Shipwreck Beach

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Shipwreck beach and the mad dog

It’s late in the day and I’m sick and tired of going down dead-end roads and hiking through prickly scrub over treacherous volcanic rock looking for petroglyphs, but Macduff is adamant we keep looking. So we bump and grind our way along the island’s northeast coast until the road (if you can call it that) ends at an old fisherman’s hut where a faded sign in front of a palm-frond fence says DANGER: Be-Aware of the Visayan Mad Dog.”

photos by David Lansing

photos by David Lansing

“There’s your Hawaiian culture right there,” Macduff says, pointing at the sign.

I have no idea what a Visayan mad dog is (is that a breed?) but no matter; we ignore the sign and pass by the falling-down shack. Tradewinds, roaring down the Kolohi channel between here and Molokai, howl like goblins along the beach. A spindly tree, stripped of all vegetation, leans like a drunk away from the ocean. Waves roll across a rusty WWII-era Liberty ship wrecked on the reef just off-shore (and hence, I suppose, the reason for why this area is called Shipwreck Beach). A trail leads up a bumpy hill through scrubby gullies pockmarked with large volcanic rocks. Somewhere up here, supposedly, are petroglyphs.

Macduff and I trudge through prickly vegetation in flip-flops for half an hour in the diminishing light as the wind slams us around, searching for the elusive ancient markings but find only bleached animal bones (cattle? deer? dog?), scurrying geckos, and a nervous chukar or two which, when startled, run through the bush like children hiding from bogeymen.

Our search for petroglyphs is fruitless. As darkness falls, we hurry down the hill and past the home of the Visayan mad dog. In the twilight, we bounce like pinballs in the Jeep down the washed-out road, headed for the comfort of the Lodge and a different sort of Shipwreck—this one drinkable.

I may have two this evening. My idea of Hawaiian culture. 

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