Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Mai ho`okaumaha

Why yes, I am still talking about Hawaii! I’m trying to wrap it up here, but I can’t pass up this opportunity to document our family vacation. This is my archive, I’m practically scrapbooking!

Did you miss part 1? Did you miss part 2?

This next bit was intended to be included in part 2 because that was the wet side part. Our trip was easily divided into three sections designated by the three hotels we had booked. However, we had a couple of unexpected turns during this trip, and New Year’s Day was one of them.

Unlike many of you, we were well rested and ready for action on the first day of 2010. It was volcano day! The morning was a little damp and we were headed back to higher elevation, which had been chilly during the previous day’s drive.
However, when the sun beckoned, I insisted that the top go down. (Note to self: you can’t put the top down unless you put the car in park. Also, a red light is not long enough, and if you put the car in drive while opening the top so that you can get out of the middle of the road, your family will scream at you that you are breaking everything. But don’t listen to them, just focus on the fact that you can’t see anything in the rearview mirror with the top half up like that, so be really super careful when you pull to the side of the road, remembering always that you declined that optional additional insurance from Alamo)

So, off we headed to Volcanoes National Park. We had been working to assuage the children’s expectation that we’d be tiptoeing among flowing streams of red hot lava. We’d read enough to know that although active, Kilauea wasn’t always spewing the hot stuff like you see in the movies. We started at the very cool visitor’s center and got the skinny on what to expect from the day. The biggest issue was air quality, they were reporting dangerously high levels of sulfur dioxide in the air, which immediately caused my husband to gag and hide his airway inside of his collar. Certain areas of the park, including the visitor’s center, were being monitored and intermittently closed. It’s that smell just after you light a match, and you can’t help but cough. It is strongly suggested that you drive around with the top down in your convertible. Hee hee.

We just cruised around, finding cool spots to examine the indescribably weird landscape.

It was all so very cool and different, we were having a good day. We had learned from the rangers that there was indeed a chance that we’d see lava flowing into the ocean if we were up for a nighttime hike. He showed us the place we could park and access the protected trail, it was about a mile to the lava viewing area and we’d need flashlights. Now this sounded pretty cool, and once again it was one of those “we may never pass this way again” opportunities. The access road was outside of the park at the end of a seaside highway. This highway was an area we had planned to visit on our way down the mountain anyway – Mary had bookmarked a page in the book and said we had to check it out.

So in the afternoon we meandered our way out of the park, came down the mountain, and found that wiggly little highway. The stop we were planning was Ahalanui Park, check out the page that Mary bookmarked here.

And here's the first of many photos that could never do it justice:

The book says: “This delightful gem is definitely worth stopping for. It’s a spring and ocean fed pool with a manmade wall and inlet separating it from the ocean… This pool is volcanically heated to a toasty 91-95 degrees…With palm trees all around and the sound of the surf over the seawall, you may have trouble hauling yourself out after you’ve experienced this genuine Pele bath.”

Um…. yeah. It was. The longer we soaked and floated and explored and enjoyed, the less appealing a mile long hike in the dark to see some hot rocks became. There was a moment in there when we all easily came together on this decision, and we were all so happy with our new plan to just stay. It was good stuff, it was the whole of the feeling we sought to regain in Hawaii, the reminder to enjoy the moment – this moment, and don’t sully it with regrets or rushing or what-ifs. We were very happy there.

Bill and I laughed and laughed at ourselves holding our tiny beers up out of the warm water, seemingly enjoying a perpetual toast to our great fortune.

When we finally did haul ourselves out of our Pele bath, it was nearing sunset and I thought we’d try another of those “might be a loop” roads that would probably eventually get us back to a highway or something, who cares? And there was another black sand beach mentioned in the book that I thought would offer a perfect chance to watch the sun set on this really good day.

The road was narrow and roller coaster-ish. And long. I couldn’t find that beach, and although I suspected that one of several areas where a bunch of cars were parked would have probably revealed beach access, I wasn’t sure and I didn’t want to get too lost. So we just continued down this road until it ended. Oh, the road is over now. Huh.

In retrospect, this would have been a great stop to plan – there’s a great story around Kalapana and the old black sand beach that were once overrun with lava and are now emerging as something new and quite amazing. A local woman mobilized the momentum to create a new coconut grove along the pebble lined trail from the highway to the beach. And because we hadn’t planned to stop here, everything was a surprise to us, which added to the magic of each moment. It was surreal – impossible to capture on my powershot but equally impossible to forget.

We had our sunset, and the magical day continued into night. We picked our way back along the path to where we had left the car, only then noticing the red twinkle lights surrounding a structure at the end of that so-called highway.

It was an oasis, it was venus rising from the ashes… it was a bar!
Bill went to get just one beer while I took the kids over to the adjacent café for ice cream. Then we joined him. And I ordered just one.
We stayed.
We hung out with the people who came and went, down from the village, in from the water, in and out. There was no ice, just a mini fridge full of beer, a few bottles of wine, and a gallon water jug in which Julie the bartender (from San Diego) mixed kava. “Kava is sedating and is primarily consumed to relax without disrupting mental clarity.” (wikipedia) Eventually, the kids went back to the café for dinner.
You might be wondering whether this was an appropriate mega-pit stop for our poor young children, but fear not.

She had a friend, and she found a puppy.

He was content to wander around and explore the area, and soon a bunch of young guys came down the street with crates on their shoulders. Crates full of pyrotechnics. And blowtorches. These were not the paltry noismakers we had seen in the streets on the nights leading up to or even including New Year’s Eve. These were the real deal. My boy was in heaven. When they really got going, the musicians (Oh yes, there was live music, one guy on guitar and a woman and man each with a fiddle, all three rocking the vocals) stopped playing and stepped out to watch.

We were all in heaven. My husband looked at me at one point and said: “this is like the best place I’ve ever been.”

When we arrived back at the hotel late that night, I checked my phone and facebook asked me: “what’s on your mind?” to which I responded:
“Today was in my top five.”


Me, You, or Ellie said...

Sigh. I was so eager to hear about that top-5 day, Jacquie. What a gem of a moment for all of you.

That place sounds so magical. We've come across places like that.. on St. John, in the Keys, in Baja... The combo of lights and music and weather and peeps and booze and that intoxicating sea air. You captured it perfectly.

Thanks for sharing it with the likes of us.


Me, You, or Ellie said...


E komo mai o Hawaii?
Hau’oli Makahiki Hou?
Mai ho`okaumaha?

I really need a lesson in Hawaiian (Ōlelo Hawaiʻi).


Me, You, or Ellie said...

My, how this day made up for New Year's Eve, huh?

Great story telling Jacquie!

And so great that you all just went with what felt right instead of attempting to check things off your list of to-must-sees.


Me, You, or Ellie said...

oops, that would be an unintentional mixing up of "to-dos" and "must-sees" (my how the word verification is getting to me!)


Mom C said...

What a great blog! What a great day! I love how it all turned out - you should be working for the Hawaii tourist board. love you mom

Sara said...

Ahhhh, what a great post. I LOVE the big island and your post was the perfect reminder of just why that is!

What a perfect vacation!

Anonymous said...

You can't imagine how sad I am that you had a little rain...what an amazing vacation! No wonder a lot of Americans never travel outside of the US -- there's a lifetime of things to see and do right in your own country!

Kathi D said...

Are you sure that bar was really there? Did you go back the next day to see if it was still there?

Rita said...

Your vacation looks like it was so much fun. Thanks for sharing it!

Anonymous said...

Mai ho'okaumaha means "don't worry", correct?