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- The Hawaiian Archipelago - 10/63 -


ponds, and in about four miles the track, then formed of rough hard lava, and not more than 24 inches wide, enters a forest of the densest description, a burst of true tropical jungle. I could not have imagined anything so perfectly beautiful, nature seemed to riot in the production of wonderful forms, as if the moist hot-house air encouraged her in lavish excesses. Such endless variety, such depths of green, such an impassable and altogether inextricable maze of forest trees, ferns, and lianas! There were palms, breadfruit trees, ohias, eugenias, candle-nuts of immense size, Koa (acacia), bananas, noni, bamboos, papayas (Carica papaya), guavas, ti trees (Cordyline terminalis), treeferns, climbing ferns, parasitic ferns, and ferns themselves the prey of parasites of their own species. The lianas were there in profusion climbing over the highest trees, and entangling them, with stems varying in size from those as thick as a man's arm to those as slender as whipcord, binding all in an impassable network, and hanging over our heads in rich festoons or tendrils swaying in the breeze. There were trailers, i.e., (Freycinetia scandens) with heavy knotted stems, as thick as a frigate's stoutest hawser, coiling up to the tops of tall ohias with tufted leaves like yuccas, and crimson spikes of gaudy blossom. The shining festoons of the yam and the graceful trailers of the maile (Alyxia Olivaeformis), a sweet scented vine, from which the natives make garlands, and glossy leaved climbers hung from tree to tree, and to brighten all, huge morning glories of a heavenly blue opened a thousand blossoms to the sun as if to give a tenderer loveliness to the forest. Here trees grow and fall, and nature covers them where they lie with a new vegetation which altogether obliterates their hasty decay. It is four miles of beautiful and inextricable confusion, untrodden by human feet except on the narrow track. "Of every tree in this garden thou mayest freely eat," and no serpent or noxious thing trails its hideous form through this Eden.

It was quite intoxicating, so new, wonderful, and solemn withal, that I was sorry when we emerged from its shady depths upon a grove of cocoanut trees and the glare of day. Two very poor-looking grass huts, with a ragged patch of sugar-cane beside them, gave us an excuse for half an hour's rest. An old woman in a red sack, much tattooed, with thick short grey hair bristling on her head, sat on a palm root, holding a nude brown child; a lean hideous old man, dressed only in a malo, leaned against its stem, our horses with their highly miscellaneous gear were tethered to a fern stump, and Upa, the most picturesque of the party, served out tea. He and the natives talked incessantly, and from the frequency with which the words "wahine haole" (foreign woman) occurred, the subject of their conversation was obvious. Upa has taken up the notion from something Mr. S--- said, that I am a "high chief," and related to Queen Victoria, and he was doubtlessly imposing this fable on the people. In spite of their poverty and squalor, if squalor is a term which can be applied to aught beneath these sunny skies, there was a kindliness about them which they made us feel, and the aloha with which they parted from us had a sweet friendly sound.

From this grove we travelled as before in single file over an immense expanse of lava of the kind called pahoehoe, or satin rock, to distinguish it from the a-a, or jagged, rugged, impassable rock. Savants all use these terms in the absence of any equally expressive in English. The pahoehoe extends in the Hilo direction from hence about twenty-three miles. It is the cooled and arrested torrent of lava which in past ages has flowed towards Hilo from Kilauea. It lies in hummocks, in coils, in rippled waves, in rivers, in huge convolutions, in pools smooth and still, and in caverns which are really bubbles. Hundreds of square miles of the island are made up of this and nothing more. A very frequent aspect of pahoehoe is the likeness on a magnificent scale of a thick coat of cream drawn in wrinkling folds to the side of a milk-pan. This lava is all grey, and the greater part of its surface is slightly roughened. Wherever this is not the case the horses slip upon it as upon ice.

Here I began to realize the universally igneous origin of Hawaii, as I had not done among the finely disintegrated lava of Hilo. From the hard black rocks which border the sea, to the loftiest mountain dome or peak, every stone, atom of dust, and foot of fruitful or barren soil bears the Plutonic mark. In fact, the island has been raised heap on heap, ridge on ridge, mountain on mountain, to nearly the height of Mont Blanc, by the same volcanic forces which are still in operation here, and may still add at intervals to the height of the blue dome of Mauna Loa, of which we caught occasional glimpses above the clouds. Hawaii is actually at the present time being built up from the ocean, and this great sea of pahoehoe is not to be regarded as a vindictive eruption, bringing desolation on a fertile region, but as an architectural and formative process.

There is no water, except a few deposits of rain-water in holes, but the moist air and incessant showers have aided nature to mantle this frightful expanse with an abundant vegetation, principally ferns of an exquisite green, the most conspicuous being the Sadleria, the Gleichenia Hawaiiensis, a running wire-like fern, and the exquisite Microlepia tenuifolia, dwarf guava, with its white flowers resembling orange flowers in odour, and ohelos (Vaccinium reticulatum), with their red and white berries, and a profusion of small-leaved ohias (Metrosideros polymorpha), with their deep crimson tasselled flowers, and their young shoots of bright crimson, relieved the monotony of green. These crimson tassels deftly strung on thread or fibres, are much used by the natives for their leis, or garlands. The ti tree (Cordyline terminalis) which abounds also on the lava, is most valuable. They cook their food wrapped up in its leaves, the porous root when baked, has the taste and texture of molasses candy, and when distilled yields a spirit, and the leaves form wrappings for fish, hard poi, and other edibles. Occasionally a clump of tufted coco-palms, or of the beautiful candle-nut rose among the smaller growths. To our left a fringe of palms marked the place where the lava and the ocean met, while, on our right, we were seldom out of sight of the dense timber belt, with its fringe of tree-ferns and bananas, which girdles Mauna Loa.

