Hitchhiking Volcano National Park
I pushed my flight back until November 14th while my visa processed for New Zealand. With the sudden change of destinations I decided to venture to the Big Island of Hawaii, taking the first leg of my flight to Honolulu and redirecting to Kona Airport. My wife and I flew together side-by-side out of Phoenix for the first leg. We spent the prior weeks visiting her mom in Sun City, her friends, sister and nephews, but now I traveled solo again. She landed in Auckland to work at Napier Prison while I roamed the Big Island with no plan or destination in mind other than to wander about.
I collected my baggage from the Island Air terminal and felt the sticky air scraping against the back of my throat, suffocating me in the thick, misty, darkness of monsoon season. The jungle heat sweltered through the brigade of gray thunder clouds dancing above me. It all came back to me. Our first days on Kauai, and Maui, the same, just one year ago in 2016.
My skin felt moist and soiled from the viscous breath yawning with the wind. I walked. The droplets of jungle rain tickled my face, trickling down the furrows of my brow as my eyes adjusted to the muggy landscape. Its intermittent drops like a volatile flame and in moments her tears shrieked in a fury, drenching me.
The shoulder of highway 11 squeaked beneath the slick heels of my dull boots. I held no thumb out. I only walked, moping around, my mind and body wandering. My jean shorts stuck to my thighs, dripping down my shins like syrup in the heavy air. I tramped slowly. My head tilted down at the gleaning pavement. Suddenly, a small Honda pulled off on the shoulder, stopping for me.
“Ayyye bruddah…need a ride?”
“I can take you to bus by K-Mart…I saw your big pack…looked heavy…thought I’d give ya a lift bruddah…”
He looked like your typical, old, Hawaiian, surfer with a dark skin tone and Polynesian roots. His voice sounded nasally between his squinty eyes and when he mentioned dancing and playing the bongos I thought he might pull out a roach of Hawaii’s finest weed, but he didn’t. He pulled off in front of the K-Mart and I bought spam, sardines and the normal staple food for my travels before rambling down the road.
The sun mellowed above the vehement clouds and the sky turned a deep black earlier than normal, 6 PM. Waves crashed among the shoreline, their soothing presence a soft melody to my ears. No sooner the rain ceased its pittering through dusk its wrath wrapped me in a torrential shower. I walked unphased in its tumultuous roars. People jabbered and shouted bar-to-bar, umbrellaed beneath awnings, tipping their glasses as they sloshed back booze in the dreamy paradise.
The street lights dimmed as I sauntered along through the noisy chaos, looking for refuge. Bums alike flew signs on the seawall looking for spare change from tourists. I kept plodding forward, wet, soggy and filthy, but as I tired, I turned, seeing a coil chain block access to an abandoned roadway. I stepped over it ducking down beneath an overgrown albizia tree, its canopy drooping to the ground. Off in the jungle, I saw waist-high sedge interlaced with ferns, fluffy and volumized, dripping with rain through the beams of my small flashlight. I cleared a small path for myself, lying down on the moist jungle floor. The chant of coqui frogs echoed around me as the bugs of the night chirped and buzzed in unison. I fell asleep to the pattering and decadence of the night sky beneath the noise of the jungle singing.
Early morning, I awoke to the violent rays of sunshine poking through the canopy of green above, and started tramping south towards the Volcano. The steep mountain grades made my ankles swell and cramp in pain as I meandered my way, going nowhere in particular. Cow pastures blazed a verdant lime, sloping down through rugged hills, to the vibrant ocean blue, that endlessly colored the sky. For a while I dipped and dodged the rain fall, walking about, in the steaming sunshine. The miles drifted together with one goal in mind, seeing Kilauea Volcano.
But, it edged towards a dreary gloom, taunting me with evil clouds, ribbed gray. I stopped at the bottom of the next incline, connecting me back to the main highway. It soared up to the heavens reminding me of the steep grades in the Appalachians. I hesitated, dreading the painful climb, marching up the narrow roadway to McDonald’s. The first car that passed me pulled off into the grass, before the trough, and I hopped in for a quick hitch up the hill.
I used McDonalds as a safe haven to shield me from the rain, spending hours there reading a book, 666 by Jay Anson, and refilling the same fountain drink with Coca Cola.
The sky opened its eyes with holes as blue as the ocean. I kept wandering south for hours. She crept slowly behind me, encroaching, until she spit down wails of ferocity. My boots pooled with puddles, squishing and squeaking with each step. I felt miserable. I felt tired. I just wanted to go to New Zealand and hold my wife. But, here I was wandering aimlessly in the dead of monsoon season, soaked and far from the nearest store, but at least I wasn’t broke.
Gullies followed the highway for miles, and small wooden frame houses with metal roofs scattered about the jungle for cheap living. A narrow shoulder gave me just enough room to walk, but not enough space for someone to pull off and give me a lift. So, I walked through an ocean of tears, sulking and missing my wife. I hid beneath a cluster of coconut trees with dead palm leaves mangled overhead, escaping the damp pools cascading down. Then I reached a closed cafe and did the same listening to her waves thunder down from above while the ocean churned.
