When the driver of the Jeep behind us gives an accepting wave, I turn back to Charlie. “Seems she's still hung up on you.”
He gives me a grin. “Can you blame her?”
I roll my eyes. “So what is this haole business? Do the locals hate outsiders here?”
“Not at all,” he says. “But it's a term and it sticks. I'm still haole.”
“Really? But you've been here a few years now. Six, right?”
“Doesn't matter. I wasn't born here, so I'm not local.”
“And is that girl local?”
“Ana?” he asks. “Yeah. Born and raised.”
I want to make a remark on how she doesn't particularly look Hawaiian because of her red-hair, but I'm starting to think that the whole island is one big melting pot of cultures.
“And in case you're wondering,” he says to me as the road dips closer to the coast again, the brilliant blue of the waves dazzling my eyes, “you don't have to be of Hawaiian origin to be considered Hawaiian.”
As I mull that over, my eyes are constantly drawn to the lush vegetation as it swoops past us on one side, fields of dry grass and red dirt on the other. Ahead of us the sharp spears of a low mountain range rise up, looking positively Jurassic, dark clouds hovering behind it.
“That's King Kong,” Charlie says. “Once we get to the side you'll be able to see the profile better.”
And as the road turns around the mass of jungled peaks and past the town of Anahola, I can actually see what looks like the profile of a gorilla peering across the land.
The sight doesn't last for long though because now those dark, distant clouds are right upon us, unleashing rain with one swift movement, like King Kong himself just turned on a shower head.
I twist in my seat to look at my suitcases in the back, glad that Charlie had tucked them under the surfboard.
“Are they getting wet?” Charlie asks, frowning in the rear-view mirror.
“So far so good,” I tell him. “Did you know it was going to rain? It was so nice before.”
“It rains all the time here,” he says. “That’s why it's called the Garden Isle. But don't worry, it never lasts all day and there's always some sunny spot on the island at any given time. Sometimes that means you're heading all the way to the southwest, to Waimea or Polihale Beach to get the rays, but I actually like the rain. And once you're in the water, it doesn't really matter.” He shoots me a sly look. “Do you surf?”
I shake my head. “No. I’ve never tried but I don’t think it’s my thing.”
“That’s fine. I'm going to teach you how.”
I laugh. “Oh you are? You think you can teach me-of-little-balance?”
He nods. “It's all in your head, not your body,” he says, tapping his temple. “And I'm a master of it. I teach surf lessons in the winter to make some extra cash, the swells up at Hanalei can get pretty good. I'll totes teach you for free.”
I frown at him and his use of the word totes. “I don't know…I feel there's a catch here.”
He wiggles his brows. “You'll find out sooner or later.”
I'm not sure if that's innuendo or not, but from his interactions with Ana, Charlie already seems to have a bit of a reputation and I've learned my lesson when it comes to sleeping with the staff. I learned it big time.
Charlie turns the radio up for the rest of the drive, playing some ukulele music that makes me feel like I’m in the movie The Descendants, as the land becomes more tropical and green as we head north. The rain isn't letting up and Charlie tells me how as we get into winter, the north takes the brunt of the bad weather.
Along the way he starts pointing out more sights—the open plains where they filmed scenes of Jurassic Park (my inner nerd girl freaks out over this one since I can tell you exactly what scenes those were), the turn-off to some lighthouse, the resorts of Princeville, until the road curves along a cliff and the bay opens up below us.
Even with the clouds and the rain, I can still see the green expanse of what Charlie tells me are taro fields, backed by the stunningly rugged peaks of the mountains, half-hidden by cloud. It’s absolutely gorgeous and I snap a few pictures in vain, trying to capture it.
“Wow,” I say softly, craning my neck behind me as the view disappears. We're heading down the side of the cliff now, back toward the water.
“Next time it's sunny, we'll stop there, make sure you get some good pictures. Nothing beats Hanalei on a gorgeous day. Make the people jealous back home.” He pauses. “You have a boyfriend?”
I give him a wary look. “No.”