Life on Earth is an exercise in impermanence and constant change. Although we spend most of our time here trying to attain certainty, the only thing we can be sure of is that all things must pass. It’s not surprising then that what cracks our ostensibly unbreakable shell of security is Mother Earth herself. Floods, droughts, earthquakes, hurricanes, shifting continents, ice ages and ultimately earth’s undeniable status as a piece of cosmic debris fading into an ever expanding universe, occasionally remind us to cherish what we’ve got rather than chase what we want.
The Island of Hawaii is one of the few places in the Western world where human beings have not yet managed—and don’t care—to hide from the creative and destructive powers of nature. Also known as the Big Island, this 800,000-year-young and 4,038-square-miles-large island (93 miles long and 76 miles wide) is one of the last actively forming land masses in the world, and its 120,000 inhabitants are reminded daily of its growing pains and joys. In the shadows of Mt. Kilauea—the most active volcano in the world—life adapts to a constant lava flow that changes land patterns from one day to the next, converts shorelines into clouds of steam, and sends a thick cover of “vog” (volcanic fog) into the skies above.
The Big Island is a climatic, biologic and geologic smorgasbord. With desert to semi-arid to temperate to tropical zones, you could be caught in monsoon-like downpours while your neighbor is taking a swim on a sunny beach five miles down the road. You could be watching sea turtles swim at the foot of Mauna Kea (Snow Mountain) while people are skiing at the top (13,796 ft). You could walk on white sand beaches on the West side (Kona) and the same day climb on lava tubes on the East side (Hilo). There are plants, birds and insects that are found nowhere else in the world, although over 300 of them (and counting) find themselves on the endangered species list.
Yes, like so many other indigenous places around the world, modern civilization has taken its heavy toll on Hawaii. Ever since Captain Cook set foot on the islands in 1778, the native life, based on respect for the sea, the heavens and the earth has little by little been replaced by annexation treaties and high-rise hotels. Yet somehow the spirit of hospitality and love of the land has been handed down to the island’s current residents, both native and non-native. This legacy was made clear to me during a week in the remote community of Pahoa in the South East of The Big Island, where I got to hang out with its spirited and musical residents.
Iopa K. Maunakea is a big man with a big heart and an even bigger smile. The ukulele strapped around his neck seems to have found a permanent home in the warming cradle of chest and hands. On my first night in Pahoa I saw him play with his band Bruddah Kuz at Punatix Bar, but I knew I had discovered the source of his musical inspiration when I bumped into him and his songs at the Sunday farmer’s market on Old Pahoa Road, surrounded by orchids, pineapples and a motley crowd of earthy, happy looking people:
“I’d like to thank you all for being there for me
And you keep coming back, and you’ll know just what I mean
I know that this is the pla
| Travel notes|
HOW TO GET THERE:
Fly any major airline to Honolulu. From Honolulu there are several daily flights to Hilo on Hawaiian Airlines.
Fly Delta or Hawaiian Air directly to Kona from San Francisco or
Los Angeles, rent a car and drive across the Big Island.
Hawaiian Airlines: 800-367-5320
Delta Airlines: 800-221-1212
WHERE TO STAY:
In and around Pahoa:
Pahoa Inn is the only hotel in town, and it looks like it would be an experience!!
Sheer Joy: lovely home 5 minutes from Kehena Beach.
Tel: Sheri Joy, 808-965-1401
Kapoho Tropical Vacation Rentals: 6 different homes in Kapoho area with geothermally heated ponds for swimming.
Tel: Pat and Faye, managers, 800-680-6108, 808-965-8508
For a South Kona experience in Captain Cook:
Manago Hotel: simple, clean, friendly, cheap
Vacation rental in Captain Cook: Rooms for rent on coffee farm overlooking ocean. Old Hawaii style.
Tel: Yvonne Jayne, owner, 808-328-8733
WHERE TO EAT IN PAHOA:
Luquin’s Mexican restaurant: fun, down home, inexpensive grinds. Breakfast, lunch, dinner 7 days
Paolo’s Bistro: Fine dining at moderate cost, Tuscany region Italian delicacies, dinner only Tues-Sun
Pahoa Natural Groceries: