Kona, Island of Hawai’i (March 29, 2023)

Overnight we scooted around the north end of the island and docked on the west coast to see more of the Big Island. It just happens to be National Vietnam War Veterans Day, dedicated to heroes like Alan, Ronnie, Ricky, and my dad who served in theatre. Here’s to you and your fellow service men and women.

We had a fun, high energy guide, Chance, and a wonderful day. Hawai’i is the youngest of the islands with lots and lots of lava that has yet to breakdown enough to support agriculture or transition into forest. We drove past two kinds. One that is smooth and looks like shiny brownie batter and one that is very course, irregular, and rocky with countless loose, sharp stones and boulders. Most of the beaches are rocky, not sandy, for the same reason: not enough time has elapsed to create sand.

We stopped at Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park with its lava path leading to the water’s edge where we saw a traditional A-frame, palm-frown-roofed canoe shelter and a fish trap. In days gone by the locals stacked lava rocks 30 yards or so from shore in the shape of a large squares. They did this during low tide. When the traps were complete, fish would be forced to shore during high tide and get tossed into the traps. Fish too small to eat could escape through the cracks in the stone and the big ones would be there to retrieve at low tide. Clever. A large green turtle was in the crystal clear water just hanging out a couple yards from shore. Good news: management at the park has decided to remove all nonnative species of plant life, no small task. Huge stacks were bundled up and ready to be carried away by helicopter.

We had a quick tutorial about macadamia nuts, so closely associated with Hawaii. They are grown here but are originally from Australia. Those grown here have to harvested by hand because the root structure of the trees is so shallow, thanks to the relatively young lava soil. Shaking the tress, as it’s done in other countries, would result in uprooting the trees. We stopped briefly at a macadamia nut processing center and gift shop. We found it hard to resist the Spam-flavored nuts.

King Kamehameha, born and raised here, was the focus of most of the day. He died in a modest grass structure at the water’s edge right where we docked. We visited one of the four statues known to exist of him in the world. Just like the one in Hilo, he is shown wearing a gold cape, crown, and sash. We saw a short film explaining how, once the English arrived, it because apparent that the four separate kingdoms in these islands needed to band together and act as one kingdom under a single ruler. The issue was who the king should be. After much warfare, determination, and persuasion, Kamehameha became ruler of a united kingdom in 1810.

Probably the highlight of the day was our visit to Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historic site. It features a temple dedicated to the god of war that was built at the beginning of Kamehameha’s efforts to unite the four kingdoms. The huge, open-air structure was built in one year out of lava rock by forming a human chain nearly 25 miles long. Laborers handed the rocks from one person to another up and over Kohala Mountain to this site. Without the use of mortar, cement or other bonding materials, skilled laborers placed rocks in exact locations in order to meet specific building specifications.

Somewhere between macadamia nuts, statues, and temples we enjoyed an el fresco lunch at the water’s edge and a short film about the awful volcanic eruption in 1918.

We had a full day capped off by a four course meal with Sandy and Alan. We shared the details of our respective days and then headed to our rooms to prepare for tomorrow.

… Who Knew? …

The annual Ironman Triathlon starts in Kona.
Athletes swim 2.4 miles in the open ocean, ride bikes for 112 miles through lava fields, and then run 26.2 miles.

The aloha shirt with its colorful and exotic designs became fashionable in the 1980s.
Try as we may, Sandy and I have not been able to talk the guys into buying one.

The ukulele came to Hawaii in the 19th century…from Portugal. Who knew?

Hawaii is the fourth smallest state in the United States.

Kona Coffee is not a variety of coffee but a growing region on the slopes of two volcanoes near where we were today.


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