Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Getting Started

This blog, A Walk Around Oahu: My Personal Pilgrimage, is part armchair travelogue, part cultural anthropology, and part quirky travel guide. I hope you enjoy it...
          In the fall of 2015, I began a personal pilgrimage—a walk around the island of Oahu. I had recently retired as a UC Berkeley professor, moved to Kailua, a town located on the windward (east) side, and was looking for a way to introduce myself to the island. Inspiration came from a PBS series, Sacred Journeys, which showcased religious pilgrimages, such as The Hajj, Jerusalem, and Lourdes. Of particular interest was the Buddhist pilgrimage on the Japanese island of Shikoku, where individuals walk around its perimeter on a 750-mile path that connects 88 temples. Shikoku is special to me as my mother was born there, and I have visited the island, though never considered visiting the temples. What interested me was that many of the pilgrims interviewed were not Buddhist nor of any religious persuasion, but they were taking the journey as a personal endeavor.
        Once you get out of the tourist laden lands of Waikiki, Oahu's various regions have very distinctive colors and flavors. My goal was to get a region by region feel of the island's personality. For each day's walk, I planned ahead by reading about local culture and sites and sometimes scouted the area in advance to scope out a worthy path. I wanted to spend as much time as possible walking on the shore, as all beaches in the state are open to the public and require public access points. However, practical concerns, such as high tide or rocky shorelines, prompted me to walk along the side of a road. Indeed, there are many times when the closest path along the shore is the beachside road. During my 15-day trip, I spent about half the time walking on sandy beaches, and just as Eskimos are said to have dozens of words for snow, I developed my own vocabulary of sand, such as firm, slanted, squishy, clogged, and impossible.
        Locals—people who grew up on the islands—have terms to describe the various areas of Oahu. My pilgrimage began on the Windward Coast, which extends from Makapu'u Pt. on the south end to Kahuku Pt., the northernmost point of the island. The North Shore curves around the point and includes Turtle Bay, the popular surfing beaches (e.g., Sunset Beach, Banzai Pipeline), the town of Haleiwa, and past to the westernmost spot, Kaena Pt. The dry Leeward Coast begins as you go around Kaena Pt. and consists of lovely beaches, residential areas, Ko Olina—the newest resort area, and the towns of Kapiolani and Ewa Beach. From there, we’ll refer to the Honolulu region as Pearl Harbor, the city itself, Waikiki, and Diamond Head. South Shore covers Maunalua Bay, Hanauma Bay and ends at Makapu'u Pt. (click on map for larger view).
        The ancient Hawaiians had an ingenious method of parceling out regional land use. Oahu was divided into six moku—wedged-shaped sections, each having access to mountain streams for water (drinking and agriculture) and to the ocean for fishing. Each moku was divided into smaller wedge-shaped regions called ahupua`a. An ali`i (local chief) ruled over an ahupua`a and granted smaller land units to individual families. In this manner, everyone had access to primary resources from the mountains to the shore. To commemorate this ancient tradition, signs have been placed at each ahupua`a, currently along the Windward Coast, but soon throughout the state. The first ahupua`a boundary marker was put up in 2015 and located at the intersection of Kane`ohe Bay Drive and Mokapu Road—the very spot where my personal pilgrimage begins…

