Travelogues from TheTraveler
Tales of exotic adventures, humorous anecdotes, and musings from The Traveler... The adventure awaits...
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Part 1 - Decompression
Part 2 -The Hummer Tour
Part 3 - Petroglyphs, The Paths of Kings, and Shooting the Back Nine
Part 4 -An Evening Stroll at the Kona Coast Resort
Part 5 - Going to Church at the City of Refuge
Part 6 - Aloha
Part 7 - A Top Five Hike
Part 8 - The Fire of Pele Burning Beneath my Feet
Part 9 - Fire and Rain
Part 10 - Getting a Good Martini in a Tropical Climate
March 30, 2003 - 8:46 AM
For more than ten years and more than a dozen times, we are once again on the lovely island of Hawaii. Several years ago we added the two or three days at Volcanoes National Park as a perfect tag to our timeshare week. We may have now discovered good preface - one night at the Outrigger at Waikoloa. I am now looking out over the pool area as vacationers stroll out poolside on this warm Sunday morning. The gentle breeze caressing my knees and tickling my nose with sweet fragrance enhanced by last night's rain. The more intense decompression of yesterday is subsiding into the delicious realization that I am in Hawaii - a bird's call just now confirms that.
The three hours of sleep after work, the rudeness of our ticket agent while checking in for our United flight (one would think they'd be grateful for anyone still flying this soon-to-be-history airline), and the magical moments of cramped and neck contorting napping on the plane, leaves both Jayne and I in "decompression mode" (not to mention Jayne's brutal work schedule for the past several months). A day spent here at the Outrigger means we don't need to worry about getting our food for the timeshare, or doing much of anything except strolling the grounds, sipping a cocktail or two, and having a wonderful (if not a bit expensive) dinner. The Ahi was delicious. Then dragging our sorry butts back to the room to sit for a few minutes on the deck listening to the sweet sounds of the bar singer and his rhythm machine washing around the grounds. Drifting off to the sweet sounds of Hawaiian bar music...
Those of you that know me know what a misfortune; nay, what a tragedy - an abomination - I think anything called a "hummer tour" is; anywhere, and most especially on the Big Island.
But there it is - a hummer tour.
Our stay at the Outrigger coincided with several other groups; conventions and such. We found ways to identify each group. There was the Blue Shorts Group, the White Sneakers Group (though this was a more informal association of like minded souls than an official group) and our favorite, the Boy Band (who shared our floor, probably some sort of sports team actually). There was also a convention of some sort taking place and each day they would have a list of activities that the conventioneers could choose from for the day. Jayne reported overhearing one unfortunate fellow railing on about the sheer fun of the hummer tour.
"Dude! It was so cool! Mud was flyin' everywhere and we were pulling Louie's in the mud and you gotta try it man!"
I just cringe when I think about it. Now, I know I'm being judgmental when I really don't know the full picture. Perhaps the hummer tour operators are tilling the soil and eradicating an invasive plant species so that indigenous flora can once again flourish. But I doubt it.
Being a tourist is being enough of an invasive species. We serve a function, without us the Hawaiian economy would collapse entirely.
Still, I really think the last thing this island needs is a bunch of hummers tearing around the countryside.
Stay away from the hummer tour while visiting the Big Island and feel good about yourself - dude.
The Waikoloa Beach area of the Kohala Coast, where the Outrigger is located, is one rich in history and ancient Hawaiian culture, including royal fishponds, the largest concentration of petroglyphs on the Big Island, and the "Kings' Trail", which passes through the grounds of the Outrigger.
This trail was used by ancient Hawaiian royalty and runners whose duties included delivering pond-raised fish wrapped in ti leaves to waiting royalty in Kailua-Kona. The brackish water fish ponds along this section of coastline have no surface connection to the ocean, they rise and fall with the tide, saltwater seeping through the porous lava rock to mix with the fresh water.
Encircling these ponds are the remains of ancient Heiaus (temples) and other dwellings used by royalty.
