Kauai lies farthest to leeward of the main islands of the Hawaiian group; the steamer visits it usually but once a month; and the best way to see it without unnecessary waste of time is to take passage in a schooner, so timing your visit as to leave you a week or ten days on the island before the steamer arrives to carry you back.
We took passage on a little sugar schooner, the Fairy Queen, of about seventy-five tons, commanded by a smart native captain, and sailing one afternoon about two o'clock, and sleeping comfortably on deck wrapped in rugs, were landed at Waimea the following morning at day-break.When you travel on one of these little native schooners you must provide food for yourself, for poi and a little beef or fish make up the sea ration as well as the land food of the Hawaiian. In all other respects you may expect to be treated with the most distinguished consideration and the most ready and thoughtful kindness by captain and crew; and the picturesque mountain scenery of Oahu, which you have in sight so long as daylight lasts, and the lovely star-lit night, with its soft gales and warm air, combine to make the voyage a delightful adventure.
As usual in these Islands, a church was the first and most conspicuous landmark which greeted our eyes in the morning. Abundant groves of cocoa-nuts, for which the place is famous, assured us of a refreshing morning draught. The little vessel was anchored off the shore, and our party, jumping into a whale-boat, were quickly and skillfully steered through the slight surf which pours upon the beach. The boat was pulled upon the black sand; and the lady who was of my party found herself carried to the land in the stout arms of the captain; while the rest of us watched our chance, and, as the waves receded, leaped ashore, and managed to escape with dry feet. The sun had not yet risen; the early morning was a little overcast. A few natives, living on the beach, gathered around and watched curiously the landing of our saddles and saddle-bags from the boat; presently that pushed off, and our little company sat down upon an old spar, and watched the schooner as she hoisted sails and bore away for her proper port, while we waited for the appearance of a native person of some authority to whom a letter had been directed, requesting him to provide us with horses and a guide to the house of a friend with whom we intended to breakfast. Presently three or four men came galloping along the beach, one of whom, a burly Hawaiian, a silver shield on whose jacket announced him a local officer of police, reported that he was at our service with as many horses as we needed.
It is one of the embarrassing incidents of travel on these Islands that there are no hotels or Inns outside of Honolulu and Hilo. Whether he will or no the traveler must accept the hospitality of the residents, and this is so general and so boundless that it would impose a burdensome obligation, were it not offered in such a kindly and graceful way as to beguile you into the belief that you are conferring as well as receiving a favor.
Nor is the foreigner alone generous; for the native too, if you come with a letter from his friend at a distance, places himself and all he has at your service. When we had reached our friend's house, I asked my conductor, the policeman, what I should pay him for the use of three horses and his own services. He replied that he was but too happy to have been of use to me, as I was the friend of his friend. I managed to force upon him a
proper reward for his attention, but I am persuaded that he would have been content without.
Kauai is probably the oldest of the Hawaiian group; according to the geologists it was the first thrown up; the bottom of the ocean began to crack, up there to the north-west, and the rent extended gradually in the south-easterly direction necessary to produce the other islands. It would seem that Kauai must be a good deal older than Hawaii; for, whereas the latter is covered with undecayed lava and has two active volcanoes, the former has a rich and deep covering of soil, and, except in a few places, there are no very plain or conspicuous cones or craters. Of course the whole island bears the clearest traces of its volcanic origin; and near Koloa there are three small craters in a very good state of preservation.
Having thus more soil than the other islands, Kauai has also more grass; being older, not only are its valleys somewhat richer, but its mountains are also more picturesque than those of Maui and Hawaii, as also they are much lower. The roads are excellent for horsemen, and for the most part practicable for carriages, of which, however, there are none to be hired.
The best way to see the island is to land, as we did, at Waimea; ride to a singular spot called the "barking sands"—a huge sand-hill, gliding down which you hear a dull rumble like distant thunder, probably the result of electricity. On the way you meet with a mirage, remarkable for this that it is a constant phenomenon—that is to say, it is to be seen daily at certain hours, and is the apparition of a great lake, having sometimes high waves which seem to submerge the cattle which stand about, apparently, in the water.
