For my last morning I had fresh cold papaya and a last cup of coffee from the farm, got a lau lau plate (pork in taro leaves and the eternal macaroni salad) to take to the terminal, and made it on fumes to the Tesoro north of town to fill up before returning the rental car. I admit strongly considering not going home after they wouldn’t let my tropical smoothie through the agriculture screening. Furthermore, I found unexpectedly widespread support for my idea in the gate agents, most of whom had also just happened not to leave one time and are still living in paradise. I will for months be comparing everything to Hawaii, which will annoy everyone else but will be gift enough for myself. I ran out of book on the flight home and had to make a list of all the things I am disappointed not to have done this time, so I can have a to-do list for when I come back: (1) Surf. (2) See turtles. (3) Get bitten by a centipede. (4) Swim in the champagne pond / freshwater queens bath. (5) Stay forever.
The long tails of disaster harshed my chill as soon as I got back to work, but by that time I had conditioned my hair (oh, Deity, finally. The salt!) and had along afternoon with Sean
buying books doing nothing in downtown Berkeley so I will try not to be too hysterical about it…ha, ha! What I mean is, I will try and be calm and reasonable starting presently, because I haven’t been as of yet. Relatedly, my dad points out that he was seventeen before he realized that “bloodygermans” was two words. Right? Right.
Today was long, wet, and glorious. I was at the shore bright and early to rent a solo kayak and paddle across Kealakekua Bay to the Captain Cook monument for when he was flayed by the natives after one of his guys stole a canoe. The monument is both British soil and DLNR land; my impression is that DLNR is the Hawaiian equivalent of like BIA or rez cops, because it happened later that a nice agent in a Tshirt was at the put-in haranguing some local for renting kayaks illegally, and they’re also the ones who control permitting for the beaches and stuff. Anyway because I am amazing (or just bloody-minded) I fit a teriyaki chicken plate lunch in my drybag and then spent the day on and off the boat, snorkeling with an ankle tug and then boarding again for another nap and a snack and an attempt at a less piecemeal tan. I always need to re-learn that the eternal clicking on a reef really is just the fish munching on the coral, but I never forget my policy of only swimming when I can see the bottom. This is because of monsters and don’t think you have any room to persuade me otherwise. I sang myself home across the bay and can easily imagine going totally mad on a long ocean voyage.
In the evening I had MANTA RAYS. I have never had manta rays, especially not sunset ones. While I was learning about them on my phone, I decided that I wanted the google-complete for “Do manta rays…” to be “…eat people”, but disappointingly, it turns out it is just “…sting.” Captain Bart and his Lobo del Mar took fewer than a dozen of us up the north coast almost to Waikoloa where we held on to a thousand-lumen kickboard and lay facedown in the water without kicking. Manta rays are amazingly big, and they do belly flops and barrel rolls right up against you. Their tummy spots are all distinct so the captains who are there a lot have named them hilarious things: Who-Ray, Hen-Ray. Their mouths look like the front grill of a BMW 3-series (the mantas, not the captains). They bonk against each other and flap, I guess this is to scoop more plankton, but otherwise they are awesome and majestic and divers were exclaiming into their snorkels every time a new one showed up.
You can tell I am getting nervous to go back because I had to put myself to sleep with a podcast instead of the coqui frogs, but I will return.
Even at the higher elevations of the coffee farm, the morning skies are clear and I can tour through the coffee plants and the Bermuda grass and the sunflowers with Posse the farm dog as my guide. Two of the hired hands are recent escapees from Columbus and I can easily pass a good hour over breakfast with them, complaining about city life and reality and cooking our fresh duck eggs.
I have started going to two different beaches a day and I have made it a point not to repeat from the “Top Ten” list in the Big Island Revealed guide. One day my afternoon beach (Waialea Bay and Beach 69) was ungodly beautiful white sandy paradise but the morning beach (Keauhou Bay) had better snorkeling. It is amazing the street cred you get for walking off a beach at 4pm without a sunburn. Some beaches are harder to get to than others, either by being behind a big hotel and all you need to find is parking or because they are down a *mile* of “unimproved road” (unimproved, my eye. It means “lava field”) and you need to drive it like you stole it to get the little rental Nissan over the obsidian boulders. My favorite park ranger interaction was the woman who wondered what kind of sports team someone’s “Nor-Cal” (like “snor-kel”) hat represented.
Another day after my morning beach I drove all the way to the northern tip of the island to see Hawi (it’s like….tropical Sedona) and Pololu, which may or may not actually be where they filmed Lost but may as well be in my mind. Hawi taught me the question “do you like lilikoi?” because I heard it when ordering anything, and Pololu is a 400 foot vertical drop of a black cliff at the dead end of the state highway, with zig zags worn down to the pebble beach. I picked up a couple of teenage hitchhikers going to the next town to the bank (Aloha, girls, where are you headed?) and they gave me directions back to Kona Town via the ranchlands. Again, I think the actual Windows background was photographed in Napa, but paniolo territory may as well have been it. It is crazy windy up there so I had the windows rolled up and listened on FM scan through an astonishing number of Christian and country radio stations.
In the evening I had strip mall sushi (hot dog and spam rolls!) and then went to a sort of half-hearted weeknight hula show in order to give myself the excuse to drink mai tais on the malecón. The gift shops all accept yen and I came out with general presents: salt, chocolate, (but no macademia nut mead), coffee, flower barrettes, a brochure about ordering aloha oils, and a lewd souvenir.
The nice thing about being on mainland time is that I can better approximate farm hours, up with the rooster call and to bed with the coqui song. My West Hawaii Today warned me to watch out for Iron Man triathletes training on the highways so I will certainly do that because the pavement here seems excellent and the roads are very high quality except for the current lava flow. Also the speed limit changes every half a mile but nobody tailgates or gets angry, I am surprised.
Today I saw an identical glow of fluorescent yellow three different times: on a male finch, a yellow tang (zebrasoma), and the sulphur vents on Kilauea. I started the morning early snorkeling at Honaunau beach, where the Hawaiian kings used to swim and then kill any non-royal who dared enjoy the same cove. There was a sign about not harassing the spinner dolphins but I only saw fish. Then for breakfast I went up to the coffee shack and the geckos ate my chili oil condiments while I talked with a nurse educator who used to DJ for WMBR (!) and who recommended a Thai restaurant in Kona town where I went later and turned out great (Original Thai on Palani).
Then volcano! I drove to Volcanoes NP the long way round, through the countryside and past the green sand beach and the fields separated by Sicilian rock walls. The whole place is like a cross between Sicily and Thailand, really; the flag is even close to the Thai flag. Ranger Rachel led a guided tour through some of the rainforest steam vents and told us legends about Pele and ferns and stuff. A winery near the park entrance is finally weaning its vines off imports from Mother California and has a pretty great macadamia nut mead and a guava wine, but they were too expensive to ship so I got TSA-approved volcanic salt instead.
I changed in to my warmies and drove home over the permanent twilight of the Saddle Road. When I got there I read more of No Country For Old Men while drinking Wailua passion fruit wheat beer that I opened on a filing cabinet. When the mosquitos came out, I snuggled safely under the covers, tucking my toes in a little pocket to stay safe from what I call Singapore toilet lizards but might just be native transparent geckos.