Wishing for island fever on Murano

This photo of Murano children feeding pigeons reminds me how different their lives are from other kids. They live on a very small island, and are contained by it. They don’t jump in a car to go anywhere, and their mother doesn’t yell, “Watch out for the cars!” when their ball escapes. Tripping off a curb means a dunk in the canal. There’s no such thing as jaywalking, though I did see a man ‘double-park’ his boat and walk across another one to get to the pavement. People walk everywhere on Murano, evoking an earlier time. They frequently see their neighbors out and about. I’m seriously envious.

I also live on an island, but compared to Murano, Hawaiʻi is huge. People ask if I get island fever. Not yet, and I’ve been here six years. Could I envision getting island fever living on Murano? Probably. But would I like to find out? Definitely. Even my urban kid said she missed Murano when we got back to Venice.

It’s not like I’d be cut off from the rest of the world. Murano residents get DHL shipments just like we get FedEx, but delivered by boat. (And unlike trucks, boats can nudge other boats to get into tight parking spaces.) They’re well plugged in with satellite dishes, cell phones and WiFi. In fact, the WiFi reception in our Murano apartment was better than in some hotels in the US. There’s no shortage of connectivity here.

Their canal-bound life does not adversely affect access to good food either. The food co-op is well stocked with boxed, bottled and canned products upstairs, even specialty items like Easter candy. Veggies were plentiful, and given their proximity to Africa and the Middle East, the fruit section was abundant.

The in-store butcher shop has everything from trussed up roasts to fresh fish. It was a bit more than we wanted to tackle while on holiday, so we cooked mainly meatless pasta dishes. I already miss the different kinds of fresh pastas and cheeses.

The breads smelled heavenly. But I’d have to shop early to ensure they had my favorite because this section sells out quickly.

Of course, I’d have to get the ubiquitous wheeled cart to carry my groceries. And if I wanted some variety, I could also shop the fish, butcher and grocery stores embedded in the residential neighborhoods.

But island life has limitations. In Hawaii, we are used to the idea that most everything arrives by boat. Murano does that and more: everything has to be brought directly to a work-site this way.

Every brick, bag of cement, sand, and paver used to fix a sidewalk gets heaved over the side of a boat at the worksite. We saw boats with crane arms everywhere. For a newbie, it’s all fascinating.

For sites along interior streets, people haul loads with bicycles and large carts. I imagine Murano residents think twice about ordering a new sofa.

But the Murano canals aren’t all about limitations and work-arounds. We also saw friends and lovers perched dockside, enjoying the water, and stand-up rowing teams out early on Sunday morning, pushing themselves at a very fast pace. What a wonderful way to celebrate their canal island identity.

Besides the deep sense of community, I also love Murano’s rich history: the glass-making, the fishing industry, the churches. The Basilica of Saints Mary and Donatus was founded in the seventh century. The current church, completed in 1140 CE is full of paintings and a beautiful mosaic floor (1125 CE). It also holds the remains of St. Donatus, and four large rib bones of the dragon he supposedly slayed.

One thing Murano and other Venetian Lagoon residents must confront is that the islands are sinking and sea levels are rising. Some mornings our sidewalk was littered with seaweed, the high tide line from the night before. Allowing cruise ships in the lagoon and dredging it for large cargo ships also contributes to the destruction of these historic island cities.

So if the children of Murano are to continue the life of their ancestors, lagoon management must improve. That may mean limiting the number of tourists that arrive. I hope it doesn’t come to that because some day, I want to get island fever on Murano.

 

For other essays from this trip to the Venetian Lagoon, see:

Trying Spontaneity in Murano Italy

Venice – night eye candy.

Murano Italy – at first glance it’s all about the glass

The Murano most tourists don’t see. 

Cute Burano – colorful buildings that make you happy

 

For my Venice essays from a trip in 2015, see:

Rules for buying veggies in Venice

The sounds of Venice

 

If you like my blog, please leave a comment. You may also enjoy my book Manifesting Paradise, available on Amazon. Receive my posts automatically by filling in your email address in the “follow” box at the top of the right column.

