As you travel through the country, you see not infrequently one of the tall, majestic, large women, who were formerly, it is said by old residents, more numerous than now. I have been assured by several persons that the race has dwindled in the last half century; and all old residents speak with admiration of the great stature and fine forms of the chiefs and their wives in the early days. It does not appear that these chiefs were a distinct race, but they were despotic rulers of the common people; and their greater stature is attributed by those who should know to their being nourished on better food, and to easier circumstances and more favorable surroundings.
When you have seen Honolulu and the Nuanu Valley, and bathed and drunk cocoa-nut milk at Waikiki, you will be ready for a charming excursion—the ride around the Island of Oahu. For this you should take several days. It is most pleasantly made by a party of three or four persons, and ladies, if they can sit in the saddle at all, can very well do it. You should provide yourself with a pack-mule, which will carry not only spare clothing but some provisions; and your guide ought to take care of your horses and be able, if necessary, to cook you a lunch. The ride is easily done in four days, and you will sleep every night at a plantation or farm. The roads are excellent for riding, and carriages have made the journey. It is best to set out by way of Pearl River and return by the Pali, as thus you have the trade-wind in your face all the way. If you are accustomed to ride, and can do thirty miles a day, you should sleep the first night at or near Waialua, the next at or near what is called the Mormon Settlement, and on the third day ride into Honolulu.
If ladies are of your party, and the stages must be shorter, you can ride the first day to Ewa, which is but ten miles; the next, to Waialua, eighteen miles further; the third, to the neighborhood of Kahuku, twelve miles; thence to Kahana, fifteen miles; thence to Kaalaea, twelve miles; and the next day carries you, by an easy ride of thirteen miles, into Honolulu. Any one who can sit on a horse at all will enjoy this excursion, and receive benefit from it; the different stages of it are so short that each day's work is only a pleasure. On the way you will see, near Ewa, the Pearl Lochs, which it has recently been proposed to cede as a naval station to the United States; and near Waialua an interesting boarding-school for Hawaiian girls, in which they are taught not only in the usual school studies, but in sewing, and the various arts of the housewife. If you are curious to see the high valley in which the famous Waialua oranges are grown, you must take a day for that purpose. Between Kahuku and Kahana it is worth while to make a detour into the mountains to see the Kaliawa Falls, which are a very picturesque sight. The rock, at a height of several hundred feet, has been curiously worn by the water into the shape of a canoe. Here, also, the precipitous walls are covered with masses of fine ferns. At Kahana, and also at Koloa, you will see rice-fields, which are cultivated by Chinese. You pass also on your road several sugar-plantations; and if it is the season of sugar-boiling, you will be interested in this process. For miles you ride along the sea-shore, and your guide will lead you to proper places for a midday bath, preliminary to your lunch.
After leaving the Mormon Settlement, the scenery becomes very grand—it is, indeed, as fine as any on the Islands, and compares well with any scenery in the world. That it can be seen without severe toil gives it, for such people as myself, no slight advantage over some other scenery in these Islands and elsewhere, access to which can be gained only by toilsome and disagreeable journeys. There is a blending of sea and mountain which will dwell in your memory as not oppressively grand, and yet fine enough to make you thankful that Providence has made the world so lovely and fair.
As you approach the Pali, the mountain becomes a sheer precipice for some miles, broken only by the gorge of the Pali, up which, if you are prudent, you will walk, letting your horses follow with the guide—though Hawaiian horsemen ride both up and down, and have been known to gallop down the stone-paved and slippery steep. As you look up at these tall, gloomy precipices, you will see one of the peculiarities of a Sandwich Island landscape. The rocks are not bare, but covered from crown to base with moss and ferns; and these cling so closely to the surface that to your eye they seem to be but a short, close-textured green fuzz. In fact, these great rocks, thus adorned, reminded me constantly of the rock scenery in such operas as Fra Diavolo; the dark green being of a shade which I do not remember to have seen before in nature, though it is not uncommon in theatrical scenery.
The grass remains green, except in the dry districts, all the year round; and the common grass of the Islands is the maniania, a fine creeping grass which covers the ground with a dense velvety mat; and where it is kept short by sheep makes an admirable springy lawn. It has a fine deep color and bears drought remarkably well; and it is the favorite pasture grass of the Islands. I do not think it as fattening as the alfilleria of Southern California or our own timothy or blue grass; but it is a valuable grass to the stockmen, because it eats out every other and less valuable kind.
On your journey around Oahu you need a guide who can speak some English; you must take with you on the pack-mule provisions for the journey; and it is well to have a blanket for each of your party. You will sleep each night in a native house, unless, as is very likely to be the case, you have invitations to stop at plantation houses on your way. At the native houses they will kill a chicken for you, and cook taro; but they have no other supplies. You can usually get cocoa-nuts, whose milk is very wholesome and refreshing. The journey is like a somewhat prolonged picnic; the air is mild and pure; and you need no heavy clothing, for you are sure of bright sunny weather.
For your excursions near Honolulu, and for the adventure I have described, you can hire horses; though if you mean to stay a month or two it is better to buy. A safe and good horse, well saddled and bridled, brought to you every morning at the hotel, costs you a dollar a day. In that case you have no care or responsibility for the animal. But unless there are men-of-war in port you can buy a sufficiently good riding-horse for from twelve to twenty-five dollars, and get something of your investment back when you leave; and you can buy saddles and all riding-gear cheaply in Honolulu. The maintenance of a horse in town costs not over fifty cents per day.
Your guide for a journey ought to cost you a dollar a day, which includes his horse; when you stop for the day he unsaddles your horses and ties them out in a grass-field where they get sufficient nourishment. For your accommodation at a native house, you ought to pay fifty cents for each person of your party, including the guide. The proprietor of the Honolulu hotel is very obliging and readily helps you to make all arrangements for horses and guides; and if you have brought any letters of introduction, or make acquaintances in the place, you will find every body ready to assist you. Riding is the pleasantest way of getting about; but on Oahu the roads are sufficiently good to drive considerable distances, and carriages are easily obtainable.
One of the pleasant surprises which meet a northern traveler in these islands is the number of strange dishes which appear on the table and in the bill of fare. Strawberries, oranges—the sweetest and juiciest I have eaten anywhere, except perhaps in Rio de Janeiro—bananas and cocoa-nuts, you have at will; but besides these there are during the winter months the guava, very nice when it is sliced like a tomato and eaten with sugar and milk; taro, which is the potato of the country and, in the shape of poi, the main subsistence of the native Hawaiian; bread-fruit; flying-fish, the most tender and succulent of the fish kind; and, in their season, the mango, the custard-apple, the alligator-pear, the water-melon, the rose-apple, the ohia, and other fruits.
Taro, when baked, is an excellent and wholesome vegetable, and from its leaves is cooked a fine substitute for spinach, called luau. Poi also appears on your hotel table, being the national dish, of which many foreigners have become very fond. It is very fattening and easily digested, and is sometimes prescribed by physicians to consumptives. As you drive about the suburbs of Honolulu you will see numerous taro patches, and may frequently see the natives engaged in the preparation of poi, which consists in baking the root or tuber in underground ovens, and then mashing it very fine, so that if dry it would be a flour. It is then mixed with water, and for native use left to undergo a slight fermentation. Fresh or unfermented poi has a pleasant taste; when fermented it tastes to me like book-binder's paste, and a liking for it must be acquired rather than natural, I should say, with foreigners.
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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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