Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Days 5 and 6

Day five had us waking up in Kona, back on the Big Island, but on the other end. It was a wonderfully relaxing day. We took it easy. The kids had been really pushing to go to a beach, and Kona had one that was easy to get to. It was in the harbor.
This was the one port where we couldn't get right off the ship and be on land. We had to get on the boats. They really were impressive. they reminded me more of something you would see at Disneyland, only bigger and faster. Each holds over a hundred people in nice neat rows, so getting on land was much less of a headache than I had thought, even though they only used two that they kept going all day.

We went to the beach and Chris rented snorkel equipment and spent the majority of the day in a dead man's float (something that he hitherto had not really been able to master) looking at the fish below him. Maggie met various little girls her age and played while I just watched. At lunch, I walked down the street and and found this little Indonesian restaurant hidden in the corner of a shopping center with much more pronounced (and expensive) restaurants. I got a couple orders of satay and brought them back to the beach.

Later, we walked down the street that ran along the coast, past the hotels and saw the oldest Christian Church in Hawaii, which was quite pretty in a simple way. It reminded me of the Catholic mission churches in California, and like those churches, they still were an active congregation. We also walked by Lileokelani's palace, where she had been held captive until she abdicated the throne. It was not open that day, due to repairs.

I believe that it is also the one where there now is a "protest government" residing on the grounds, peacefully calling for a return of the monarchy and for Hawaiians to rule themselves. That rebellion in and of itself is an amazing thing. The group that is there is actually there with a permit. They keep applying to have it renewed, and as long as they are not actually causing problems, the government, which they don't recognize as having any authority (though they apply for permits) has no problem with renewing it and allowing them to continue. The group has no inclination toward violence and the government is laid back enough to recognize their right to protest, but to not see it as a threat to its existence. Though be warned. From what I am told (by my brother who lives on Oahu), there are places where it isn't necessarily safe to be alone and be white. There are groups that hold to the more traditional way of life and resent that their government and their country was taken from them and that they are a state to a country that they want no part in.

One of the interesting things about Hawaii that you don't find other places is that you can't own the coastline. The beach belongs to everyone. Even the hotels don't own the beach, so if they have a nice beach, you can go there, locals can go there (Ko Olina, where we stayed later, tries to limit that by only providing limited parking and turning people away at the gate when parking is full, but the locals know how to get around this. Even the all powerful Marriot resorts does not own the beach in Hawaii) Cousin Daryl told us this on our tour. He considers it his duty (as do many others) to remind hotels of this by walking through the hotel lobby with his friends and their surfboards if any new hotels have neglected to add an accessway to the beach. Often they say that the architecture doesn't allow for it. But having a plethora of locals going through your lobby all day every day usually means that they find a way to make an access within a week.

Day 6 found us on the island of Kauai, the greenest place I have ever seen. It is nicknamed the Garden Island. In fact, the peak of the Mount Waiʻaleʻale is the wettest place on earth, receiving over 460 inches of rain per year. Here, you can see the Captain Cook Pines (the straightest pines I have ever seen...the British planted them so that they could come to Hawaii and replace their masts) and the wild chickens all over the place by the side of the road. The Filipinos that settled there had kept chickens for food and cockfighting, but the hurricane that hit in 1992 destroyed many a chicken coop, and so now they roam wild. They are protected, to a certain extent. If you want one for food, that is okay, but you are not allowed to kill them just for sport. Most of Kauai's souvenirs involve chickens. This hurricane proved that Hawaii could be hit by them. It was believed there was some sort of weather protection before that.

My sister and my niece went kayaking. I had wanted to go until they came back coated with mosquito bites, and then I was glad that we had just taken the public bus around for a while to look around. Hawaii, being created as it was by volcanic activity and being so isolated,(and still being created by volcanic activity. They have a new island that is already named...though it won't surface for 100,000 years by estimate) was supposedly mosquito free until Captain Cook found the islands and left mosquito larvae in the water when they refilled their water casks in the streams. My sister and niece were in an area where the tropical forest was particularly dense, and so the mosquitoes were more prevalent, in Waimea Canyon.

Kauai's beaches are not as safe for swimming as the other islands. Chris pronounced right then that he would not want to live there because of that, though surfing is of course recognized. When King Kamehameha the Great united the islands under one kingdom, Kauai was the last to come under his control. Twice Kamehameha tried to send an armada, but weather and sickness intervened. The King of Kauai eventually handed Kauai over to him and became a vassal in order to preserve the peace.

The second day we left earlier than we normally do (before sunset) so that the ship could take us by the Na' Pali coastline, which was spectacular (and this was taken with my cell phone!). There were whales all around us, including babies. We saw the mist rise from their blowholes and saw a flash of a fluke or two, but no one breached. It seemed like it was just too relaxing a day for anything like that. We went up across it, turned around and saw it from the other side of the ship, and wokeup docked in Honolulu where we were encouraged to get off the ship quickly so they could prepare for the next round of tourists that afternoon.

I would heartily recommend seeing the islands by cruise if you have a chance. It had all the luxury of cruising, and there isn't really a much more convenient way to get to all the islands. By air and the new ferry are the only other ways. It was a nice pace, the food was good, and the rooms were comfortable. Our room attendant had a particular talent, too (I'm told that it was fairly unique...people were jealous). Every night when we came into our room, we were greated with a new "towel-gami" creature. Turtles, crabs, swans, komodo dragons etc. Here are a couple of pictures. (I saw a book at the library...I just think this is cool!)

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