Eventually we met back up, her doom unleashed from the dismal clouds above in torrents and my feet whimpered in agony with each cold, sopping, step. My toes crinkled and peeled from oversaturation while my gear weighed me down even more so than before. I screamed in my head from annoyance and discomfort. The scowl on my face worked against me and with each stomp in the muddy roadside puddles, the cuffs of my pants turned a deep brownish black. Then it all changed.
“Aloha boy,” whispered a middle-aged Hawaiian woman.
Confused, I turned my head with a blank stare.
Flustered she whispered, “Aloha girl…”
I stopped and looked at her strangely, “Huh…”
“Sorry…sorry…you are boy, right?”
I laughed. “Yes, I am a boy, why what did you say…I couldn’t hear you from the traffic.”
“Oh, I say aloha boy first, but you look at me funny…so I call you girl, but I realize you were not…where you goin’ to in rain?”
“I can give you ride to store in Kealia…only store there…lots of boys like you hitchhiking there to get ride. I pray to thee lord to give you strength and hope, make it safely to Volcano…all this walla-walla-bing-bong goin’ on out there in the world.”
She held my hand and prayed, “Lord Jesus may this boy arrive safely to Volcano…we know lots of crazy, bad people out there and with all the walla-walla-bing-bong in world, we pray for him.”
She rambled on about her eight kids, and talked of her husband who just passed away. Each sentence she preached Jesus and her catch phrase, “Walla-walla-bing-bong” followed by a chuckle became her catch phrase. Her son sat in the passenger’s seat and never acknowledged me in the slightest. I thanked them both while she said one last prayer. Rain fizzled in the misty sky and I crossed the street taking refuge at a dilapidated church building.
My body lay stiff on the cold, rough, concrete floor as I listened to the rain surge from the ominous pool above. I stayed completely dry, beneath an awning, at Puka’ana Church, but it looked like another day of hitchhiking in the rain. So I packed up my gear and paraded across the street, breathing in the thick humid jungle with each step while the sprinkles of rain showered upon me. The air trapped me and even sitting on the stoop of the only general store in Kealia, I felt drenched from her moist humid clouds. Rain cascaded from the sky in torrents and when it stopped, a misty, fuming, haze filled the landscape. After two hours propped up against the shack’s brick wall, peering off at the faded green church walls, and rusted steeple, I began to walk further south towards the Volcano.
Highway 11 meandered in a topsy turvy twist of adventure, up and down steep mountain grades, through the raging jungle, flourishing on for miles and miles. I held my thumb out for a bit with no luck and stuck to tramping. The sky held its temper at a dreary, sticky, mist. The hairs on my arms and legs covered in miniscule droplets of jungle water. A light blue beamer turned around, skidding on the loose gravel until it screeched to a jerky stop. A middle-aged man with a gray trim beard, dressed like a skater in holey tight jeans, waved me over. As I scampered closer I saw his chain dangle from his back pocket and his flat baseball cap worn backwards. He shaded his eyes with Ray Ban sunglasses and smiled at me with yellow teeth, jaundiced from years of smoking. I plopped my gear in the trunk and rode in the back seat. He shook my hand.
“They call me Holiday and this oaf here is Cassidy.”
I looked at the driver, a plump man with brown skin, his nose slightly crooked between round shades. His black wavy hair with streaks of gray swayed as he jolted his head, gripping my hand with his fat fingers. He dipped his shades from the bridge of his nose peeking his glazed eyes at me.
“The guys call me Cassidy…now the girls…well I don’t give em my real name if you know what I mean….hahaha…ya gotta deal with my music…I need it to drive….aside from that jazz…where ya headed?”
“Volcano…,” I said gulping my parched throat.
“Sweeet…we can take ya there…headin’ to Hilo…just gotta make a quick stop in South View to grab these damn papers for the car…whaddaya think…bet ya never had someone stop and give ya a lift in a fuckin’ beamer…am I right….am I right?”
He chuckled and slapped Holiday in the chest with the back of his hand in a joking manner. He talked fast rambling his sentences together like a tweaker while he drove like a maniac down the winding sleek roads. The car swerved around bends over the double line, and we jetted past multiple cars, easily reaching 100 mph as the engine softly hummed in last gear.
“See man…I told ya…I fuckin’ told ya…thing runs smooth as hell…we just hit a hundo back there cruising…didn’t even feel it.” He smirked throwing his hands up in the air and shaking his head to Dr. Dre as the beats shifted to Eminem.
Holiday shook his head with a mischievous grin. A toothpick stuck out of his mouth as he sat silent.
“Whaaaaat….what’s that look? I know I was driving a lil fast back there…but we gotta test this baby out if we wanna sell her…definitely needs new tires…these fuckin’ intermittent wipers are shit…but we’ll tell em it’s 9 flat and they gotta get new uns….whaddaya think Brian…would ya pay 9 for this…a beamer with 126,000 miles?”
