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Trip 26 -- Oahu Walk

Day 3: Waianae to Waialua
Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Today: 51844 steps/36.85 km/22.90 mi/8h
Total: 116443 steps/87.56 km/54.41 mi/17h 14m

The rail line between Honolulu and Waianae on the west coast opened in 1895, and in the following two years the Oahu Railway and Land Company extended the line 22 miles to Waialua on the north shore -- the very route I walked today. The construction involved dynamiting through rock, bridging over gulches and gullies, and building retaining walls to protect the tracks from the surf on one side and the failing volcanic rock on the other.

The train provided access to the northern sugar plantations, and it also became a popular weekend excursion, including "camera trains" through a partnership with Eastman Kodak. What a beautiful ride it must have been, along the western coast, around Kaena Point, and then following the northern shore! Sadly, a tsunami put an end to the line in 1946, and with the rise of car culture and decline of sugar production, the service was never restored.

I left the house in Waianae just after seven -- thank goodness I happened to wake up for such an early start, because the walk took much longer than I expected. Just past Waianae High School, I detoured along the main part of Kaulawaha Road, because the street is featured in "Under the Wave at Waimea." There's a mansion up there somewhere, at least in the novel, and I was curious about the neighborhood.

I was rewarded with lovely bougainvillea, purple and orange and yellow. The homes seemed fairly upscale, with stately gates, stone walls, and large lawns. One house, clearly for a single family, had eight cars parked outside, and they all seemed serviceable, not the junked cars I'd seen littering the streets. I didn't see anything I'd call a mansion, but Kaulawaha Road is broken into three parts, and I didn't fancy poking around the narrower sections, which seemed from the main road to be more modest and less welcoming.

I stopped briefly at Kaneana Cave, where according to legend the earth goddess gave birth to humankind. Another story tells us that Nanaue, half shark and half man, would assume his human persona in order to lure people into the cave and eat them. I felt quite safe in the roomy entrance chamber, where purple orchids and oranges had been left as offerings.

Farrington Highway was closed off abruptly at Keawaula Beach, and from here I followed the road to its true end about a mile later, where it turned into a bumpy track. This was the old railbed, and railroad ties and retaining walls could still be seen. It was another two and a quarter miles to Kaena Point, which took me over an hour as I picked along the railbed and up and down a slight detour where the path had been eaten away. The waves pound here, sometimes creating a burping sound as they rush through the rock, building up pressure.

A protective wall keeps predators such as rats and mongooses away from Kaena Point so that seabirds such as Laysan albatrosses can thrive. Majestic birds they were, with giant wingspans and white bellies, keeping watch on all of Kaena Point as they glided swiftly over the area. I descended the sandy hill to the base of the point, where white coral fragments have built up on the shore.

The trail along the northern shore was less rocky and more of an undulating dirt road. A handsome cattle egret landed next to me to say hello; its proximity surprised me. The birds were introduced to Hawaii in 1959 to help ranchers, as they hunt flies. However, they prey on the nests of native birds, and they're now seen as pests -- much like the Indian house crows brought in by the British to eat Zanzibar's garbage.

Farrington Highway resumed where the dirt road ended, and the stretch from Kaena Point to Waialua was flat, straight, and boring. There was a wide-enough shoulder but my pace was way down, over 12 minutes per kilometer, and it took two and a half hours to cover what usually takes me two. I passed Dillingham Air Field, where small planes were taking off and landing, and then Dillingham Ranch, a wedding venue and equestrian center. It felt more like a walk across Kansas than Oahu. What I wouldn't have given for an ice-cream shop, or any place to have lunch, or even a convenience store, but there had been no food since Waianae. I'd snacked on passion-fruit cookies and macadamia brittle from the Sunday market on the Big Island and dried banana slices bestowed on me by Ivory's stepmother. All the sugary bottles from yesterday I'd refilled with water, but I was running low.

Benjamin Dillingham built the railway around Kaena Point and the Haleiwa Hotel at its terminus in Waialua, and unfortunately I missed my chance to be a hotel guest by about 90 years. Waialua and Haleiwa have no hotels, so my only options for lodging were through Airbnb. A few $40 places looked promising until they revealed themselves to be campsites ("Perfect place to pitch your tent!") -- they were selling just the air and omitting the B&B part. Farther east a place listed for $417 turned out to be a car. In Waialua I had one home lined up right in town until the owner canceled on me a couple of weeks ago.

There was just one place left, a private room on Kuhi Street, a bit short of town. If there's any upside to the cancellation of the first place, it's that it saved me another 20 minutes of walking after an eight-hour day. I found the address -- Hawaiian addresses always begin with the tax district, Ivory told me, resulting in house numbers such as 87-1360D that more resemble refrigerator serial numbers -- and in the front a young woman was fixing a bicycle.

She directed me to the first-floor entrance, which led to three rooms, two of which were locked and one of which, number 3, had a key in the lock. I texted the person in charge to make sure number 3 was mine -- the booking had said something about number 1 -- and he confirmed it long after I had flopped down on the bed and was half-napping.

Dinner options were scarce -- the closest restaurant for some reason closes at 11 a.m. on Wednesdays -- but I found a good meal at Jerry's Pizza Mill, where I stuffed in all the calories and carbohydrates I didn't get to eat for lunch. It's BYOB, so I purchased a large Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA from the convenience store across the way.

I sidled into a booth and watched replays of surfing competitions on the TV set. The server brought a carafe of water, which quickly got guzzled and refilled; to that I added a chicken-parmesan sandwich, meatballs, garlic bread, and Sprite. And I had to try a banana-cinnamon dessert pizza, partly because I wanted to sample their pizza and partly because I was nowhere near ready to move again. By the end of the meal my head was lolling to the right and I was chewing listlessly, as though I were a water mill with low pressure and a stroke, and moaning much like the blowhole by Kaena Point. I approximated a reclining-Buddha position and murmured incoherently to myself as I neared the end of the second carafe of water.

I couldn't finish the pizza, so I put the remainder in a box and left it next to a bench at a bus stop, hoping the person sleeping there would find it before the mongooses did. I limped back to Kuhi Street, reassuring myself that tomorrow's walk is less than three hours and precedes a two-night stay near the waves at Waimea.

Go on to day 4