Surviving the Rains
Paka`a, Part VII of a continuing series.
Here are the remains of a section of Paka`a’s trail which ran from the sea to the uplands where the sweet potato fields were. Keawenuiaumi’s men were sent up this trail to gather food for their army.
By Catherine Aki
The weather has forced Keawenuiaumi and his companions to remain on Molokai for the duration of the rainy season, about four months. They are running out of food quickly because most of their cargo was lost when they were swamped in the storm. Some of the ali`i’s retainers go to Paka`a’s son, Kuapaka`a, asking for food. In one version of the story, the boy tells them that the sweet potatoes in the uplands only produce tubers when people themselves are productive. The same for the sugar cane, it grows lushly only when people increase in numbers. The keiki, Kuapaka`a, says this because so many of the chief’s men were lazy. He meant that only if the tubers were dug would there be an abundance.
Only a few made the trip from the ocean to Maunaloa’s mountain top. They followed a stone paved trail.
It took me an entire year to find the length of the trail ending at the edge of the old pineapple fields close to the cemetery. What surprised me was how pristine some segments still remained. They were straight and the sandstone markers on the side were easy to find. However in other areas erosion and human activity had deleted parts of the trail entirely. The trail at the beach was wide but steep. As it rose along the ridge, it became narrower about four to six feet wide, enough for one man to travel comfortably, but not two side by side. The pavement is made of large flat stones supported by smaller stones. It would be easy to trot up or down the trail as a result of its construction. What amazed me was how smooth and well put together.
However, I have been at the beach looking up the trail, and honestly speaking, I have never walked up the trail, only down. So I can understand why the ali`i’s people lacked enthusiasm when faced with the trip to the potato fields. Those who went up with Kuapaka`a were amazed at the bounty. It is said that the eyes could go blind before seeing all the sweet potato and that the men could lie down and disappear in the sugar cane.
The keiki tells them to take all the potato, big and small. They are to cook the big ones and dry the small ones. Although the men are skeptical, the boy explains that the dried potatoes will be used during times when no fresh food is available. This is the beginning of the revenge plot because Kuapaka`a will use these later as part of the implementation. This is the beginning of the revenge plot because Kuapaka`a will use these later as part of the implementation. His father has planned out the details way in advance.
In our next episode, Keawenuiaumi gets ready to leave Molokai.