Friday, May 14, 2010

Cool Hight Cliff

Honolulu, Hawai'i.  Winter 2008.

It always seems to be raining on Nu'uanu Pali - there's always been the fierce winds, which is to be expected (it is a cliff, after all), but every time I've looked over the edge into the valley below the air hangs heavy with moisture, clouds cling to the mountain side, and everything's dark and uncomfortable.  It's probably for the best - if it looked like every other beautifully scenic place in Hawai'i, you'd easily forget the long history of people being thrown to their deaths from this very spot.

When they began constructing and expanding what is now the decaying Old Pali Road, workers found over 800 skulls at the base of the cliff.  At least half of those are from the last great battle of Kamehameha I's fight to conquer and unite the Hawai'ian islands under his rule.  Over 400 defenders of Oahu were driven to Nu'uanu Pali and forced over the edge of the cliff, either jumping of their own free will, or being pushed by Kamehameha's army.

Where did the other skulls come from?  I don't know.  I don't know if anyone knows.  Maybe they belonged to other warriors, falling to their deaths after conflicts less illustrious than the Battle of Nu'uanu.  Some are probably accidental deaths and suicides, and there are always dark whispers of conquering kings forcing dissenters and their families to leap over the edge, but that's more unconfirmed history than documented fact.

On a lighter note, Hawai'ian folklore says that it's verboten to bring pork over Nu'uanu Pali - apparently the goddess Pele, caught in a never-ending conflict with the half human, half pig god Kamapua'a, refuses to let the pig-man-god cross the mountain in any of his forms.  She'll stop your car until it's sans pig meat.  I've never had pork products in my vehicle while driving the Pali Highway, but the next time I'm in Oahu, I'm putting bacon in my glove compartment.  For curiosity's sake.

P.S. - These chickens are feral.  They were brought to the islands to be food by the Polynesian people, and the damage Hurricane Iniki set uncountable numbers of them loose.   They aren't quite as prevalent on Oahu as they are on Kaua'i, which is crawling with thousands of feral fowl, but if you're anywhere with open spaces and lots of people, you can bet there's a chicken there somewhere.  

1 comment:

Purple Cow said...

What a haunting place! Interesting. Thanks for taking us there.