In the evenings as deep twilight sets in and all the bipedal landlubbing mammals have moved onshore to drink Mai Tais and feed their growling stomachs, I can stand quietly amongst the ruins and almost see the ghosts of another world moving like fleeting shadows in the violet-blue light. Impressed on these worn down walls of lava are wisps of the life they once sheltered.
When Jayne and I first discovered the Kohala Coast and explored the petroglyph fields surrounding this area, we were dismayed at having to share the space with resort hotels and condos. The main Petroglyph park is removed from most of the development, but a good portion of the trail leading to it is surrounded by a golf course. Indeed, at some intersections, one must be careful not to get run over by a golf cart.
It would be nice if these ancient rock carvings could lay quietly by themselves, undisturbed. Thinking such is just being naïve, I'm afraid. What I'm impressed with is how the section of coastline has developed their condos and low-rise luxury hotels while preserving - and protecting - the history of this area.
I believe that if the developers had not set up the walking trails and interpretative signs throughout the area, it would be completely trashed by now. Petroglyphs rubbed out and fish ponds piled high with Bud cans. I am also sure that the developers didn't do it out of pure altruistic intent and were forced into it to be allowed to develop the land. But they did do it and they did a pretty good job. Old and new can exist together, to some degree.
Though it isn't perfect; in the past ten years that we've been coming here, there are signs of degradation. More and more of the petroglyphs are being ruined by people carving their name or some other tripe in the rocks; there is an occasional bud can to be found here and there. The trampling of human activity is evident.
Let me say this, the imprint of every living human being on this Earth - especially those of us sitting fat and "happy" in the developed world - will last for centuries; perhaps long after that odd experiment called "humans" is itself ancient history.
That we can't leave these callings from the past alone and quietly contemplate the world from which they come is a sad testament to our hyperactive age. Maintaining a connection to the past is to ensure progress toward the future. To ignore, dismiss, and vandalize the past is to make no progress at all.
Perhaps those feeling compelled to carve their initials in a rock next to a petroglyph should take a hummer tour instead. I'm willing to make that compromise.
There is the older gentleman, in his late sixties or early seventies; not being able to make the trip to Ireland this year, he seems happy enough at the compromise he has made as he sips his Diet Pepsi and reads "The 42nd Parallel". Retired from PG&E, he has spent much of his adult life in the foothills and gold country of California.
There is the young woman eager to see the reason for the islands existence - a dream come true for a student volcanologist. She wants to see all the cool sites - The City of Refuge, Hawaii Botanical Gardens - while her mother is more interested in the shops and tourist traps in Kailua-Kona and the Parker Ranch. Hopefully the young woman can find her refuge and feel the primordial forces of Pele beneath her feet without hurting her mothers' feelings.
The man, about my age, newly arrived with his young family, running up to us to get our attention after seeing us exchanging knowing banter with the perky activities director on our way back from sunset patrol; imploring us for some direction in planning his very first Hawaiian vacation.
They are literally running up to us seeking our wisdom. After all, we learned today that we're "founding members" here at the Kona Coast Resort.
It feels like it for this little evening stroll at least.
Wednesday, April 02, 2003 - 5:26 PM
We left early yesterday for the one spot we will never miss while visiting the Big Island, Pu'uhonua o Honaunau. For us Haoles, let's just call it the City of Refuge. For centuries this area was considered sacred ground, and still is by native Hawaiians interested in preserving their culture and heritage.
For those not familiar with the City of Refuge, I offer this short little narrative to help illustrate what this place meant to the original inhabitants:
A Shadow in the Path of a King
At once he realized what he had done, as did the approaching royal entourage. He was a sincere, honest, hard working man, a Kahuna, skilled at canoe building, and he fully understood the consequences of his transgression. He had committed a Kapu. In the slanting late afternoon sun, absorbed in his work on a new royal canoe, the young man had inadvertently allowed his shadow to cross the path of the approaching king - Taboo; A law not to be broken upon pain of death. Only one course of action remained open to him if his life was to be spared. He must leave right now, this moment, run for his life in hopes of reaching Pu'uhonua o Honaunau - the Place of Refuge. If he was able to make it within the walls of Pu'uhonua o Honaunau, he would be granted asylum in the temple by the priests there, and, in one or two day's time, allowed to leave and resume his normal life. If he was caught by the Kings guards before making refuge behind the walls, he would be summarily and immediately killed... The race for his life was on as he dropped his tools and ran..."
