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

















Kohala coast















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Dr. Suess tree










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blessed canoe










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within the walls of Refuge






















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Kona sunset


























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looking back to the City of Refuge







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motlon lava












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A unique landscape





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shafts of light/setting sun

The Big Island Again


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...


8:45 PM

The Hummer Tour

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.


March 31, 2003 - 9:31 AM

Petroglyphs, The Paths of Kings, and Shooting the Back Nine

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.


8:32 PM

An Evening Stroll at the Kona Coast Resort

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

Going to Church at the City of Refuge

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


I supplement my "official" travelogue with this report from the field.

It is about 4:20 in the afternoon, the clouds started to settle in about 2:30, as is common. The overcast forms as moisture collects from the ocean and is pushed by the onshore breeze against the volcanic peaks that make up the Big Island.

There may be some rain later on, but I am predicting very light rain if at all. It is pleasant, not too humid, in the upper seventies or low eighties. A moderate breeze is just now swaying the large banyan tree in front of me. There is a steady cacophony of birdsong; trying to sit and isolate every call is a fun diversion on this lazy Hawaiian afternoon.

Hawaii does not have to be adventurous to be enjoyed.

Fiji was more adventurous; and Tobago certainly had its adventure with jungle walks, earthquakes, tropical storms, and things I have yet to write about.

Many come here only once; they live in Chicago or Tallahassee, or Paris, and they don't have plans to ever come back. Trying to fit the Big Island into one or two weeks can be a daunting task.

It's good just to relax. Sometimes just "being in Hawaii" is all you really need to have a great time.

To Watch the Banyan tree twist and dance in the wind as the great Trades chase across the central Pacific. The islands are but tiny dots clinging together on an enormous sea; an even tinier dot still, a guy sitting on one of those islands writing on his laptop describing his day thus far.

We did make it to Edward's for breakfast; the Kona Historical Society and a coffee plantation tour this afternoon. All very low key. It is nice to feel comfortable enough in a place to use the time to hang out - Relaxation and Recuperation, as they say.

Jayne is in special need of R&R, having been heroic in her efforts to excel in complying with exceptional demands. Just as soon as I become rich I shall take her away from all that - sorry Linc.

Yesterday was our biggest day so far with a trip to the windward Hilo side visiting the World Botanical Gardens (our first time), the Hawaii Botanical Gardens (a long time favorite), and Kalopa State Park (a new favorite).

We've taken to mocking those we see with rented convertibles - with the top and windows up and the air conditioning blazing. We drive smugly by and think of all the extra money that poor sap paid to have a convertible and then doesn't even use it. HA!

Yes, we find yet another thing, as any self-respecting San Franciscan would, to be a snob about. We're convertible snobs!

Alas, the tables were turned on us as we drove confidently into a rather large rainstorm. We braved it for a bit but realized that it was all really foolish to hold out any longer. We pulled over and put the top back up.

The downpour helped give the short rainforest walk at the World Botanical Gardens a very - well, rainy, feel. A bad joke poorly told... (That was a joke?)

Anyway, it was fun, and by the time we arrived at Hawaii Botanical Gardens the rain had stopped, while the air remained cool. Probably the most pleasant weather we've ever had there.

Of course, the Hawaii Botanical Gardens is magnificent. Even if you're a hardened city dweller, if you come here for no other reason, come for the oxygen. City dwellers, especially those from Los Angeles, have been known to get dizzy and faint after just a few minutes in the garden. After you recover from that you'll notice all these colorful, exotic plants everywhere that you've never seen before. You walk in stunned amazement eventually coming upon the shore, to stand in humbled silence as the full bounty of the fierce ocean crashes against the shore, your face occasionally misted by the relentless sea.

This is 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.

The Kalopa State Park was designated for lunch and a short hike. We arrived just as the rain started up again. The rain shelter picnic area was occupied by only two people, but we still felt uncomfortable intruding. Two teenagers apparently in love (they were Freedom Kissing as is now the patriotic way to refer to such activity) and lunch is a much better prospect not done in the presence of hormone enriched adolescence.

We took our lunch on the steps of one of the cabins that are available for rent in the park. After lunch the rain had stopped and the amorous children had mysteriously disappeared.

