Saturday, February 09, 2013

Where Ancient Hawaiians Lived

Lapakahi State Historical Park

The northwest tip of the Big Island is called North Kohala district. Prior to Captain Cook's first contact between Europeans and Hawaiians, and for some time after that, this area was home to a number of farming and fishing villages. One village, called Lapakahi, is now a state park including roughly reconstructed buildings and stone foundations illustrating ancient villagers' lives. By the shore are a canoe shelter, shrines to fishing gods, and salt pans. Up the hill are homes, lookout points for watching the ocean, and a burial ground. The lookout point served us as a good place to watch for whales, and we saw a few of them blow and breach.

Around the tip, facing northeast, is the Pololu valley, first in a series of now uninhabited valleys. The path down to the valley is very steep, but the views are spectacular as you climb down the 400 foot drop. It can't be that hard -- we saw some girls walking down the rocky path in bare feet, and saw families with rather small children scrambling quickly down the trail. We carried down some sandwiches and coke and had a picnic. (Yes, we took all our trash back up the hill and put it in a trash can in town!)

From the trail to Pololu Valley:
The first look along the coast always reminds me of the illustrations
for fantasy books about some other planet.

Walking on Pololu beach
Beautiful trees and low ground-level plants are interspersed with volcanic rocks and boulders, making the scenery both eerie and stunning.

The valley -- behind this treed area is a lagoon
The Pololu valley was home to a village for many centuries. Ample water enabled cultivation of large taro plantations. Villagers, who probably lived in houses similar to those we saw in the historic park traveled by outrigger to the other valleys along the coast. There seems to be no remaining trace of this inhabitation.

A water project diverted the stream, and cultivation ended -- the last inhabitants left in the 1940s -- I wonder if the tsunami that wiped out quite a lot of that coast at that time was the reason for the final abandonment. Now there's only a rather rough trail that crosses the ridges of hills. I believe several days are required to walk to the next inhabited area, which is the Waipio valley north of Hilo. (It was definitely abandoned after the tsunami, though a few people have now returned.)

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