Monday, June 17, 2013


The annual family vacation to some far off destination for an adventure.  The wife's knees were not up for any strenuous hiking so we decided to take it easy and go to the big island of Hawaii.  To soften the expense of this travel adventure, we camped out most of the two weeks we were there, making our own breakfast and lunch, going out only for dinner, with the exception of a few days when our location made it difficult.

First up was a trip to the Volcano National Park to see the Kilauea Caldera and other nearby sights.  That windy and wet evening the family dropped me off at a trail head, 10 miles from which the active vent of Pu'u O'o continuously erupted a steady stream of lave to the sea via an underground system of tubes.  During the following two days and nights I was on my own doing things the park service may not necessarily approve.  On the first night I woke to note that the clouds had lifted, allowing me to spot two orange points of light on the summit of the volcano, miles away.  Camping amidst a forest of lava cast tree stumps.  Visiting a fissure system that burst into life two years ago, sending fountains of lava into the sky, the eruption long over, leaving behind a cracked, steaming landscape.  Hiking up Pu'u O'o while hiding from helicopters ferrying tourists who paid $400 for the benefit of a half hour trip across the hostile landscape.  Standing on the rim of the lava filled crater, now crusted over, the toxic, bluish clouds of sulfur dioxide blowing in the wind only a few hundred feet away.  Scarring my legs with deep gouges cut by the brittle hardened lava that broke under my weight, sending me falling multiple times.  Celebrating the ascent in style: a little tequila, a cigar and two tins of flavored sardines for dinner.  A real break from my regular meals of nothing more than granola nut bars.  The keyword was travel light, the bulk of what I carried being water in this barren landscape.  A geologists paradise!  I was exhausted after traveling the 20 miles in two days. When the family picked me up two days later, a small 2.5 magnitude earthquake rumbled through the area, the parking lot visibly rippling for two seconds.

While I spent my two days feasting on nut bars and the young volcanic landscape, the family stayed in Hilo and explored nearby sights: the botanical gardens, waterfalls, parks and downtown Hilo.  Once they picked me up the real trip began, taking our rental car and slowly making our way counter clockwise around the island during the next ten days.  Those days were spent like this: wake up and eat, go to the beach, snorkel, head to our next campsite late in the afternoon, set up camp, go to dinner, then come back and enjoy the evening watching the sunset, hanging out, playing cards.   After dark I would find a secluded location downwind of camp for a cigar, a little tequila and music.  Some highlights include:

The music listened to in these beautiful locations along the coast included the following excellent recordings, some of which I've listened to, some brand new to me:
The Jezbels - Live At The Wireless, Tumby Bay, April 2, 2011
Coldplay - Landgraaf, Netherlands - Pinkpop festival June 11, 2011
Van Halen - Tokyo February 1, 1989 Got The Miracle Fingers
Echo and the Bunnymen - London Shepherds Bush Me I'm All Smiles
Van Halen - Nashville TN April 27, 2012
Nirvana - Paramount Theatre, Seattle October 31, 1991 (JWB REMASTER)
PIL - San Diego, House of Blues October 29, 2012
Broncho - Glasslands August 8, 2012
Sex Pistols - Live In Winterland 1978
Echo and the Bunnymen - West Hollywood CA 12-6-05
Gene Loves Jezabel - Accept No Substitutes - Greatest Hits (Live)
Van Halen - USA 1992
The Jezabels - Live At The Hordern Pavilion, Sydney AU June 9, 2012
The Doors - Live In New York Disc 4 (January 18, 1970, Show 3)
Gene Loves Jezebel - Live at Nottingham 2002

The first view of Hawaii from the airplane was of the summit of Mauna Kea silhouetted against a deepening orange sky.  The volcanoes send out their greetings.

The native Hawaiians would set up multi family camps on the shore, erecting large tarp covered steel frame structures, tables, chairs, cooking equipment, food and music, spending the entire weekend in the one location.  It must be a Polynesian thing carried down through the centuries.  Fisherman would be casting lines into the sea all day and night long.  While I was listening to music near a light beacon on a rocky point well after midnight, a group of young fisherman walked buy on the way back to camp hauling a small bag of fish.  One guy was barefoot, walking over the sharp lava rock, only complaining about the thorns he occasionally stepped on.

The sunsets for the most part were glorious.  One night when the sun sank through a clear sky into the sea we got to see the green flash.  At least the kids now believe me that it is not just a figment of my imagination.  The departure of the sun only began the light show on the clouds above, the yellows, shades of orange, red and pink.

The snorkeling only got better as the trip went on, beginning with murky water and limited sea life on the first day, ending with an abundance of mature coral of various colors and variety above which schools of fish swarmed, all in crystal clear water.  The sea turtles slowly paddling towards the rocky intertidal zone where they preferred to feed on the algae that grew on the rocks.  Schools of fish swirling around or riding the current near the reef breakwater, riding the fast current out and then back again.  Intertidal pools occupied by unique assemblages of coral and fish, crawling over a shallow ledge that dropped one into another adjoining pool that was different.  Swimming into the center of a bay to wait for the spinner dolphins, who announced their arrival by jumping out of the water and doing flips.  The school would eventually swim underneath us and then pop straight up for air, all the while we checked each other out. 

The camp grounds on the south side of the island were largely vacant, we being the only campers seen when we set up.  Spooky places at night that felt as though someone else was there watching.  I had to remind myself that there were no ghosts.

A trip 12 miles off the highway to South Point, the southernmost point in the United Stated, where a Ukrainian guy jumped off the 30 foot cliffs into the dark blue sea below.  Sorry to say I did not join him for the plunge.  Another amazing sunset in this windswept grassy landscape.

A fabulous dinner at the Plantation Grill in Kawaihae, where our waiter was a the descendant of the Parker family who owned and operated what was once the largest ranch in the US on the northern end of the island, as approved by the Hawaiian king at the time.  The food was superb, with fruity flavor accents that reminded us that it was only possible here in Hawaii.

And so much more.  Another two weeks could be spent on the island and we could see and do new and different things.

Disappointment at having to board the flight back home and leave it all behind.

There before their eyes
Alarm bells should be ringing
Silence in their heads

Cliff top ocean perch
Seems to go on forever
Ends on foreign shores

They take no notice
Of the rain that pelts the sea
Life beneath the waves

Wet gray clouds above
Featureless gray sea below
No line between them

Short moment in time
To experience pleasure
Before it is gone

All those yesterdays
Wake up one day to become
A part of the past

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