Thursday, February 26, 2015

High and Low on Maui, Part I

I have just returned from a five-day / four-night camping adventure on the Island of Maui. I camped for two nights at 6,800 ft. above sea level, then two nights at sea level—mountainside and beachside. Thus I saw the highs and lows of Maui. Also the east and west. It is an island of myriad shapes and colors. I tried to capture as much of that as possible: in five days, in 152 photographs, in seven pages of journaling, and now, in multiple posts on this blog!

Here's part one.

The demi-god Maui, who caught and slowed down ka lā, the sun. Notice the large net he carries for catching that great star. As depicted at the Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum, Puʻunene
Hawaiʻi Research Adventure: Day 47

I flew into Kahului, Maui's main airport, around 9am on Friday morning. From there I picked up a rental car in Kihei and was on my way to the day's sights. Day One. Centered around the twin towns of Kahului and Wailuku in Maui's Central Valley.

The first stop was Puʻunene, a sugar town on the edge of Kahului's sprawl. I went there to visit the Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum. 

The Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum, housed in an old sugar mill manager's house, Puʻunene

I write about sugar production on Maui in the final chapter of my dissertation. (Specifically, I look at contact and conflict between Hawaiian and Chinese workers on Haiku Sugar Company lands in Haʻikū and Hamakuapoko in East Maui.) So, of course, I found the museum exhibits interesting, although it painted Maui's sugar history in very broad brush strokes, and of course glorified the families Alexander and Baldwin, the descendents of Euro-American Christian missionaries who, as the saying goes, "came to do good and did very well." In short, they traded evangelism in for capitalism.

One cool aspect of the museum is that it sits right across the street from Maui's last remaining fully-operational sugar mill! As I left the museum, I was offered a small packet of granulated cane sugar to munch upon... presumable milled right across the street. Yum!

View of a real sugar mill from the window of the Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum, Puʻunene

From the sugar mill I then headed into Kahului to visit the Maui Nui Botanical Gardens. 

He kai o nā pua ka ʻilima, a sea of ʻilima flowers. At the Maui Nui Botanical Gardens, Kahului

 What I most enjoyed about the botanical gardens was their focus on two types of plants: "indigenous" and "Polynesian introduced." Throwing aside the binary of "native" and "alien" species, the Maui Nui Botanical Gardens makes the useful distinction of a spectrum, really, of indigeneity and haole-ness (foreignness) in the floral kingdom. Polynesian peoples began introducing plants to these islands over one thousand years ago. People of European descent introduced yet other plants beginning in 1778 and continuing to this day. A strict scientific definition of "native" and "alien" would lump the Polynesian and European introductions together, but I believe there are important reasons to distinguish the two. It's also true that the plants that Polynesian peoples introduced are not "indigenous." So, a helpful distinction and a solid mission focuses the Maui Nui Botanical Garden on two classes of plants: those that existed before the first Hawaiians arrive circa 1000 C.E. (if we follow Kirch's most recent estimates for Polynesian arrival) and those that were brought to Hawaiʻi by successive waves of Polynesian voyagers between 1000 C.E. and 1778.

One such plant that Polynesians introduced to these islands was ke kukui, Hawaiʻi's official state tree. One can find kukui trees all over Hawaiʻi. The nuts contain an oil that was historically used to provide illumination; hence kukui's nickname as the "candlenut" tree. Kukui in Hawaiian also is the common word for "torch"; for example, the word for "flashlight" is ke kukui paʻa lima, the kukui that you hold in your hands! Kukui also generally means "nut": all kinds of nuts. Kukui nut necklaces are a prized item at gift shops around the archipelago. So, this is a special tree. Neither "indigenous" nor "alien" but somewhere in between, it's just one of the fascinating Polynesian-introduced plants on display at the botanical gardens.

Holding the kukui fruit, Maui Nui Botanical Gardens, Kahului
Look! Ka ʻiliahi, sandalwood. Subject of chapter one of my dissertation. Seen at the Maui Nui Botanical Gardens, Kahului

70 different varieties of kalo! Hawaiʻi's most important plant. Maui Nui Botanical Gardens, Kahului
 Ke kō, sugar. Maui Nui Botanical Gardens, Kahului
Showing how plants are used to build a hale. The more botanical gardens can do to show that plants are used, and not just pretty to look at, the better. Maui Nui Botanical Gardens, Kahului

 And then, before grabbing lunch I made one more stop. On the edge of Kahului Bay, I paid a visit to Halekiʻi Heiau and Pihanakalani Heiau on a small hill overlooking a stream that drains the West Maui mountains into Kahului Bay. These heiau (temples) date back to at least the eighteenth century, if not earlier. As you can see in the photograph below, the intervening centuries have not been kind to these heaiu. They stand, seemingly forgotten, high above suburban sprawl. When I visited on a beautiful Friday morning, I was the only one up on the hill. 

