Chasing Daylight on Lāna‘i

Taking an island romp on Lāna‘i can find you slinging arrows . . . or mud . . . or more.


off roading lanai hawaiiAn early-morning rain has left puddles that Alan is only too happy to disrupt with the fat-treaded wheels of our speedster. Bouncing along the red mud road in the dappled shade of old, wide-trunked eucalyptus and Formosan koa, we pull up to Hi‘i Heiau. The low, stacked rock walls and terraces are the remnants of an ancient dryland agricultural field and a ceremonial site. Restoration crews recently wrested it from the grip of weeds, cleared flat areas, and planted Hawaiian food staples such as kalo (taro) and ‘uala (sweet potato), and wauke, the slender shrub from which kapa (bark cloth) is created. They planted native ‘ohia lehua saplings and hapu‘u ferns along the upper perimeter to nudge the scenery to back into a more authentically Hawaiian direction.

The rock rectangles and terraces were once home to taro paddies and people. One long rectangle with particularly thick walls was likely used for cold storage — farmers may have preserved their harvests here to later trade with seaside fishing communities. Alan offers another theory to explain the unusually long shape. Sandalwood, a precious commodity in the Far East, once grew abundantly here. In the early 1800s, western traders compelled Hawaiians to collect fragrant sandalwood logs in pits roughly the size of a ship’s hull. This cellar, he says, might be a type of lua na moku ‘iliahi, or sandalwood pit.

Back at our vehicle, I call shotgun and hop in the front seat. Seeing the ruddy texture of the road speeding toward me adds an element of danger I missed on the first leg. The excitement heightens, and my pulse pounds. Down a steep rolling hill, bounding up berms, and around tight corners we see our two-hour ride coming to an end, but there is one more thrill to be had: what Alan calls the “acceleration” part.

Did I hear him wrong? Wasn’t this whole tour an “acceleration”? We come to a straight, flat stretch of dirt and stop. As if an imaginary light changed from red to green, Alan stomps the gas pedal and in a cloud of red dust we top 60 mph. The scenery blurs. I feel my lips and mouth flapping. A rush of giddiness overcomes us all as we slow down to end where we started the tour. We quench our thirst with cold water and wipe our now very dirty hands and faces with moist, lavender-scented towels. We thank Alan and bid him aloha. Then we shuttle up the mountain to our next adventure: the Lāna‘i Archery and Shooting Range.

Beneath a ceiling of low afternoon clouds, I train my arrow at a dinosaur. If I choose, I can also set my sights on a sheep, elk, boar, deer, or turkey. At the Four Seasons’ recently redesigned archery range, it’s all fair game. No animals are harmed. They are what Dennis Rapp, my seasoned instructor, calls 3D targets made of latex rubber and foam.

Lanai archery
If we ever encounter those rogue velociraptors outside of Jurassic Park, we know where to turn for help.

Dennis has his work cut out for him as I fumble and fail to remember anything he tells me to do. It looks so easy on Game of Thrones. The fictional denizens of Westeros don’t seem to struggle to keep head straight, hand loose, thumb up, and the critical white “feather” pointing out. I figure I’ll bond with the classic bow . . . channel my inner archer elf Legolas from Lord of the Rings . . . but quickly realize that the compound bow is easier to manipulate, if less stylish. I run through some practice rounds to get my aim and trajectory sorted.

Finally, to my surprise, I hit a couple of bulls’-eyes and even pierce a prize-worthy part of the elk, the furthest of all the targets. (I think I have even made Dennis proud!) Once I get the feel for it, archery proves to be a visceral activity. It’s solitary and quiet, except for the satisfying thud of the arrow hitting the foam latex “animals.” Plus, now I get to say I shot a dinosaur—pretty impressive for a low-maintenance thrill-seeker.



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