Go to Day 1

Day 1: Aikahi Park to Waiahole

September 2,2015, 7:30 am: On a warm and muggy morning, Helen, my wife, took a picture of me at my starting point—the ahupua`a boundary sign on the corner of Kane`ohe Bay Drive and Mokapu Road. Given my 61-year old body, I've decided not to make this an overly strenuous experience—I'll limit my daily walks to 11-14 miles and plan to take a day or two break between each (in the middle of my pilgrimage I took extra time off to recover from Achilles heel tendonitis and knee pain). Dressed in shorts, white t-shirt, speedo swim suit, waterproof socks/sandals, hat, and daypack, I set off northward on Kane`ohe Bay Drive, past the Aikahi Park Shopping Center. Aikahi Park is a residential district at the north end of Kailua where I live. 
        Today's plan is to walk as much of Kane`ohe Bay as possible. The bay is the largest in the state, extending 16 miles from the Marine Corps Base at the south end to Kualoa Regional Park, its northernmost point. For most of the day there are few sandy beaches and most of them are not easily accessible. As such, I'll be spending much of the time on roads. 
        Hawaii is blessed by cool trade winds blowing from the northeast. On occasion, such as today, warm, humid air, known as Kona winds, blow from the opposite direction. Today's weather can be blamed on Hurricane Ignacio, which passed the island the day before about 600 miles to the northeast. Not much wind but strong waves, some rain, and mostly hot and humid air. Given these steam bath conditions, I made sure my daypack was filled with plenty of bottled water, a towel, and fresh t-shirt. I'm also equipped with iPhone, digital audio recorder, and Fitbit to track my daily excursions. 
        I make my way down the road that I so often take while driving off from home. Only this time, I'm excited and a bit nervous. I head under the H-3 freeway, the expressway built to hasten the trip between Pearl Harbor and the nearby Marine Corp Base. The Base is a large chunk of land that I'll have to bypass. It's situated on a peninsula just to the north and is a community unto itself with a large residential area, restaurant, shops, and beaches. An interesting factoid is that it was attacked and bombed by the Japanese just before Pearl Harbor was attacked on Dec. 7, 1941. 
        Past the freeway underpass I get a nice view of the Ko'olau Range in the distance. Its sheer curved edge always reminds me that I live inside a volcano. The entire island of Oahu was formed by two massive volcanic eruptions—the Ko'olau and Waianae. The Waianae came first and formed the leeward side of the island. What we see on our side is the remains of the now dormant Ko'olau, the rest having slid into the Pacific Ocean a couple of million years ago. When we look out at Kane`ohe Bay, we are actually seeing the site of the ancient volcano's summit caldera. Directly ahead of me looms the twin peaks known as Pu'u Konahuanui (highest point= 3149 ft.). The name comes from a Hawaiian legend in which a giant turtle throws his testicles at a woman. The turtle's genitals landed here and formed the two peaks—in Hawaiian konahuanui translates to "large testicles" and pu'u is "peak." 
        Kaneohe Bay Drive offers restricted views of the bay between houses. A brief encounter in this residential area exemplifies the sentiment that I find so appealing on this island: I approach a driveway to a condominium, and a guy in a Jeep pulls up and readies to exit the complex. I look to make sure he sees me, and he smiles and waves in such a friendly manner that I'm wondering if I know him. Of course I don't, and it may seem odd to mainlanders that someone should appear so friendly to a complete stranger, but this kind of encounter is commonplace here. 
         About 2.5 miles from my start, the road ends and I turn onto Mokapu Saddle Road. A little further down the road I take a photograph of this alien looking pod hanging on a tree. I have no idea what it is until I notice a similar looking one a few trees away. On this pod the top has split opened—revealing a large bunch of bananas!
     Up ahead is the YWCA, which reminds of a recent visit to the Friendship Garden, which is up a hill from the road. The "garden" is actually a hillside loop trail that was developed 90 years ago by a "multi-ethnic community based on a belief in the brotherhood of mankind." The trail takes you through a small bamboo grove. Along the way, there are lovely views of the bay. 
        I had planned to stay on this road and hit Kamehameha Hwy, which will take me through the town of Kane'ohe and further north. However, as I walk past a miniature golf park, I spot a walkway that looks like it would be a shortcut. The walkway is sandwiched between backyard fences on one side and the golf park on the other. I take the mystery path which turns out to be only a couple of blocks long and ends up in a residential area. After winding around the neighborhood, I spot Puohala St., which I take to get onto Kamehameha Hwy.
        Kane'ohe, one of the largest towns on the Windward Coast, has a bit of a worn-down look. It does include some of my favorite lunch spots, such as Dean's Drive InnKenko-Ya, and El Mariachi. As I pass by the Kane'ohe police station, two officers are talking to a homeless couple beside their tent next to a canal. Outside Waikiki one notices the homeless population. Given the exceedingly high housing costs, there are quite a few homeless individuals even though many of them are gainfully employed. The police around the island seem to be understanding of the problem. 
