On the King’s Trail (VIDEOS)

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Kings Highway - Daniel Sullivan Photography
Early missionaries called this section of trail “the road built by sin.”

Turns out, it was:

Hoapili was one of Maui’s earliest Christian converts, and he ordered the work be done by adulterers; missionaries named it “the road built by sin.” Early Hawaiians knew this coast as a kua‘āina, an area that archaeologist Patrick Vinton Kirch calls “a dry, less desirable hinterland, where much skill and hard work were required to wrest a living from the landscape.”

My mouth is parched just hiking here — much less trying to live here — and the only sound is the howl of the wind as it whips through tufts of dry grass. The bones of feral goats lie sun-bleached atop the rocks, and, save for the white-tailed tropicbirds that ride above on the breeze, the land is completely devoid of life — a coastline frozen in time.

Despite the harsh living conditions, villagers inhabited this isolated coast through the middle of the nineteenth century, and dozens of archaeological sites spring up from the side of the trail. There are ahu, or shrines, homesites, heiau (temples), and rocks that were used to dry fish; as I look at an L-shaped, chest-high wall, constructed to block out the wind, I think of something Scott Fisher had said when we’d searched for sections of the trail by Nu‘u Bay just a couple days before. . . .

As the executive director for Hawaiian Islands Land Trust, Fisher helps manage eighty-two acres of protected land in Kaupō, along what’s often called the “back road” to Hāna. He points to an L-shaped structure and tells me, “This would have been a bed.” Considering that the ground is covered in rocks, seeing it as a resting place takes some imagination.


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