The Centipede Story
One of our adventures in Maui was when I almost killed several people I was driving across the barren roads of south Maui.
One of our excursions was our day trip to Hana on the East side of Maui. Hana is completely different from the more touristy sides of the island. It’s lush and green and less populated than the drier sides. It’s a good few hours drive from where we were staying. Licia and I had been there before but this time decided to take the loop road around the south side of the island.
Now the roads on the south side of the island are not recommended. In previous years, the roads have been known to wash out in places after a heavy rain. They have gotten better in recent years, so we decided to see what we missed the first time around.
We spent most of the day driving the switchbacks to Hana. We stopped at many sites along the way including waterfalls, wave crashed lava rock beaches, black sand and pebble beaches, the airport so I could take a powered hang glider flight, and every fruit stand along the way to find the mythical perfect banana bread we remembered from our first trip. This took up most of the day. By the time we officially hit the south side road it was getting dark.
What are the south side roads like? Narrow for one. Unpaved, gravelly, or probably more accurate to say badly paved. There was a section where the road appeared cantilevered over a cliff. There was no allegiance paid to the word “straight” but plenty to the word “narrow”. It was all switchbacks and roller coasters with potholes as large as the bald right front tire our rental van came with; just to remind us this wasn’t an amusement park. When we crested a hill the headlights would shine into the sky illuminating nothing about the road below we were about to plunge into. This did not sway Shelley’s enthusiasm as we would accelerate blindly over a crest into a steep curve she would say “Wheee”!
The outside temperature was just right and we had the windows open until we saw a bat fly around our minivan so close that we closed the windows so it wouldn’t fly in. We had short-range walky-talkies that we could warn the trailing van about obstacles ahead. For instance warnings like “Look out for the rabid bat!” or later “Watch out for the cow in the road!” We brought 2 minivans, the Maui Intruder and the Maui Invader inspired by some of the worst (or best!) RV names we have seen in the past.
Finally, the road started straightening out into what would be considered no longer third world quality. So I rolled down the window and put my arm on the doorframe in a more relaxed posture. Immediately I felt a fluttering sensation on my arm and a biting sting. As I used my other arm to shoo away whatever had sunken its teeth into my arm I was so focused on the biting that I swerved the van to the left toward the edge of the road. Luckily Licia, in the front passenger seat had the presence of mind that I had momentarily lost and grabbed the wheel to straighten out the van before we went crashing off the side of the road. Not one of my prouder moments.
I stopped the van at the “side” of the road and got out to see what had bitten me and if it was under the seat as I felt something flitter across my leg during the whole biting-swerve thing. I looked at my arm and there were two bleeding bite marks, to my mind like the fangs of a bat, on my arm and it stung badly, like a hornet’s sting. This had me worried because we couldn’t locate what bit me. We were thinking it was a bat because of the earlier incident but why did it sting so bad? I started looking through the guidebook to see if there were poisonous snakes on Maui, but luckily not. This was a little comforting but now I thought, “oh great, probably a bat and I’ll have to get rabies shots”. The guide book also said one of the worst creatures on the island was the centipede as the bite was so bad that the only recourse was to “stay drunk for three days” as the locals would have it because there is no antidote, even though it is harmless aside from the intense pain. However, we didn’t think it was a centipede because how could it get in the van and be on the doorframe. It didn’t seem in it’s personality.
Licia took over driving and we headed, in the dark over unfamiliar roads, to the nearest hospital, which was up country several miles. My arm started swelling up a bit prompting Licia to rush a bit, when we came across the part of the road dedicated to the night cattle. Right there on the road were mostly cows and sometimes their calves, apparently foraging for roadside goods, sometimes laying down resting right in the road. We even passed some horses trotting along the road in the pitch black, so close you could reach out the window and pet them. It was a very memorable sight appreciated despite our tense mission.
We reached the hospital and to add to my dread was the thought of how much this would cost to visit the emergency room. I have insurance but it’s a high deductible for my individual ‘catastrophic’ plan. I would probably have to pay every cent for this visit.
I walked in to the quiet hospitable, the guard directed me to the e-room where a nurse and a doctor were sitting by their computers chatting. I showed the nurse my bite marks and without missing a beat she said “Oh that’s a centipede bite… and it looks like a big one too!” I asked if she was sure and related the bat story and she took a closer look and said nope it was a “classic” centipede bite, I could ice it and take ibuprofen for the pain and the itching that would happen in a few days but there wasn’t much else to be done. I was relieved because I was more worried about rabies, or it being a poison snake someone imported and got loose or something, plus they didn’t want to charge me anything for their diagnosis. Did I mention I love the island attitude?
We still had to drive the van back home to the other side of the island and since we narrowed down the culprit to a centipede, we knew it was likely still inside the van, hiding in some dark corner. So, under the headlights of the other van we completely unloaded the Centipede van and its contents. Licia’s parents, John and Marie, and for some reason my brother John decided they wanted to ride in the bad van back to the condos. Needless to say I had enough centipede bites for the evening and didn’t want any part of that van.
On the way back, I kept an eye on the centipede van in the rearview mirror. About 10 miles from home, I see the van suddenly swerve onto the shoulder of the Piilani highway! We tried to contact them from the walkie-talkies but they had gone dead. There was no cell phone reception. Technology failed us. We pulled over to the shoulder too, but by that time were about a quarter mile down the road. We could see the interior lights were on and some movement in the van but were left to wait and wonder what happened. Surely it was that dratted centipede causing havoc once again!
It turns out this is what happened in the other van. Johnny was driving and Marie looked over and saw numbers on the dash disappearing. She realized that it was the centipede walking across the dashboard. She told Johnny to pull over but he insisted on continuing to drive. Then she saw it walk across the top of the dash, and said ‘Johnny it’s walking across the top of the dash’, but he insisted on continuing to drive. This was a very persistent centipede because next Marie said “Johnny it’s walking across the steering wheel!” This time he switched driving to one hand the other side of the steering wheel while leaning over to Marie side of the van. This time he pulled over.
The centipede is apparently a night dweller and goes into hiding when the lights come on but my brother John saw it skittering across the driver’s seat whereupon he took off his shoe and attempted several smacks to kill it dead as it zipped around the van. We later found no evidence of a dead body but John did get a look at a 6-inch long, ½ inch diameter mischief making insect zipping around the van before disappearing once again. They decided to leave the interior lights on and continue driving back the final stretch home.
The next day, I called the rental company and demanded a new centipede-free van. The guy at the office was very understanding and he related a story about when he moved into a ground floor apartment and was woken up three times during his first night there by a centipede walking across him in the night. We got a new van, delivered free of charge.
We had other fun adventures during our stay in Maui and over the year but they would probably be anti-climatic. And take up more pages.