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Posted in eating, enjoying other cultures, Honoring tradition, island culture, Small town life, travel as a transformation tool, travel in Italy | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Cute Burano – colorful buildings that make you happy

Burano is even smaller than Murano and cuter by far. As with all travel in the Venetian Lagoon, my daughter and I took a vaporetto, a somewhat longer trip than other visits. The canal along the main shopping street was small, and the narrow passage lent an intimacy to the walkways and buildings on either side.

While Burano has been a fishing village from the time of the Romans, its historic claim to fame is its tradition of hand-made lace, though the brightly painted buildings are becoming a close second. While every shop in Murano sells glass, the Burano shops are full of home textiles and clothing enhanced by some form of needlework.

I learned that lace stitching is very specialized. A shopkeeper showed me a one inch square piece of lace in process. She pointed out three different stitch types in the tiny piece, and told me that each was done by a different woman on the island. Burano has a small Lace Museum where you can learn more.

There is, of course, a legend of how Burano lace-making came about. The story goes that a fisherman who was about to be married went out to sea, and a beautiful mermaid tempted him mercilessly. But he remained true to his fiancé. Seeing this, the Queen of the Sirens rewarded him with a gift for his fiancé of a beautiful bridal veil made from sea foam. The other young women of Burano were so envious that they tried to recreate the veil for themselves using needle and thread. Thus was born the lace industry.

While everything was beautiful, I had no interest in purchasing a lace tablecloth, hanky or curtains, though I did think twice about buying a sun umbrella. Can you picture me walking down Mamane Street in Honokaʻa with that? No, lace is just not my style. I found the architecture far more interesting than shopping.

Each building was painted in the most amazing happy colors. But it wasn’t just the retail sections of town. It was all of the buildings: each house, each section of a set of apartments. Even houses in the shadows seemed to glow. The story goes that the villagers started this tradition long ago so that the fishermen could identify their homes when returning from fishing in thick fogs.

Since then, it’s become institutionalized, a system set up by the government. When an owner wants to paint their house, they submit a request to the government, who will let them know their color choices for that specific lot. While it may sound over-regulated, it’s no worse than CC&Rs in subdivisions here in the US, and at least they get to choose fun colors.

The best views were along the canals where the reflection of the houses in the water doubled the punch of color.

Most homes are right on the street with no patches of grass and very few fences to create privacy. So residents exit directly into the public walkway. Many had installed textile curtains across the front doors to provide privacy when the doors were open for ventilation. These added to the sense of the town as a place for textiles.

And yes, people do live here, as the airing laundry, hanging even from main street upper windows, demonstrates. In one small square, a playground sat underneath a nonna flapping a rug from an upstairs window.

A final point, like icing on a cake – we learned that Burano has a leaning tower. It’s part of St. Martin’s Church, built in the 16th century. The tower was added in the 1700’s and began to lean almost immediately. The government had to start stabilizing it when the tower’s lean accelerated during WWII. The stabilization program only ended in 1970. Eat your heart out Pisa: all you’ve got is a leaning white tower. Burano is so much more.

 

For other essays from this trip to the Venetian Lagoon, see:

Trying Spontaneity in Murano Italy

Venice – night eye candy.

Murano Italy – at first glance it’s all about the glass

The Murano most tourists don’t see. 

Wishing for island fever on Murano

 

To see my Venice essays from a trip in 2015, see:

Rules for buying veggies in Venice

The sounds of Venice

 

If you like my blog, please leave a comment. You may also enjoy my book Manifesting Paradise, available on Amazon. Receive my posts automatically by filling in your email address in the “follow” box at the top of the right column.

