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So, we leave the airport in our rented car, heading towards Waikiki and Friend Don's apartment, where we need to 'check in' with the apartment manager. But it's 7:30 in the morning and the manager is not going to be around for at least a couple more hours. Well, I thought, why not pop up to the Nu'uanu Pali for a few minutes? So we did. It was just as windy (and full of tourists!) as I remembered it to be. The kids had fun, though. And the view of Windward O'ahu was magnificient.

The Hawaiian word 'pali' means 'cliff' or 'precipice'. On the other side of this railing, that's exactly what this pali is: straight-down free-fall for several hundred meters.

When Kamehameha invaded Oahu in 1795, his army drove the local forces into the gently sloping Nu'uanu Valley and up to this precipice. There, many of the defeated jumped to their deaths rather than be captured and sacrificed to Kamehameha's god.

There are numerous legends associated with this battle, and a few ghoulish ghost stories, as well more modern tales and cautions. And every year at least one person tries to commit suicide by jumping off. (They are occasionally blown back up by the strong winds!)


One legend has it that pork cannot be brought over the Pali. If you have pork in your car, the engine will stop before you get to the top.Thus, these two visiting porkers..."Honey, I think I know what the problem is!"

(Cartoon from "Pupus to da max!, the all-purpose illustrated guide to the food of Hawaii," 1986, Bess Press. A wonderful addition to the Pidgin to da max! series. All are available from Amazon.com.)

Another legend tells of Poki, the spirit dog that can change size and shape at will, which guards the sacred burial grounds in the area around the Pali.

Glen Grant, a well-known storyteller, researcher, and guide to Honolulu's past, has taken this and other local legends and refashioned them around detective stories set in pre-war Honolulu. The book, "Honolulu Mysteries" (1995, Mutual Publishing) is available from Amazon.com. And if you like ghost stories with a Japanese/Hawaiian twist, be sure to check out his book, "Obake, Ghost Stories in Hawai'i" (1994, Mutual Publishing), also available from Amazon.com.

Back to the present...

This pic was taken from Kailua Beach, on the windward side of the island. The Pali is the lowest point between the middle and left palm trees.

I'll always remember the quality of the light in Hawaii. Clean, bright, glowing with color and energy, partucularly in the late afternoon. Yoko took the picture above of the afternoon light coming over the Pali. I've only seen this quality of light once in 20 years in Japan.

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