Then we were off for the one mile nature forest trail. This 114 acre park contains some of the last stands of native Hawaiian forest. Despite the manicured grounds and treeless upland areas we see today, Hawaii was once covered in dense forest from the mountains to the ocean. Well, I think we all know what happened next, and now all that is left is a little stand of isolated forest.

It is interesting to contemplate what it must have been like a thousand years ago, when the first Polynesians landed on the southern tip of the island; this idyllic place, like finding an untouched Garden of Eden, waiting for your arrival.

And then the chain saw kicks in from the ranch bordering the park and you stub your toe on a branch; and reality intrudes yet again.

But I wouldn't have it any other way, especially in the gray misting afternoon light, when the woods become my vision of the Enchanted Forest; Benevolent but still a little scary.

Last night I had my first meeting as a writer with Noelani Whittington, a PR rep for the Outrigger Hotel. She got me a press rate and some extra do-dads, and then met us for drinks at a hotel down the street from the Kona Coast Resort with a bar right on the waters edge. (Which has not been allowed in the building code for quite sometime - this is an older, but still nice, hotel.) It's hard for me to really know what I'm supposed to do at a meeting like this, but it all went fine. Jayne was invited as well and we three just had a nice conversation. We talked about business and what she could do to help me write about the islands, giving me some local connections. We were in complete agreement about the war, which I am not about to start preaching on right now.

In fact, I have a tree to watch, and sunset patrol starts shortly, so I shall bid you a most sincere Aloha.



April 5, 2003 - 4:30ish PM

A Top Five Hike

Once again 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.

The instant feedback from Jayne is that it is in the top 5 all time best hikes, so I think we did well. The trail leads inland a few hundred yards along a parched and rocky ledge, then up into denser woods and a spectacular walk along high lava cliffs, the surf pounding a few hundred feet below. At this dizzying height, the whole coastline back to the City of Refuge glows in the morning sun with the deep blue of the open ocean and the green and gold canopy of the coastline.

A perfect morning; sunny and hot enough to burn off some city fat, and once we get down the coast about a quarter of a mile, not a soul is seen, though the signs are there. A small sea-cave opening set deep in the thick lava is blocked with rusting iron bars, looking like some ominous, vaguely medieval vision of what could happen to those that don't follow the rules. I assume that it is to keep fools out, not in, but I don't stop to confirm this assumption.

All along the trail are bits and pieces of ancient Hawaii. It is clear that this section of coast was a major settlement for the first Hawaiians. We come at last upon a large lava stone wall enclosure, about four feet high at some points, the largest remnant of the ancient society that once thrived here. Just beyond the walled enclosure is a fence indicating the end of federal property. The trail continues on the other side of an easily eluded gate, but we decide not to follow, and make our way back. Just as we walk into the parking lot another couple heads down the trail - perfect timing.

Every picnic table in the area is occupied, which is fine; most tables filled with families and large gatherings. Let the Hawaiians have some of their better spots on occasion without being overrun with tourists... I'm "down with that", as the kids say. We take our lunch home and eat it out on the lanai, watching the afternoon clouds roll up the mountainside.

I am still getting news, from the New York Times Internet addition, but I refuse to believe any of it is true; from my vantage point, the world is a paradise; can't we all just get along?

Tomorrow it's on to Volcanoes, home, for me, of at least one or two of the top 5 all-time hikes.


Monday April 7, 2003 - 1:10 PM

The Fire of Pele Burning Beneath my Feet

This is not some conceptual use of the language - fire and molten rock are but inches away.

All around the ground hisses as the cool, misty rain hits the hot ground; waves of heat shimmer off the glassy black rock. It is hot, kiln-hot, the kind of hot from which landscapes are forged. Thick seams of steaming black lava move down the mountainside, like a river in slow motion, propelled by the orange fire just beneath the cooler top surface.

The heat from the ground beneath my feet penetrates my boots and tinges my feet. The air is thick with the escaping air of the inner earth, smelling of sulfur and acid, combining with the intense heat, making it hard to breathe. I dare to step in just a little closer as I train my camera on the orange and black river of rock working it's way inexorably toward the sea. It feels as if the heat could melt my camera lens if I dallied here for too long. This isn't a real possibility because I quickly snap a picture and retreat a few feet to relative coolness. I collect my thoughts and look at my feet to insure my shoes aren't on fire and go in for another shot.