Posted in daughters, enjoying other cultures, Honoring tradition, learnng new things, Small town life, travel as a transformation tool, travel in Italy | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

The Murano most tourists don’t see

I promised myself that I’d live more spontaneously on this trip to Italy. In fact, I didn’t even have an itinerary planned out. My daughter was busy writing two papers, so I had the luxury of spending time on my own. I used it to explore the parts of Murano that most tourists don’t have time to see.

We are staying here all week, in an apartment on a sleepy canal. We have time to shop for groceries, cook, do laundry, wander neighborhoods, and generally feel a bit like we live here. It’s on a side canal in an old factory that has been refurbished into apartments. Large pieces of old machinery grace the hallways like metal sculptures. Our host said it’s the only apartment building on Murano with a lift. Good thing, as we are on the third floor, and even a small suitcase is a drag to carry up flights of stairs. Unfortunately we found another stairway to the bedroom once inside the apartment. Still, we loved it – tons of character and factory-height timbered ceilings in the loft with skylights.

Tourists visiting the main Murano canals lined with glass shops and restaurants might wonder if anyone lives here. But when you have the time to wander into back alleys, a whole world opens up. On one stretch we found large spaces dedicated to eating gardens. On my first visit to Venice, I had noted that there were few green spaces on the streets and that people resorted to window boxes and patio pots to provide a bit of plant life. But on Murano, you can have a whole plot to grow whatever you want.

Here at the end of winter, many of the gardens looked bedraggled, but blooming daffodils and forsythia promised spring’s arrival. Some gardens contained hearty winter crops still standing in neat rows. Large rosemary plants stood sentinel, some close enough to the chain-link fencing to “borrow” a few sprigs for that night’s pasta sauce. A few plots showed signs of the care-taker already working up the ground, preparing for planting.

During wanderings among apartment buildings, I’d see a butcher shop on one corner, a tobacconist on another, and several blocks away, a fish shop with young moms out front, chatting and laughing. These stores were scattered among the apartment buildings the way we used to have small neighborhood stores in my hometown. Our shops did not survive because people started driving everywhere; these thrive because people walk past them every day.

The bright yellow Elementary School protected by a large iron enclosure, had a charming display of ceramic handprints along the side of the building. Later I saw a group of little ones parading past me with their teachers. I wonder where they had gone for their outing.

On one walk I started to see people with bouquets of flowers. I wondered, were they for a sweetheart? Perhaps they celebrated the first day of spring with fresh flowers? The answer came to me when I stumbled upon the Murano Cemetery. There a group of people, many with flowers, were saying good-bye to a loved one.

Most of the graves were decorated with flowers, some fresh, even in this cold at the end of winter. Brooms and racks of watering cans were available for people to take care of loved one’s graves.

On Sunday, people stroll. We watched family members pushing elders in wheelchairs, dads indulging children with gelato, nonna tucking the baby into the stroller, young lovers kissing in the sun, grandfathers hanging onto grandkids, everyone holding hands. At our Sunday dinner out, we were ushered into the back dining room, walking through groups of loquacious locals gathered to enjoy each other after Mass, accompanied by a glass of wine. As families arrived in the dining room, they stopped first at the table with the young couple and their new baby. Everyone from nonnas to children cooed at the baby and offered hearty congratulations to the beaming couple. Family comes first here.

Yes, people live and work on this island. And finding their world was far more interesting than just exploring the shops full of glass. It’s the hidden Murano that most tourists don’t have or take time to see. That’s their loss, because this is one path to becoming a grateful guest, not just a tourist.

 

For other essays from this trip to the Venetian Lagoon, see:

Trying Spontaneity in Murano Italy

Venice – night eye candy.

Murano Italy – at first glance it’s all about the glass

Cute Burano – colorful buildings that make you happy

Wishing for island fever on Murano

 

To see my Venice essays from a trip in 2015, see:

Rules for buying veggies in Venice

The sounds of Venice

If you like my blog, please leave a comment. You may also enjoy my book Manifesting Paradise, available on Amazon. Receive my posts automatically by filling in your email address in the “follow” box at the top of the right column.