From the sands you return to Waimea, and can ride thence next day to Koloa in the forenoon, and to Na-Wiliwili in the afternoon. The following day's ride will bring you to Hanalei, a highly picturesque valley which lies on the rainy side of the island, Waimea being on the dry side. At Hanalei you should take the steamer and sail in her around the Palis of Kauai, a stretch of precipitous cliff twenty-five miles long, the whole of which is inaccessible from the sea, except by the native people in canoes; and many parts of which are very lovely and grand. Thus voyaging, you will circumnavigate the island, returning to Na-Wiliwili, and thence in a night to Honolulu.
It is easy and pleasant to see Kauai, taking a store of provisions with you and lodging in native houses. But if you have made some acquaintances in Honolulu you will be provided with letters of introduction to some of the hospitable foreign families on this island; and thus the pleasure of your visit will be greatly increased. I do not, I trust, violate the laws of hospitality if I say something here of one of these families—the owners of the little island of Niihau, who have also a charming residence in the mountains of Kauai. They came to Honolulu ten or twelve years ago from New Zealand in a ship of their own, containing not only their household goods, but also some valuable sheep. Thus fitted out they were sailing over the world, looking for such a little empire to own as they found in Niihau; and here they settled, selling their ship; and here they remain, prospering, and living a quiet, peaceful, Arcadian life, with cattle and sheep on many hills, and with a pleasant, hospitable house, where children and grandchildren are clustered together, and where the stranger receives the heartiest of welcomes. It was a curious adventure to undertake, this sailing over the great Pacific to seek out a proper home; and I did not tire of listening to the account of their voyage and their settlement in this new and out-of-the-way land, from the cheery and delightful grandmother of the family, a Scotch lady, full of the sturdy character of her country people, and altogether one of the pleasantest acquaintances I made on the Islands.
Kauai has many German residents, mostly, like these Scotch people I have spoken of, persons of education and culture, who have brought their libraries with them, and on whose tables and shelves you may see the best of the recent literature, as well as the best of the old. A New Yorker who imagines, cockney-like, that civilization does not reach beyond the sound of Trinity chimes is startled out of this foolish fancy when he finds among the planters and missionaries here, as in other parts of these Islands, men and women of genuine culture maintaining all the essential forms as well as the realities of civilization; yet living so free and untrammeled a life that he who comes from the high-pressure social atmosphere of New York can not help but envy these happy mortals, who seem to have the good without the worry of civilization, and who have caught the secret of how to live simply and yet gently.
Kauai has four or five sugar-plantations, some of which are now successful, though they were not always so. Success has been attained by a resolute expenditure of money in irrigation ditches, which have made the land yield constant and remunerative crops. But I could see here, as elsewhere, that close and careful management—the eye of the master and the hand of the master—insured the success.
But a large part of the island is given up to cattle. In the mountains they have gone wild, and parties are made to hunt and shoot these. But on the plains, of course, they are owned and herded. The raising of cattle is an important and considerable business on all the Islands; and at present, I believe, the cattle owners are making a good deal of money. In 1871, 19,384 hides were exported, as well as 185,240 pounds of tallow, 58,900 goat skins, and 471,706 pounds of wool.
The market for beef is limited, and the stockman boils down his beeves. In many cases the best machinery is used for this purpose; the boiling is done in closed vessels, and the business is carried on with precision. It seemed to me, who remembered the high price of beef in our Eastern States, like a sad waste to see a hundred head of fat steers driven into a corral, and one after the other knocked on the head, slaughtered, skinned, cut up, and put into the boilers to be turned into tallow. But it is the only use to make of the beasts. The refuse, however, is here always wasted, which appeared to me unnecessary, for it might well be applied to the enrichment of the pastures.
On many of the ranches you see open try pots used; it is a more wasteful process, I imagine, but it is simpler and requires a smaller expenditure of capital for machinery. The cattle are managed here, as in California, on horseback and with the help of the lasso; and he who on our Pacific coast is called a vaquero, or cow-herd, is here known as a "Spaniol." Such a native man is pointed out to you as an excellent Spaniol. This comes from the fact that in the early days of cattle-raising here the natives knew nothing of their management, and Spaniards had to be imported from California to teach them the business. The native people now make excellent vaqueros; they are daring horsemen, and as they work cheaply and are easily fed and lodged, the management of cattle costs less here, I imagine, than even in California. But it is necessary to take care that the pastures shall not be overstocked; and the vast number of horses kept by the natives is on all the Islands a serious injury to the pasturage of both sheep and cattle.
