I didn’t realize it, but I’ve been lonely for news from Wisconsin – in this case, from the folks back at work. I send out my blog postings, and many of them receive it, but it’s rare to hear back. Oh, I get a snippet every once in a while, but it’s not the same as sitting down for a gabfest with someone you love. But two weeks ago, I almost got my fill.
Wendy and her husband Bob took the cruise around the islands, and I was lucky enough to meet them when their ship docked in Hilo. They were waiting in front of the Customs House at the Port. I pulled into the driveway, jumped out and gave Wendy a big hug. Our department culture was always one of hugging, so I eased into the Hawaiian mode of greeting quite easily. Wendy was a special case – there were many times that tears accompanied our hugs. We shared a deep faith in God, though not the same flavor. So our hugs were also often accompanied by prayers. In fact, she helped guide me (I don’t think she knew that) when I found my spirituality after 35 years of denying it. We had a special bond. Poor Bob was pulled into the hugging – I told him it was the Hawaiian way.
As we piled into the car, we reconfirmed out intention to visit the Hawai’i Tropical Botanical Gardens just a few miles north of Hilo. But first a stop to pick up some Off!™ Mosquito Repellent. The mosquitoes here aren’t as big as the ones in Wisconsin, but they are numerous in the lush vegetation of the gardens.
I never tire of seeing these gardens. Each time I go I see new things, and I often find out the names of plants growing in my own garden. This time I found the common name of the bromeliads sitting in my Puakenikeni bush: Pink Quill.
The other plant that sparked my imagination this time was the cannonball tree. Indeed, these were perfectly round brown balls hanging from the truck of the towering trees. They grow up to several pounds and up to 10 inches in diameter. A guide told us that at one time they were used for cannonballs. I haven’t been able to find a reference that verifies that assertion. But he also said that the balls explode upon impact with the ground, and stink like skunk – that I could verify on my own. While interesting, this tree is not native to Hawai’i, so the warning not to plant it too close to a road is a moot point. I’m not likely to encounter it anywhere here except in a botanical garden.
We spent about two hours in the Garden, gradually descending from the entrance at 120 feet down to sea level. Of course the plants are fantastic – in the “bizarre” and “incredible” meaning of that word, as well as “excellent.” You can almost imagine dinosaurs in the ferns: it’s so other-worldly. The orchid garden brings you in close while the palm trees and monkeypods require a vista to see properly.
It’s the vista that really sets this garden apart as special. The garden contains a creek that runs into Onomea Bay, falling over large rocks as a waterfall, and gently burbling along in other places. The spot where visitors view the creek running into the Bay is overhung with huge monkeypod trees. It is really impossible to do justice to the vastness of that canopy, or to the view of the crashing waves beyond it with pictures and words. This spot, lined with benches, is a soothing place to meditate. We continued our walk past a blow hole and an historic burial site, found while the owners were developing the trail through the garden.
As we climbed back up the trail, we realized we were hungry. The seven mile trip back to Hilo gave us plenty of time to discuss options. Of course I encouraged them to try something local. To my delight, Bob had been reading about local food and wanted to sample a Loco Moco. Wendy was more in the mood for late breakfast – maybe some macadamia nut pancakes. So off we went to a local Hilo diner that would have both, and my favorite drink, a lilikoi milkshake.
While we were in town, I pointed out the large park along the waterfront. It is the length of Hilo Bay and two blocks deep. The city created it after the last tsunami in 1960. That tsunami crested at 35 feet and killed 61 people, destroying 540 homes and buildings. Because of the widespread devastation, they decided not to rebuild the area closest to the shore. We know it’s only a matter of time before the next big one comes and takes out more buildings, because Hilo Bay funnels the water right into the city.
In the afternoon, I gave them choices of a couple of museums or Akaka Falls. I had the museums lined up just in case it was raining, which it often is in Hilo. But not today – the weather was warm (humid) and Wendy mentioned that she couldn’t live here. “Neither could I – that’s why I live at 1000 feet. It’s so much cooler in Honoka’a.” But they didn’t have to take my word for it – we climbed to 1000 feet in the space of a few miles as we drove up to the falls. Up there it was breezy, cooler, and overcast. We even saw vegetation and some cows more reminiscent of my neck of the woods.
Akaka Falls drops 442 feet straight down into a gorge below. It is in a State Park, one of many. This is the tallest accessible waterfall in the state. Accessible is the key word here. There’s another one that is 1450 feet on the north end of the Big Island – Hi’ilawe Falls at the back of Waipio Valley. It can only be seen from the valley floor or a helicopter. I actually did see that falls when the girls and I went on our horse riding adventure as tourists (never again!). I also understand that there is an even taller waterfall beyond Waipio in a more distant gorge. But most people don’t get into Waipio Valley, much less beyond it.
And then, poof, our time ran out. With multiple hugs and a few tears (mine) I let them off at the Port. Driving back to Honoka‘a, I reminisced about good times with many special people. As I brought up rich visions of shared experiences over years of working together, I resolved to mention each one of my friends by name in my Gratitude Journal when I got home. Thank you, God, for sweet memories and warm friendships.
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