Halekiʻi Heiau / Pihanakalani Heaiu, Kahului

 It was not clear to me where Halekiʻi is in contrast to Pihanakalani. I noticed another stone structure on the other side of the hill, almost completely overgrown with grass and bushes. Perhaps that is Pihanakalani?

 If it looks like just a bunch of stones, look again. This was a major religious and ceremonial temple complex on Maui. Halekiʻi means "house of kiʻi" (tiki). This heiau would have been covered with wooden kiʻi statues as well as other structures, all of which were destroyed probably sometime in the early nineteenth century. All that remains are the stone foundations.

Pihanakalani translates as "gathering of supernatural beings." These were important places. (And still are. Note my discussion in an earlier post about why heiau are "temples" and not "ruins.")

I then spent the afternoon in Wailuku, a nearby town, but with a much more old-fashioned feel and sway to it. I grabbed a poke bowl for lunch at a Japanese market, and then began wandering around looking at historic structures.

First stop was the Bailey House Museum. Built in 1833 out of coral, lava rock, and wood (or some sort of combination like that), it was home to prominent Euro-American Christian missionaries in the 1830s and 1840s, as well as housing their school for Native Hawaiian girls (the companion to Lahainaluna, the famous Christian school for Native Hawaiian boys). 

A cluttered interior, nineteenth-century style, at the Bailey House Museum, Wailuku. The gray spots on the walls are where the cut coral is exposed. 
View of the exterior of the 1833 Bailey House in Wailuku

 Next door to the Bailey House is an 1836 home built by another missionary, Richard Armstrong. I just happened to recently meet one of his great-great-great-grandchildren in Mānoa! So I took some photos to send to her. 

An 1836 house built by Christian missionary Richard Armstrong in Wailuku

Wailuku has a strange New England-y feel to it, no doubt thanks to those missionaries who all hailed from there and built up this town in the image of their upbringing. The town has a very pre-sugar feel to it (the era from 1830s to 1860s, specifically). Around the corner from the missionaries' homes is Kaʻahumanu Church. It doesn't get more New England-y than this. The image below could be mistaken for a photograph of New Hampshire!

Kaʻahumanu Church, built in 1876, Wailuku

 By then it was late afternoon and I had one more stop to make before finding a place to camp for the night. The drive from Wailuku into the ʻIao Valley is only a few miles but soon one is in very remote, beautiful mountain scenery. This is the best place to get a feel for the largely inaccessible West Maui mountains. 
Obligatory photograph of the ʻIao needle, over 2,000 feet above sea level. Maui's most famous phallic landmark!

 By then it was 4pm and I had to make camp for the night. I stopped at Foodland (the major grocery store around these parts) and picked up some tako poke (octopus), lomi salmon, and edamame. Yum. Then I drove out to Olowalu, on the shore south of the West Maui mountains, which would have been my camp for the night, but they were all booked! No vacancy. So, I had to make a quick decision. Where would I camp? I decided to put the pedal to the metal and drive up to Hosmer Grove, a National Parks Service campground at 6,800 feet elevation on the slopes of Haleakalā (House of the Sun), East Maui's great dormant volcano! It took me one and a half hours to drive up there in beating rain and fog, but I made it. Set up camp and had my dinner by flashlight in the rain.
 Camp at 6,800 feet. Hosmer Grove, Haleakalā National Park

Dinner! Lomi salmon (left), tako poke (right), and edamame, poke style (back).

My seafood dinner at 6,800 feet above the ocean made me think about the ahupuaʻa—the land division system in place prior to circa 1850 that sliced the islands like a pie, so that each slice went from the top of the mountains outward to the edges of the sea. There is nothing weird about me bringing seafood up to seven thousand feet in the skies for dinner, I reasoned, because the "ecological coherence" of the ahupuaʻa, to use Marshall Sahlins' phrase, includes all these resources from the uplands to the lowlands to the sea. Not that this octopus and salmon were from this sea... but you get what I mean. 

Anyway, it was a good meal! And, with the temperature dipping quickly into the low 40s, I was soon fast asleep, in my sleeping bag, in my winter coat, wearing my winter hat and my long underwear. All bundled up, safe and sound from the driving wind and rain.

That concludes part one of my Maui adventure. More to come!

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