First off, go Ravens! To a battle of brothers Superbowl we go! Especially exciting because my AB, whose visit I will continue to enlighten shortly, is from Massachusetts and we had a little wager over the game.
Anyway, this week in Hawai’i for me. Monday morning, AB and I left the refuge to begin our explorations of the other parts of the island, starting by heading north around the Hamakua coast from Hilo. Before we left, we swung by Cafe 100, a popular spot in downtown Hilo that serves the least expensive Loco Mocos (rice, meat, fried egg, gravy, if I haven’t described it before) anywhere. They are also delicious. This was my second trip along the coast, but the landscape still impresses me, mostly by how much it is not what most people expects from Hawai’i, at least part of the way. The first several miles of the drive are fairly tropical jungle-esque, lots of vividly green trees, colorful flowers, and a general sense of dampness around you. However, around Honoka’a one gets into farm and pastureland. Huge expanses of grass, well “huge” as one can get on an island, on rolling hills, interspersed with some trees (native and mostly not), fence lines, and houses.
At Waiamea, we turned farther north to drive through the Kohala Mountains, a part of the island I had not been to yet. Kohala is another very neat part of the Big Island. Largely more farm and pasture land, containing the birth place of Kamehameha I (the King who united the Hawaiian islands) and a couple towns up near the tip, one of which is local oriented and the other which is tourist oriented. We didn’t stop in either of them, but it was really interesting to see the difference between the towns, the businesses and buildings in them.
Next, we drove south, out of Kohala, down to the Kona-side of the Big Island. Very tourist oriented, if you weren’t aware. This side of the island should definitely be what one expects to see in Hawai’i, a volcanic island. It is just large expanses of lava with oases (oasises?) located wherever people with a lot of money want to make one. Our first stop was Haupuna Beach, a very popular spot for boogie and body-boarding. It was a gorgeously hot day, so we soaked up some rays, went swimming, “shreaded some gnar” (as the kids like to say, maybe?), walked around, and people watched. Most amusing was the man of middle eastern (?) descent with a lovely mustache and pants/shorts/capris (not really sure how to classify) that went from the top of his stomach/bottom of his breast to below his knees. They had vertical stripes in a variety of pastels. Fabulous.
After a couple hours at the beach, we continued our drive to Kona and checked in at our Hotel in Kailua-Kona. This part of the island is another landscape, you might say, with far more concrete and large buildings than any other part. Lots of “Haoles” (like ourselves) and lots of chain food places and shops, as well as more local options that have been heavily “Americanized”. While Hawai’i is technically part of the USA, there are many aspects to it which make it feel like a separate entity, something which is, and should stay, as different as other countries and continents. Oh well. For dinner we went to Bongo Ben’s, a variety style restaurant (my AB wanted a burger) which happened to have live music that night – two guys with guitars performing a variety of Hawaiian and rock pieces, obviously with the speakers set too loud. Still, the food was delicious and it was amply entertaining. My AB insisted on paying, which was a little weird for me, largely because of the social expectations instilled in us about men providing for their significant others. While I thoroughly enjoy having people buy me food, it is surprisingly frustrating to have the waitress expect me to pay and then see me not pay. It makes me assume they assume I can’t pay, which makes me sad. Its probably not true, but hey, that’s society – makes you crazy with its expectations.
On Tuesday, I really wanted to go snorkeling at the Captain Cook Monument. However, I had not realized that the only way to get there was to pay to be a part of one of the boat tours. Oops. There are no roads that run down there. There is a road that runs to the other side of the bay where the monument resides, but even there, there is no nice entry to the water. However, on the way down that road, there is a farmer’s cooperative for coffee, mac nuts, and fruits which produces a large variety of baked goods, chocolates, and roasts. And gives out free samples to visitors. Win. After being stuffed by the cashier with several varieties of chocolate covered mac nuts and peaberries, local fruits, and baked goods with fruits and mac nuts, and sometimes chocolate, we took a walk around the grounds to see the fruit trees that provide the fruits. It was pretty awesome. Back up on the highway, we had planned to go to a Living History Coffee Mill, but decided to try something different based on our previous activity. Instead, we found the coolest playground EVER over looking the Pacific Ocean. It has large wooden castle, another jungle gym, swings, the sliding handle thing, the strangest piece of exercise equipment I have ever seen, and a whale. Plus, there are tennis and basketball courts. Its amazing. Even better, it was a school day, so it wasn’t awkward for two twenty-somethings to be walking around (read: playing on) a playground without their own kids.
Tuesday night, I had a real treat in store for my AB, a “real” Hawaiian luau (“real” being provided by a hotel, but whatever, it was still awesome). We got to see a fire-lighting ceremony, the pig brought out of the Imu (hot cooking pit), hula, Tahitian, Samoan, and other Pacific Island dances, including the Fire-Knife dance, and eat all kinds of food, traditional and not. there was salad (lettuce, salmon lomi lomi, potato-mac, and bean), fruit, poi, jell0, Okinawa sweet potato (purple), bbq chicken and beef, fried fish, Imu pork, and this amazing creamed spinach with chicken chunks that I need to find a way to replicate. Oh, and of course white rice. Stuffed, contented, and tired, we took the walk back to our hotel and lay on our backs to keep pressure off of our stomachs. Mmm. Also found Donkey Balls along the street.
The next morning, we left to return to Hilo by driving around the south end of Hawai’i, much farther than our trip around the north shore. We stopped at the South Point to visit the southern most point in the United States, continental and not, and to check out a secluded-ish green sand beach. It was a 45 minute walk from the parking lot in the hot sun, so an excellent chance for more tanning, along the lava made coast. The beach is the jewel at the top of the amazing crown that is a small cove. The sand is more a gold than green to me, but it sparkles in the sun either way. The sides of the cove are high and gracefully carved with erosion. There were a few other groups there, but the distance from the road (30 minute drive plus 45 minute hike) keeps the crowds to a minimum. After that, we drove a little farther to the southernmost restaurant in the USA, Hana Hou, which serves great food and amazing desserts. Definitely check it out if you get the chance. Really, the desserts are spectacular – Mac nut cheesecake with Lilikoi sauce, for instance. Once again, stuffed and bloated, we checked out a very amusing thrift store and then returned, through the rain, to Hilo where I very sadly had to let my AB go again. Thankfully, she is only a month away this time!
The rest of the week was normal work – traps, holly removal, and nene resighting, plus working with a Volunteer group from Kohala, Even better, it was a Boy Scout troop! (Side note, I was a Boy Scout. Also, very against BSA’s anti-gay stance, if you were wondering.) We put up FPDs, planted personal plants, and went on an awesome bird hike where I got some great looks at Elepaio and Omaho. Then watched the Ravens win the AFC Championship.