Posted in enjoying other cultures, gardening, Honoring tradition, Small town life, Travel, travel as a transformation tool, travel in Italy | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Murano Italy – at first glance it’s all about the glass

 

My daughter and I enjoyed the night we spent in Venice, but now it was time to move to our home base, Murano, famous for the glass that’s been hand-crafted there for centuries. Many Venice visitors don’t make it out to the smaller lagoon islands, each with their own character and story. While Venice is small (3 miles by 2 miles), Murano is even smaller (less than a mile across). Venice is built on 118 islands/islets with 177 canals and 409 bridges. Murano has seven islands and eight channels/canals; I counted 10 bridges on our map.

We took the Number 3 vaporetto, which is a smaller boat with enclosed front and back compartments that sits low in the water. It was packed with people, baby strollers, packages and luggage. My mind immediately went to how difficult it would be to evacuate in case of an emergency. (It’s hard to shake American ways of thinking when overseas.)

The minute you step off the boat, you sense a completely different vibe from Venice. It’s much quieter, less commercial, and filled with glass shops. The infrastructure is less decorative than Venice. Many of the plain brick industrial buildings have been converted to other uses. Venice is a Grand Lady; Murano is her working-class Sister but no less proud of Her contributions and heritage.

In 1291, the government of Venice decided that there was too much fire risk for the mostly wooden buildings in Venice to have their glass-makers there. So they forcibly moved these artisans and their foundries to Murano, forbidding them to leave the Venetian Republic so as to safe-guard their secrets. In the following centuries Murano thrived on innovation and became a hub for chandeliers, beads, mirrors and all things glass. They were world-famous.

Glass-making is still intimately linked with Murano, long after the glass-making secrets escaped and the island’s importance declined. The countless shops display everything from kitsch to glass jewelry to exquisite art without price tags. I overhead one couple asking a price; they were stunned to hear that the vase they liked was 6000 Euros.

Glass-making demonstrations in the historic foundries are readily available. We watched a pro turn a glob of red-hot glass into a horse in less than three minutes! And at another foundry/shop we watched a pro blow and prod a drinking glass into being, again, in minutes. Both shops sold glass items made right there. Among the tourist souvenirs, you can find signed pieces that are exquisite.

But the best place to appreciate Murano glass is at the Murano Glass Museum. It covers the history of glass-making from Egyptian and Roman times to present. A definite must-see.

I love Murano for its character and its beautiful glass. I was even able to find a spot where the tide went out enough to expose a very tiny beach. Sure enough, at low tide, I found seaglass there. Admittedly, almost none of it was weathered or “cooked” enough to be true seaglass. But it was Murano seaglass with a range of colors I’d never before seen on a beach: pink, aqua, teal, even red, orange and yellow. I even scored two glass beads and some glass with multiple colors. As a beachcomber, this is the kind of travel souvenir I treasure most. I’ll keep this little pile of broken glass as a very special memento of a very special place. It’s so much more meaningful than buying a glass horse.

 

For other essays from this trip to the Venetian Lagoon, see:

Trying Spontaneity in Murano Italy

Venice – night eye candy.

The Murano most tourists don’t see. 

Cute Burano – colorful buildings that make you happy

Wishing for island fever on Murano

 

Pistol-shaped glass at the Murano Glass Museum

To see my Venice essays from a trip in 2015, see:

Rules for buying veggies in Venice

The sounds of Venice

 

If you like my blog, please leave a comment. You may also enjoy my book Manifesting Paradise, available on Amazon. Receive my posts automatically by filling in your email address in the “follow” box at the top of the right column.

Posted in beachcombing, enjoying other cultures, travel as a transformation tool, travel in Italy | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Venice – night eye candy

My daughter and I arrived in Venice in late afternoon. We quickly checked into our hotel and then set out to see Her as the chilly dusk approached. A quick right out the hotel door brought us to our first canal, and we were instantly immersed in Her charm. I had forgotten the colorful buildings and the large number of bridges on the interior canals. From some vantage points we could see four or five bridges over canals angling off of each other.

