The last hair-pin turn nearly expels the day-old turkey sandwich from my stomach after the centrifugal force slams 180-pound Denise and her 300-pound fiance into my gut.
The Road to Hana is over 3 hours and just under 65 miles of relentless, winding roads broken by brief respites to disembark and see the sites. We're packed like sardines, and this tour van is most certainly a death trap, but Mr. Ka'Uhane was just too positive for my liking, so I ditched him. I prefer to be crushed by overweight lovers on the eve of their nuptials.
Unlike the Big Island and much of Maui, Hana remains mostly unsullied by civilization. In ancient times, this was a lush, endless paradise favored by royalty. Naturally, when too many rich babies want the same thing, they fight. For hundreds of years, the upper class waged countless, bloody wars over Hana and the islands themselves until King Kamehameha The Great knocked enough heads to unite them all by 1810.
This I learn not from our tour guide but during a Google session as I pause to settle my stomach before our hike. What Mr. Ka'Uhane lacked in conversational restraint, our "guide" Donny has in spades. He barely speaks, and yet his body language exudes a palpable disdain for the haole around him (which now that I type it out can easily be rejiggered to spell a-hole). I'm not sure what we're paying him for, but I appreciate the silence as well as the awkward tension it creates among our band of photo-snapping intruders. Unfortunately for Donny, our group still has questions. In particular, they want to know about this monstrosity...
"Strangler fig," he says as he wraps his hands around an imaginary throat that I'm sure, in his mind, belongs to one of us. "The banyan seeds on a host tree then drops aerial roots into the soil. The roots around the trunk fuse together until they form a suffocating sheath. The stranger's foliage blocks sunlight from the host and its root system steals water. Eventually, the host dies and leaves a hollow banyan trunk of fused roots." Pause. "Some find them pretty."
"Sounds like Edward from Twilight," chuckles Wayne, Denise's chubby, soon-to-be hubby. Denise snorts as Wayne, Fat Wayne as I've named him in this moment, looks to the group for comedic backup. No one's with him. Least of all Donny.
"Yes. It's a foreign vampire from India...leeching off our native beauty since 1873."
Fat Wayne's grin fades as he takes Denise's hand and draws her close. Donny turns and heads up the trail without a word. I'm starting to like this guy. And I don't feel so bad. At least we won't be the first vampires in Hawaii.
I follow Donny deeper into the forest. A little pep in my step.