A Ride with a Taro Farmer

Halfway down the steepest inclined road I have ever seen (we’re talking steeper than Lombard in San Francisco and without the turns), I began to doubt that we were going the right way.  It seemed we were getting further and further from the beach.  My wife mentioned about seeing a walkway going out the lookout.  I then thought that maybe we were to begin there.

We then began walking back up the steepest road I have ever seen.  Winded and with burning calves, we encountered another couple on their way down. 

“This is the way to the beach,” they said matter-of-factly. 

It turned out we were going the right way.  Dejected, we sat by the roadside questioning whether we wanted to start down again.  We could simply go to the lookout and see the gorgeous Waipio Valley on the Big Island of Hawaii from there.

Enter Ted “All Sing to the Highest Mountain.”  While sitting by the roadside, Ted came down around the first and only true bend in the road and stopped.  He asked my wife if we wanted a ride to the bottom. 

We gratefully accepted the offer.

While slowly eeking his four-wheel drive grey Ford pick-up down the incline, Ted told us that he was a taro farmer living in the valley and that he gets a good price for his crop because he can sell it to markets in Oahu.  He also spoke of the valley’s remoteness.  High school children had to walk the half mile, 800 foot plus elevation gain road every morning to catch the bus to school, and no medical clinic could be found in the valley.  In the event of an emergency, a helicoptor would be called in. 

Ted was a man in his latter years of life.  His snow white hair was tucked neatly under his cowboy hat.  He drove barefoot, his feet the product of decades of going shoeless.  My wife said they looked like a Sherpa’s foot, thick with thicker skin and toes splayed out instead of tucked together nicely.  He resonated a peacefulness I could only wish for.  His dark eyes gleamed with happiness and contentment.

Much to my disatisfaction, we soon reached the bottom of the hill and it was time for us to depart.  After explaining to him our predicament when he happened upon us, my wife thanked him for his generosity.  She knew he was an angel and told him so.  I did not deny it.


Often times when we travel, we go into the trip with huge expectations.  I am guilty of this myself.  Surely, it is the unexpected that often provides us with the best memories of the trip.

Meeting Ted and riding with him for a short ten minutes is testament to that.  He lifted our spirits, giving us the energy to continue on to the black sand beach just up the dirt road from where he left us out. 

“All Sing to the Highest Mountain” was the translation of his Hawaiian last name into Engligh.  We understood.


We spent five days on the Big Island, guests of a friend of ours working as a guide there.  How else could we afford such a trip?!!  Hawaii is expensive.  From its overpriced lodging to its overpriced food.  It is more a tourist trap than island paradise.  Don’t get me wrong, the islands are beautiful and the weather splendid. 

Through our friend, we had a place to crash each night and were guests on a 58 foot catamaran that went on daily sunset sails, snorkeling trips, and whale watches (the humpbacks winter in Hawaii, mating and giving birth in the warm waters).

We visited Hawaii Volcanoes National Park where we walked with a headlamp in hand beyond the gate and into the dark abyss of Thurston’s Lava Tube, a tunnel where molten lava once flowed.  This is a truly mysterious experience not to be missed if you’re there.  Be sure not to pass up the Iki Trail that descends through tropical rainforest into the 1959 flow of the Kilauea Crater.  You’ll walk across a lunar landscape, passing vents still steaming from the massive eruption that occurred 45 years ago.


After the Big Island, we had three and half days left to our vacation.   

We were dropped off at the airport in Kona to make our connection to Kauai on Friday morning.  I had an intense head cold and was feeling run down.  My wife had the beginnings of the illness that I was passing on to her.


(22 February 2004)

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