Thursday, March 6, 1997
Some of my experiences on Oahu:
(1) Last night, I walked along the Ala Wai canal (in central Honolulu), with the lit high-rises reminding me of the Charles River (in Boston) at night, appreciating the splendor of the high-rise city at night, its lights reflecting off the water as joggers ran past.
(2) Last night also, I stopped on the beach at the Royal Hawaiian, looking out over the surf at the faint vestiges of sunset, at the lights of passenger ships, at the dark & starry skies with fast moving low clouds, feeling the strong breeze, recalling similar times in San Juan (Puerto Rico).
(3) I headed east on Pali Highway (Route 61) from the Honolulu metro area, stopping at the Nuuanu Pali Lookout. The winds off the sea to the south were so strong, as funneled by the gap in the mountains, that I sometimes had to lean into the wind to keep my balance. I walked a distance down Old Carriage Trail (a cut in the side of the mountainous hillside) before returning to the lookout.
(4) A little further up the Highway, I stopped to walk the Maunawili Demonstration Trail "highland tropical forest" up the hillside. I saw no one else during my (1 to 2 hour) hike, which suited me fine, but could never manage to get completely out of earshot of traffic on the highway below.
(5) Coming off Pali Highway to the east coast of Oahu, I took Route 83 north along the coast between the sea to the east and the mist-shrouded, steep, lush green hills to the west. I was awed by almost other-worldly beauty along that stretch of road that day. I wish I could have preserved that beauty on film, but I took no pictures, knowing my camera could not hope to do the misty ambience justice.
(6) Further north, Route 83 runs along the northern coast of Oahu. In season, this the land of big surf at places such as Waimea Bay, Sunset Beach and Banzai Pipeline. Things were calm when I drove through--no one was surfing. This area was not as verdant as it was further south along the east coast but was still quite green. Along this stretch, the climate was quite variable, micro-climates varying between dry and moist.
(7) Another day, I took Route 72 along the southeastern coast of Oahu (just east from Honolulu), between mountains (dryer here than further north along Route 83) and the sea. At points the road was cut into steep, undeveloped hillside, providing excellent views up and down the coast. Being as it was dry and sunny along this stretch, I was able to get some good pictures of the coast, including Hanauma Bay and the Blow Hole.
(8) On my last day, I drove up Tantalus drive, high above the city of Honolulu. On its lower reaches, the houses are excellently landscaped, with rock, windblown trees and other vegetation, and afford fine views of the city below. On its upper reaches, the road becomes almost uninhabited and secluded in atmosphere, and is densely vegetated, with the tallest trees I've seen anywhere on the island, trees more like the trees I'm used to seeing in eastern U.S. forests, perhaps taller & with trunks of lesser thickness, with thicker undergrowth. Up here too, is a state park which seemed mostly unutilized, offering some opportunity for contemplation alone.
Hawaii (the Big Island)
Sunday, March 9, 1997; 5am
Now I'm beginning the part of my vacation where I can take the time to contemplate in seclusion. I'm now in Hilo at the Uncle Billy's Hilo Bay Hotel, having arrived from Honolulu at Kona yesterday. I'm quite pleased with this room--it's spacious, it has cross ventilation and a view off a balcony of the central landscaped pond (with it koi (sp?)(like big goldfish)) and the lush surrounding vegetation. It seems to be very damp out there, as I've heard water dripping ever since I've been here; this does not bother me, in fact I may like it; I can hear the occasional splash of (what I presume) is a jumping koi below. In the early evening, birds in the courtyard foliage set up a considerable racket. My room has a kitchen, TV, a couch, a table for eating, louvered windows, which I leave open, and curtains to draw across the unit wide balcony window. I may stay here my entire visit to the big island. The atmosphere is conducive to contemplation and concentration in reading and writing. I especially like being able to concentrate, to be in touch with a deeper, feeling level, the intuitive, the soul.
I see now that I've found a place that's about as close to my definition of Paradise as I could hope for. The hotel has access to Hilo Bay, just beyond the courtyard. At the far end of the courtyard, is the pool, with varied seating, including two tables with sun umbrellas. Beyond that are the black lava spits and outcroppings, naturally formed. I walked out on them, reconnoitering, and found one can get quite a bit of seclusion out there--were one to buy a lounge chair at Walmart's and set it up out there facing the hotel, one would be rather well defended against any surprise human intrusion, with most of the bay at one's back. Yet one would see and hear the wavelets lap and flow against, over, and around that variegated bit of shoreline. Rather improbably, there are some small pines and some palms to provide a bit of shade out there.
It's now sunny bright with a few puffy clouds and light breezes, perhaps 78 degrees, the sky deep blue. I sit on my balcony, overlooking the courtyard, able to see a bit of Hilo Bay in the distance. The setting is quiet (albeit, very occasionally, there is a jet plane taking off from the airport). Every so often someone will stroll through the courtyard, seldom even realizing I'm above, as I'm pretty well obscured by the substantial wooden balcony fencing. Besides, who'd want to look at me when there are the fish to see?
