Instead of sending postcards, I thought it would be more fun to write a blog about my visit to Hawaii. It’s almost over now but my experience of Big Island (Hawaii Island) is wonderful. The people here are really friendly, the Island is one of huge contrasts, fabulous beaches, volcanic wildernesses, lush tropical rainforests and waterfalls. This place has it all.
We stayed mostly on the largest island in the chain – Hawaii Island or Big Island as it’s known (for obvious reasons). This is where Mauna Kea, the mountain with the world’s largest astronomical observatory perched on the top, is located. In Winter Mauna Kea is covered in snow for three months of the year. In Summer it is often enveloped by cloud. It is said to be the tallest mountain in the world (measuring it from the sea bed) – 32,000′. This too is a summit you don’t mess with. We were advised to stop at the Visitor Centre at 10,000′ to acclimatise to the thinner atmosphere. When we went, I certainly felt a bit breathless and dizzy to begin with. They recommend you wait at least half an hour before proceeding on upwards. We heard all sorts of horror stories about the dirt track that leads up to the summit that can only be done in a genuine 4WD car. After hearing about the number of cars that had gone off the edge, I changed my mind about going up to the top!
Then there is Kilauea Volcano situated in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. An extraordinary place, much of it is barren; a wilderness of solidified lava floes, while other parts have lush green vegetation with some very rare plants – wild orchids abound. The caldera of Kilauea is steaming, an active volcano which has regularly spewed fiery fountains and rivers of molten lava. There are warnings everywhere not to breathe in the fumes of sulphur dioxide.
The rainforests are gorgeous – rich with the sound of zebra doves and numerous other bird and animal life. Our visit to Akaka Falls didn’t disappoint – a short walk through the rainforest led to one of the tallest waterfalls in the world – 440′ – past bamboo, plumeria, bird of paradise flowers and red ginger.
We also visited some historic sights on the Island. The Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historic Park is a place where defeated warriors and violators of the kapu system could go voluntarily to escape punishment. A kind of Hawaii sanctuary.
A very poignant place to visit is Kealakekua Bay which is most easily reached by boat. This is where the British explorer Captain James Cook was murdered by Hawaiians in 1779. It seems it was all rather a huge misunderstanding but very sad nevertheless. The area where a large white monument to Captain Cook has been erected is British soil. What was left of his body was buried at sea not far from the bay.
Of course we did normal touristy things like spending time at the beach and watching some amazing surfers perform somersaults among the huge waves. And we couldn’t possibly go to Hawaii without going to a luau where we were given welcome leis, several cocktails and a show of Polynesian dancing that seemed to please my husband – although some of the male dancers were none too shabby.
On our last day we flew to Oahu, a short flight from Big Island. Now due to the Government shutdown, we’d heard that all National Parks, including Pearl Harbor Arizona Memorial were closed. When we got there, buses took us to USS Missouri in ‘Battleship Row’ where all the warships were destroyed in the attack on Pearl Harbor that brought America into WWII. Although the Arizona memorial wasn’t open, we did go on board the Missouri where the Japanese surrender was signed.
I found the whole experience of visiting Pearl Harbor very emotional, particularly thanks to our guide, Linda, a navy wife who painted such a vivid picture of the Japanese attack that it became very real and human. We visited the airbase there too and it really doesn’t seem to have changed much in 60 years – but perhaps that is deliberate.
Oahu is very much more commercialised than Hawaii – big island and felt familiar, like many towns in the United States. Big Island was a really exotic island, full of unfamiliar flora and fauna and some very friendly and welcoming people. A great experience. Mahalo Hawaii.