Much of Venice is very intimate – narrow passages that wind and turn so that your distance sight is blocked. This focuses your attention on the immediate surroundings – the shrines, graffiti, and doorknobs. Reach a canal and your horizon broadens, especially if there is a sidewalk on one or both sides.

Or pop through a narrow walkway to a small plaza and find a vegetable market still open. Maybe it was because evening was approaching that people walked leisurely, looking in shop windows and greeting friends. The guidebooks all say “don’t be afraid to wander because you’re on an island and can’t really get lost.” It’s true. While we used a new map to find Piazza San Marco, we also knew it was unlikely that we’d make our way back the same way, and it didn’t matter. This is a city for spontaneous decisions and meandering.

As night fell, the interior lights of the shops provided a better view of the activity within. This is a city of small businesses, some of them ancient. One tiny shop was full of old maps and books with the white-haired proprietor sitting at the back, reading an old manuscript.

Nearby another made purses and bags. Through the window, we watched a clerk talking with a client about bag styles. She sat next to a counter containing rolls of leather. What was in the boxes to the right? Perhaps buckles, handles and other hardware? Colorful swatches hung near the back of the shop. I could almost smell the leather.

A bakery shop window displayed large round and cross-shaped loaves of bread and lovely little white birds made of meringue. I wonder if these were the original inspiration for the garish pink and yellow peeps we see at Easter. Another window displayed marzipan shaped into strawberries, bananas, melons and other wondrous things.

By now we were getting cold and hungry. It was time to stop in one of the small restaurants whose interiors looked so cozy and warm. We ordered antipasto (prosciutto and melon) and first course (pasta), deciding against the rest of the typical Italian meal.

We noticed the pasta wasn’t drowned in sauce as you find in the US. And the lasagna tasted almost cream based, not tomato – really different and so delicious. While we fondly recalled eating prosciutto daily when we were here in 2015, we now had a higher standard for comparison – the Jamón Ibérico from our Spain trip last year.  Exposure brings knowledge and changes standards. It’s one hazard of travel.

When we left the restaurant, it was very dark, and the lights shining on the facades of buildings and the wide vista of the Piazza San Marco created an imposing view. Here, in these big spaces, Venice displayed Her architectural jewels.

After savoring the Piazza, we decided to take the vaporetto back to the hotel to enjoy the perspective from the vantage point of the water bus. Lights from the buildings danced on the water, creating upside-down scenes undulating in the wake of other boats. Shadowy figures sat on steps leading down to the Canal. A pair of hands appeared to support a building as they rose out of the canal.

Was there a love story behind the multi-level building that was completely dark except for the upper room with the half-drawn red drapes? If not, we can always create one in our minds.

A gondolier pushed his vessel out in front of the water taxi. Beyond him we could see people standing on and waving from the Rialto Bridge. Did we seem as romantic to them as they did to us? Ah, Venice by night. Eye candy.

 

For another essay from this trip to Venice, see:

Trying Spontaneity in Murano Italy

Murano Italy – at first glance it’s all about the glass

The Murano most tourists don’t see. 

Cute Burano – colorful buildings that make you happy

Wishing for island fever on Murano

 

To see my Venice essays from a trip in 2015, see:

Rules for buying veggies in Venice

The sounds of Venice

 

If you like my blog, please leave a comment. You may also enjoy my book Manifesting Paradise, available on Amazon. Receive my posts automatically by filling in your email address in the “follow” box at the top of the right column.

Posted in daughters, enjoying other cultures, learnng new things, Travel, travel as a transformation tool, travel in Italy | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

Trying spontaneity in Murano, Italy

Example trip planner from a previous trip

Normally I carefully plan my travel. I make an itinerary with color-coded boxes for air travel (pink), land travel (orange), accommodations (green), things to do (blue) and important notices (bright yellow). Sometimes I add things like expected temperatures or the time of low tides – whatever might be helpful.