        I pass by the Windward Shopping Mall, the largest mall on the windward side and home to department stores, gift shops, and our local movie theater. One of the oddest sights is the farmer's market that the mall hosts twice a week. Farmers and other vendors sell produce, flowers, baked goods, and other sundry items right in the aisles next to the entryway of boutiques and department stores—it's a rather surreal mix of urban and rural marketing! There are several "traveling" farmer's markets around the island. They move from site to site during the day and sell terrific tropical fruit, including pineapples, melons, papaya, mangoes, and lychee.
        The mall's parking lot is the pickup point for a very interesting excursion of which few people—even locals—are aware. You can go online and make reservations to visit the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, which is affiliated with the University of Hawaii and located on a small island in the middle of the bay. A shuttle bus takes you from the mall lot to the shoreline where you take a boat to the island for a 2-hour guided tour that showcases the Insititue's history and research. You get to touch invertebrate animals, see hammerhead sharks, and enjoy a pleasant walk around the complex. A fun fact is that the island is shown during the opening theme song of Gilligan's Island and is meant to portray the show's island. 
     Not far from the mall is Kanile`a `Ukulele a family-operated, yet internationally known, ukulele shop and factory. Kanile`a makes hand-crafted koa wood ukes and is one of four premier uke makers in the world, all based on Oahu. These luthiers are known as the 4K's—the other three being KamakaKo`olau, and KoAloha. On weekdays at 10:30 am, you can take a fun guided tour of the Kanile`a ukulele factory.
     The mall marks the northern boundary of Kane'ohe's commercial district. For the next mile I walk through residential area, then suddenly I'm in a dense banyan tree grove. It's quite lush and shady. I soon approach the He’eia State Park, a small park next to the rather expanse He'eia fish pond. Fish ponds are a unique and clever ancient method of harvesting fish. These Hawaiian ponds are enclosed areas along the shoreline formed by a curved wall made with volcanic rock and coral. Narrow wood-slated gates let small fish from the bay into the algae-rich ponds. As fish mature they become too large to swim out through the gates thus trapping them for harvesting. Many fish ponds were created along Oahu's shoreline, though only a few remain today. The He'eia fish pond is particularly large with a curved rock wall stretching 1.3 miles. It has been beautifully restored and maintained by the non-profit organization, Paepae o He'eia.
        Just past the fish pond and park is the He’eia Kea Boat Harbor, a windward base for small tour and fishing boats. I stop by the take-out food stand and have a snack of a breakfast sandwich. There are many Japanese tourists waiting to board their tour of Kane'ohe bay. Back on the road, I'm at the edge of the shoreline and privy to expansive views of the bay.  
        A couple of miles up and I'm at the Kahaluʻu junction, where I stop at a 7-11 for a slurpee. I have jokingly viewed the 7-11's along Oahu's perimeter as my own sanctuary rest stops, not unlike the temples of the Shikoku Pilgrimage. I make it a point to enter each one and pay homage to air conditioning and an icy drink! Kahaluʻu begins the string of small towns dotted along the Windward Coast. From this junction point and up through the North Shore, I'm either on the main shoreline road, Kamehameha Hwy (Hwy 63), or on a beach. 
        I've now walked about 11 miles and am getting tired. The sun and humidity has taken its toll, and for me this has been quite a long day's walk. In general, I view a 3-5 mile walk as decent exercise for a day. I have rarely though sometimes gone on day hikes of 7-9 miles. I've now come to appreciate that anything over 10 miles is definitely a pilgrimage
     I approach a bright yellow building that houses Sunshine Arts, a small art gallery filled with works by local artists. On drives up the coast, I've noticed the gallery, but never stopped to look. Today I walk in and am happy to encounter air conditioning. I chat with the owner, a friendly older woman with a European accent, and take a look at the various works hanging on the walls.
        Back on the main highway and hugging the shoreline. There's enough of a grassy walkway along the side of the road so that cars don't really bother me. Between houses I get lovely glimpses of the bay. 
     About a mile up from the art gallery is the Waiahole Poi Factory, where they serve Hawaiian plate lunches. The factory was established over 100 years ago and continued until the 1970s. Later it was converted into this wonderful food stand. Poi, the main staple of Hawaiians for centuries, is definitely an acquired taste. I don't eat it often, but the fresh poi made here is the best I've ever had. I order the laulau pork, which is pork wrapped inside taro leaves and cooked in an oven. The laulau plate lunch comes with side servings of poi, lomi lomi salmon (fresh tomato and salmon salad), and haupia (jello-like coconut milk dessert). The entire meal was delicious.
        Feeling fatigued and full from lunch, I figure I'll walk another mile or so. When I get to a bus stop across from the Waiahole Beach Park, I decide that this will be my endpoint for Day 1. Fourteen miles—not a bad beginning. I wait for "The Bus," the official name of Oahu's public bus service, which I'll be using almost every day on my excursions. The #55 route accommodates passengers from Kane'ohe all the way up to Haleiwa, the North Shore's main town. Today, I'll take the bus back to the Windward Mall then transfer to the #56 which goes to Kailua and stops a couple of blocks from my house. After just this first day, the physical exertion and mental satisfaction make me feel like this really is a personal pilgrimage...