Pele has been very active here lately, and this morning we ventured out, under the watchful eye of the US Park service lest anyone should worry, to witness this most fearsome, fundamental, and beautiful force of nature.

Truly, beneath our feet a fire rages, burning its way up from the core of the earth, and consuming all in its path, to finally cool and leave in its wake a new land.

To get this close to Pele is to learn to respect and admire her.

April 7, 2003 - 4:31 PM

Fire and Rain

There is nothing like getting a good soak while walking through a rainforest.

I am just a little cavalier regarding the rain as I set out with Jayne on the Halema'uma'u trail leading from Volcano house down to the flat rock floor of the caldera. The trail leads through thick fern forest, cutting through the occasional house sized boulder strewn up the mountainside from some ancient eruption. There is one clearing just off the trail about halfway down. The thick padding of brown leaves soften every step, and the angular canopy of the trees silhouetted against the gray afternoon light bring to mind legends of a misty spirit-forest heard in a fairy tale long ago.

The elevation change from Volcano House to the caldera floor is 750 to 1000 feet. About 100 feet above the caldera floor the fern forest abruptly ends, the green and lush woods turning into brown and gold scrub forest for the last dramatic descent onto a silent and unmoving sea of cooled lava; towering above on all sides is the forested ridge, alive with the sound of chattering birds.

From here we cut off from the Halema'uma'u trail and pick up the Byron Ledge trail, leading for about a quarter mile along the northeastern edge of the caldera. Piles of carefully stacked black rocks serve as beacons marking the trail. We soon head back up into the green canopy of trees and ferns in a heart pumping ascent. Within a few short minutes, the caldera floor is far below.

Up until midway in the ascent to pick up the Kilauea Iki trail, the rain is just a fine mist; cool on my face and not really getting anything too wet, my hair in a state of perpetual damp. I occasionally stow my camera in the bag when the mist is heaviest, but for the most part an occasional swipe with some lens cloth keeps the camera dry. I love this climate and this weather.

It all changes suddenly when the fine mist turns into droplets, then large drops, coming down like good old fashioned rain. Quickly stowing my camera, I realize the consequences of my cavalier decision to leave the windbreaker back at Volcano House. I am getting wet.

By the time we are back up on the ridge, walking down the old crater rim road that is now closed to cars, I am soaked to the bone. Jayne picks off a little green worm from my back, the small fauna apparently mistaking me for some sort of hairy-topped tree in which to hide from the rain. I stop occasionally to wring out my shirt and begin to worry about my camera as the camera bag begins to get soaked.

By this time, I am "in the zone", as the jocks like to say; the breeze at my back and the rain in my face, I walk down the trail toward Volcano House with mindful determination. Thoughts of the sea enter my mind. Tales of Captain Cook exploring the South Seas; the line from the Gordon Lightfoot song about the Edmund Fitzgerald; "Superior, it's said, never gives up her dead when the gales of November come early"...

None of this has anything to do with my current situation - except the part about moving through water.

Despite the discomfort of being completely and uttering drenched, it is a good hike of about three miles. Through fern forest, scrub brush, caldera floor, back up into the singing green forest and clouds of rain, we arrive back to the Volcano House in time for a quick shower - a little ironic, but still nice - and afternoon refreshments in the lounge, watching the fog swirl and envelope the caldera below.

Another song enters my head as I sit and ponder the events of the day; "I've seen fire and I've seen rain..."


Supplemental -

Getting a Good Martini in a Tropical Climate

Fat Chance.

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...

But that's another story.


The Traveler, a.k.a.Tom Schueneman,lives in San Francisco and works as a sound engineer, freelance writer, website developer, and ezine publisher. He enjoys traveling, nature, reading, photography, and music.


To enjoy more stories from his travels, as well as those from his network of travel writers, subscribe to his monthly ezine, The Traveler. You'll also get travel ideas, resources, and bargains. For a free subscription, simply send a blank email to


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