“Uhh…I dunno…seems like a good price…I’ve never owned a beamer.”
“Yeah…9 flat is a steal…am I right Holiday?”
“Yeah…but chill with the turns…you know I don’t like you drivin’ like that, specially with how bald the tires are…we only have so many lives bro…I mean…straight away I’m fine, but huggin’ those bends at 70…shit man…you’re makin’ my blood pump.”
“Shit Holiday…you know we can’t die man…besides the tires are fine…they’re not that bad…keep ya panties on bud…whaddabout you Brian?
“Ya don’t mind my drivin’?”
“Uhhh…yeah man you’re hitting them curves pretty fast, but we’re fine so it’s all good.”
“Holiday and I didn’t tell ya, did we?”
“Tell me what?”
“We’re fuckin’ crazy bro…like the lunny bin kinda crazy…the kinda crazy recognized by the state…hahaha…but that don’t stop me from gettin’ that pussy…mmmm…mmmm…nah…kita got a good one…gonna be on her later.”
“Yep,” said Holiday. He nodded his head in agreement.
“Well we took ya this far to South View…you can feel free to walk if ya don’t wanna ride with us crazies…hahahah…or ya can just trust us and we’ll drop ya at the park,” chuckled Cassidy in a loud thunderous bellow.
“Hell no…I’m not walkin’…ya took me this far…how ya like the house?”
Holiday looked over at me and shrugged.
“It’s provided by Steadfast Hawaii…Cassidy want kiddin’…state provides it for people with mental illness…we’re harmless though bro…wanna smoke?”
He pulled out rolling tobacco and rolled up a cigarette, flicking his lighter to churn the end, passing it to me.
Cassidy dawdled about in the house, lifting up papers as he frantically waddled in circles.
“Fuck…what did I just do with the gawd damn papers for the car Holiday.”
“No idea bro.”
He shuffled about near the washing machine picking up a stack of loose papers.
“Uhhh I found em…alright let’s go…ahhh you fucks are holdin’ me up with your damn smokin’…finish em up or I’ll leave your ass…you know we have a schedule Holiday,” grunted Cassidy.
“Been nic-fittin’ the whole damn ride bro…it was just one…calm your ass.”
We all stepped back in the car and off roared Cassidy, squealing around turns and pushing his foot to the floor on the straight aways of highway 19.
Holiday peered back at me and pointed.
“Ya never been out here…it’s good country…lotsa cow pastures, magic mushrooms and beautiful ocean views.”
Cassidy rolled down the windows and opened the sun roof, beating his hand on the inside of the car roof.
“AHHHH….smells like pussy.”
Holiday snickered and looked at me with a furrowed brow, his googly eyes covered from sunglasses.
I wondered what kinda pussy he was talking about, laughing and holding on to the car door while he slid around the winding roads like a lunatic.
He shook my hand like a bro and bid me farewell, stepping out to help me with the trunk. I entered the park early afternoon, spending $12 for a walk-in fee and followed the crater rim trail drifting over to the steam vents. Fissures of earth spewed hot, steamy, fumes and it looked like another planet or the apocalypse, as sulfur filled my nose like the smell of a burning match. Kilauea Caldera sputtered with active lava. Its fumes shot up to the sky like a funnel of smoke, but its crimson, incognito, glow, remained shadowed by the sunlight. The overcast clouds dispersed clearing the air for a moment. When I looked down into the crater I saw shades of gray molten rock etched into the ground, fissures opened the flesh of earth and she exhaled with passionate fumes.
I moseyed back to a picnic shelter, reading, my stomach eating myself as the sky teared up again in rash bursts of rain. Time passed by slowly and I caught myself in deep thought. Tourists joined me at the adjacent table while I read my book, covered in dirt, and wet filth. Their eyes struck me with a gaze of pity and they bequeathed me with hot leftover Thai food. I munched on noodles drenched in a peanut sauce and a curry of some kind. It curbed the barren void in my stomach until nightfall.
Night erupted in a blaze of scorching light, suffocating the overcast sky, with bright orange and crimson hues. Dark silhouettes of trees ran rampant through the rocky landscape as smoke dispersed around the caldera. Active lava sputtered and shot up through the fissures of rock and for the first time in history, Kilauea erupted in not one, but two places simultaneously.
Rain drops splattered against the corrugated metal roof from the picnic area I hid out under, drifting between a mist and intermittent drizzle. I lay there on the wet, cool, asphalt waiting for the spattering of rain to cease, giving me ample time to mosey towards the churning lava. The veins of earth pulsed oozing with molten lava, glowing like a fiery sun. Foreign chatter and camera flashes pierced the night sky from nearby Japanese tourists who flocked to the volcano in tour vans. A hazy mist flooded the air with a poignant humidity that drowned me to a moist state. I scampered off among the slippery gravel making my way back to the picnic area, taking refuge beneath the awning. Rain drops thumped, cascading off the trees above, as the storm thrashed violently pounding against the roof, lulling me into a slumber.