Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Kauai Day #6: All the Interesting Rocks

Before we went on this vacation, I was telling some of my friends one day about all of the interesting sites that I hoped to see. There's an altar stone where some archaeologists theorize that human sacrifices may have taken place. Another heiau where it's easy to see the stone placed over the spot where a white dog was sacrificed and buried, marking the land as sacred. A couple of particular stones that royal woman had to give birth leaning on, or their children couldn't be chiefs, but if a commoner gave birth against them, her child WOULD be a chief. The remains of a fort that a kinda crazy German guy built for Russia, at the same time that he was low-key trying to take over the island and giving all the places German names. A canyon that's supposed to be a lot like the Grand Canyon.

One of my friends started laughing and said, "Everything that you want to see is some kind of rock!"

Indeed, it was, and on this day in Kauai, I got to see them all.

Note: Syd wrote in her travel journal that on this day "we drove around a lot and looked at a lot of boring stuff." Poor, sweet, child, forced to sightsee in paradise. Look closely at all the photos of her, and I'm sure you'll see that she was just absolutely miserable, the little lamb. And this is on top of the fact that our VERY FIRST STOP was to find the best bakery for malasadas on the entire island so we could buy them for her.

There are several heiau along the Wailua River, and although I wanted to see them all, I restrained myself. We've already seen a city of refuge on the Big Island, the solstice rocks are apparently buried in weeds, as is the bellstone, much of my company likely wouldn't appreciate the phallus stone, etc.

But Poli'ahu is well-mown, and best of all, it was built by the Menehune!

The Menehune are to Kauai something like what the Celts are to the United Kingdom: they're a historical first people that had contact with a later wave of settlers, whose descendants prospered and stayed and still exist, but because it happened so long ago and they had no written language at the time, folk storytelling has made them into an ahistorical people more magical than real.

Historians tend to get caught up in the part of the myth that portrays the Menehune as a little people, and will then claim that the Menehune couldn't have existed because there's no skeletal evidence of little people. But there is evidence of Hawaiian civilization that predates the settlers who became the native Hawaiians; for one thing, there are several structures on Hawaii built with engineering methods that the native Hawaiians didn't use, and several similarities between artifacts like these and what's been found on the Marquesas Islands. So it's reasonable to theorize that the Menehune were just people who did existed, were exterminate or just out-competed, and are now mainly legend.

Oh, another cool thing: in an 1800-era census, sixty-five entire people claimed Menehune as their race!

So did the Menehune build this? I'm going to say YES!

What was it for? WE DON'T KNOW! How cool is that?

There's a lovely lookout on the Wailua River here--

--as well as plenty of the obligatory feral chickens:

We went far enough upriver that we could see 'Opaeka'a Falls, but alas, you can't go all the way to the final, most important heiau, the one that's located directly on top of the wettest place on the planet. Ancient Hawaiians used to go there, slogging uphill through over 430 inches of rain a year, but it's a pretty impossible trek just to see a very interesting rock (with accompanying phallus stone, of COURSE), so instead we just looked at the pretty waterfall and then headed back to another set of very interesting rocks along the river, Holoholoku heiau:

Many historians theorize that humans were sacrificed here! Generally, it was supposed to be prisoners of war, but if there weren't any handy prisoners about the theory is that the executioner could sneak into some citizen's house at night and strangle him and there you go! Sacrifice!

Take a left and walk up the hill past this heiau, and you'll soon arrive at the Birthstones:

Here's where a little white dog was sacrificed and they put a rock on top of it to show that this is a holy place:

Here's Will showing disapproval of every single thing that I just said, because killing dogs is horrible:

Fun fact: the little white dogs were bred as sacrifices and as food, but they could also be companion animals, and sometimes THEY WOULD BREASTFEED FROM HUMANS.

And now you, too, know this. May you unknow it as quickly as you can.

Hey! Look at the Birthstones!

You could put your newborn's umbilical cord in a big crack there, and if a rat stole it before it had completely decomposed, then your baby would grow up to be a thief!

I can't tell what Will is looking at here. It's possible that she's simply trying to unknow all of these fun things that I've just told her:

I wanted to see something else built by the Menehune, so we drove to an overlook for the Menehune Fishpond:

It's an artificial pond blocked off from the river and used for aquaculture in ancient times:

Here we are right in front of it so you can't even see it!

