Excerpt from Isabella Bird's Six Months in the Sandwich Islands*
...Then we reached the lofty top of the great Hakalau gulch, the largest of all, with the double river, and the ocean close to the ford. Mingling with the deep reverberations of the surf, I heard the sharp, crisp rush of a river, and of "a river that has no bridge."
The dense foliage, and the exigencies of the steep track, which had become very difficult, owing to the washing away of the soil, prevented me from seeing anything till I got down. I found Deborah speaking to a native, who was gesticulating very emphatically, and pointing up the river. The roar was deafening, and the sight terrific. Where there were two shallow streams a week ago, with a house and good-sized piece of ground above their confluence, there was now one spinning, rushing chafing, foaming river, twice as wide as the Clyde at Glasgow, the land was submerged, and, if I remember correctly, the house only stood above the flood. And, most fearful to look upon, the ocean, in three huge breakers, had come quite in, and its mountains of white surge looked fearfully near the only possible crossing. I entreated D. not to go on. She said we could not go back, that the last gulch was already impassable, that between the two there was no house in which we could sleep, that the river had a good bottom, that the man thought if our horses were strong we could cross not, but not later, etc. In short, she overbore all opposition, and plunged in, calling to me, "Spur, spur, all the time."
Just as I went in, I took my knife and cut open the cloak which contained the cocoanuts. Deborah's horse I knew was strong, and shod, but my unshod and untried mare, what of her? My soul and senses literally reeled among the dizzy horrors of the wide, wild tide, but with an effort I regained sense and self-possession, for we were in, and there was no turning. D., ahead, screeched to me what I could not hear; she said afterwards it was "spur, spur, and keep up the river;" the native was shrieking in Hawaiian from the hinder shore, and waving to the right, but the torrents of rain, the crash of the breakers, and the rush and hurry of the river confused both sight and hearing. I saw D.'s great horse carried off his legs, my mare, too, was swimming, and shortly afterwards, between swimming, struggling, and floundering, we reached what had been the junction of the two rivers, where there was foothold, and the water was only up to the seats of the saddles.
Remember, we were both sitting nearly up to our waists in water, and it was only by screaming that our voices were heard above the din, and to return or go on seemed equally perilous. Under these critical circumstances, the following colloquy took place, on my side, with teeth chattering, and on hers with a sudden forgetfulness of English, produced by her first sense of the imminent danger we were in.
Self: "My mare is so tired, and so heavily weighted, we shall be drowned, or I shall."
Deborah (with more reason on her side): "But can't go back, we no stay here, water higher all minutes, spur horse, think we come through."
Self: "But if we go on there is broader, deeper water between us and the shore; your husband would not like you to run such a risk."
Deborah: "Think we get through; if horses give out, we let go; I swim and save you."
Even under these circumstances a gleam of the ludicrous shot through me at the idea of this small fragile being bearing up my weight among the breakers. I attempted to shift my saddle-bags upon Mr. powerful horse, but being full of water and under water, the attempt failed, and as we spoke both our horses were carried off their vantage ground into deep water.
With wilder fury the river rushed by, its waters whirled dizzily, and, in spite of spurring and lifting with the rein, the horses were swept seawards. I saw Deborah's horse spin round, and thought woefully of the possible fate of the bright young wife, almost a bride; only the horses' heads and our own heads and shoulders were above water; the surf was thundering on our left, and we were drifting towards it "broadside on." When I saw the young girl's face of horror I felt increased presence of mind, and raising my voice to a shriek, and telling her to do as I did, I lifted and turned my mare with the rein, so that her chest and not her side should receive the force of the river, and the brave animal, as if seeing what she should do, struck out desperately. I was a horrible suspense. We were stemming the torrent, or was it sweeping us back that very short distance which lay between us and the mountainous breakers? I constantly spurred my mare, guiding here slightly to the left, the side grew nearer, and after exhausting struggles, Deborah's horse touched ground, and her voice came faintly towards me like a voice in a dream, still calling "Spur, spur." My mare touched ground twice, and was carried off again before she fairly got to land some yards nearer the sea than the bridle track.
I then put our saddle-bags on Deborah's horse. It was one of the worst and steepest of the palis that we had to ascend; but I can't remember anything about the road except that we had to leap some place which we could not cross otherwise. Deborah, then thoroughly alive to a sense of risk, said that there was only one more bad gulch to cross before we reached Onomea, but it was the most dangerous of all, and we could not get across, she feared, but we might go and look at it. I only remember the extreme solitude of the region, and scrambling and sliding down a most precipitous pali, hearing a roar like cataract upon cataract, and coming suddenly down upon a sublime and picturesque scene, with only standing room, and that knee-deep in water, between a savage torrent and the cliff. This gulch, called the Scotchman's gulch, I am told, because a Scotchman was drowned there, must be at its crossing three-quarters of a mile inland, and three hundred feet above the sea....
*Included in Letter XI.