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The Sacramento Daily Union, May 24, 1866

Honolulu, April, 1866.


I have ridden up the handsome Nuuanu Valley; noted the mausoleum of the departed Kings of Hawaii by the wayside; admired the neat residences, surrounded by beautiful gardens that border the turnpike; stood, at last, after six miles of travel, on the famous Pari - the "divide," we would call it - and looked down the precipice of six or eight hundred feet, over which old Kamehameha I drove the army of the King of Oahu three-quarters of a century ago; and gazed upward at the sharp peak close at my left, springing several hundred feet above my head like a colossal church spire - stood there and saw the sun go down and the little plain below and the sea that bordered it become shrouded in thick darkness; and then saw the full moon rise up and touch the tops of the billows, skip over the gloomy valley and paint the upper third of the high peak as white as silver; and heard the ladies say: "Oh, beautiful! - and such a strong contrast!" and heard the gentlemen remark: "By George! talk about scenery! how's that?"

It was all very well, but the same place in daylight does not make so fine a picture as the Kalihi Valley (pronounced Kah-lee-he, stress on the second syllable). All citizens talk about the Pari; all strangers visit it the first thing; all scribblers write about it - but nobody talks or writes about or visits the Pari's charming neighbor, the Kalihi Valley. I think it was a fortunate accident that led me to stumble into this enchanted ground.


For a mile or two we followed a trail that branched off from the terminus of the turnpike that leads past the Government prison, and bending close around the rocky point of a foothill we found ourselves fairly in the valley, and the panorama began to move. After a while the trail took the course of a brook that came down the center of the narrowing canyon, and followed it faithfully throughout its eccentric windings. On either side the ground rose gradually for a short distance, and then came the mountain barriers - densely wooded precipices on the right and left, that towered hundreds of feet above us, and up which one might climb about as easily as he could climb up the side of a house.

It was a novel sort of scenery, those mountain walls. Face around and look straight across at one of them, and sometimes it presented a bold, square front, with small inclination out of the perpendicular; move on a little and look back, and it was full of sharp ridges, bright with sunlight, and with deep, shady clefts between and what had before seemed a smooth bowlder, set in among the thick shrubbery on the face of the wall, was now a bare rampart of stone that projected far out from the mass of green foliage, and was as sharply defined against the sky as if it had been built of solid masonry by the hand of man. Ahead the mountains looked portly - swollen, if you please - and were marked all over, up and down, diagonally and crosswise, by sharp ribs that reminded one of the fantastic ridges which the wind builds of the drifting snow on a plain. Sometimes these ridges were drawn all about the upper quarter of a mountain, checking it off in velvety green squares and diamonds and triangles, some beaming with sunlight and others softly shaded - the whole upper part of the mountain looking something like a vast green veil thrown over some object that had a good many edges and corners to it - then a sort of irregular "eaves" all around, and from this the main body of the mountain swept down, with a slight outward curve, to the valley below. All over these highlands the forest trees grew so thickly that, even close at hand, they seemed like solid banks of foliage. These trees were principally of two kinds - the koa and the kukui - the one with a very light green leaf and the other with a dark green. Occasionally there were broad alternate belts of each extending diagonally from the mountain's bases to their summits, and here and there, in the midst of the dark green, were great patches of the bright light-colored leaves, so that, to look far down the valley, along the undulating front of the barrier of peaks, the effect was as if the sun were streaming down upon it through breaks and rifts in the clouds, lighting up belts at intervals all along, and leaving those intervening darkened by the shadows of the clouds; and yet there was not a shred of a cloud in the whole firmament! It was very soft, and dreamy, and beautiful. And following down the two tall ridges that walled the valley in, we saw them terminate at last in two bold, black headlands that came together like a V, and across this gate ran a narrow zone of the most brilliant light green tint (the shoal water of the distant sea, between reef and shore), and beyond this the somber blue of the deeper water stretched away to the horizon. The varied picture of the lights and shadows on the wooded mountains, the strong, dark outlines of the gate, and the bright green water and the belt of blue beyond, was one replete with charming contrasts and beautiful effects - a revelation of fairy land itself.

The mountain stream beside us, brawling over its rocky bed, leaped over a miniature precipice occasionally, and then reposed for a season in a limpid pool at her base, reflecting the dank and dripping vines and fans that clung to the wall and protruded in bunches and festoons through breaks in the sparkling cascade. On the gentle rising ground about us were shady groves of forest trees - the kou, the koa, the bread-fruit, the lau hala, the orange, lime, kukui, and many others; and, handsomest of all, the ohia, with its feathery tufts of splendid vermilion-tinted blossoms, a coloring so vivid as to be almost painful to the eye. Large tracts were covered with large hau (how) bushes, whose sheltering foliage is so thick as to be almost impervious to rain. It is spotted all over with a rich yellow flower, shaped something like a tea cup and sometimes it is further embellished by innumerable white bell shaped blossoms, that grow upon a running vine with a name unknown to me. Here and there were wide crops of bushes completely overgrown and hidden beneath the glossy green leaves of another species of vine, and so dense was this covering that it would hardly be possible for a bird to fly through it. Then there were open spaces well carpeted with grass, and sylvan avenues that wound hither and thither till they lost themselves among the trees. In one open spot a vine of the species I last mentioned had taken possession of two tall dead stumps and wound around and about them, and swung out from their tops and twined their meeting tendrils together into a faultless arch. Man, with all his art, could not have improved its symmetry.

Verily, with its rank luxuriance of vines and blossoms, its groves of forest trees, its shady nooks and grassy lawns, its crystal brook and its wild and beautiful mountain scenery, with that charming far-off glimpse of the sea, Kalihi is the Valley of Enchantment come again!


