“Eddie and Linda Do Hawaii”
© Eddie Rhoades
At the Atlanta airport the sign said “x-rays will not harm undeveloped film.” I wondered if they meant unexposed film. No time to think about that as we made our way toward the first leg of our flight to Los Angeles, California. My wife’s employer, McMaster-Carr, treats their employees with ten years service to a round trip flight for two to any of their branches. Naturally we chose the branch in California. From there we flew to Honolulu, Hawaii to board the ms Patriot. This was the start of a weeklong cruise of five stops on four of the major islands. At every stop we were greeted by musicians, singers and dancers performing their timeless and traditional songs. It was also an opportunity to get leid. That’s the ceremony where they greet you with a big ALOHA and put one of those flower thingies around your neck. If you’ve never been on a cruise I recommend it. There is so much to see and do aboard the ship. There’s lots of entertainment, you can even check your email and there’s always plenty of food. In fact, we started out as the Love Boat and came back as the Tug Boat
Saturday was the first night onboard and after supper we settled down to sleep rocked by the gentle motion of the sea as our ship sailed through the night to Kauai. Sunday we’re up at 6 a.m. for early breakfast and disembark to the usual singers and dancers. We took the footmobile to the shops along the cove with the beautiful white sand beach. Some of the beaches are black sand from the lava and they even have a few red sand beaches. The first person I met looked like a local so I told him I was a tourist and didn’t want to do anything embarrassing so could he please tell me if the correct pronunciation was Hawaii or Havaii? He said “It’s Havaii.” and I said “Thank you.” He replied “you’re Velcome.”
We wound up at the Marriott where we took several rolls of film of the gorgeous fountains, statuary, indoor waterfalls, huge colorful koi and artwork. There were also shops and a restaurant where we had drinks and lunch on the beach. On the walk back I saw a family of Polynesians going through the dumpster behind the Marriott. Perhaps this had something to do with the sugar cane plantations closing down and putting hundreds of people out of work. Without actually researching my history I had this feeling that we had done to the Hawaiians what we had done to the American Indians – took their land. These gentle people had no knowledge of deeds or even any concept of land ownership. They thought the land belonged to everyone. The locals I came into contact with, usually our bus drivers, express no bitterness about this. In fact, they seem extremely proud to be American citizens. Most people here are a mixture of nationalities and the blood lines of the ancient kings are almost gone. But in my mind the Hawaiians are noble people having been the first to inhabit these islands which are the most isolated in the world. They survived on scarce food crops and later the pressures of the European settlers. To me they are not so different from us Southerners – They say aloha and we say yeeha. They even have red dirt, chickens and roadside memorials. I felt right at home.
Monday was our second day on Kauai. Early that morning we boarded Roberts Hawaii tour buses. This tour company operates on all the major islands. We were very fortunate to get such a knowledgeable and personable driver as cousin Cliff who ended most of his sentences with a yeah. It’s a quaint custom and they all do it – yeah. He drove us to the lookout on Waimea Canyon where we saw the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” Mount Waialeale on the eastern slope is the wettest spot on earth with over 470 inches of rainfall a year. Oddly enough, the western side gets only twelve inches a year. So you go from a rain forest on one side to desert conditions on the other. On the rainy side vegetation is lush and tropical but only one percent of the plants are native to Hawaii, the rest are introduced as are many of the animals such as chickens, pigs and deer. I could live on this island of tropical paradise. With just a couple of acres maybe I could grow Oriental persimmons and pineapple guava – feijoa selloiana. It would be interesting to try blueberries, kiwi and pawpaw – asimina triloba, but they probably require a cold dormant spell to set fruit. Still it would be interesting to try.
Later in the afternoon we saw one of many waterfalls and while everyone was taking pictures I walked back across the road and picked several oranges from a tree I spotted growing wild. We then drove down the mountain to board a flat-bottom boat for the river trip to the Fern Grotto. Our boat driver asked us how many liked poi. None did but he said that was OK because they didn’t like rutabagas. He said the word for Caucasian was haole, sometimes preceded by the word “stupid.” This was all said in good humor as he was simply trying to entertain us during the boat ride.
We sailed into Maui harbor early Tuesday morning where we took a bus to Lahaina and boarded a tender which took us out to a larger boat where we started our whale watch with Lanai island across the channel. Linda spotted the first whales, a mother and calf, and everyone rushed to our side of the boat. We saw many whales that day and right at the end one of the mother whales slapped her tail at least 20 times in a row. What a show! Back at the ship we walked the short distance to town for a little shopping – I was running out of Hawaiian shirts even though I wore them for years before this trip. I don’t know why a subtle person like me is attracted to gaudy clothes.
Wednesday we took buses to Maui Ocean Center. We ended up walking through a Plexiglas tunnel completely under water with fish swimming above, below, and on both sides. I had never seen anything quite like this. Back shopping that evening Linda bought a colorful muumuu. We set sail at 7:30 p.m.
Thursday we’re at Hilo on the big island of Hawaii. Our tour bus driver who speaks four languages is cousin Leo Kamehameha. I asked him if he ever considered changing his name and he said he had thought about changing it to Fred Kamehameha. We had lucked out again and got a driver who was personable and knowledgeable. I asked how he knew so much and he said he used to teach history. Our first stop was at Nani Mau Gardens where I learned that Norfolk Island pines are not pines, they’re cycads. I’m really interested in fruit and we saw some but not nearly as much as I wanted to. Back on the bus the drivers always count heads. I wondered why they didn’t just count the number of empty seats and subtract that from the total number of seats which is a constant?
Cousin Leo took us on to Volcano National Park where we walked across a recent lava flow to a black sand beach. He said this latest eruption had created 650 acres of new land.
At the lookout pavilion we had a scrumptious all-you-can-eat buffet that was perfectly delicious as cousin Leo had said it would be – yeah. Looking across the volcano at the steam vents, strewn rocks, and barren craters, Linda reflected that it looked like the surface of the moon or earth when the prehistoric dinosaurs were alive. On the way back we visited a lava tube which is a cave made from a lava collapse. Walking through the forest to get there and back we saw tree ferns which I guess were 20 feet tall. On the long ride back we stopped on the side of the road to take pictures of the rainbow blue eucalyptus. It has the prettiest bark I have ever seen.
Set sail Thursday night for the other side of Hawaii and from the ship at night we saw the lava flow as it made its path to the ocean. The ship Captain turned the deck lights off so we could all see it better. It was so awe inspiring that couples were standing quietly holding hands or arm-in-arm admiring the majesty of nature.
Friday we arrived at Kona on the western side of the big island and anchored out in the bay. As our tender took us to shore we were accompanied by a pod of porpoise racing and jumping as they chased us almost to the shore. In this town we just shopped till we dropped especially at a place called Hilo Hattie’s. Back early on the ship we relaxed and enjoyed a music and dance performance followed by Kevin Hughes, a very funny comedian who looked like he had been cooking with the microwave door open.
Saturday we pulled into Honolulu with a great view of Diamond Head and the Aloha Tower. We disembarked and had plenty of time to shop before the flight out.
This has been the vacation of a lifetime thanks to my wife Linda and her generous company. All good things must come to an end and so – aloha which means hello, also means goodbye.
Aloha and mahalo,
Eddie and Linda Rhoades