The pond below seems to be a well-balanced and rich (with nutrients) little ecosystem (at least I imagine it so). It has scores of large fish, more than a foot in length, and myriads of smaller ones, guppy-sized, more or less, and some of intermediate size. At points one can see in the rays of the sun that make it though the foliage, the water teeming and roiling with what appears to be small, barely visible plant life. [Later, though, I was to learn that the staff feeds the fish--i.e., the system is not self-sustaining, which, I suppose is not all that surprising, given the extremely high density of fish.]
I think I'll recount, briefly, what I've done since arriving on Hawaii (the Big Island) yesterday: The airport at Kona is small, and mostly open. I got my Neon and headed north on Route 19 along the coast. For miles there were black fields of black lava and of what looked like broken soil in big chunks. Then, up in front of me, miles in the distance, was a rising yellow-green, sunlit uplifting of land that, at first, reminded me of my first sight of the "painted desert" in Arizona. Most remarkable was the way it met the sky's clouds, such that, try to focus as I would, I just could not tell where land ended and sky began. The distances were large, reminding me of "Big Sky" country, although I could not see the road all the way to the horizon.
About 50 miles up the coast, Route 70 turns east, away from the coast, climbing the uplift. The road winds through grass and other low vegetation. The Wiamea area (10 or 15 miles inland) is said to be dominated by the huge Parker Ranch but I can't say as I saw much in the way of cattle.
Twenty to twenty-five miles further, and Id made it back to the coast, but now I was on the windward coast, lush and green. I stopped at Honokaa Club Hotel in Honokaa for lunch and looked at the rooms. People there were friendly--the woman who showed me the rooms, my waitress, and the proprietress, who talked with some of us in the dining room while we had our meals. She (the owners) was a good promoter for the town and the hotel and the area, informative and not hesitant to express her views. She was the one who told me about Laupahoehoe Beach Park, which was another 20 or so miles down the road.
The park was an idyllic setting, down on a point of land where crashing waves meet a black lava rocky shore. The park is at the end of the lush Laupahoehoe Gulch, which rises to the west. The coast cliffs & breaking waves would make a good morning photograph. In the park, there are a few picnic tables, some sheltered from rain, in the park, perhaps a good place for contemplation and writing.
Tuesday, March 11, 1997, 3pm
Yesterday was quite a good one for me, as I took the full day at the Hawaii Volcanos National Park. The Kiluwea caldera, including its smaller interior crater, were not very impressive. Not much was happening in those circular badlands--the volcano currently is relatively quiescent, not active flows.
I drove the summit loop road, stopping at every promising overlook. The most interesting proved to be the museum at the observatory and the rifts beginning the southwest rift zone. The latter reminded me a little of the Little Colorado River Gorge in Arizona. The volcanic grounds were something really neat to see and walk upon. It's pretty amazing the varied forms the hardened lava can take. Pahoehoe and A'a formed at the same time and with the same chemical composition appear much different. I especially liked the jagged A'a. It was of quite low density, often loose, always relatively brittle, and it made such a nice crunching sound to walk on it (a bit like the crunch/squeak of very dry snow but deeper throated and much grittier). My hiking books really earned their keep yesterday! Too, Pahoehoe could take some amazing forms. It often flowed in a ropy way, which, with weathering, could leave a pattern of semi-concentric grooves that hardly seemed the product of natural process--some were a bit like large fingerprints in stone. In a few places the flow down a steeper incline was tubular and intertwined, like twisted, intertwined tree roots reaching downward. I can't imagine how such were formed.
By far the best part of the day was my drive along the Chain of Craters Road later in the day. It was here that I saw most of my lava flows and got a real sense of how different flows had come down the mountainside. Halfway down the road, the ocean became visible, far below in the hazy distance, with a "coastal plain" between it the steeper part of the hill (mountain) side. The coastal plain was sort of a yellowish-green and the sea a faded blue, as seen with and through the late afternoon's misty cloudy haziness shroud.
Here's the very best part: On the coastal plain, close to the sea, the road ran through the lava flow field. The sea was crashing against the lava cliffs, with immoderate fury, sometimes throwing spray and spume higher than the cliff top itself. I picked my way across the lava field to the cliff's edge, approaching it cautiously, for the drop was shear, the ocean close at hand, and I wanted not to be knocked off balance lest some especially big wave throw its spume skyward just as ventured to look down over the edge. So it was that I put one foot on the edge, tensed to push back if need be, with the other well back from the edge and well-weighted, and looked over and down. Yes! The power of the sea in these crashing waves was awesome. The cliffs stretched for several miles in either direction with waves crashing all along their length. I was alone.
I pulled out my camera and took one picture, the diffuse and hazy conditions not warranting more (besides, one will be enough to remind me, and I did not want to long expose my camera lens to the salty sea mists). Thrilling, I went along the edge, daring to peer over and down from a number of vantage points. I exercised caution not to peer from the edge points where the footing was loose or to venture upon fissured edges (where the edge was separated from the rest of the lava flow by a fissure within a few feet of the edge). At one point, though, I (imagined?) I could feel the ground vibrate beneath me with the force of a large wave crashing below. I didn't stay at that point for very long--no sense taking unnecessary chances!
After the interlude at the sea's edge, I continued the few miles further down the road to the point where it ended, covered with the 1995 lava flow. It was rather surprising that the flow of Pahoehoe lava (which, compared to A'a is the more viscous type, I think) was as thick as it was, covering the road to a depth of any number of feet and tapering off rather abruptly at the flow's edge.