While I am on the subject of scenery, I might as well speak of Sam Brannan's palace, or "the Bungalow," as it is popularly called. Years ago it was built and handsomely furnished by Shillaber, now of San Francisco, at a cost of between thirty and forty thousand dollars, and in the day of its glory must have considerably outshone its regal neighbor, the palace of the king. It was a large mansion, with compact walls of coral; dimensions, say, 60 or 70 feet front and 80 feet depth, perhaps, including the ample verandah or portico in front; this portico was supported by six or eight tall fluted Corinthian columns, some three feet in diameter; a dozen coral steps led up to the portico from the ground, and these extended the whole length of the front; there were four rooms on the main floor, some twenty-four feet square, each, and about twenty feet high, besides a room or so of smaller dimensions. When its white paint was new, this must have been a very stately edifice. But finally it passed into Brannan's hands - for the sum of thirty thousand dollars (never mind the particulars of the transaction) - and it has been going to decay for the past ten years. It has arrived there now, and it is the completest ruin I ever saw. One or two of the pillars have fallen, and lie like grand Theban ruins, diagonally across the wide portico; part of the roof of the portico has caved down, and a huge gridiron of plasterless lathing droops from above and threatens the head of the apostrophizing stranger; the windows are dirty, and some of them broken; the shutters are unhinged; the elegant doors are marred and splintered; within, the floors are strewn with debris from the shattered ceilings, weeds grow in damp mold in obscure corners; lizards peep curiously out from unsuspected hiding places and then skurry along the walls and disappear in gaping crevices; the Summer breeze sighs fitfully through the desolate chambers, and the unforbidden sun looks down through many a liberal vent in roof and ceiling. The spacious grounds without are rank with weeds, and the fences are crazy with age and chronic debility. No more complete and picturesque ruin than the Bungalow exists to-day in the old world or the new. It is the most discouraged looking pile the sun visits on its daily round, perhaps. In the sorrowful expression of its deserted halls, its fallen columns and its decayed magnificence, it seems to proclaim, in the homely phrase of California, that it has "got enough pie."

Thomas Jefferson John Quincy Adams, of San Francisco, agent for the State Agricultural Society of California, and agent of pretty much all the other institutions of the kind in the world, including the Paris Exhibition, who has traveled all over these islands during the past eight months, and gathered more information, and collected more silk worms, and flowers, and seeds, and done more work and stayed longer in people's houses an uninvited guest, and got more terrific hints and had a rougher time generally, on an imperceptible income, than any other man the century has produced, is Sam Brannan's trusted agent to put the Bungalow in elegant repair and draw on him for five thousand dollars for the purpose. It is not possible for me to say when the work will be commenced or who will take the daring contract - but I can say that so small a sum as five thousand dollars expended on the Bungalow would only spoil it as an attractive ruin, without making it amount to much as a human habitation. Let it alone, Brannan, and give your widely known and much discussed agent another job.


Stands not far from the melancholy Bungalow, in the center of grounds extensive enough to accommodate a village. The place is surrounded by neat and substantial coral walks, but the gates pertaining to them are out of repair, and so was the soldier who admitted us - or at any rate his uniform was. He was an exception, however, for the native soldiers usually keep their uniforms in good order.

The palace is a large, roomy frame building, and was very well furnished once, though now some of the appurtenances have lost some of their elegance. But the King don't care, I suppose, as he spends nearly all his time at his modest country residence at Waikiki. A large apartment in the center of the building serves as the royal council chamber; the walls are hung with life-size portraits of various European monarchs, sent hither as tokens of that cousinly regard which exists between all kings, at least on paper. To the right is the reception room or hall of audience, and to the left are the library and a sort of ante room or private audience chamber. In one of these are life-size portraits of old Kamehameha the Great and one or two Queens and Princes. The old war-horse had a dark brown, broad and beardless face, with native intelligence apparent in it, and something of a crafty expression about the eye; hair white with age and cropped short; in the picture he is clad in a white shirt, long red vest and with the famous feather war-cloak over all. We were permitted to examine the original cloak. It is very ample in its dimensions, and is made entirely of the small, silky, bright yellow feathers of the man-of-war or tropic bird, closely woven into a strong, coarse netting of grass by a process which promises shortly to become a lost art, inasmuch as only one native, and he an old man, is left who understands it in its highest elegance. These feathers are rare and costly, because each bird has but two of them - one under each wing - and the birds are not plenty. It required several generations to collect the materials and manufacture this cloak, and had the work been performed in the United States, under our fine army contract system, it would have cost the Government more millions of dollars than I can estimate without a large arithmetic and a blackboard. In old times, when a king put on his gorgeous feather war-cloak, it meant trouble; some other king and his subjects were going to catch it. We were shown other war-cloaks, made of yellow feathers, striped and barred with broad bands of red ones - fine specimens of barbaric splendor. The broken spear of a terrible chief who flourished seven hundred years ago, according to the tradition, was also brought out from among the sacred relics of a former age and displayed. It is said that this chieftain stood seven feet high with out his boots (he was permanently without them), and was able to snake an enemy out of the ranks with this spear at a distance of forty to sixty and even a hundred feet and the spear, of hard, heavy, native wood, was once thirty feet long. The name of this pagan hero is sounded no more from the trumpet of fame, his bones lie none knows where, and the record of his gallant deeds is lost. But he was a "brick," we may all depend upon that. How the wood of the weapon has managed to survive seven centuries of decay, though, is a question calculated to worry the antiquaries.

But it is sunrise, now, and time for honest people to begin to "turn in."


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