It’s hard to describe, but it can take moments to turn you primal. It could be the sight of something that can never be unseen, the realization of a life catalyst - or in my case - the wild jungles of Hawaii. These weren’t your tourist-friendly, ‘let’s go for a nature walk’ type of jungles...These jungles change people.
It was arguable whether or not this jungle was in conduct with any sort of legal boundaries. Yet, I stood there, the 'path' before me, beckoning me inside with every twisted ambition I possessed. On this day, courage would be disguised as stupidity.
The chirping of tropical birds and my own heavy breathing echoed off the treetops. Never had I encountered air this humid and demanding of my effort to inhale; it was nearly suffocating. Still, I pressed on, going far enough past the tiny entrance gap to confirm my commitment. There was only one problem: figuring out how exactly to stash the slick, carbon-fiber road bicycle I had overpaid in which to rent back in town. The task of hiding this machine was enhanced in difficulty due to it sporting a neon orange paint job, rendering it a beacon and the means to a hefty pawn reward. Eventually, I came to a clearing before the vegetation became abominable, and it was here I sidelined my orange friend...
The idea of getting lost on purpose is often better than the reality. Then again, my own self-destructive tendencies to chase the unknown were rarely ignored. Regrets tended to eat me up internally. Plus, I had done crazier things to dramatically spike endorphin levels this week alone.
On my first day on the island, I had already been caught in a ferocious current after blindly jumping into a chasm, rocking violently through a vast minefield of sea urchins, only to clutch desperately onto the shell of a passing sea turtle and taxi towards the open ocean at the end of the chasm. I had also experienced surfing a few hours later, catching a wave onto the shore on my inarguable attempt, knowing it would soon be a lifelong hobby.
Perhaps the most thrilling event thus far had left my upper arm ripped apart and bleeding from a tattoo I acquired in a tiki hut by a gargantuan local named Lumbo...another first! Heck, the day prior I found myself fluttering above a volcano in a chopper, an experience which paired nicely with a lifelong nagging dislike for flying.
So, needless to say, my sense of adventure was elevated higher than ever. I was too confident, assuming safety from dangers I was both unaware of and didn’t understand even at a surface level. As I trekked further through the thick brush and deeper into the wild, I began to question my valiance, and reality sunk into all too quick. In my possession was no food, no map, and no compass. I did have my phone, but this far out, I had a better chance of running into an acoustic guitar wielding Willie Nelson than getting any type of cell reception.
A tunnel of arching tree limbs, thorny plants and thick palms indicated a deeper route into the jungle. As I made my way closer to get a better look, my foot knocked against something hard. Withdrawing my foot revealed a turtle, head visible for only a second before recoiling into its shell. I frowned at the armor it wore, as it was a reminder that this turtle had what I did not: a proper defense mechanism against all of the dangers around it. Some of these dangers included four species of poisonous spider, venomous sea and land snakes, a wicked assembly of natural disasters and lastly what I feared most - tribesman and sketchy gang-related folk. Up against any of these threats, what was to be my defense mechanism?
Little sympathy seemed to be given out to non locals. The inner realms of Hawaiian culture included a widespread disassociation with outsiders. One could argue that it resembled more of an animosity for the perpetual ignorance that is generated within a tourist-invaded infrastructure. Protecting the innate values on these islands wasn't easy when waves of foreign entitlement force themselves through. Like a drunk American jumping into the sacred Trevi Fountain in Rome (which, to my disgust, I had witnessed) I knew that the ultimate sign of disrespect towards any intercultural custom was blind ignorance. So, by doing next to no research and simply inviting myself into this jungle, was I overextending my freedoms? Certainly. In any case, my demise here would become the subject of a common chuckle between sips of Kona brews and haupia pies. Another one bites the dust...