This place of earthly forgiveness, where the priests paid homage to the Gods, and where the bones and spirits of the Great Chiefs lived, remains to this day a place of refuge; even to the sunburned Haole visitor. It settles in your bones as the breeze plays through the coconut trees. The tension subsides, replaced by the wondrous realization that you are part of a magnificent creation
God smiles here in this gentle cove.
And it is our good fortune to have the opportunity this day to observe an Awa ceremony, a tradition that dates back the first Hawaiians as they landed on the Big Island from Polynesia.
The ritual of a full blown Anglican Church ceremony may seem to bear no relation to this primitive Hawaiian ritual, but it is there nonetheless.
The bells ring, the conch sounds.
The priests process in their feather cloaks, the clergy in their fine cloth robes.
The passing of the cup, awa or wine.
The unburdening of the soul, the confession of sin.
The homily from the priest, the sermon from the preacher.
There are obvious differences as well, but the similarities suggest the common yearning of all mankind to find purpose, meaning, and solace in something greater than himself; The act of faith as the way to salvation.
Another similarity of the Anglican service that I participate in at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco (even though only as a "heathen sound engineer") and the Awa service is the presence of tourists.
I try to be a respectful tourist, quietly looking on as the Awa ceremony progresses, enjoying the solemn air of the mildly windswept tropical morning
I have noticed the resurgence of interest in the heritage of the native Hawaiian in my years of coming here. The curious tourist is accommodated yet still held at a slightly disdainful distance. We are tolerated.
An innocent but ignorant question regarding Hawaiian culture before the service begins elicits an initial response of "That's just Haole thinking..." followed by a slight backpedal and explanation.
Thus is the awakening of the ancient civilization, by both natives and visitors, that was so speedily and almost completely wiped out by the arrival of Captain Cook and all who followed.
The best a Haole like me can do is show respect and interest, try not to ask too many dumb questions, and spend as much money (on the right things - NOT the hummer tour!) as I can.
But enough of all that, the breeze blows gently through the coconut palms, reflecting in the rippled surface of the fish ponds, and it is best now to let go of my hard-fought prejudices and preconceptions and just let the spirit of this place invade my soul.
April 4, 2003 - 4:20 PM
a typical, time-tested visit to the Hawaii Botanical Garden. Very much
the type of visit we enjoyed yesterday. Worth every penny of the fifteen
bucks if you ask me; pure oxygen sells for a lot more than that on the
streets of New York City or LA.
April 5, 2003 - 4:30ish PM
it is the lazy part of the late afternoon. But it did not come without
some effort. Shortly after nine this morning we took off to explore
the trail leading south down the rocky lava coast from the City of Refuge.
We have always enjoyed the picnic area there and would venture down
the coast a bit, finding a little bit of lonesome beach or just jumping
from crag to crag along the black lava coast. This time our goal was
to hike the trail heading down the shoreline from the picnic area.
April 7, 2003 - 4:31 PM
Of course, many poolside bars require your beverage be in a plastic cup - so if you insist on ordering a martini under these conditions, you get what you deserve.
But still, why does ordering a Martini in the tropics produce such bewilderment and disdain?
"Sheeze dude, you're on vacation!"
"Yes I am, my good man, and I'd love a Martini - do you by chance have Tanquary gin on hand?" This inquiry generally followed by a long pause and a blank stare.
As if being on vacation requires consuming some sweet, syrupy, colorful concoction served on ice with speared fruit and a useless little paper umbrella sticking out the top - I'm on vacation, I haven't lost my mind.
But alas, if the bartender has even heard of vermouth, let alone have it in stock, they don't know how to use it.
We are talking about a mist of vermouth; atoms co-mingling with the gin, ever so lightly. Instead we get measurable quantities splashing through and cutting the gin into some bittersweet creation only vaguely resembling a Martini.
It makes one want to give up and order a nice, dry Chardonnay instead...
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