WEDNESDAY JANUARY 10, 2001
I awoke very early but lay as quiet as I could to let Heidi sleep. Finally I just had to go to the bathroom. As I went out the door I saw the moon was setting in the morning sky so I grabbed my camera. Right behind the facility was a small yellow sign with the message: "Danger, earth cracks". Well, so what, I thought as I climbed the grassy embankment. Why then was I so surprised to find 10 – 20 foot wide cracks so deep into the earth that the bottom was hidden in darkness and the jumbled boulders that had fallen in the abyss. From the trampled weeds I knew I was not the first person to come back here. When I found a log fallen across the void I decided I would not be the last person to try to cross that. Instead I let it be the foreground for this fantastic photo in my head. I tried this and that composition until I saw the ridge across the plane receive its pink rim of morning light. As I clicked away the area under the moon became a mountain of hot pink. Fantastic! Gorgeous! Super! Hold still. Just one more shot.
(PS The photos were more than a bit of a disappointment. I am not the hotshot photographer I felt I was on the top of the world at the crack of dawn. That pun is as bad as the photos!)
As I entered the RV I smelled LP gas. Heidi was up and the water was heating. After breakfast we tried to see what was wrong with the awning. We hoped to be able to fix it in the daylight, but nothing we tried was what it needed. Finally we gave up and Heidi crawled up on the roof to retie both poles down more securely. With a bit of stowing away we were swinging out of the park and on to Hawai'i's Belt Road toward the south and on the road to Kona where this trip ends.
Even while whizzing by in our downward slope I was able to recognize the ohia lehau trees, a native of Hawai'i that greatly reminded me of what we called parasol trees or Chinese silk trees only these had bright red blossoms instead of pink. Looking closer I wondered if the acacia trees were in the same family – the poor cousins with their tiny yellow mimosa blossoms. Though further study may bring more information, I was not as thrilled with seeing these as the guidebook led me to believe.
We stopped in Pahala just as its commercial world was waking up. Heidi got her money from the ATM. As I watched her, wondering what I could do (I have never worked one of them), I saw a woman open the bank door so I popped in to get $150. The teller, surely Hawai'ian, had a small collection of origami made of one-dollar bills. I told her I could do one of a flower on a heart. She was so thrilled! I promised to send it to her so she gave me her business card; I was pleased to see was stamped with a picture of a lei and ukulele. We asked where the closest Laundromat was (because the guidebook did not list one here) and she was delighted to tell us there was one right behind the bank. We never would have found it on our own in this hidden place behind a burned-out gas station. Again I had had a small personal encounter that made me feel less a tourist.
We went to the post office to buy boxes and tape. When we had our "cheap", but very heavy, books boxed up to mail we were so glad we were not lugging them through the airports. Even mailing them at book rate, it cost us $15 dollars to mail $30.00 worth of books. I had talked Heidi into mailing the cheapest way and now she is waiting for books that could still linger on their sea cruise another month.
While we fed quarters to the dryers (only two out of four worked and they seemed to be only doing us a personal favor by grinding away) I ran around the run-down area photographing the lush plant-growth. A couple of tiny Japanese housewives told me the plant that I thought was "taro" was taro. I was so thrilled for the great shot of a blossom. Only later, deeper in my flower book did I find I had shot a relative of the taro, an elephant ear plant. So much for local wisdom. At least the morning glories were genuine but exotic they are not. Then I joined Heidi who was using her time to write postcards. By 10:00 we were out of there with our small piles of laundry smelling less of beach and more of tide. The campground was just down the road so we barely got our tires warmed before we stopped again.
When we pulled into place, the sight of all that black sand fringed with palm trees was so astounding that we jumped out of the car not taking purses or camera. When we realized that the small crowd down the beach was surrounding a huge, beached turtle, I came back for my hat, my stick and the camera. By the time I was done photographing one turtle another one was hauling itself out of the surf. More photos that I knew even as I took them would be out of focus due to my haste and glee.
We walked the length of the small bay, explored the far wild side where the bushes were full of local fishermen, checked out the idyllic lagoon behind the palms complete with two out-rigger canoes. With only the smallest stop for lunch I was eager to see more of the right side of the land and Heidi wanted to scout out her evening shot, so we took off together. Actually we found this area to be more interesting than the beach (even with turtles and bus loads of tourists).
the sleeping turtle
get back on the tourist bus
all the wonders
no one had time to see
Here the lava was riddled with tide pools, strange algae (turtle food they said) and little sandy beaches only two persons wide. Finding one tiny hidden beach with a reef of jumbled rocks slowing up the crashing surf, I just went in with my clothes on. Heidi sat on a rock with her back to me trying to pretend she did not know me or have any idea a human was out in the water. Finally she came by to say she was going back to the RV for a nap so she'd have enough energy for her evening shot. I just could not leave such a marvelous dream. I probably stayed too long as my shoulders are lava hot tonight.
