My friend and her husband had property in a remote area in Hilo, 3 acres of wild land that they turned into a sanctuary from the busy life of Honolulu. They invited us to stay there and camp in the grounds for the weekend.
It was past nine p.m.on a Friday night when we neared the property. We turned left off of the highway and onto unpaved, rocky road that reminded me of my father’s hometown in the Philippines. There were no street lights around; just overgrown bushes on either side. Parts of the road were covered with water, and would have been difficult to guess its depth, but our friends had told us ahead of time that it was safe to drive on.
Their property reminded me of the Blair Witch Project: rocky paths, overgrown bushes, trees, and no light except for little ones that illuminated part of the path. Nobody told me to bring a flashlight, but my friend’s sister loaned me her small one. There were, however, beautiful blue, white and red lights strung around tree trunks, and the sky above mimicked the Coldplay song, “A Sky Full of Stars.”
We were a group of more than thirteen, with people coming in from Honolulu, California and Oregon. We were roughing it, but I had no problem sleeping outdoors or in a tent. My biggest challenge was to go without soap and water to wash my hands after using the toilet, even for number 1. Hand sanitizer just didn’t satisfy me. Next day, after I learned how to use the shower (turn on gas regulator, turn on shower system, push down button of shower head handle), I got to wash my hands, and I was at peace.
It constantly rained in Hilo, but on Saturday we were blessed with sunny skies. We went to Kaumana Cave and hiked inside. It was essentially a lava tunnel, its ground covered with very sharp lava rocks. One fall and you could hurt yourself badly, the lava rocks cutting up your skin with knife-like sharpness. It was pitch-dark, as we discovered when we turned off all our lights for one minute. I expected Shelob, the giant spider from Lord of the Rings, to emerge from behind stalactites or stalagmites. After about 40 minutes in, we came up to a bunch of boulders. It must’ve toppled down somehow, and some friends didn’t want to continue on, so we headed back.
After the cave we went to the Farmers market. There were so many Filipinos, selling everything from “budbud” to halo-halo. I couldn’t resist talking to a group of women manning a stall who spoke my dialect. Of course, they invited me to eat lunch with them, but I politely declined. Instead, I had summer rolls with veggies and avocado, with a peanut butter dipping sauce. It was amazing.
That night, we returned to the property and I took a nap; sleeping at 1am the previous night had messed up my system. Soon it got dark, and I saw that the owners had spruced up the grounds with some disco lights and paper lanterns. They also distributed barrettes with flashing lights, which everyone put on their hair, clothes, over the nipples and crotch.
After a burger dinner it was time for Burning Chicken, not Burning Man. The seven-foot tall wooden sculpture that was built to be burnt looked like a chicken pirate, with sticks for feather on its back and a sword for a right hand. Just when they set it on fire, the rain started pouring and didn’t stop. It was saving the life of the Burning Chicken pirate. My friend’s husband suddenly whipped out a flamethrower to finish the job, and several people took turns with it. As I watched them I thought–why did he have the flamethrower in the first place?
After the Burning Chicken, I went to my tent and found it was collapsed on one side from the non-stop rain. I pushed up on the roof to dump the water. Then a couple of us went to the Hawaii Volcano National Park to see the smoke and fire coming
from the mouth of Kilauea from a few hundred feet away. We stood at an outdoor viewing station at a hotel called Volcano House. It must have been 60 degrees and I was freezing. It reminded me I couldn’t go back to the east coast.
On our second and last night in Hilo, the Coqui frogs were croaking nonstop. It sounded like they were saying “cookie?”I couldn’t sleep for hours because of the heavy rain. Finally, the tent caved in at my feet. At least it was good timing: It was 5:30 am and I had to get up anyway and get ready for my flight. But it was dark, and I only had my cellphone’s flashlight to use. I had trouble gathering my belongings. I couldn’t maneuver around the collapsed tent very well and there was insufficient light and a puddle had started forming inside the tent. I was dropping everything: underwear, contact lens case, hairbrush. I was stepping in water puddles with my socked feet. All the while, the tent was slowly collapsing. I hurried, as I didn’t want to end up getting hit in the head with the poles.
A few hours later, we left the steady rain of Hilo and back to the hot sunshine of Honolulu. Funny how cave, lava rocks, sunshine, heavy rain, 90 degrees and 60 degrees all exist in one state.