Go to Day 2                                          Back to Getting Started

Friday, January 26, 2018

Day 2: Waiahole to Punaluu

September 5, 8:24 amI'm at my Day 1 endpoint, next to the Waiahole Beach Park. The beach is a small grassy area with a nice view of the bay but not much else. Heading north, the Waikane stream runs right along the side of the road which narrows the walkway. I move across the street, but it's not that much wider here. I'm a little wary as a pedestrian was killed just a couple of nights ago right around here.
        It's warm but not that muggy, and I’m enjoying the quiet and woodsy feel of the place. Locals call this area—from here to the North Shore—"the country" and relish a more laid back rural lifestyle. You'll often see signs and bumper stickers that say, Keep the country country, which is a call to prevent urban development from encroaching the area. There are a few souvenir shops, which I've mainly passed by on drives. Once with my Japanese relatives, I stopped at the Tropical Farms Macadamia Nut Outlet. They have free samples of the nuts and nice bathrooms!
     After 3.5 miles, I get to Kualoa Regional Park, the northern boundary of Kane'ohe bay. The beach is expanse with a large grassy area, picnic tables, and sandy shoreline. It’s a nice resting spot, particularly today as I've already formed a couple of blisters on my feet. Looking south you can see all the way to the Marine Base peninsula as well as the nearby Mokolii island, better known as "Chinaman's hat." If you walk south along the beach, you'll pass by a woodsy area and further down a spot known as "Secret Beach." The beach is part of a small peninsula. The area adjacent to the beach (but not the beach itself) is owned by the Kualoa Ranch. Walk further down and you'll see Moli’i Fishpond, which is also owned by the Kualoa Ranch and is the only fish pond on Oahu that is still operational with fish sold commercially. 
        The official entrance to the Kualoa Ranch is up the road. Here you can sign up for a variety of tours and other activities (e.g., zipline, horseback riding, kayaking). I've been on The Hollywood Movie Site Tour, which takes you on a bus ride stopping at various sites where movies were filmed—most famously scenes from the Jurassic Park movies. You’ll also see an actual WWII bunker on a hill. The Secret Island Beach Activities tour takes you to Secret Beach, the beach mentioned above, via bus and a short boat ride across to the peninsula (so it’s not really an island). There, you can take kayaks out or just relax on the beach. The guides on my tours were locals who were friendly and well-versed on the culture and history of the area. Kualoa Ranch is one of two major tourist centers on the Windward Coast (the other being the Polynesian Cultural Center). It's best to make reservations online in advance as the tours do get sold out. If I were staying in Waikiki without a rental car, I'd consider taking a tour that includes hotel pickup, which in addition to a Ranch tour you’ll get a scenic ride to the place. 
    On the Kualoa Ranch property, next to the highway, you'll see the ruins of the Kualoa Plantation Sugar Mill, which was built in 1865. Sugarcanes were planted all over Oahu, and this steam-powered mill was the first of its kind on the island. Another interesting factoid is that during WWII an airstrip stretched across here from the Ranch property to the driveway of the Kualoa Regional Park. When this airstrip was in operation, traffic had to be stopped to allow airplanes to take off.
        Past Kane'ohe bay, the road hugs the shoreline, with scattered small towns and beaches along the way. At Kalae‘o‘io Beach Park, there are fishermen with their poles dug into the sand and fishing lines extending out to sea.  It's difficult to continue on the beach as it soon gets rocky, and there's not another access point out. On my scouting trips, I've tried to see how far I can walk on these sandy beaches. Practically speaking, I don't want to walk a quarter of a mile then find out that I'm obstructed by an impassible stream or rocky area without a way out and have to backtrack. On this beach, I'll just relax, take in the view, then head back on the road. 
        It has cooled down nicely with a soft trade wind breeze. In the small town of Kaaawa, I cross the road to a 7/11 and get my slurpee and moment of air conditioning. Back on the beachside is Kaaawa Beach Park, where I sit, sip my drink, and have a nut bar that I’ve packed. I hit the public restroom where a few homeless fellows are sitting. I smile, they smile back and all is good. Up the road is Swanzy Beach Park, another small beach area. There's a nice view north up the coast. In the distance you can see the tall modern windmills of the Kahuku Wind Farm. Built in 2011 the windmills can generate enough power to supply 7,700 homes. They don't call this the Windward Coast for nothing!
