And then we get to Lupea, in the saddle between Hualalai and Mauna Loa, and it's this fabulous forest of old-growth koa-sandalwood-mamane-naio forest, some big 'ohi'as and kōleas on the 'a'a flows, and just–these sandalwoods, I can't even. They were tall, like, properly tall, 60-70 feet tall (?), and many broad enough I couldn't put my arms around them. And so many of them, thousands of trees.
...Some context. Back in the monarchy days, the Chinese found out about our 'iliahi sandalwoods and sparked a wildfire of logging. Hawaiians were cutting down every 'iliahi they could find and loading them on ships to China. Sandalwood very nearly went extinct in Hawai'i. Even today sandalwood is a rare and valuable wood, sandalwood oil is going for $1000-$1500 per kilo these days. Most Hawaiian sandalwood I've seen is really a glorified shrub, maybe 15 feet tall and 30 years old at best; I've really only seen two or three specimens in the whole state that could properly be called a tree. So Lupea? BLEW MY MIND.
Really beautiful area. In the mornings, when it's clear, the views of Hualalai, Mauna Loa, and Mauna Kea are magnificent. The forest is, again, exceptionally stunning, even though the ground has been completely denuded by feral sheep, so the forest is sorely lacking in understory species and young trees. There were, indeed, quite a lot of sheep, especially on the other side of the fence. There are also feral dogs, which was a bit scary; we heard them howling in the early morning. Another unpleasant sound was the sound of chainsaws from the property next door, continuing to cut down ancient hardwoods (Lupea, thankfully, belongs to Kamehameha Schools, which has sworn not to earn a cent from cutting live native trees).
I had some singular experiences up there. I've now tasted the sandalwood nut, and wow, I can see why the rats love them so much. Something between raw coconut and raw macadamia nut. And then there was that fallen sandalwood log that was blocking the road, so Andrew picked it up and took it back to camp. And the last evening was dry and clear, and he chainsawed the log into pieces and we set it on fire. Let me tell you, there is something opulently extravagant in the highest degree to burn sandalwood. We felt like we should be sitting on polar bear rugs, eating endangered species caviar and drinking the kind of vodka that has gold flakes in it, I mean, that was seriously some Donald Trump shit right there, propping our wet hiking boots up next to the hibachi full of burning sandalwood, wafting the perfumed smoke over us. Just, fantastic. That could happen nowhere else, not in these islands anyway.
...So yeah, it was a fun camping trip, even if I want to punch every last feral sheep in the face.
I have already embarked on my next adventure. I'm sitting at the gate in Los Angeles at ass o'clock in the morning, waiting for my flight to Baltimore, enroute (eventually) to Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and Bulgaria. Got about 45 minutes yet until I board... time for more fanfic, I guess! :D
Catch y'all on the flipside!