of green and then black from the 2018 volcanic eruption. KMEC was spared but only just – the entire lower south-east corner of the island was closed and the highway destroyed.
Once at KMEC, which is basically an off-grid sustainable community of people who work and live there. Vegan yoga meditators, etc. We were a little put out because for an airbnb there were a lot more rules than we were accustomed to, and it wasn’t cheap. Rules including no food in the rooms, no cooking meat or eggs in the community kitchen, no alcohol, ‘whisper-only’ time from 9pm to 9am. There were also things that the ad said we could expect, like a bin in our room to keep food in (contradictory) and fresh fruit of which there was none. Despite that, the space was quite lovely and I loved the yoga hale (house) where I would go at 7:30am the next morning for yoga practise. We went to the meditation space, a separate building through a tunnel of trees, and Kai and I both practised for a while before getting back to our room. We’d eaten already so the no-food rule didn’t bother us except for the fact that it was contradicted by the ad.
Atop the bed was a sheet of fabric meant to keep gecko poop from the bedspread. We folded that up and put it under the bed and crawled in. I did some writing and Kai did her own thing. I remembered I was supposed to sign up for yoga, so I put on Kai’s flip flops and tromped around to the yoga hale. Lot of stars out that night, so different than what we see in the north. The bathroom was really neat, attached to the community kitchen and completely open air, one wall missing and open to the forest.
Back in the room, we snuggled up for another night in a comfy bed and sleeping to the cries of the coqui. The only issue? Random fruit falling from the trees overhead and landing on the roof of the cabin!