Wednesday, January 20, 2010

"Holiday In Hawaii 2009 (And A Little 2010) - Part B"

Hawaii wears its natural beauty like a shrug.

“You mean every place isn’t like this?”

“Why do you think North Dakota’s in therapy?”

The Big Island of Hawaii, large enough geographically to contain all the other Hawaiian islands within its borders, seems to me – and I’m no expert – to be the Hawaiiest island of them all.

I once mentioned that, wherever I’ve traveled, no matter how beautiful the place appeared to me, I’d invariably run into an older traveler who’d opine, “It’s not like it was.” To my eye, excepting the scattered tourist-serving amenities, the Big Island of Hawaii remains very much “like it was.”

You walk five minutes from our hotel, and the area is totally uninhabited, the terrain blanketed by acres of lava. It’s amazing. Not the hot, orange, flowy stuff, but the cooled, coal-like residue you can walk on and touch, without needing to be rushed to the nearest Burn Unit.

You drive for miles, and it’s all lava, all the time. I don’t know what’s lava’s like when it stops being life-threatening, but what you see there now, it’s like some Hawaiian chain gang had been trucked out, issued pick axes, and ordered to reduce the hardened lava into manageable piles of rubble.

Nowadays, people come bringing white coral, assembling the fragments into printed messages, which stand out prominently over the crumbled black background. I would tell you what the messages said, but we were driving too fast for me to read them. I’d like to thing they were nice ones. And not “MAUI SUCKS!”

There were a few exceptions keeping the island from being entirely “Lavaland.” We noticed some green patches on our lengthy drives to restaurants – big island, bigger distances between places – grassy hillocks the volcanoes seemed to have liked, and instructed, “No lava there.” Either that, or the hillocks paid them off.

The golf courses you know are man-made. You can imagine the lava beds under the lush fairways crying, “Lemme out!” Who can blame them? One day, they’re baking lazily in the tropical sunshine. Next day, they’re suffocating under endless rolls of imported sod.

What are you going to do? You can’t play golf in lava. The scores would be astronomical.

The eyes see lava. And the ears hear birds. In the most exotic assortment of chirps and hues. Not to be outdone, the ocean and nearby lagoons offer a colorful array of amazing fish. The palm trees, their coconuts clustered near to top, seem like they naturally belong. Their ribbed trunks look like elephant’s legs. But more trim. Like the legs of elephants that work out.

As for weather – don’t read this, Canada – every day, eighty-three and sunny. It was automatic. Hawaiian weathermen would have no problem going in on Sunday and pre-taping their reports for the entire week. They would only have to change their brightly colored Hawaiian shirts.

Since the island was too big to explore – especially if you’re reluctant to get out of your beach chair – I settled for exploring the grounds of our hotel. And I didn’t even cover that. Part of this failure might well be a matter of age. On my earlier visit to that hotel, I easily walked to the nearby snorkeling beach. This time, it seemed, at least, to take considerably longer getting there. It appears that I’ve started to regress. Like a little child, I’ve begun taking smaller steps.

I did, however, make it to the pool. (On this trip, I left the ocean swimming to others. After my surgery, I was concerned that the salt water would be unfriendly to certain areas of my body. Though, having not actually put that theory to the test, this could be an excuse. Closer to the truth might be that ocean temperatures, even in Hawaii, do not reach the warmness levels I require for entering water.)

The pool temperature was just right. It was there I ran into a ten year-old girl, who was about to jump in, close to where I happened to be standing. My introductory words to her were:

“You’re not going to splash me, are you? Because if you do, I’m going to get out of the pool, jump in and splash you.”

The girl – her name was Allie – took my playful – though it could easily be interpreted as creepy – warning in stride. Allie came from Montgomery, Alabama, apparently the home of charming and self-possessed Southern females, as demonstrated by a remark, which she candidly introduced by saying,

“Here’s something you’ll find interesting about me.”

Allie then proceeded to tell me something that was truly interesting. When she was nine, her family moved to Malawi, on some kind of mission, and Allie returns there every summer for vacations. She even taught me a Malawian word: “Me-como.” I believe it means “Thank you”, though I’d check before trying it on some Malawian acquaintance.

There’s too much for one post, so I’ll tell you more tomorrow. I’ll just mention one final pleasure. The fan in our hotel room bathroom made the tail of the toilet paper roll flutter around like a kite.

There’s entertainment wherever you look on the Big Island of Hawaii.

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