Extracts

The road sign read: ‘BEWARE INVISIBLE COWS’. But I didn’t really need it to see that I was in an unusual kind of place. I was listening to David Bowie’s Space Oddity playing on the car radio. ‘Here am I floating in a tin-can, far above the world’. And something about: ‘the stars look very different today’. I felt just like Major Tom. On this day the stars really did look very different. I was finally taking off and leaving earth behind. It was like driving from the Garden of Eden to the surface of the moon. As I snaked up from Hilo on the east coast towards the centre of the Big Island, I passed palms swaying in the breeze, giant ferns, banana trees with leaves the size of hammocks, and hibiscus flowers, in yellow and purple, the size of trumpets, sticking their long stamens out at me. A red bird – a brilliant red, all over – flashed by, like something on fire. I drove straight by the Kaumana Caves and the Rainbow Falls. The palatial houses down by the sea and up in the hills shrank down to mere shacks and sheds and finally petered out altogether around mile marker 10. It was raining and everything was a dripping, glistening, glowing green, like it was radioactive. And still I drove relentlessly upwards, up the Saddle Road, into the clouds that hung over the misty mountain. Soon the scenery consisted mostly of infinite variations on the theme of rock. The palm trees had all gone, even the grass had gone. I drove through fields of stone, forests of stone populated by lumbering stone creatures, tribes of stone. I saw flakey rocks, great flat slabs, spiky rocks, frilly ones, fat blobby ones, ones that stuck out at odd angles, rocky cones and cylinders and dodecahedrons, rocks like granola and rocks like chocolate, I saw rocks in the shape of pyramids, and rocks that reminded me of Notre Dame cathedral, and not a few that recalled the Hunchback and all the gargoyles. And a few more that looked like plain old boulders, old-fashioned uncomplicated rocks, the size of buildings, in colour somewhere between dark grey and black, tossed down from on high by a careless giant. Here and there huge earth-moving machines were scattered about, boasting massive caterpillar tracks and capacious shovels and giant maws and ten-ton crushers, but they were stationary and lifeless, as if already defeated, feeble and pathetic up against the sheer unremitting, inflexible, and invincible hardness of the terrain.