I have several checklists of things to pack, organized by length of stay and weather (cold, cool, hot, and cold plus hot), so I can just pick one and modify it as needed for the particular trip at hand.  Of course, the tops are cross-referenced with the pants.

I start reading about the places I will visit months in advance, including arm-chair travel books and novels set in locations of interest. I research the Internet for places to go and things to see. In short, I joyously apply my over-achieving organization and execution skills to my travel passion so that I’m worry-free when I get there.

But this week, I find myself heading to Venice via London, having had only six days to plan. Yikes! Most of the little blue boxes are empty. I don’t know which airport water taxi (the orange or blue line), will get me closest to the hotel from the airport. I don’t even have Euros. I must say, I feel a bit unsettled, almost naked.

How did this happen? Last week my daughter, now living in London, called to announce that her professors were on strike. “So let’s go somewhere!” I got dragged into the conversation, offering that I had an Interval International week that I had to use by April 11th or lose. So we looked up what was available for this week in Europe, figuring it would be easier for me to go there than for her to come to Hawaiʻi.

“Look! There’s a spot available in Murano!” Venice, with its surrounding lagoon islands, was a favorite from a trip we took in 2015 with her sister. It’s been at the top of my list for a return visit ever since.

“Well, I’m not sure I can use frequent flier points on such a short notice,” I cautioned. But The Universe was with us. Not only could I get a free flight, but I could use Marriott points for the extra day we needed to preposition ourselves in Venice and for an overnight stay on the way home. The flight from London to Venice was $55 – round trip! Admittedly, I had never heard of the airline (easyJet), but I was feeling lucky and by this time, excited and hopeful, looking forward to the delights of Italy once again.

We were both asking each other and ourselves if we dared do it. “Let’s be spontaneous for once!” I declared. It’s been a whirlwind ever since to prepare for take-off.

Europe is an especially appealing destination because I can stray from my current eating lifestyle. I’ve been following Dr. Gundry’s gut-health diet for a year now. I’m losing weight and feeling better, with less inflammation in my joints. The benefits far outweigh the sacrifices, but sometimes I just must have bread or pasta. The good news is that I can eat carbs in Europe. It’s too lengthy to explain here, but it’s real. Even Dr. Gundry eats bread when he’s there.

This is happening at just the right moment for me. I am in the process of making some major changes in my life. I’ve been posting less on Facebook and haven’t written any blogs since October while I figured out what’s next for me – the next chapter. So I’m considering this trip the opening story in this new phase of my life. One thing I don’t see changing – I still plan to live life full out, just maybe a bit more spontaneously. Ciao.

 

For another essay from this trip to Venice, see:

Venice – night eye candy.

Murano Italy – at first glance it’s all about the glass

The Murano most tourists don’t see. 

Cute Burano – colorful buildings that make you happy

Wishing for island fever on Murano

 

To see my Venice essays from a trip in 2015, go to:

Rules for buying veggies in Venice

The sounds of Venice

 

If you like my blog, please leave a comment. You may also enjoy my book, Manifesting Paradise, available on Amazon. Receive my posts automatically by filling in your email address in the “follow” box at the top of the right column.

Posted in daughters, enjoying other cultures, getting out of my comfort zone, living full out, Personal growth, Travel, travel as a transformation tool | Tagged , , , | 17 Comments

Kayaking the Kohala Ditch

This month, Stacy and I kayaked the Kohala Ditch with Flumin’ Kohala. It was the six year anniversary of my move to the Big Island, and as my real estate agent, she was part of getting me here. I’m amazed that after six years of Paradise living, I’m still finding new things to do.

The Kohala Ditch is a 22.5 mile manmade waterway that brought water to the sugar plantations on the Hawi (north) side of the island. (There’s another ditch on the Honokaʻa side, the Lower Hāmākua Ditch.) Sometimes the Japanese plantation workers who built it more than 110 years ago, only had to dig a channel into the earth and line it with hand-chiseled stones. Today those sections are mostly reinforced with concrete and covered with moss; it’s crumbling in some places.

