Hell Road | Na’alehu
Oh boy we were in for an adventure!
My eyelids lifted to the warm sunlight as the hour struck nine. Pushing down the sheets – Kona summer nights are too warm for blankets – I yawned in approval. I had had nine hours of sleep, and sleep just so happened to be my most recent best friend. I cracked my back once, and then again, and started for the stairs. But something make me groan in the utmost dissatisfaction – my cell phone’s ringing. Answering the phone right after you wake up is never a happy process. The caller was Sarah Lee, whom I knew wouldn’t judge my groggy morning tone, so I flipped open my silver AT&T razor. She asked me if I wanted to go to Green Sands, a beach in south Kona. It’s about an hour past my house, and requires a four wheel drive. Sarah told me that she would be at my house in fifteen minutes, and it took me about fifteen minutes after for me to comprehend what was going on.
After quickly brushing my teeth, getting on a bathing suit and packing extra underwear, eating a microwavable soup, and arguing with my dad, I was out the door and in Sarah’s car. Nia was in the passenger seat, and Mariko and I sat in back. Talking about college, traveling, ambitions, and other intellectual (ha ha) topics, we landed at the famous local Punalu’u bakery in Na’alehu. Sarah got sweetbread, Nia bought a chili bowl, and I got a teri-chicken plate lunch. We brought the goods in the car, and headed back to our destination.
“Sarah, why are we turning here,” Nia asked, as we turned left on Poko Street (a few miles before Green Sands).
We began down the narrow road, with a made out pathway and bumpy rocks. From the remained vegetation, it was apparent not many people used the road. As we made conversation, sometimes out of nervousness, we realized that the end was not close. Sarah asked if we should keep going, or if it would be better to turn around before it was too late. Already there weren’t many places to turn around, but adventure seemed to be stirring in all of us. We kept going. And going. And going.
We passed long rock walls, which seemed to enclose graves; lava beds; and the occasional fork, where we had to make a random decision; until we finally came upon a brown wooden fence. Nia gathered her courage and opened it. Over the fence lay a rusted broken truck, with graffiti by someone and the date “2008″. This was reassuring, and we ended up taking pictures around it. There was a great deal of green shrubbery, and the thought of hidden bugs made me jump back in the car. We continued on, once passing through a large puddle of muddy water, and eventually observed three workers. Mariko and I got out, asking them if we were close to the coast, and were told that all we needed was one more right. Excited and relieved, we rushed back to the car. Mariko turned back and asked if the beach was nice. One of the guys nodded.
“It must be so strange for those guys to have seen a car of girls rough it down this uncivilized trail looking for a beach,” Nia pointed out.
We laughed at the thought.
At the next fork, we made a right and followed it straight to a… dead end. But, determined as we were, we reversed and turned around. We kept going until we reached another fork and decided that this was the correct right we were told. I was further confident when I turned around and one of the guys was holding a thumbs up sign. The road got gnarlier, and at one point we made a complete circle, but not much after we could see water. The terrain suddenly changed from a rocky patchy trail to an unstable lava field, and we happily parked next to a plastic-filled beach with three old chairs and a rotten toilet. One of the girls found a bottle onshore from Japan. With an accomplished feeling, we took a picture for memory’s purpose and figured to head back.
Frustrated with the bumpy road down, we decided to try a different way back. Well you know the ending to all of these stories with four young girls…
We drove back to the lava beds and continued south. After a few spin outs and rubber burning, it became clear that we were no longer on a trail. But rather than turn back, after driving around thirty minutes, we chose to keep going and hopefully end up on one. I not only congratulate Sarah for getting us out alive. I mean really; how many people could handle that without having a mental breakdown?
You have to understand that we didn’t just drive along the coast for two hours looking for an exit sign. About every twenty minutes, Mariko and I would get out to guide Sarah along the steep rocky cliffs, or down boulders and loose rocks. We would run ahead to make sure it was even possible to keep going. We would put rocks around the tires when they couldn’t grip. The car never drove more than five miles per hour, and our positivity began dropping that low too.
“We’re always gunna remember Sarah saying, ‘I just want to see where it goes,’,” chuckled Mariko.
At two thirty in the afternoon we hit a fork which, to us, seemed like a gift from the heavens. The path to the left continued on lava rock, but appeared to have no unstable boulders. The path to the right began very steep, but appeared to smoothen out as it went. I was assigned to run and check out the left as Mariko found the scoop on the right. The path was pretty clear on the former, but I couldn’t make out where it actually went, so we agreed to go right. We rambled for a while, and ended up on a path that lead us to a beach with actual sand. Even better, we found a trail that appeared to go up into the mountains. And the trail was no longer lava rock, it was vegetation!
We never put Sarah’s engine into consideration until a couple spin-outs and failed efforts later. Almost overheated, we let the engine sit with the top and windows open. Fortunately, the temperature was fairly cool. It was a good opportunity for a bathroom break and a chance to see what was up ahead.
Thirty minutes later, we closed the hood and got back into the warrior. Only two more hectic uphill struggles before we could let out a great sigh of relief. Mariko gave us all gum to focus on and I unconsciously took in about fifty walnuts.
It was the most amazing feeling to be in a pasture full of cows and dung. The lush greenness gave out a beautiful, calming odor, and the smooth path felt like butter to our bums. Two brown gates remained closed, but we gladly opened them (except for the time when there were fifty cows to our side along with a bull, all with their eyes on us). We were smiling and laughing and breathing normally until the fence of doom. Previously, Nia had said, “What if we get to the top and we can see the highway but there’s a fence blocking us and it’s locked.” Unluckily for us, her nervous prediction came true. The locks couldn’t be picked, the gate couldn’t be broken, and the chain couldn’t come over the pole. We were stuck.
“Yes… I need the number for Helco,” Nia said into her cell phone. She paused for a minute, motioning for me to get my cell phone. She gave me the seven-digit number, hung up with 411, and called Helco. “Hi, I have a question. My friends and I went on a road trip down a road in Na’alehu and we’ve been driving down the coast for a while and we’re trying to get back to the highway but we hit a gate with a lock and we can’t get through.” Nia tapped her foot and gave us the look. “Okay; we’re in a pasture in Na’alehu, right next to the Verizon tower.”
Mariko noted, “We can see the highway from -”
“- yeah, we can see where the highway would be from here,” Nia continued, starting to move around. She walked in a full circle and then in random directions, conversing with a company worker of the gate’s lock. She was told that the company couldn’t help her, and that she’d need to call the police department.
So she did. And she had to repeat the situation again. At one point she chuckles, saying, “They both asked me why we couldn’t just backtrack.” Sarah, Mariko, and I practically died.
At four thirty, six hours after we ventured down Poko Street, a fireman came to rescue us in a small white jeep. He unlocked the gate and took down our information for the report. He was kind and we were grateful that he had come. When the gate was locked behind us, we were so glad to be moving forward.
We didn’t make it all the way down to Green Sands, but we did stop at South Point. All that could be said was,
“Wow… What an adventure.”
Things I didn’t mention:
— written by Leilani Rapaport