The highway curves and heads into Kahana bay, one of my favorite spots on the coast. I walk along the Huilua Fishpond, which is part of the Ahupua'a 'O Kahana State Park. At the fishpond I stroll down to a grassy area by the water where local families are picnicking. Further up is Kahana Beach Park, which is lovely with calm waters and beautiful views of the ocean on one side and the Koolau range on the other. Across the road there's a small visitor's center and short hiking trails. 
        From a cultural anthropologi­cal standpoint, this area is interesting as archeological findings show that some of earliest Polynesians settled here. It’s actually amazing that anyone was able to get here as the closest populated landmass is over 2000 miles away. Through analyses of language, artifacts (e.g., fishhooks, adzes), and mythology, it has been established that the earliest settlers were from the Marquesas and Society Islands (named by Captain James Cook in honor of the Royal Society). This group of islands includes Tahiti, where over the centuries many excursions to Hawaii began. 
        What’s controversial is when the Polynesians first arrived. Even now, if you read about the early Hawaiians, you’ll get first arrival dates that range from as early as 30 B.C. to as late as 1200 A.D.! The earliest date was based on carbon dating of charcoal from the Kahana Valley just up the hill from here. Even as late as a decade ago there was little consensus among scholars as to when the first settlers arrived. The problem was that early carbon dating was fraught with artifacts and inaccuracies. In recent years, old data have been re-analyzed with more sophisticated methods, and there is now more consensus that the Polynesians first arrived and settled the Hawaiian Islands around 1000 A.D. The best and most entertaining source for Hawaiian cultural anthropology can be found in the works of Dr. Patrick Kirch. He has written many books and articles on the subject—my favorite is his more personal autobiography, A Shark Going Inland is My Chief.
        About a mile up the road is Keneke's Grill, a popular institution with plate lunches and other snacks. I stop and order a Kona coffee ice cream cone. As I stand in line, a small child runs into me heading to the dining area. The mother says, "look out for uncle!" This the first of several occasions on my pilgrimage when a local has called me by this term of endearment. It is use to describe an older local dude; "aunty" being the female counterpart. Having it referred to me makes me feel at home, even though I've just moved here.
        Uncle and aunty are both part of Hawaiian Pidgin, now considered a true language. If you visit Hawaii, you might hear bits of Hawaiian Pidgin, but generally locals will keep it to themselves. Socially, it works as a form of comradeship—if you communicate in Pidgin you are a local. On occasion, someone will greet me in Pidgin, but as soon as I open my mouth they know I’m not local and will revert to standard English. The language has a rhythm and vocabulary of its own and is completely different from the traditional Hawaiian language, which you rarely hear anyone speak—except for proper names and tourists saying aloha or mahalo. There are two Hawaiian words often used by locals that signify direction—mauka (toward the mountains) and makai (toward the sea). Pidgin evolved as way of immigrants, particularly the plantation workers—Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Portuguese—to communicate with each other. When I first arrived, I found it interesting and amusing that two Japanese words that I grew up with—shishi (urinate) and shoyu (soy sauce)—are known by all locals as they are part of Hawaiian Pidgin. 
    Up ahead is Punaluu Beach Park, a narrow beach situated along a large bay. I walk on the beach to the north end of the bay then head back up to the road. Across the street is Ching’s Punaluu Store, a family-owned grocery store (established 1935) that also serves food. I don't stop this time, but I've had their Korean fried chicken and butter mochi (a coconut flavored chewy dessert), which were quite tasty. 
        My right knee is getting sore, so I'm just about ready to call it a day. I walk another half mile to a bus stop at Haleaha Road and decide it’ll be today’s endpoint. Fitbit says I’ve walked a little over 11 miles...

