Tag Archives: Mo’okini Heiau

Upolu landscape

This week’s Sunday Stills challenge theme is ‘Your Favorite Landscape.’ See more responses here.

When I think of the landscape at Upolu, it includes both the ocean that borders it and the skies above. They are, in my mind, integral to the place. But here, I’ve focussed on the land, a relatively small area of a few square miles where I walk most days. It’s rural, agricultural, and coastal. It’s historic and modern. It’s also a place I never return from feeling disappointed. There’s always something of note that I see or that happens when I’m there.

Also posted in response to Becky’s January Squares challenge theme of ‘Up.’ See more responses here.

Signs: Mo’okini Heiau

Signs-Mo'okini Heiau

Mo’okini Heiau is located just off one of my regular walks. The old signs for the heiau and the Kamehameha birth site fell from their original spot, tacked on a fence, some years ago. Since then, the signs have been wedged into a barbed wire fence, from which they regularly fell into the grass.

When I noticed this, I’d root the signs out and wedge them back in the fence. I believe other people also did this. At some point, one of the signs split in two, so there were three pieces to try and arrange in some way that they wouldn’t immediately fall down again.

I kept thinking I should bring some wire and a drill and try and put the signs back together again, maybe attach them to a fence post, but I only remembered this good intention when I was picking the signs out of the grass.

The grounds of the heiau are maintained by staff presumably contracted by the county or state. However, the area in the vicinity of the signs never got much attention except when, a couple of years ago, a sign prohibiting animals (on the left of the photo) suddenly appeared. I have a fondness for that sign because the chance of anyone enforcing that regulation is right up there with me winning three different lotteries on the same day (and Hawaii doesn’t have lotteries).

So imagine my surprise the other day when I reached this point in my walk and saw this spiffy new sign. Two new boards attached to a brightly painted pole securely set in a rock. I was giddy with shock and excitement (yes, I don’t get out much). If an alien spaceship had landed I wouldn’t have been more surprised. Note too the red and yellow paint on the chain across the trail to the heiau, and the well-supported post that fell down about a year ago.

Folks, forget the volcano. You want to see something truly amazing on the Big Island, come up to North Kohala and check out these signs while they’re still standing.

Truck stuck

A truck stuck in a muddy puddle on the Big Island of Hawaii
While I always prefer to take smaller, winding roads, such roads taken are not without pitfalls.

The last mile of the journey to Mo’okini Heiau in North Kohala is an uneven dirt road studded with rocks. When the road is dry it can be navigated by almost all vehicles (I saw a smart car there once!). However, care is needed, particularly regarding clearance. Almost every time I walk the road, I see fresh scrapes on the rocks. With rainy weather, the road becomes the territory of 4-wheel drives and jacked-up suspensions.

On this day, the puddles that often form on the road had become lakes. This truck had passed me earlier and when I saw it returning I ducked behind a bank to do a little whale watching and avoid the wave of spray that would surely accompany anything driving through the lake. A few minutes passed. I realized I hadn’t registered the truck passing. It had gone very quiet. So I wandered out to the road again and saw the truck marooned. They’d made it through on the way out, but weren’t so lucky on the way back.

The truck was a 4×4 but not with extra clearance. I think their problem was that the lake was deeper at the far end (in the photo). On the way out, they’d no doubt barreled into the water and their momentum had carried them to shallower waters and out. On the way back, the same approach would have propelled them toward the deep end. I suspect a bow wave built up, slowed them, and allowed water to penetrate parts of the truck that responded unfavorably.

The two young local men seemed quite cheerful. They waded through the muddy water, tried to coax life into the truck. One was on the phone (a miracle to have service there). After they insisted they had everything under control, I walked past on the high bank alongside the road, then turned and took this photo. When I returned a half hour or more later, the truck and its occupants were gone.

King Kamehameha’s birthplace

The birthplace of King Kamehameha the Great in North Kohala.
At Kapakai Kokoiki Heiau in North Kohala, not far from Mo’okini Heiau (which can be seen on the hill in the background), stands this sign. Kamehameha Akāhi ‘Āina Hānau loosely translates as the birthplace of Kamehameha I. He was born here around 1736. The exact date isn’t known, with some accounts placing it as late as 1758. Known as Kamehameha the Great, he was the king who fulfilled Hawaiian prophecies and united the Hawaiian islands for the first time in 1810.

He was succeeded by four others in his family who took the name Kamehameha, so the name is in the forefront of Hawaiian history. In present day life it occurs in numerous ways. There’s Kamehameha Day, a state holiday, which celebrates his birth. Kamehameha Schools is an private school system with extensive land holdings on the Big Island and elsewhere. Hotels and other businesses sport the name. A fair number of them will be located on Kamehameha Street, Road, Highway, Avenue, or Boulevard.

In short, the name Kamehameha is still an integral and important part of everyday Hawaiian life.

Signs: Hazardous Area

A sign at Mo'okini Heiau

This sign greets visitors to Mo’okini heiau. The heiau dates back to the 11th or 12th Century when it was an important religious site where thousands of human sacrifices were carried out. A hazardous area indeed. I imagine there were many who would happily have risked climbing the walls in those days.

For more information about the Mo’okini heiau, go to bigislandhikes.com/mookini-heiau/.


Mo’okini Heiau

Mo'okini Heiau

According to tradition, Mo’okini Heiau dates back to the 5th century, when it was built on the northern tip of the island, by the high priest, Mo’okini. Somewhere between the 11th and 14th  century (dates vary) another priest called Pa’ao is said to have built the current structure. Pa’ao came from Tahiti or Samoa and is also said to have brought to Hawaii the practice of human sacrifice and the kapu system, laws that governed daily life.

Given its history, it’s not surprising that some people find the site eerie and unsettling. The stone in the second photo, is where flesh was stripped from bone after a person had been sacrificed.

For more information about Mo’okini Heiau, go to nps.gov/nr/travel/Asian_American_and_Pacific_Islander_Heritage/Mookini-Heiau.htm.

The stone at Mo'okini Heiau where flesh was stripped from bone after a sacrifice.