Episode 7: The Road to Hana by Bradley Fink

TRANSCRIPT

You can read the transcript below.

I was once having tea with an old friend from Florida, who had spent some time in Hawaii. When I asked him what he thought oftheislands, he said that it is kind of like Heaven there, as he often imagined it, but without as many clouds. At thetime I had just returned to America from a long season traveling abroad, and wanting to do some writing I decided that I would rather avoid thebusyness of themainland. With only some old clothes, a traveler’s guide, and a few hundred dollars to my name, I shouldered my pack and purchased a one-way ticket to thePolynesian isle of Oahu.

Typically when one thinks of Hawaii it is of lush greenery, of pristine shores, of seascapes and romantic sunsets. But if in search of solitude, then Waikiki is not theplace to be. Honolulu is a big, industrious city. On thepromenade one shuffles along with thetourists, while taxicabs and trolleys motor back and forth in between thehigh-rise hotels. Theeast side of theisland is beautiful, and there is plenty to be said for themountains and valleys that dominate thenorth shore. But still Oahu is a bit too hectic. After three days rounding theisland, I decided that I would rather not stay there, and following theadvice of my guidebook I booked another one-way ticket to Maui.

From Honolulu to Kahului is an easy, thirty-five minute flight. Upon landing at theairport I rented a car for twenty-five dollars. Because of a mix-up with directions it took me half-an-hour driving to get on any recognizable road, but finally I found my way north along theisthmus that divides theisland. In Paia, a small town on thenorthern shore, I parked thecar, checked thesurf, and bought a sandwich from thepetrol station, where theattendant looked as though I had woken him from thedozy composure of a dream. After a short conversation he pointed me in thedirection of Lahaina, and driving south through theisland, and up along thewest coast, I arrived to a stretch of waterfront bars and art galleries, where I parked again, walked around for half-an-hour, and saw that it was a touristy town.

Maui itself is incredibly beautiful. There isn’t much traffic there, and in between towns themountains rise up in a range of green, volcanic peaks. In theafternoon I headed again toward Paia, which had seemed like a good enough place to stay. I figured that if I could get a job there, I would take an apartment, work, surf, and not be bothered while I put some finishing touches on a manuscript that I was drafting. In town I stopped at thegeneral store to check thebulletin board out front, but with no postings for work, I kept on along theonly roadgoing north, which turned suddenly with a bend at theshore, and then I found myself driving east along some empty, narrow, winding highway. I was nearly four miles from town when I realized that this was theRoadto Hana. Briefly I considered turning back toward Paia, but having already started out in that direction, I figured that if it became too dark I would sleep in thecar and head back toward Paia in themorning.

For a while I continued on cautiously. Because thenorth shore of Maui rises to a steep and flourishing rainforest, theRoadto Hanais slow and meandering. It runs fifty-two miles over waterfall gullies and quick, scenic bridges. Thebridges cross thegullies in short, dramatic spans, one after another as theroadnegotiates thecoastline.When I saw Duncan walking by theside of theroadhe had his pack on and his thumb out. He was a gruff and robust fellow, burnt from having too much sun, and perhaps lost, I thought, or otherwise ill-advised to be going theroadon foot. In approaching I could see his back muscles strained beneath thetremendous weight of his pack. Getting in he thanked me brusquely; he was English by his accent, and by his eyes, I supposed, no more than thirty years old. As I drove he told me of his arrival to theisland, of how he had started out from Paia themorning before, having made it ten miles walking before a pineapple farmer had taken him as far as an old YMCA. By then it was nearing dusk, and so he had pitched his tent, built a fire with some palm branches, and camped there for thenight. When he asked of my plans I told him that I hadn’t any, that I would go as far as Hana, to have a look around, and most likely spend thenight in thecar.

Therest of theway to Hanawas themost beautiful part. As we went Duncan told me of his travels. He said that he had been going for nineteen months now, working here and there as a line-cook in restaurants. Before Hawaii he had spent several months in thekitchen of a brasserie in uptown Manhattan. For some months before that he had been preparing meals at a fishermen’s lodge in Alaska. When I asked him why he had been going so long, he said that he does not like theweather in England.

“It’s downright dreary,” he said. “Come November and you don’t see thesun for a hundred days.”

I told him that I had been going for twenty-two months myself, through South America and Africa, and parts of thefar-east.

“So much out there,” he agreed. “Not enough time.”

“Do you ever think that you might stop?”

“Stopped in Liverpool some time back,” he said. “After eight days of it I was bored to bits. Stood right back up and was going again.”

For another hour-and-a-half we drove straight through to Hana. In town we found only some houses, a flower garden, a small church, and a store. In thestore I bought raw nuts and water, and Duncan bought himself some beer, and for another hour we sat in theparking lot and watched thelocal Hawaiians come and go. After that we drove around town awhile, and then up to a hidden ridge, which had been poorly fenced off, so we hopped thefence, fell beneath some coconut palms, and sprawled out in thegrass. By thetime we noticed thesunlight fading it was after six o’clock. Wondering what to do, Duncan said that he would be heading south in themorning, and I would go back to Paia, so in theend we agreed that right there on theridge was a good enough place to stay. While Duncan pitched his tent I made a bed for myself in theback seat of thecar. For dinner we cooked baked beans over a small fire, and then Duncan offered to “skin one up”, and so we went out to thecliff and smoked while watchingthesun settle into thePacific. As night fell Duncan played some music on his traveling radio. Thestars came out that night like they had in Canada, as they had in theSahara, as I remembered them in Africa above a particular campsite, and we talked of thethings we had seen and learned in our travels around theworld.

“Where will you go from here?” I asked him.

Duncan shrugged, sighing quietly. He thought for a moment and said, “I’ve always wanted to see Japan.”

I asked him of his plans for settling down. He said that theday he stopped wandering would be sad day indeed.

“A woman could make you stop,” I said suddenly, though not quite certainly. Duncan said nothing, but I could see that he had heard me, and I felt that I had touched on something sensitive. 

In themorning when I woke there was a note from Duncan written on theback of thebaked beans label. It said that he had gone in to Hana, to buy some food, and would then continue on his way toward theeastern shore. Underneath one of thetrees was a coconut that he had split and left for me to eat. Walking sleepily down to thecliff, I drank themilky water, and peeled away theshell. As I chewed thenut I felt thesun come on from behind themountains. For a while I stood looking down at theocean. It was a sunny morning, with a delicate breeze, and theview was as beautiful as any I had seen. Standing there on theridge, feeling suddenly lonesome, I thought sentimentally of home. There were people in Florida who would have been happy to see me. There was a girl there as well, whom I often remembered. Thinking of her, I closed my eyes, and fell easily back to sleep. Upon waking again I made some notes in my journal. I loaded thecar and headed slowly west. Driving back along theRoadto Hana, thinking of Duncan, I hoped that he was fine, for him not to be lonesome, and that some day he would find his way home.

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