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“The Hawaiian Archipelago” is a great eyewitness account of Hawaii in 1863, by one of the era's most intrepid travelers, after it had been impacted by its collision with the American and European powers but while it was still a robust independent Kingdom and before its forced assimilation into the USA. Isabella Bird visited the Sandwich Islands in 1871, when she was forty. Her letters home to her sister Henrietta have a remarkable freshness and spontaneity, and reveal the transformation of a Victorian invalid into a fearless horsewoman and enthusiastic mountain-climber, who thought nothing of riding for miles soaked with rain and fording terrifyingly swollen rivers. She undertook a thirteen-hour unaccompanied trek to the summit of the extinct volcano of Mauna Kea, revelling in the security with which she was able to travel and camp out without guides or companions.
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LETTER VIII. Windward Hawaii "Gulches" The Mexican Saddle Onomea A Sugar Plantation Sugar Making The Ruling Interest. Onomea, Hawaii. Judge Austin's. RS. A. has been ill for some time, and Mrs. S., her sister, and another friend "plotted" in a very " clandestine " manner that I should come here for a few days in order to give her " a little change of society," but I am quite sure that under this they only veil a kind wish that I should see something of plantation life. There is a plan, too, that I should take a five days' trip to a remarkable valley called Waipio, but this is only a " castle in the air." Mr. A. sent in for me a capital little lean rat of a horse which by dint of spirit and activity managed to keep within sight of two large horses, ridden by Mr. Thompson, and a very handsome young lady riding " cavalier fashion," who convoyed me out. Borrowed saddle-bags, and a couple of shingles for carrying ferns formed my WINDWARD HAWAII. 97 outfit, and were carried behind my saddle. It is a magnificent ride here. The track crosses the deep, still, Wai- luku River on a wooden bridge, and then, after winding up a steep hill, among native houses fantastically situated, hangs on the verge of the lofty precipices which descend perpendicularly to the sea, dips into tremendous gulches, loses itself in the bright fern-fringed torrents which have cleft their way down from the mountains, and at last emerges on the delicious height on which this house is built. This coast looked beautiful from the deck of the Kilauea, but I am now convinced that I have never seen anything so perfectly lovely as it is when one is actually among its details. Onomea is six hundred feet high, and every yardof the ascent from Hilo brings one into a fresher and purer air. One looks u...
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