Buccaneers or Life in the Woods
Trip Start Nov 05, 2010
137Trip End Ongoing
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Where I stayed
— Henry David Thoreau
It has been a hundred and fifty years since Thoreau attempted to live in the woods and apparently December 2010 marked the beginning of our time living in the bush. Thoreau lived in the woods for two years and Sasha and Dasha did it for a whole entire week. Even though we were light years away from becoming self-reliant on all the modern amenities in life, alas, an attempt was made! We began the week staying at a eco-friendly greenhouse surrounded by the lush and tropical plants of the Big Island, nestled far away from any neighbors at least 20 miles away. It was serenity at best, only the company of small birds and chirping crickets at night met our acquaintance. Who knew such a secluded place existed the twentieth century?
This “green” type of living was originally not in our plans. When we arrived at Kona airport we had no clue where we we’re going to stay. Only a few ideas from the internet of nearby camp sites such as Hookena and Milotolli popped up on Google. Hookena beach camp looked too good to be true, with a $5 per person per night offering however, no matter how tempting it sounded we ruled out camping overnight at Hookena because it looked like a ghetto beach. “Ghetto” meaning, the beach was poorly taken care of and there were lots of hippies and cowboys smoking joints and drinking beers while listening to the beat of Billy Bob’s Cyrus’ “Achy, breaky heart.” No, thank you.
Our $30 Canadian Tire tent was not designed for severe weather and heavy rains so only the leeward, hot side of the island was considered. The sunny side of Hawaii did not have many beaches as the slopes were extremely steep and rocky. Wherever camping was permitted, we noticed there were some “questionable” types of people (perhaps with no forwarding address) sleeping in their cars and tents which showed continuous habitation. Another private campground turned out to be out of service as they did not have hot water and functioning showers only piglets for sale by the dozen. We passed the offer on the pork.
Our last hope was Buccaneer Gardens, immediately when we contacted the host Ricco, something in his Southern-like accent, we knew BG was “the one.”
On arrival, our host Ricco greeted us wearing his cowboy hat and dark outfit. Perhaps his outfit looked dark because it was almost midnight or that maybe he just had a candle in his hands as a source of light. Either way, the Buccaneer gardens was pitch black, with some glowing skulls that were placed on top of the gates for decoration. Ricco was tall, thin and although he had many lines and wrinkles on his face, he had a gentle and warm aura. We trusted him right away. Rico, was originally from Texas and first arrived in the Big Island almost twenty years ago. He loved it so much, he never left. Ricco explained that we were his first customers as he was just starting to build his eco-sanctuary, a life long dream that was finally coming true. As his fresh meat, we were given a rate of $15 a night to stay in one of his hand made green houses which was converted into a cabin like accommodation, equipped with bed frames, futons, a picnic table and a state of the art bbq with propane. Digs that could cater to 4 people easily.
Ricco’s objective was building an eco-friendly facility that would require no electricity, running water, heat or garbage collection. Future trips to the grocery store would soon be abolished within the next year or so as Ricco began to bred tilapia in a pond and using the feces to fertilize his vegetable garden. Offering free fish to customers and selling organic fruits and veggiess from Ricco’s veggie garden were part of his future plans.
In your every day life you were probably used to doing chores such as cooking, dishes, laundry, garbage disposal… The latter was the easiest - we just drove our waste to a transfer station just ten miles down the road. Sasha thought driving on the road was fun, full of winding curves, pot holes and gravel (even though Dasha did not enjoy it as much). The road to get to our cabin was located opposite of South Kulani and it started as a one lane paved - very common in the state of Hawaii. The roadway was just wide enough for one vehicle so if another vehicle appeared whoever had space on their side would have to give way to the on-coming vehicle. Almost all drivers were doing an “Aloha” hand gesture (pointer and little fingers up) to say hello and appreciate the fact that other person was sharing the road, kind of like the way Canadians do their wave of their right hand up by their rear view mirror when saying “Thanks” to another driver.
The vegetation was so lush on both sides of this narrow strip of pavement you could not even see the properties. The road was not named and homes were not numbered. All you could see were lot numbers, our lot number was 89-263. We knew that we are getting there when the road would be taking multiple dips like on a roller coaster and then we would hit the gravel road. After a week we found an optimum route through the minefield of potholes right to Ricco’s property…Yes!
We expected to find a patch of grass for pitching a tent - and got a whole greenhouse to ourselves.
The rate was 105$ a week and the conditions were almost five stars: two prison style bunks, a picnic table, a barbecue and garbage bin. We had a camp stove as a backup - however it was unnecessary because we were given a propane barbecue with a burner so you could put a pot on. That helped us to diversify the cooking methods we used: stir and fry, boiling, simmering and grilling. We did not have to go to restaurants at all as we grocery shopped and cooked at night. Obviously, there was no electricity.. We used an old fashioned oil lamp that needed igniting. I should have been more careful - when making the flame too high the glass cover was blackened with soot. The greenhouse walls provided protection against flooding but there was no heater - and, yes, Hawaii can get cool at night at that elevation particularly during the winter months. As cold as we had to put all our clothing on to be comfortable - and still woke up with running noses in the morning. No complaints, however, memories of Maui flooding were still so fresh and we were happy with what we had.
Needless to say, water needed to be brought in in a bucket from a tank located over a hundred yards away. That’s where we were doing dishes - the old fashioned way. A tank was filled with water, dishes and pots dipped in, scrubbed… Then I would empty the tank, wash it and refill it again with more water. And use it for rinsing. Washing under running water was not possible due to limited supply of that precious commodity. I used the same tank for laundry (please don’t tell my mother about it) - once again, filling with water, using regular soap as we had no detergent, rinsing in an empty tank. Then we hanged our stuff on a rope. Unfortunately, doing this outside was not possible because it rained pretty much continuously. We were about twenty miles from Hilo, the rainiest town in the US - and that was during the peak of the rainy season.
You might be curious about the showers. A facility did exist on the property - once again the water was coming from a tank and heated by a generator. Basically, every time you wanted to shower you needed to ask Ricco to start the machine. The back-up was rinsing your body with cold water - but it was not necessary since Ricco was always around. He even slept in a security shack by the front gate where he had another greenhouse.
Unlike the rest of the world, in Hawaii the seasons don’t follow the times of the year. Summer, spring, fall and winter are always there, depending where you are on the island. Buccaneer Gardens was in the realm of an eternal spring. Half an hour away we had a choice of Kau desert hiking (cool desert), Mauna Loa (cold and windy), town of Hilo (extremely rainy). In Hilo, I think we saw the sun once when being there - that’s always a cause for celebration among locals.
Unanimously, The Big Island was our favorite of the Hawaiian islands and will always have a special place in our hearts - perhaps the last place on the North American continent to get away from the rat race where aloha is the way of life.
“M˘hala ka pua, ua wehe kaiao.
The blossoms are opening, for dawn is breaking.
Look forward with joy to a new day.”
P.S. We managed to upload some pictures of our day trip to Kau desert, the Petroglyphes and Kilauea. Fascinating, indeed.