Other times they had to dig tunnels through solid rock with pick axes, occasionally blasting with dynamite. The water also had to be transported over deep gulches and streams. In those sections, they built elevated flumes to carry the water across. Today, the sugar plantations are gone, but the waterway remains, still delivering water to local farms.

We started our tour at the historic Kohala Ditch Company Building in Hawi. Our local guides, Austin and Mark, gave us flotation devices, head lamps, and a safety talk. This ecotour is a tranquil ride: no white-water, no shootin’ the rapids, only a 1% grade and a couple of bubbling dips. One of the FAQ’s on the website is, “I don’t know how to swim. Should I be concerned?” Answer: “If you should fall into the ditch, simply stand-up. The water is only knee deep.” I felt very safe throughout the experience.

From the drop-off point, we took a 10 minute walk across an elevated 150 foot flume and then alongside the ditch before boarding the soft-sided kayaks. Those who have trouble walking, can be driven directly to the boarding point.

The kayaks hold four people including one paddler and one person who steers. On tours where there are more customers, some may be asked to do one or the other job. Having chosen an early morning tour, Stacy and I were the only people. So we got the royal treatment, sitting in the middle of the kayak.

As we lazily floated down the ditch, we listened to birds in the trees. The noisy invasive coqui frogs have not yet made it up here, though we wouldn’t usually hear them until nightfall anyway. The sun filtered through the ohia trees, at times shining full force and sparkling on the water. This is a part of the Big Island that you wouldn’t ordinarily see, and I felt humbled to be here.

The longest tunnel on the three miles of the tour is 1800 feet. Luckily, it was a straight shot and we could actually see the light at the end from the beginning. Other tunnels curved, and it was pitch dark all along the way, except for our head lamps. Some were so low that we had to lie back in the kayak to keep from hitting our heads. The whole tunnel experience was amazing. At times we could hear babbling water; other times it was completely silent except for the sounds we made.

We also saw bits of history that the Japanese workers left: a mark chiseled into rock that indicated the passage of one month from the time they started that particular tunnel, and a slogan that cheered on the Japanese victory over the Russians in their 1905 war. In the 18 months it took to build the first 18 miles, 17 workers died.

Fresh-water prawns live in the ditch, introduced to Hawaiʻi from Tahiti in 1956. Austin brought a net to catch one. Apparently, the prawns’ hatched eggs drift down gulches and the ditch to enter the ocean where the little prawns grow by molting multiple times. Later, just like salmon, they swim back up the gulches or ditch to start the cycle all over again. After showing it to us, Austin released it back into the ditch.

Floating across the seven flumes gave us a different view of the landscape, with peeks into the heavy growth of this tropical rain forest. Sometimes we could see waterfalls mauka (up mountain). Everywhere we floated, our guides pointed out the flora from native ferns and beautiful flowers to invasive guava trees with their heavily perfumed fruit.

At one point, they climbed out of the kayak, picked plants, and scraped away the barks to let us smell root-beer and a cinnamon substitute. They were always teaching us something about this environment. They also told us about their life as kids growing up in this area, swimming in the pools below the waterfalls and catching prawns for dinner. It was a real treat to see this waterway and this region from their local perspective.

You’d think with my six years on this island and my interest in local history, that I would have already taken this trip. But it’s never too late for a new adventure. Maybe on some future escapade, I’ll remember to shaka for photos rather than wave. This alone shows that I’m still a malihini (newcomer).

 

For more information on these sugar plantation ditches, see my book, Manifesting Paradise, where I covered the Lower Hāmākua Ditch. Receive my posts automatically by filling in your email address in the “follow” box at the top of the right column.

Posted in Flumin' the Ditch, friends, Hawaii plants and animals, Hawi, historic sites, learnng new things, Plantation era, Play, rain forest | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments