On my trip to Hawaii in March I saw all seven national parks. (Read more about my adventures here, here, here, and here.) The most fascinating of the bunch was Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Park on the Big Island, and no, I can’t possibly pronounce it. When you get that many vowels involved I just throw up my hands and order a margarita.
What’s fascinating is that it’s the site of something like a game of King of the Mountain, except if you don’t make it to the top your mom murders you.
I am not making this up.
Apparently, back in the very violent day, if you broke a law in Hawaii you were condemned to death. Maybe you stole someone’s pineapple, or made eye contact with a royal (also not making this up), but whatever the offense, you were doomed to die immediately.
And get this – the person who caught you breaking the law was the one who had to do the deed. So, if Mom saw you stealing that pineapple, Mom had to bust out her Old Hawaii equivalent of a .357 and get all Dirty Harry on your thieving offspring self.
But. If you could manage to run faster than a speeding bullet (or if Mom had terrible aim), then dive into the ocean, swim from wherever you were to the nearest pu’uhonua (place of refuge), and drag yourself onto shore, you escaped the death penalty. Presuming you didn’t die of drowning, shark attack, or jellyfish sting first.
There are a few places of refuge on the islands, but Pu’uhonua o Honaunau is the best preserved. I was there a couple days after the Japanese tsunami, so most of the grounds were blocked off for repairs. But I was able to get a few pictures:
Before I left, the park ranger, who looked very much like a garden gnome, made me this sweet little grasshopper out of a palm frond:
And seriously, it took him two minutes. Feeling not only incredibly inadequate in the craft-making department, I also felt like a bad guest with my empty hands, so I dug around in my pockets for something I could give in return. Strangely enough he declined my offering of a half-used lip balm, but his pudgy little gnome-lips did look well moisturized, so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised.