THURSDAY JANUARY 4, 2001
I awoke at 4:00 and soon discovered my night was over. When I peeked between the venetian blinds above my unfolded couch, I only saw some man, overweight, white and totally naked, returning from the restrooms thinking no one else was awake.
the night warmer
by a sunburn
Heidi was slightly snoring so I sat here, in shorts and tank top from last night, with only the sarong about my shoulders, and using my illuminated ballpoint pen, was able to catch up yesterday's happenings.
out of light
Now, at 6:00 o'clock, to the east, the sky has left the land to its own darkness. Here in the parking lot holding 2 RVs, a VWestfalen camper, and two vans, no one else seems awake under the orange juice colored security lights. I can only think of going swimming as soon as it is light. But only after eating!
The sun got up with Heidi. For breakfast she "cooked" because she owns the one pan we own – her titanium cook pot. The job consisted of heating water for tea. We learned quickly to use only the filtered water even for tea as the Kona water tastes terrible. With the tea she had a croissant and I had some unknown cereal. In my eagerness to find a granola with the least sugar in it, I bought something flaky – literally.
After breakfast was eaten, but not cleaned up, Heidi began to study brochures and guidebooks to determine the course of our actions. I knew what I wanted to do – go swimming! But it was still too early. No one else was on the beach. So I studied and sketched the (plumeria) flower while she tried to arrange a trip to the top of Mauna Loa to the star observatory. She found out that the adventure offered too much time for star -gazing and not enough time for her sunset photography.
Finally, disgusted that nothing was working, she suggested a walk on the beach. Now many other people were either walking around or actually swimming. We trotted off the short length of the strand enjoying the fresh smell (today – yesterday it smelled like an old toilet) of the beach. We stood knee-deep in the warm water trying to decide what to do. When our RV neighbor, with one with the noisy generator of last night, yelled to his wife from waist-deep water that he could see coral and many fish, it was too much for me. I went back to the RV, put on my swimsuit (geez, I do look terrible – still way too fat!) and got the snorkel gear. Now more people than ever were on the beach, and I was much too shy to expose myself in my bathing suit and trying to act as if I knew everything about snorkeling, so Heidi and I just stood, a little deeper now, in the water. All of a sudden Heidi saw a large fish swim just in front of her. She pointed and hollered but I was not quick enough to see it. Again and again she saw it, but each time I missed the show. She began to say it looked like a small shark. I was not even sure she was seeing a real fish, let alone a shark.
As we discussed my doubts, a wizened Japanese man, entering the water in snorkel gear, overheard us. She asked him if it could be a shark she was seeing. "Oh, yes!" he smiled graciously. Then he told us how in the very next bay the sharks had lived for many centuries. In earlier times, human sacrifice was made at the temple. (He pointed in the direction of our RV.) Afterwards the bodies were tossed into the sea where the sharks came to feast. Even though no human sacrifice had been made for two centuries the sharks still lived there. It was entirely possible that what Heidi had seen as a baby shark that had wandered out of his home bay. Suddenly I was not so interested in snorkeling here. I watched others leave on snorkeling expeditions, and others, now tired of swimming just left. We were all alone on the beach. Heidi continued to see fish swimming around between her legs that remained invisible to me. Finally, I put on the gear and finally found the coral and the colored fish (which without my glasses seemed more imagination than textbook reality).
If Heidi could see so many fish without a mask, what might she find with one? By now, her shorts and tank top were totally wet and had become her swimming suit. Within seconds she had figured out how to breath through the tube and was zigzagging among the lava rocks to the right of the beach. From her explanations of what she saw, I figured out what I had seen. A whole school of foot-long group-fish, and the striped zebra fish which seemed to be in several pairs. The old Japanese diver came back by us and showed us again what we were seeing and gave us the Hawai'ian names which flowed like water in one ear and out the other.
Even though it had been sunny and clear in the morning, the cumulus clouds over the sea had built themselves up into great shadow-giving entities. Still, I felt I had gotten enough sun on my bare shoulders. We showered and washed our hair. Heidi put on her red Hawai'ian shirt she had bought at a flea market when she was last in Honolulu. She looked so great in it. To dry our hair we decided to walk north to see the heiau (hay-ow) temple just behind our camper. It must have been an incredible undertaking. Rocks were stacked, without mortar in a platform the brochure said was 100 x 224 x 20 feet. King Kamehameha, the first person to bring all the islands under one rule, was told he would accomplish this if he built a new temple on Whale Hill, which he did. However, he was not the first one to do this. Out in the bay, at low tide yet in the 50s, it was possible for one could see the stone platform of a temple. Then someone else one had built on the side of the hill. This one was partly destroyed but the latest one, built in the end of the 1700s, was yet perfect.
And we learned the rest of the shark story. Here we could see the platform where the king had set to watch the sharks (his family's totem animal) devour the bodies of the sacrificial victims. Being the whole area was still considered sacred to the Hawai'ians, and their interest in the pretty palm-shaded white sand beach not being used as a haole (white person) swimming hole and sunning bench for strangers, the shark story was exaggerated (I thought) and the danger magnified enough to ban bathing or swimming or even wading! Still there was the sharky fish Heidi had seen.
Heidi wanted to hike to the top of the temple and to see it all, so I elected to hold down the shade under the one tree on the whole park area. She found the ranger and ranger station, the brochures with all the information while I listened to the sea talk to the rocky and smooth parts of the shore, tried to figure out what the small leaves on the tree wanted to say, and enjoyed the complete sentences of sunshine and the paragraphs of small breezes.
By now we were both starving so quickly filled up on cheese and salami on crackers, packed stuff away and headed the RV northward. We stopped in Kawaihae at a dive shop to see what a prescription mask would cost. The guy said he could have it ready in one hour but it would cost about $200. All I had to do was to call my optometrist to found out the requirements of my glasses. How thrilled I was when the man got out the local phone book for me to look up the number. He thought we were local! What an honor!
I really wanted to be able to see underwater as well as Heidi did, but the calls and the price was not worth this to me. As we walked back to the RV, parked in the more generous spaces of the harbor instead of the shopping center, I recognized that it was from this beach that I had been monitoring the sea on the web surf site . I recognized the lay of the land. If only I could see this well and understand so much underwater.
The landscape became hillier, and yet very Serengeti-like as we went northward.
the grasses backlit
We stopped at Lapakahi State Historical Park only because the sight of a thatched roof seen from the road caught our interest. The lone ranger on duty flagged us into parking marked "busses" and gave us a brochure before settling back into his sandwich. I was off clicking my camera in a dozen directions at once while Heidi took off for the long walk tour of the coast. I found so much interesting stuff here on the cliff; I had no intention of joining her on the hike. All alone I wandered among the reconstructed village, easily imagining it as it had been 600 years ago. As I stood photographing the weird roots of a lau hala (also called a screw pine or pandamus) tree, a strange nut-like thing fell at my feet. I know better than to take anything from a park, but this was a gift and surely given to me. I was so confident I did not even look around as I pocketed my treasure. Only later did I hear a camera clicking and saw a young man who was acting as if he had never seen me before. Hopefully, he hadn't!
Later, while resting and waiting on Heidi (I knew she would not stay down on the coast long because when we had loaded up with stuff from the RV I ended up carrying the water and now she had none), he and I sat on a bench and I found out he was German. So he was not a spy for the state park system! He was as thrilled as I was when we saw whales breaching right on the coast before us. We would not see spouts – just the huge coal-black bodies burrowing into the sky before falling back into the sea with a great splash. At first, I thought I was seeing a lava rock being splashed with a breaking wave. When I saw Heidi headed back up the cliff, I walked down to meet her with the water bottle already extended.
Now on the trail of finding Heidi's evening shot, we swung into Mahukona Harbor, but it was an abandoned sugar shipping port, full of cement and rusted rebar which did not look like our idea of Hawai'i at all so we quickly drove on to Kapa'au. Here the shoreline was a jumble of huge lava boulders with the sandy beach only about 6 feet long. A shelter house was at the top of the rise so there was a better view of the whales from here. Heidi talked to other tourists about the RV (suddenly it seemed more romantic and desirable as she could see the green in their eyes) while I sat under the oldest, most lazy tree than slouched between the boulders and the parking lot. Alone, and finally getting quiet inside, some haiku visited me.
cool in afternoon heat
or the neighbor's
Heidi found that the gravelly beach also held shells so she sat, like the little girl she once was, and gravely picked up every gift she could. I risked life and limb to clamber down to help her but it was too hot for me and my sunburn so I went back up to my shady picnic bench.
in the sea spray
the lava fume
(Am now in catch-up mode. It is the next day – 1.5.1. Heidi is off photographing flowers in the World (ha!) Botanical Gardens and I am 'resting' in the RV, recovering from having my hand torn by a vicious plant.)
The excitement of finding the beach at Kapa'au propelled Heidi to the next one and the next one and the final one. The road kept getting narrower and narrower and the RV seemed wider and wider. The closer we got to the end of the road, at Pololu Valley, the more nervous Heidi became. When we saw only Big Sur-like mountains before us and an outpost renting donkeys beside us, we felt we were fairly close to the end of the world. When we met a jeep coming toward us very slowly, Heidi rolled down the window and called to the man. "What is the road like up ahead? Can I turn around there?"
"I was just looking at your rig and wondering how you would ever get it turned around. The parking lot is full and very narrow. If I were you I would turn around here." Here, happened to be in a private driveway with barbed wire fencing strung every which way. So I got out of the cab to stand in the road to stop traffic while giving Heidi instructions on how close she was to the various strands of wire. With about four attempts, each one accompanied with the loud beeping so the whole hushed world noticed us, she got the RV turned around. At the top of the hill was a wide place in both ditches where other cars (surely smaller than ours) had turned around. We parked here and walked down to the place where people hiking down into the Pololu Valley parked their cars. I loved walking, as it felt more as if we were really in the place to smell the plants growing by the road. Even the donkey pasture smelled charmingly.
Just as we got to the end of the road, a small group was just coming back up from being down on the floor of the valley. One young woman threw herself on the hood of her car as if she could not take another step or even breathe. People converged on the new arrivals asking them what they saw. I sat on the wall and trained my zoom lens on the 3 –4 persons still visible walking on the coal black beach. Heidi took off as if she was going to trot down but soon came back saying the path was very steep and slippery with water. Farther around the Big Island one cannot go. The ravines are so steep, the lava so rough that this whole northeast end of the island remains a preserve open only to animal transport, including shank's horses. Somehow we knew our 10 days was too short for a visit to this paradise we could only view from overhead.
Back on the road, Heidi was intent on finding a bookstore she had passed over going the opposite way.
the town I am unable
pronounce its name
nor remember any
of my previous lives
True enough, there in Kapa'au was one. It turned out to be Hawai'i's biggest used bookstore and here we parted company. I headed for the poetry section and she got lost in the maze of aisles. When we emerged I had $136. worth of books and she had one. We put them all on my credit card and left instructions for the owner, Frank Morgan, to mail the box to me. When he saw my 'business card' and recognized why I had bought every haiku book in his establishment, he asked me about my choices – eclectic choices. He wondered if his prices had been too low on the haiku books. I worried him. But it was Heidi who was worried. The setting sun was slipping down the sky so quickly. The man told us a post office was just down the street so we took off by foot figuring it was faster to walk than to find a parking place for our monster. As one man was carrying in the outdoor items for his souvenir store I asked how far the post office was. It turned out to be much farther than either of us wanted to walk. As thanks for his advice, I stepped into his shop only to find they were closing. However, he and his wife were so persuasive that I bought 2 shell lei for $2.50 each. Still running, we jumped in the RV where Heidi told me she wanted to shoot sunset at Kapa'ua Beach. It was not far away and we were there and she was down to her chosen spot in plenty of time.
What there was not plenty of was time for her to get acquainted with her new 4 x 5 camera. From the parking lot I could see her hurrying to try this lens and that and I felt she was fighting a losing battle with the sunset. I got out my grandma camera, walked up the hill until I got the orange of the setting sun to flow into a couple of tide pools.
just at sunset
in the middle of a molten sea
a whale breaches
the lava looking rock
goes under with a tail
As the light left us, I watched her moving even faster between her tools hanging on her belt like a power-lineman and the backpack where everything else is. A man and three young women sat on the rocks to watch whales and sunset at once.
one old guy tells
a dirty joke
yet the photographer keeps
the shutter open
sky colors change
as they touch the film
When it got dark, they left while Heidi was still down on the beach bending over her camera. I worried about her trying to walk up over the jumble of black rocks, so I stood on the picnic table and tried to shine my flashlight on her path. I should have known she would be totally prepared. When she needed light, she simply fastened a headband with a light on her forehead and calmly walked up the unpath path.
the wave smashes
just like that
I've changed my mind
the whale leaps again
as dusk deepens
the oneness of the world
becomes more clear
By the time she unloaded all her equipment on the couch, it was totally dark. How good the security lights of the Samuel Spencer State Park looked to us. Tonight there was no question of where to park. Heidi headed directly for 'our' place. Before I got turned around twice Heidi had the pot of water on for pasta and dinner was on its way. As soon as our first hunger was satisfied the table was spread with her newfound shells and we were looking at these treasures through our half-closed and sleepy eyes.
One more trip to the bathroom in the dark woke us up with our last Hawai'ian experience of the day.
the campground toilet
2 ½ inches of cockroach
Next day - FRIDAY January 5.
Hawai'i with Heidi Copyright © Jane Reichhold 2001.
Photograph Copyright © Heidi Vetter 2001.