A Gremlin, Dolphins, A Wild Horse and A Truck – What The Hell Wednesday!
In 1994, I went to the Big Island of Hawaii with a friend and the trip was magical.
No really. Magic happened.
I hadn’t thought about it for many years, but on my walk today I started remembering all the amazing things that took place, especially on one particular afternoon, and that usually means I should write about it.
So here goes:
We were guests of a friend who was working on a movie being shot on the Big Island. She had a condo, up in the hills overlooking the ocean – paradise.
Pretty magical already, right? Just wait.
I can’t exactly remember how, but we met a really wonderful woman who worked at The Four Seasons, with the dolphins.
Best. Job. Ever.
She was around our age, easy to laugh, spiritual, toned and tan. Her connections allowed us to use the facilities and more importantly, go out on a lava rock jetty with the waves just below us, the trade winds in our hair…and meditate. It was ridiculously spiritual, just like you imagine it would be.
More magical than that? You betcha.
While our one friend worked her movie, my other girlfriend and I rented a convertible and decided to explore the island.
Someone had told us about a magical black sand beach at the end of a five-mile hike, so that was the focus of our journey.
We started that day like we did most, bathing in a tranquil cove, where the water was as calm and warm as a bathtub. We spent about an hour floating and soaking the sleep out of our eyes, rinsed off at an outside shower, threw shorts and t-shirts over our bathing suits – and took off. Well, not before stopping at the local gas station/market to fill up, get a diet coke, a Yahoo, a kit kat and a peppermint patty.
You know, key components in the search for magic.
I remember following someone’s directions and finally arriving at an unmarked gravel, pull off on the side of the road. Besides a few cars parked nearby, there were no signs of life. Was this the way to the black sand beach? We sure hoped so.
My friend and I decided to head down and take our chances, or ask the first person we came across.
The temperature was perfect, with a breeze and lots of shade, so the hike started off easy.
God was a show off that day, as we were surrounded by dense, lush greenery, and every kind of flora and fauna Hawaii had to offer. We started down; admiring, well, everything, until we came to a fork in the dirt path where we stopped, looking around for a sign of some kind, or a clue as to which direction we should go.
I remember this as clearly as if it happened yesterday:
We were in a clearing with a path veering to the left, and another one on the right, wondering which to take, when out of nowhere, a small scruffy dog with tufts of hair all askew appeared.
My friend called him Gremmie since he resembled a gremlin, and he answered to it. He interacted with us for a minute or two, seeming friendly but preoccupied. Clearly he was on his way somewhere special and we were keeping him. He seemed familiar with the area so we asked Gremmie the way to the beach.
Without hesitation he gave us a look of great conviction, as dogs do, and started down the path to the right – so we followed.
We walked for a long time with him running ahead of us, turning around occasionally to check our progress.
It was evident he was a pro, weaving in and out of vines and narrowing paths, sure-footed, with the confidence of a dog twice his size. Toward the bottom the path got steep with deep ruts in the cliff side. Little Gremmie seemed to know the way, jumping and traversing obstacles, stopping to make sure we made it to the bottom. I think I saw him give me stink eye on a particularly tricky part, eyeing my lame, worn out shoes as I slid on some loose dirt. Seems he had opinions about my poor choice of hiking boots.
All in all, it took us just under two hours to make our way down, but it was worth it. There we were standing on an endless stretch of uninhabited beach.
A beach of black sand.
Gremmie didn’t stop for long, he had an agenda as he ran ahead to a river of fresh water that had cut a swath through the rain forest, down from the mountains, dissecting the beach, making its way to the sea. It must have been raining at the top of the mountain because the water was moving pretty fast and it was too wide to jump across.
My friend and I were assessing the situation, figuring out if we could make it across when we turned to see Gremmie running way up-stream. I mean like where we could barely see him. Then, just like that, he jumped in and swam for all he was worth, traversing the current as it swiftly carried him down river toward us.
Keeping his head bobbing above the water, his legs going a mile a minute, his small, scruffy face a study in concentration, he zoomed past us toward the open ocean.
“Go Gremmie, go!” we screamed over the sound of the crashing waves, “Swim!” and just at what seemed like the last possible second…he made it across.