In an effort to dry off and up a bit (these all white shorts and tank top became transparent in the water) before appearing in the public of the campground I walked up the hill to a small chapel overlooking the sea. There I found I had left my haiku paper and pen in my pants' pocket (soaked) but the pen still worked and the ink was disciplined enough to not spraddle over the wet paper.
sitting in the sea
black lava toes
my dusty feet
Finally I had the time to write down the haiku that had been reigning in my head all morning:
squatting on the beach
the tourist can only be
photographing a turtle
the turtle's lesson
This chapel was a memorial to Henry Opukahaia, born 1892 – died 1918. He was the Hawai'ian who went to the states begging for someone to bring the message of Christianity to the islands. He was so convinced that the old ideas of human sacrifice, this bloodthirsty pagan religion was wrong for his people that he truly begged the missionaries to come to his land. Interestingly enough, he died before the first missionaries arrived! Still, the Congregational churches did, come together enough to erect this cement and lava stone memorial chapel where his home once stood. Built on the edge of the lava cliff, the chapel is surrounded on three sides by a cemetery where only death is permanent and even that precept is occasionally broken.
pink tasseled grasses grow
above the loved ones
I sat in the shade of the chapel. One side was a lava wall opened only in the shape of a crude cross. The wind side was made of louvered glass and the other two sides were native Hawai'ian – sea, sun and wind. Even with soaking wet clothes, being in the shade I was not cool. My clothes stuck to me as if I had sweated them to me.
above the black sand beaches
a few flies
everyone in the cemetery
and their flies
I found these lava cemeteries to be so unusual I know I 'wasted' film but I felt that each grave was an important one. I was touched to see one, only a square pile of lava rocks, was decorated for Christmas with wreaths of holly and plastic pine. Several stones had lei made of shells draped over them. One lei made me bend down to look more closely at the strange vegetation that had been used. It was strung with the green peanuts and chips of Styrofoam saved from shipping boxes.
weathering the sea
dancing on the tomb
a huge cockroach
I stared in utter fascination as I watched a huge cockroach run out from under one of the big, fancy cement tombs. As if paid to entertain me, this giant bug ran this way and that, threatened to jump off first one side and then the other. It would stop suddenly, wave its antenna as if they were graceful hula hands, lift off its front feet to spin around and whiz off in the opposite direction. A little grass skirt was all it needed to make the show perfect. I felt abandoned when it ran off its macabre stage without applause.
As I looked out over the sea from this height I actually felt I was 'missing' the sea, that I had gone too far away from it so I decided to go back down. On my way I noticed that clinker-like lava was iridescent so, after asking and saying my thanks, I put a couple pieces in my pocket. I sat out on a picnic bench, happy as a clam, with my feet touching surf spray yet also waiting for Heidi to wake up to join me. When she did arrive we started toward the beach without consulting or questioning our motives. I knew mine. At the edge of the beach we had visited a small souvenir stand that morning. There I had seen they were selling tiny bags of the green sand from the South Point (the southern most point in the USA). The guidebook had played down the beauty of this beach of olivine sand saying its sand was a dull khaki color, but this stuff in the bags was gorgeous. The guidebook and the rental agent had warned us about trying to drive over the very bad road (12 miles) to get there. I figured that buying this souvenir for $2.50 was cheaper than trying to go against all advice by going there myself. Also, I felt how rapidly the days were going and I knew time would not let me go there either. Heidi was mildly bored as she paid for my folly (she was the only one with dry money). Only when she saw another turtle lumbering up out of the water did we realize that the turtles we had seen in the morning were called green turtles. This one was a hawksbill (its snout is more beak-like) and it had a brighter yellow pattern on its back and skin. We sat down to watch it and this time, it was Heidi who grabbed for the camera so I let her do all the photographing. Evidently her secret shame of using a 35 mm has been successfully overcome.
Back in the RV Heidi made the calls to reserve a room for us Friday night at the King Kamehameha Hotel ($130.00) and for the taxi ride to the airport on Saturday morning ($17.00 plus tip). When I travel with Werner, I would have been the one to make those calls (several times to get it all arranged) and here I was letting Heidi take my place in life. It felt good and at the same time strange – as if I had outlived my usefulness.
Now it is nearly dark. Heidi and her camera are off waiting, I suspect for moonrise.
The hot water heater is running for the first time. When we discovered that the 'showers' as touted in the guidebook were only rinse showers on the beach (no soap to be used as it runs directly into the sea), our greasy hair made us decide to use some of our water and waste water storage for quick hot showers. Am thinking of saving my shower for morning so I can leave the gobs of grease I rubbed on my burnt-again shoulders to bubble and boil all night.
I was just observing some people who live on a lot adjacent to the beach. There is a three-sided shack with a canvas awning that rolls up and down as fourth wall under the tall palm trees. Earlier, I had seen hammocks in their 'yard' and now seeing the size of the 'dwelling' I suspect that they actually sleep out there. Someone just lit a Coleman lantern; I suspect they have no electricity. They do have a dog that keeps trying to bark, but each time a voice comes out of the dark yelling "shut up" and he does for a while. The guy is in his fifties, once white with long hair and a tired, defeated gait. I have found so many Caucasian men here who are old, little boys who have never had to grow up. For one reason or another, they have avoided adulthood. Therefore, they need for companions, the children of the islands, and if they have a girl with them, she is always much, much younger, usually fat and very childlike. But the largest number of them just hangs around the beaches as if they have reached the pinnacle of existence and have no other place to go. Yet their eyes have a blankness in them as if something is missing or they are missing and no one has informed them yet of the losses.
When I put up the drapes and let down the blinds I realized how much I needed a bath so I went to the camp facility for a thorough wash. On my way I could see a silhouette before the light of the sea of Heidi standing out on a point of lava with her camera pointed to the place where the moon still has not arrived. It was too dark to see if clouds or what obscured it. At sunset I could see a cloudbank gathering before the mountain, as it did the night we arrived. But then, there were no clouds out over the sea. According to our calculations it should be out there.
(Weeks later. Finally solved the mystery of the missing moon that night. There was an eclipse according to the papers. I do not know how complete it was over Hawai'i but at least it has its excuse.)
Next day -THURSDAY JANUARY 11.
Hawai'i with Heidi Copyright © Jane Reichhold 2001.