Thursday, June 19, 2008
Hawaii, Day 2
After cruising all night (and my one brush with seasickness, but I didn't lose anything) we woke up and had breakfast. The main buffet style restaurant also had kid-sized tables and a low buffet table for them as well. We could see out the big window as we docked in Hilo (Hilo and the nene goose were web-acquired).
Hilo is probably my favorite, mostly because it was the least touristy. Every town seemed to know the cruise ship itinerary by heart, and this was even when we were away from the shore area. But Hilo seemed
the most real and the least upscale (though far from inexpensive).
In the picture of Hilo, you can see Mauna Kea rising in the background. It is actually the world's tallest mountain from base to summit...but several thousand feet of it are under the water. There is almost always snow on the top.
Hilo is where we took the one tour that we went on. We went to Rainbow Falls, Volcanoes National Park, Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Factory, and an orchid nursery. We were picked up by "Cousin Daryl." (all the tour guides tell you to call them cousin.) Daryl was truly interesting. As we drove through Hilo, he pointed out where the Coca Cola factory used to be before the big tsunami in the 1970's. Hilo lost a lot of jobs after the tsunami, and Daryl indicated that the economy never really recovered after that. His own parents left he and his brother to live with his grandparents on their farm because they could only get jobs on Oahu, so they commuted weekly. He also pointed out the structure of the houses that were on Hilo. They all had corrugated tin roofing and were about three feet off the ground to protect from the termites that could chew through concrete. Strangely enough, I found them really charming.
Our first stop was Rainbow Falls, which was pretty enough, but very touristy. It had safety rails all around the canyon, scenic points, and a gift shop. We stayed there a little less than a half hour.
Then it was off to Volcanoes National Park where we saw Mt. Kilauea and hiked through a volcano flume that the volcano was no longer using. It was huge though, 15 feet high in some places. We went to a couple of the craters, including this one, which I believe is the one that has been erupting now for the last few months. When we were there, it was just issuing steam, and reeking of sulfur. It was also the volcano where Queen In April Kaʻahumanu, wife of Kamehameha The Great, and Queen Regent, challenged the goddess Pele to show her power, and when nothing happened, she converted to Christianity.
Not much grows around the volcanoes because of the sulfur, except for small berries, and they are the primary food of the Nene Goose. The Nene is Hawaii's state bird, and is a flightless goose. It is said that when Captain Cook came, there were at least 25,000 of them, but with the introduction of predators such as the mongoose, the population has dwindled significantly. It is an endangered species.
When we were done looking at the volcanoes, we talked with Daryl. Daryl told us about how he grew up on his grandparents' farm and how he would go to tribal gatherings and such with them. His grandparents' farm had been destroyed when the lava floes changed their path, and the insurance had an interesting trick. Basically, if the lava actually destroyed the propane tanks or the house, then they would pay. But if they actually caught on fire before the lava actually reached it, which is what usually happened due to the intense temperatures, they would claim it was fire and not lava, and refuse to pay. This in some ways was to protect themselves, because some people were known to be somewhat outside of the path and would ignite their own propane tanks. The government was giving land to those who had to be relocated, but it was not equal value, so his family chose to keep the farm, and now since the floe has changed, they have returned.
Since we asked, Daryl also commented about the tension between modern "white" culture and native culture. He didn't seem to sit in judgement on either, because he had lived both, but he did say "a lot of people want to hate the whites and want to cling to their roots, but they still want their condos and their Hondas. They can't have it both ways." Daryl almost got defensive when he said "I've been off the rock. I've gone away to school, and I've even traveled the world because I was an engineer with a big oil company, but my mom asked me to come back so the family could stay close, and how could I refuse her that." He really was a fascinating guy.
After Volcanoes N.P., we went to Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut farm. There were some grown there, but the majority were not grown there anymore. Guava is becoming more popular, however, it is risky. If they get an infestation of Happy Face Spiders, the trees cannot be harvested until they have been clear for two years. Mauna Loa was geared for tourists, and they had a sandwich shop and a factory store. We got the most amazing chocolate clusters which were "factory seconds" They were not perfect enough to put into packages and send to stores, but they were more than delicious enough for us. In fact, they were better than anything we have ever tasted that had endured shipping. I give a thumbs up to the Wasabi Macadamias as well.
I'm not a big orchid fan, though some of them were amazing, so it was worth seeing, but I was ready to get back to the ship.