Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Old Hawaii

Honoka'a Theater, still operating.
There are many Hawaiis.

There's the Hawaii of shiny resort hotels, shopping, and activities for purchase.

Then there's the Hawaii of rusting corrugated iron roofs. And there's the Hawaii of trails that predate Cook's first encounter back in 1778. I like to wander through these Hawaiis.

I'm currently staying in the little rusting town of Honoka'a on Hawaii's Big Island.

I'm in room 3
The hotel, built in 1928, does not seem to have changed noticeably in 60 years. It's basic, but I like it that way. Besides, it's the only hotel in the area and tonight I'm the only guest.

A Hotel with no Name

There was another hotel, once: Tom Araki's "hotel with no name" in the nearby Waipio Valley. I walked past the building, today, still in good condition, now repurposed yet again.

2014, the former hotel with no name
Back in the 1990's Dwight and I walked to this hotel down a steep four-wheel drive road and along dirt roads.

There are so many stories about this building and the valley. Back in JFK's presidency this was the first Peace Corps training camp. And back in 1946 this valley was scraped by a huge tsunami.

When we stayed there, the accommodations were still basic, with no electricity, just oil lamps. And avocados straight from the garden.

Tom Araki, a Japanese American, was operating the hotel on his own, in his 80's. He entertained us with stories, including his work in 1942 building the military saddle road high across the island.

The Muliwai Trail

I first walked down one side of Tom Araki's valley and up the other 30 years ago. I vowed to return and camp at the end of a trail that clings to the cliffs to the next valley, a valley that can only be reached by foot, sea, or emergency helicopter.

The Muliwai Trail is a good alternative to the Kalalau Trail which I have written about here and here.

I had no idea Dwight would come into my life and we would wander The Muliwai together. I tried to get camping permission from the sugar cane company that owned the land, but they declined.

1989, black sand beach, start of trail

We did it anyway. It takes 6 to 8 hours of arduous hiking to reach the Waimanu Valley. We pitched our tent by a waterfall and a beach.

In 1994 the sugar company ceased operations and the trail became a state trail. Today, it's just a matter of applying for a permit from the state of Hawaii.

The Future

With the sugar company no longer providing employment, Honoka'a has gone into decline.

Former sugar cane facility, 2014
The lack of the Hawaii manufactured for visitors from the mainland, only compounds the economic challenges. Moves to high value crops seem more promising.

The main street is surprisingly vibrant, mainly locals. Clearly something keeps this place working.

Many of the buildings on the main street predate WW2. Local historian Ross Stephenson is trying to get this town on Hawaii's register of historical places. I get to meet him on Friday.

Judging by some of the posters and bumper stickers I'm seeing, there is some groundswell for leaving things as they are.  The high rainfall on this side of the island helps this position by making the development of resorts unattractive.

This Moment

I sit here alone in my room in an empty hotel in Honoka'a. I hear shrill birds and the splattering of rain on rusting corrugated iron. I can't say which type of economic development is right or wrong, but I so appreciate being here.

No comments:

Post a Comment