Go to Day 3                                                         Back to Day 1

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Day 3: Punaluu to Kahuku

September 9, 8:30 am. The Bus drops me off at the north end of Punaluu Bay, my Day 2 endpoint. I pass a few houses and even a large condominium, which is rather rare up in this neck of “the country.” Soon, the road edges next to the beach, and since it’s low tide, I can see that for the next ½ mile or so I can walk on the shore. The sand is a bit mushy here but not too bad. My pace always slows down to varying degrees on the sand. It depends on how much my feet sink into it. It’s noticeable compared to how easy it is to get lift on asphalt. Yet it’s so much more pleasant to walk along the surf and away from cars.
      Checking a sign by the road, I find out I’m in the town of Hauula. There’s a grassy area by the beach, which is Hauula Beach State Park, and looking across the street I spy a 7/11.  I make my way off the sand and head over to the store. It’s a little after 9 am, and there’s a cool breeze blowing, so I’m not really ready for a slurpee. Instead, I get a buttermilk bar, walk back to the State Park, set myself down on a picnic table, and munch on my bar.

       After my break, I start down the road and make my way through town. Soon, however, there’s another park area—Kokololio Beach Park. I head over to the sand and find a lovely long bay. There are a few people in the water, and I can see Laie point out in the distance. I stay on this beach for quite a while. When I get to the end of the beach there’s a rocky embankment with no way to get over it or back onto the road (I didn’t scout this beach beforehand). I didn’t see any access points out to the road along the way so I have to turn around and head back to where I started—backtracking about  ½ mile. Ugh.

         Had I been able to climb over the rocky embankment and get to the other side, I would have ended up at Pounder’s Beach, where I’m at now—after walking an extra mile or so! It turns out that this rocky cliff has a name—Pali Kiloi'a, which means fish-spotter cliff. The official name of this beach is La'ie Beach Park, though everyone calls it Pounder’s Beach, which is a reference to the effect the waves here have on surfers. The beach is small, thank goodness, because I’m not about to chance another backtracking experience.

        On the road again, now walking through the town of La'ie. I pass the Polynesian Cultural Center, the most popular site on the Windward Coast. Tourists typically spend the entire afternoon and evening at this 42-acre theme park that’s replete with a lagoon and simulated Polynesian “villages” from different islands—Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Tahiti, Hawaii. At each site, you can see “natives” dressed in traditional gear performing their specific dancing style. There are canoe rides, food stands, and an evening luau where you are served a buffet dinner with more dancing. The place is owned by the Brigham Young University-Hawaii and most of the employees are college students. The BYU-Hawaii campus is just to the north. 
        There is actually a rich history of Mormons in Oahu. The Latter Day Saints Church in Hawaii was established in 1850, and by 1865, they owned 6,000 acres of plantation land in La'ie. With a growing population of Mormons settling here, they built a temple in 1919. The Church opened BYU-Hawaii in 1955 and the Polynesian Cultural Center in 1963. According to Wikipedia, “Hawaii has the highest concentration of Latter-day Saints of U.S. states that do not border Utah.”
        A little less than a mile away is the turnoff for La'ie Point State Wayside, a popular spot for tourists where you get a scenic view of the ocean from a rocky cliff. It is also the site of a famous scene in the movie Forgetting Sarah Marshall, where Peter, the main character, jumps off the cliff. It looks very dangerous, though people do risk the 30-ft plunge. 

       I bypass a visit to La'ie Point today and continue on up the road. Up ahead is Hukilau Beach, which is nestled in a small bay. As my knee is a bit sore, I’ll take a rest and sit on the beach for a while. I first heard the word hukilau, from an old Hawaiian tune, The Hukilau Song, written by Jack Owens in 1948 after he attended a luau here. Many have recorded the song, including Bing Crosby and the Hawaiian singer, Alfred Apaka. The term comes from a method the ancient Hawaiians used to fish. As the song goes: We throw our nets out into the sea and all the 'ama'ama come a-swimmin’ to me…
        In ancient times, a hukilau was a group event involving family and friends. It evolved into a festive party where people fished, danced, and feasted on their catch. After the song became a hit, Hukilau Beach became a tourist site, where you could attend a luau, watch Polynesian dancers, and purchase handmade crafts. This tourist attraction became a fundraising venture by the Church of Latter Day Saints—and now we know how the Polynesian Cultural Center was conceived.
        There’s a nice trade wind blowing as I sit, rest my knee, and view the emerald green surf. Looking down I see a little crab digging sand to make a hole. The sand tends to settle back into the hole—clearly a Sisyphean act. Looking out at the bay, I recall that I came to this beach eight years ago—partly in honor of the Hukilau Song. At that time, I saw a guy out in the bay surface diving with snorkel and mask. After a while, he comes out with a little octopus in his clutches. Octopus is a Hawaiian delicacy, often prepared as poke—cooked, chopped, then seasoned with soy sauce, sesame oil, and ginger.