On the way from Wailua River and towards the Spouting Horn, you can drive through the Tree Tunnel:

Once upon a time, a guy was landscaping his property with a zillion eucalyptus trees (this is an example of an introduced species, something that Hawaii is super vulnerable to and suffers from a LOT; the kids and I just studied this yesterday, and everything those islands have gone through with invasive species is absolutely bonkers), and when he had over 500 leftover after his project, he donated them to the county. They're supposedly a little worse for wear after a couple of hurricanes, but they're beautiful.

And now, Spouting Horn!

There used to be an even bigger blowhole next to Spouting Horn, but a sugarcane plantation owner had one of his employees bomb it with blasting powder because the salt spray was stunting just a few acres of his thousands of acres of sugarcane.


You can't really see it, even in my oh-so-impressive photo, below, but there were so many sea turtles happily swimming around here in the crazy-rough sea:

Here at Fresh Shave, we ate some very disappointing, and yet very hipster, shave ice:

They didn't have enough syrup, but they did have little mustaches attached to their paper straws, so I guess there's that.

And the adjacent hipster boutique had this, which made Will VERY happy:

The next thing on my list was a beach whose claim to fame is that it's near the location of a former dump.

That location means that lots of bottles got swept out to sea (sigh) and broken up and polished, and they wash ashore here. Look closely, and many of the little pebbles underfoot are actually pieces of sea glass:

You're not meant to take the historical artifacts, but apparently people do anyway, so the kids buried all of our best finds to keep them from looters, mwa-ha-ha:

Next up: Will's favorite place on the island!

And now she can say that she owns a book bought in the United States' Westernmost bookstore. AND it's Good Omens, which she has been wanting to read for several months but the waitlist for it at the library is super long on account of that Amazon Prime series.

Double win!

I got my own double win a little bit later, when it turned out that I could see Captain Cook's landing point AND Fort Elizabeth at the same stop!

And some chickens, because of course there are chickens:

Here is where Captain Cook first made landfall onto the islands of Hawaii:

And here is where this super-crazy German guy came to trade on behalf of Russia but instead got caught up in a hare-brained scheme to overthrow the Hawaiian monarchy and rule Kauai himself. He renamed a bunch of places with ridiculous German names and built a fort named after the Russian Empress Elizabeth, who was mostly notable for sleeping around a lot on her husband, who also slept around a lot.

You can hike inside the foundation--

--and up and over!

And look! Here we are back in sight of Niihau!

From here, we drove up a windy mountain road to the top of Waimea Drive and into Waimea Canyon State Park:

We're now on the other side of that mountain range from the morning, with the wettest spot on the planet between where we are now and where we began.

Here are our two people who dislike heights, sitting as far away from the edge as they can get and griping about us, most likely:

Here's my brave girl!

During our inner tubing adventure, the tour guides had told us that some of the best food on the island could be bought from the illicit food stalls at the entrance to the Waimea Canyon Lookout. Unfortunately, what with all my pit stops we didn't get there until late afternoon, when all the banana bread was sold out (ALAS!!!), but instead, they had a delicacy that I wouldn't have imagined in my wildest dreams.

They sold us fresh sugarcane!

To eat it, you chew it and it kind of collapses, releasing all its delicious juice:

It's VERY woody, so you chew and chew and chew and chew:

And then you spit the crushed, desiccated wood chunk into the paper bag that they gave you for just that purpose:

Seriously, the kids have been wanting to taste sugarcane since back before the last time we went to Hawaii! The reality was thrilling.

Also thrilling was the reality of these banana fritters:

Portrait of a picky girl:

On the way back down from the canyon overlook, the grandparents wanted to show us a spot that they'd discovered the last time they were in Kauai with my brother- and sister-in-law. It's a little stream that runs down red dirt hills, and it's the most beautiful thing on the island:

It is also possibly, as I might have discovered on a sign that I swear that I did not see until I was literally walking away from this place and back to the car, a man-made ditch and you're not supposed to be there. So... you know what, though? Whatever. It's the best place on the island and we all loved it and none of us got so much as a touch of rotovirus afterwards:

All that iron in the dirt--this is what it looks like on Mars!

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