The track, on the whole, is a perpetual upward scramble; for, though the ascent is so gradual, that it is only by the increasing coolness of the atmosphere that the increasing elevation is denoted, it is really nearly 4,000 feet in thirty miles. Only strong, sure-footed, well-shod horses can undertake this journey, for it is a constant scramble over rocks, going up or down natural steps, or cautiously treading along ledges. Most of the track is quite legible owing to the vegetation having been worn off the lava, but the rock itself hardly shows the slightest abrasion.

Upa had indicated that we were to stop for rest at the "Half Way House;" and, as I was hardly able to sit on my horse owing to fatigue, I consoled myself by visions of a comfortable sofa and a cup of tea. It was with real dismay that I found the reality to consist of a grass hut, much out of repair, and which, bad as it was, was locked. Upa said we had ridden so slowly that it would be dark before we reached the volcano, and only allowed us to rest on the grass for half-an-hour. He had frequently reiterated "Half Way House, you wear spur;" and, on our remounting, he buckled on my foot a heavy rusty Mexican spur, with jingling ornaments and rowels an inch and a half long. These horses are so accustomed to be jogged with these instruments that they won't move without them. The prospect of five hours more riding looked rather black, for I was much exhausted, and my shoulders and knee-joints were in severe pain. Miss K.'s horse showed no other appreciation of a stick with which she belaboured him than flourishes of his tail, so, for a time, he was put in the middle, that Upa might add his more forcible persuasions, and I rode first and succeeded in getting my lazy animal into the priestly amble known at home as "a butter and eggs trot," the favourite travelling pace, but this not suiting the guide's notion of progress, he frequently rushed up behind with a torrent of Hawaiian, emphasized by heavy thumps on my horse's back, which so sorely jeopardised my seat on the animal, owing to his resenting the interference by kicking, that I "dropped astern" for the rest of the way, leaving Upa to belabour Miss K.'s steed for his diversion.

The country altered but little, only the variety of trees gave place to the ohia alone, with its sombre foliage. There were neither birds nor insects, and the only travellers we encountered in the solitude compelled us to give them a wide berth, for they were a drove of half wild random cattle, led by a lean bull of hideous aspect, with crumpled horns. Two picturesque native vaccheros on mules accompanied them, and my flagging spirits were raised by their news that the volcano was quite active. The owner of these cattle knows that he has 10,000 head, and may have a great many more. They are shot for their hides by men who make shooting and skinning them a profession, and, near settlements, the owners are thankful to get two cents a pound for sirloin and rump-steaks. These, and great herds which are actually wild and ownerless upon the mountains, are a degenerate breed, with some of the worst peculiarities of the Texas cattle, and are the descendants of those which Vancouver placed on the islands and which were under Tabu for ten years. They destroy the old trees by gnawing the bark, and render the growth of young ones impossible.

As it was getting dark we passed through a forest strip, where tree- ferns from twelve to eighteen feet in height, and with fronds from five to seven feet long, were the most attractive novelties. As we emerged, "with one stride came the dark," a great darkness, a cloudy night, with neither moon nor stars, and the track was further obscured by a belt of ohias. There were five miles of this, and I was so dead from fatigue and want of food, that I would willingly have lain down in the bush in the rain. I most heartlessly wished that Miss K. were tired too, for her voice, which seemed tireless as she rode ahead in the dark, rasped upon my ears. I could only keep on my saddle by leaning on the horn, and my clothes were soaked with the heavy rain. "A dreadful ride," one and another had said, and I then believed them. It seemed an awful solitude full of mystery. Often, I only knew that my companions were ahead by the sparks struck from their horse's shoes.

It became a darkness which could be felt.

"Is that possibly a pool of blood?" I thought in horror, as a rain puddle glowed crimson on the track. Not that indeed! A glare brighter and redder than that from any furnace suddenly lightened the whole sky, and from that moment brightened our path. There sat Miss K. under her dripping umbrella as provokingly erect as when she left Hilo. There Upa jogged along, huddled up in his poncho, and his canteen shone red. There the ohia trees were relieved blackly against the sky. The scene started out from the darkness with the suddenness of a revelation. We felt the pungency of sulphurous fumes in the still night air. A sound as of the sea broke on our ears, rising and falling as if breaking on the shore, but the ocean was thirty miles away. The heavens became redder and brighter, and when we reached the crater-house at eight, clouds of red vapour mixed with flame were curling ceaselessly out of a huge invisible pit of blackness, and Kilauea was in all its fiery glory. We had reached the largest active volcano in the world, the "place of everlasting burnings."

Rarely was light more welcome than that which twinkled from under the verandah of the lonely crater-house into the rainy night. The hospitable landlord of this unique dwelling lifted me from my horse,


The Hawaiian Archipelago - 10/63

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