The Hawaiian, who seventy-five years ago did not know that there existed such a creature as a horse, and even fifty years ago beheld it as a rarity, now can not live without this beast. There are probably more horses than people on the Islands; and the native family is poor, indeed, which has not two or three hardy, rough, grass-fed ponies, easy to ride, sometimes tricky but more often quite trustworthy, and capable of living where a European donkey would die in disgust. At a horse auction you see a singular collection of good and bad horses; and it is one of the jokes of the Islands to go to a horse auction and buy a horse for a quarter of a dollar. The Government has vainly tried to put a check to the reckless increase of horseflesh by laying a tax on these animals, and by impounding them if the tax is not paid. I was told of a planter who bought on one occasion fifty horses out of a pound, at twenty-five cents a head, and had them all shot and put into a manure pile. But if the horse is worth his tax it is pretty certain to be paid; and it is not easy to keep them off the pastures.
Cattle ranchos usually extend over from fifteen to thirty thousand acres of land; though many are smaller, and some, on Hawaii, larger. The grass is of different varieties, but the most useful, as well as now the most abundant, is the manienie, of which I have before made mention. Horses and sheep, as well as cattle, become very fond of this grass, and eat it down very close. The handling of the cattle is entrusted to native people, who live on the rancho or estate; and the planter or stock farmer has an advantage, in these Islands, in finding a laboring population living within the bounds of his own place. The large estates were formerly the property of the chiefs. They are the old "lands." But when the kuliana law was made, the common people were allowed to take out for themselves such small holdings as they held in actual cultivation. These kulianas they still hold; and thus it often happens that within the bounds of a large estate fifty or sixty families will live on their little freeholds; and these form a natural and cheap laboring force for the plantation or rancho.
On the Island of Niihau, I was told, there are still about three hundred native people. The sheep are allowed to run at large on the island, there being no wild animals to disturb them; at lambing and shearing times the proprietors hire their native tenants to do the necessary work; and these people at other times fish, raise water-melons and other fruits, and make mats which are famous for their fine texture and softness, and sell at handsome prices even in Honolulu.
Where, as is the case almost universally, the relations between the stockman and the native people are kindly, there is a reciprocity of good offices, and a ready service from the people, in return for management and protection by the great proprietor, which is mutually agreeable, and in which the proprietor stands in some such relation to the people as the chief in old times, though of course with not a tithe of the power the ancient rulers had.
At Kauai you will also see rice growing. This is one of the products which is rapidly increasing in the Islands. Of rice and paddy, or unhulled rice, the exports were in 1871, 417,011 pounds of the first, and 867,452 of the last. In 1872 there were exported 455,121 pounds of rice and 894,382 pounds of paddy.
The taro patches make excellent rice fields; and it is an industry in which the Chinese, who understand it, invest their savings. They employ native labor; and it is not uncommon to find that a few Chinese have hired all the taro patches in a valley from their native owners, and then employ these natives to work for them; an arrangement which is mutually beneficial, and agreeable besides to the Hawaiian, who has not much of what
we call "enterprise," and does not care to accumulate money. The windward side of the Islands of Oahu and Kauai produces a great deal of rice, and this is one of the products which promises to increase largely. The rice is said to be of excellent quality.
A. Calabash for Poi.
B. Calabash for Fish
C. Water Bottle
D. Poi Mallets
E. Poi Trough
F. Native Bracelet
Kauai contained once the most important coffee-plantations; and the large sugar-plantation of Princeville at Hanalei was originally planted in coffee. But this tree or shrub is so subject to the attacks of a leaf-blight that the culture has decreased. Yet coffee grows wild in many of the valleys and hills, and here and there you find a small plantation of a few hundred trees which does well. The coffee shrub thrives best in these Islands among the lava rock, where there seems scarcely any soil; and it must be sheltered from winds and also from the sun. I have seen some young plantations placed in the midst of forests where the trees gave a somewhat dense shade, and these seemed to grow well.
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Notes About Book:
Source: Nordhoff, Charles. Northern California, Oregon, and the Sandwich Islands. Harper and Brothers, Publishers, 1875.
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