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A Big Island farm stay: Off-the-grid adventure in Hawaii

Brian J. Cantwell, The Seattle Times on

Published in Travel News

But we were blissfully sated, and with the aid of a headlamp I'd packed from home, we trundled back along a path dimly marked by solar-powered lights to our jungle cabin, ducking beneath a pendulum of ripening bananas and past blooming heliconia flowers. The air was a heady, moisture-rich blend of aromas -- of woodsy earth; of sweet, rotting guavas underfoot, all riotously oxygenated by rampant chlorophyll.

It turned out we slept well, awakened only occasionally by a guava bombardment.

The sun shone the next morning. After an amazing breakfast -- astonishingly, we could eat again -- of fresh fruit and local Ka'u coffee delivered to our cabin, I lugged a large "Let's Do This" orange bucket from Home Depot and helped to harvest grapefruit-sized avocados from big trees growing wild in John and Ariel's woods.

I had volunteered because I wanted to get a sense of life on the farm. I accompanied John and two farmworkers, Justina Meyer, 23, from Long Island, New York, and Adrian Joyiens, 35, from Arizona, who were trading their work for room and board (in this case, the "room" being a covered camping platform).

Adrian hooked up with I'olani through the WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) organization, while Justina discovered the farm as a guest and just fell in love with the place.

"I respect everything they're doing here, I like the sustainability," she told me.

As we wandered up a muddy ravine on an old pig-hunting trail past jackfruit trees and freshly planted cacao saplings, John used an extendible painter's pole fitted with a clawlike scoop to reach high into avocado trees and bring the ripe fruit down to our buckets.

"This is like fishing!" John cried. "They call the avocado the 'fish of the forest.'"

We came upon a mud wallow used by wild pigs. Pigs are common on this part of the island, including big boars with intimidating tusks. A hollowed indentation in the mud drew our attention.

"You can see the size of the pig's belly," Adrian pointed out.

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