Mark Twain's Monkey Pod Tree
If you have taken the trouble to fly thousands of miles and rent a car to reach this district of the Big Island of Hawaii then you might as well slow down to take a look at the monkey pod tree on the mauka side of the road when driving highway 11 from Kona to Volcanoes National Park since the tourist sights in these parts are a little sparse. There is a nice restaurant here and a chance to get some fruit right off the trees.
This right here is a second generation descendant of the monkey pod tree reputedly planted by Mark Twain during his visit here in 1866. It is in the village of Waiohinu just west of Na'alehu in the district of Ka'u on the main highway 11. Mark Twain was here on a writing expedition and wrote many articles and letters while here. About.com has great info about Mark Twain's Hawaii visit.
The 1871 Trail
I was intrigued by Mark Twain's article of September 22, 1866 where he said, 'We walked a mile over a raised macadamized road of uniform width; a road paved with flat stones and exhibiting in its every detail a considerable degree of engineering skill. Some say that wise old pagan Kamehameha I planned and built it, but others say it was built so long before his time that the knowledge of who constructed it has passed out of the traditions. In either case, however, as the handiwork of an untaught and degraded race it is a thing of pleasing interest. The stones are worn and smooth, and pushed apart in places, so that the road has the exact appearance of those ancient paved highways leading out of Rome which one sees in pictures.'
I had toured the Place of Refuge National Park twice before but was not aware there was a trail here until Mark told me about it. So I confronted a park ranger, asked her why the park service had conspired to keep it hidden, and demanded to see it as is my right as an United States citizen! Well dog-gone it if she didn't just smile, tell me how to get out that way, and hand me a very special crib sheet for those intepid interpreters of numbered logs as is the custom and blaze for trails in this neck of the woods.
It really is hidden because to get started you have to skirt the refuge down a service road, bare left at the first coconut grove, then ... straight on 'till morning. Oh, well it wasn't that far. I did find out that this is the place where they put their old rangers out to pasture in this particular park since the service must patrol this stretch but narry a refugee seems to make it out this way.
Anyhow the xeroxed pocket-sized crib sheet turned out to be a boon and I am quite sure I saw every site on it and maybe a few more.
Not far from this 'City of Refuge', there´s Captain Cook´s landing site in Kealakekua Bay.. You´ll have to travel on a narrow road to the bay, and I think the people who live there don´t want too many tourists around. But again, it´s a lovely spot on this earth. We watched dolphins play in the bay. There´s an old heiau, too, supposedly the site where Captain Cook read the first mass on the Hawaiian Islands.
By the way: Why did he die here? I read that this place had been put under a taboo by the local chief after Cook´s fleet had left since most of the available natural food had been gone by then. Nature was to recover. However, Cook´s fleet encountered a bad storm. Ships were badly damaged, and they had to repair them. So they returned to the bay where they had been so warmly welcomed.... Tough luck!