“Yeah! good boy! Way to go!” He shook off, not even out of breath, and looked across at us, jumping and screaming like crazy women. He looked bemused, head cocked to the side. This was no accident. This dog knew exactly where to enter the water in order to make it across before being swept out to sea.
“Okay, now it’s your turn” said the dare on his face.
We entered the water about half the distance from where Gremmie started, and I was surprised by the strength of the current. It was determined to make its way to the waves and if you were stupid enough to go in you were going with it. It was about waist-deep, with a current that swept us both off our feet, so we swam like hell, carried downstream a ways, both making it across where we flopped down on the coarse black sand, laughing, gulping in the warm, thick, humid air.
Gremmie looked on exasperated. “Come on! There’s more! and he took off running. We just wanted to take in the grandeur of this incredible place so we sat down, watching him turn into a tiny, scruffy, speck in the distance.
After a few minutes of listening to the roaring waves, looking out at the whitecaps, I turned back toward the hillside in the direction we’d just come. “That’s going to be a hell of an uphill hike” I laughed, but it wasn’t funny.
The thought of it was killing my black sand buzz.
“Wouldn’t it be awesome if dolphins started jumping, right out there?” my friend was ignoring me, pointing straight ahead toward the open ocean. Before I could reply the sea started boiling as a pod of dolphins began leaping out of the air one after the other, right in front of us!
We jumped to our feet, screaming!
“What the hell?”, “Oh my God!” We were literally dancing as they jumped and played.
“Wish for something else!” I yelled. “Wish for a man! A handsome man! This place is frickin’ magic!”
But my friend wasn’t going to waste a wish on such nonsense.
“I’ve heard there are wild horses all over this island. Wouldn’t it be great to see one?”
We started looking around. I half expected a Unicorn to go prancing by, when I noticed my friend was walking behind us, into the rainforest type greenery that met the sand at the bottom of the cliffs rising above us into the clouds.
She seemed to be walking with purpose, so I followed her into the cool shade of vine-covered trees, ferns, and tall grass. I can’t tell you how long we were there, fifteen minutes, half an hour? I was just enjoying the pleasant change in temperature, when my friend stopped, grabbed my arm, stooped down low, and whispered – you guessed it – “horse!”
Not fifteen feet away was a wild horse, I kid you not. It let my friend approach it and pet it. I’m not kidding. The whole scene was surreal, like something from a movie. When the magic horse finally decided to leave, we were downright giddy as we made our way back onto the black sand.
“What is this place?”
We laid on our backs laughing, looking up at the crystal blue sky. Just so you know, there is NO sky as blue as a Hawaiian sky.
After about an hour, I was starting to feel a little light-headed, and my friend had developed a splitting headache. It soon became evident she was in no condition for the hike back up the hill.
Shit. What to do?
I could see Gremmie in the distance running back our way, but unless I could strap my friend to his back, or he could run and get assistance, like Lassie, he was going to be of little help.
We were in full brainstorming mode, when I started to hear the rumble of an engine over the sound of the waves. It seemed to be coming from the hill we’d hiked down earlier that day.
And just like something out of Indiana Jones, a beat up pickup truck broke through the trees, splashed across the freshwater river, and came straight for us. My friend could barely stand up, so I talked to the guy who happened to be a very nice, local mountain hippie. Think Matthew McConaughey in his naked bongo playing days.
Maybe the best miracle of the day.
I explained our situation, and he agreed to give us a lift back up the hill to our car.
My friend laid down in the flatbed, while Gremmie and I kept her company. The guy explained that Gremmie didn’t belong to anyone really, he was just a local dog that everyone looked after. That explained his devil-may-care attitude.
The ride was rough but it was a blessing, delivering us to our car in under 20 minutes compared to the several hour hike in the heat, uphill, that would have most certainly killed us.
Hey, my friend was sick and I was hungry!
We still marvel, to this day, about all the magic on that beach.
Did that really happen?
I wonder about Gremmie sometimes. That scrappy little guy. He’s gotta be about 150 yrs old by now.
Is he still guiding unsuspecting seekers down that hill on a magical mystery tour to those sands of black? What do you think?
*yep, that’s me on that beach, right after the hike down the hill, feeling exuberant, and I think denim, overall shorts need to make a come-back! HA!