Monday, January 16, 2012

Trip to the Big Island

“Here’s to the golden moon
And here’s to the silver sea.”
“Tiny Bubbles,” Don Ho

I kept hearing Don Ho’s “Tiny Bubbles” in my head as I embarked on an eight-day trip to glorious Hawaii. Toni and I had seen Don Ho live several times at Duke Kahanamoku’s nightclub on at Waikiki’s Hawaiian Village in Honolulu while we lived on Oahu in 1965-66. We visited Maui in 1990 and Honolulu with Miranda three years ago, but I had never before been on the “Big Island” of Hawaii. I flew with Tom Dietz from Phoenix to Kona International Airport. It only rains on the Kona Coast about ten inches a year, and the terrain can best be described as a lava desert. It’s quite beautiful though, and people have used white coral stones to write messages about loved ones on the black lava rocks.

Home base was a gorgeous house at Waikaloa Village. The only fast food at the nearby shopping center was (thankfully) a Subway, and at the Food Market Steinlager Beer imported from New Zealand was on sale for $12.99 a 12-pack. Most days I hiked there (a 20 minute walk) for coffee and pastry to start the day. On Monday (sunny and in the seventies, perfect for touring) Tom, Joe, and I headed for Kohala, along the northern coast. First stop was Puukohola Heiau, where King Kamehameha built a temple to the war god Kukailimoku as he prepared to conquer his rivals and unite Hawaii under his rule. Then we visited the ruins of a 600 year-old fishing village before driving to the breathtaking Pololu Valley lookout. It was once a place of refuge for Hawaians who violated the strict kapu system; if they could make it there alive, they could atone for their crimes. One taboo forbade women from eating bananas or coconuts. After downing smoothies in the town of Hawi and snapping photos posing with a colorful statue of Kamehameha we drove through cattle ranch country, encountering black goats, a mongoose or two, wild turkeys, and donkeys by the road.

Tuesday we toured the Hilo side, visiting Akaka Falls on the way to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, home to Kilauea volcano. Unlike the tourist posters, about all one sees at the crater is a big hole with steam coming out. In 1790 a rival king named Keoua was marching against Kamehameha but lost a third of his troops when a major eruption occurred. Some saw it as evidence that fire goddess Pele was angry over his troops throwing rocks into Kilauea and that she favored Kamehameha. Keoua subsequently tried to surrender but was slain and sacrificed at Puukohola Heiau. Another major eruption occurred in 1924, and in 1990 a lava flow destroyed most of the town of Kalapana. Kilauea is still very active but finding its way to the sea through a lava tube. Driving around the southern tip of Hawaii, we often encountered lava flows from Mauna Loa, the largest of the five volcanoes that formed the island, whose most recent eruption occurred in 1984. Meanwhile we listened to hits from the 70s and 80s (Cars, Deep Purple, Average White Band, Fleetwood Mac) on LAVA radio 103.5, frequently singing along to oldies such as “Magic Bus” by the Who.

Most other days we visited beaches along the Kona coast, usually near beautiful resorts. Some were of the black sand variety, while other white sand beaches were perfect for body surfing. With 12-foot waves breaking a hundred yards from the shore I hadn’t had that much fun in the water in years. We saw huge turtles along one shore and whales surfacing on the horizon while using a Marriott Resort hot tub (I also swam laps in their giant pool). Thursday evening Marriott had half-price night on dinner entrees, so they did get some of our money.

My last full day on the island we went to the 175 year-old Hulihe’e Palace in Kailua-Kona, which included many traditional artifacts, including dishes and mallets for pounding poi, as well as things brought back from his world tour by King David Kalakaua, the so-called “Merry Monarch,” who built Iolani Palace in Honolulu, where I did research into the administration of Governor Joseph Boyd Poindexter for my masters thesis. There was a special bed built for Princess Ruth Ke’elikolani, who weighed 400 pounds and was almost seven feet tall. The guide mentioned that sugar planters imported the mongoose to combat rats, but since they are active during the day and rats are nocturnal, mongooses feasted on birds and their eggs, causing many beautiful species to become extinct. Eating sliders and fish tacos at Huggo’s On the Rocks during Happy Hour, we listened to Hawaiian music and watched the sunset (it got more applause than the entertainer). Before we left a hula dancer charmed the standing room only crowd. We topped the evening off at the Royal Kona Resorts (no problem walking through the grounds even though we were non-paying visitors), gawking at the ocean surf and listening to music from a stage show.

I took along David Balducci’s novel “Last Man Standing” (a suspenseful “page turner” – the villains were white supremacists who blew up an integrated school in Virginia) and managed to finish it by trip’s end. Other reading material at the house included Mark Twain’s “Roughing It in the Sandwich Islands” and a delightful children’s book “Princess Bianca and the Vandals.” A Wall Street Journal Arts section contained a review of Pico Iyer’s “The Man Within My Head” about Graham Greene that contained this quote by my favorite novelist about keeping a journal as a form of therapy: “Sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose or paint, can manage to escape the madness, the melancholia, the panic and fear which is inherent in the human situation.” I remained pretty oblivious to news events but did watch the thrilling NFL playoff victory of San Francisco over New Orleans. People watching at the Kona Airport, I saw folks who reminded by of old Upper Dublin teachers Frank Gilronan and Geraldine Biles.

Home to find snow on the ground (no surprise), the For Sale sign gone from the unit next to us, and a new furnace for the condo (the old one went out during the snowstorm). Sunday’s Post-Tribune had a Jerry Davich feature on 93 year-old Tuskegee Airman Quentin Smith, looking forward to being a special guest at the Chicago premier of George Lucas’s “Red Tails.” Smith told of being put in the Fort Knox stockade at war’s end for refusing to leave an officers’ club reserved for whites only. After Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP protested, President Harry S Truman ordered the men released. Clara Danes won a Golden Globe award for her portrayal of a CIA officer on the TV series “Homeland,” said to be Barack Obama’s favorite show.

IUN’s library was closed for Martin Luther King Day, but I managed to get in and expunge the 200+ emails that had accumulated in my absence. One from the owner of the condo next to us mentioned that renters (a mother and daughter) will be moving in shortly. The university appeared to have made it through the first week of the Spring semester without me. One event I missed lamentably was a program about the 1961 Freedom Riders. The panel included former Gary mayor Richard Gordon Hatcher. Jon Huntsman, the only decent Republican presidential hopeful, withdrew from the race. As Martin Luther King, who would have been 83 years old today, said, “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish as fools.” Near the entrance to the Archives is an exhibit Steve McShane put together about the student demonstrations leading to the university observing Martin Luther King Day. For our forty-seventh wedding anniversary Toni cooked up steaks, potatoes, and cauliflower. Dave invited us over for dinner, but we begged off as we were both tired.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like you enjoyed the Big Island! I love it there!