       Back on the road, I notice on the other side a wide path adjacent to the road. It turns out to be the Mālaekahana Bike and Pedestrian Path, which extends from here to Kahuku, the next town up. The path will be perfect for my weary body, especially my increasingly annoying sore knee. 
        Walking along the path, I see across the street the entrance to the Mālaekahana State Recreation Area, a popular beach area and camping spot for locals. There’s a nice wooded area for picnicking and a long expanse bay. Further up the shore is Mālaekahana Beach—another spot with picnic grounds, showers, and bathrooms. A few years ago, I visited the beach and walked the extent of this gorgeous bay. Today, with wounded knee, I’ll skip the beach and head straight to Kahuku about a mile and half up the path.
        Kahuku’s history is centered around sugar production. In 1890, the Kahuku Sugar Mill was built and employed many Portuguese, Japanese and Filipino immigrants. The mill closed in 1971, though remains of it can be seen scattered about its former grounds, which is now a tourist shopping area. Just up from the shops are the famous Kahuku shrimp trucks, where tourists and locals line up for plate lunches of buttery, garlicky shrimp with rice. The shrimp are harvested in nearby ponds, as was done by native Hawaiians for hundreds of years. Shrimp farming is a major industry on other islands, particularly the Big Island and Kauai. In Kahuku, there are several shrimp trucks along the road that serve basically the same, delicious plate lunches.
        Back to sugar plantations—the Kahuku Sugar Mill was a central site for windward sugar production, largely because of the narrow-gauge rail line that ran from the mill all the way around to Honolulu, where sugar products could be shipped to the mainland. The rail line was owned and operated by the Oahu Railway and Land Company (OR&L), the brainchild of Benjamin Franklin Dillingham, the enterprising train and land magnate. In 1888, Dillingham was granted a government charter that gave him rights to operate rail on Oahu. He secured land through leases and set down tracks along the leeward side and beyond. The train started in Honolulu, went up the Leeward Coast, around Kaena Pt, along the North Shore, and finally in 1898 to Kahuku, the end of the line. The OR&L moved both sugar products and passengers along 71 miles of tracks until 1947, when it shut down due to declining passenger traffic and the shift of sugar cane transport from rail to trucks.
        Dillingham imagined extending the tracks all the way south to Waimanalo, but that never happened. However, in 1907 the Koolau Railway Co. owned by James B. Campbell, another real estate magnate, ran a 10-mile line south from here to Kahana that brought canes from fields all along the Windward Coast to be processed at the Kahuku mill and then transported on the OR&L line. The Koolau line ran until 1954.

      Before we end with train history, I need to add one more fun fact—the origin of the shaka, Hawaii’s “hang loose” gesture known to surfers around the world. Lore has it that Hamana Kalili, a worker at the Kahuku Sugar Mill, lost his right three middle fingers in a milling accident. He was reassigned as security guard for the railroad and used the gesture as an “all-clear” sign to indicate that that the train was ready to go (some say he used the gesture to warn kids to get out of the way). Local kids mocked Kalili’s distinctive wave and the shaka was born.
        In Kahuku, it’s a little after noon, my knee is hurting, so I’m gonna call it a day. Just up ahead I see a bus that’s stopped, but it just closed its door and has started to take off. That means I have about 40 minutes until the next one arrives. Across the street is a little grocery store, the Kahuku Superette, so I head over and get an ice cream cone and power drink. Often after my walk, I’m too tired to eat much more than a snack. Inside I notice there are people in line buying fresh poke at the counter. I didn’t know it at the time, but the Superette is famous for their ahi poke. Anyway, with snack in hand I head to the bus stop, sit at the bench, and wait. I’ve logged in 9 miles today...

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