‘Big’ is a relative term. For confirmation of that you need only ask a new bride on her wedding night.
Now, back to my summer vacation. Sorry, but you might have to endure a couple of episodes of this. But, I promise I won’t invite you over for a beer and then haul out the slides.
Anyway, this past Friday we returned from two weeks on the ‘Big Island’ of Hawaii. It is the island that is actually known as ‘Hawaii’. For the enlightenment of those who have never been down that way where the palm trees sway, the island that contains Honolulu and Waikiki and all the clichéd images of the Hawaiian Islands, is Oahu. That’s the place first-timers go to, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Waikiki is fun, but it’s not really Hawaii any more than Hollywood is California, or Vegas Nevada.
The Big Island is big (relatively). It’s only about the size of Delaware, but it is twice as large as all the other Hawaiian islands combined. Driving around it you cover about 300 miles on not the absolutely best highways in the world. But, you’re in the middle of the Pacific Ocean so you shouldn’t be too demanding.
And I must say, even though I often wax boringly about my love of the US’s 50th state, I don’t ‘do’ Hawaii in the conventional way. That’s because there is so much more to the place than mai-tais on the lanai and obnoxious Speedo-clad and paunchy sweaty German tourists. Anyway, since Don Ho passed on a lot of the charm has been lost.
When I say I do not do Hawaii in the conventional touristy way, I’m not suggesting I’m better than those that do, it’s just that so many of the elements of tourism don’t appeal to me. I regard myself more as a ‘traveler’ than a tourist, and there’s a big difference. I want the ‘feel’ of the genuine place. In that we succeeded to a degree. More about that in a later blog.
In consequence, I have never gone to a luau. What could be appealing about a bunch of strangers sitting around stuffing their already fat guts with pork and poi (yuck) and drinking themselves silly? While they’re in agony the next morning, I’m off to the beach. I’ve never gone to the Polynesian Cultural Centre on Oahu with its heavily Mormon view of things that should be left in the hands of Hawaiians themselves. It’s ‘their’ culture, for Christ’s sake. And I’ve never seen a hula in Hawaii because the true hula was defiled and cleaned up by the missionaries. On Rarotonga they do the real thing. It’s dirty, but great fun.
When I’m there I try to follow the motto: Live pono!, which roughly translates to ‘go with the flow and live a good life.’ I like it.
So, this time around we went to that aforementioned Big Island. I had not been there since the late 1980s and the place had changed quite a bit. The old waterfront in Kailua-Kona was largely unchained, but what has grown up beyond the original village of my recall is a great mass of mauka growth. Everything on the Big Island is going up the hills towards the Maunas (Kea and Loa) or Hulali. So, now there’s Costco and Wal-Mart and all the other trappings of so-called civilization. But, such things are part of us, and I must admit, with no shame, we went to Costco to buy some cheap stuff in a relatively expensive place.
In subsequent postings I’ll bore you a bit more about our trip, but I cannot leave without mentioning the turtles. The Big Island abounds with lovely sea turtles. Charming creatures (hard to believe they’re reptilian) that get right in there with the swimmers, showing no fear whatsoever. It’s almost like they know that to molest one of them is virtually a capital offence in Hawaii, so don’t even dream of it, haole assholes. Only Hawaiians can touch them and we watched one of whom delicately cleaned the algae off the back of turtle that had swum up beside him.
Such little episodes of life give a body hope in a fraught society. Kill one another if you must, but leave the turtles alone. They’ve been around about 100 times as long as wretched humanity has.