The first thing I want to mention is how painfully aware I was that this is a colonial society. This was underscored in particularly grotesque ways in Honolulu, which is of course characterized by a nasty divide between native Hawaiians and the reams of tourists. Because I was staying in Honolulu proper, and not Waikiki, for the first few days of my time there - and attending a conference that was addressing the political and cultural concerns of native Hawaiians - and I only later I moved to Waikiki, this division was particularly apparent. Although I had a good time during my two days in Waikiki, I also felt quite unsettled to be living in what, for all intents and purposes, is a theme park - Rodeo Drive meets Fort Lauderdale - after spending some time confronting the disenfranchisement of Hawaiians in a settler society. I was happy, at least, that we were staying at the far end of Waikiki, so a few blocks out of the capitalist epicentre that was the main strip.
When we left Honolulu, we flew to the Big Island. I had rented a little cabin in the Puna District, which is a decidedly non-tourist area...the part we were in had no commercial zoning, so there wasn't a store in sight...to buy anything, you had to drive twenty minutes to the town of Pahoa, a little counterculture enclave (as was the whole area, really). It was such a contrast to the Waikiki experience - and so welcome. The cabin was beautiful - a Balinese teak kit home. All screens - few actual glass windows - so the breeze flowed in softly. I wish I had pictures to show you, but they're on R's camera and my computer wouldn't download them. Anyway, it was off the grid and just lovely. The area is a lava field, but there is also coastal jungle grown up over it, since the lava covered the area 50-odd years ago. The most amazing contrast, this encrusted black lava ground, and the lush jungle plants. There was a pineapple tree in our yard. At night, there was an incredibly loud cacophony of frogs - it was so loud you couldn't hear yourself think...but it was amazing how quickly we got used to it, and slept through it as if it were completely normal for us.
I don't have many pictures of most of what we did in the two days we had there before my accident. We snorkeled in tidal pools, and swam at black sand beaches (the whole east side of the island is volcanic black sand), and the water was warm and the surf was high. What I do have pictures of is volcanic activity, which is the thing that excited me most about the area. It kind of blew my mind, frankly.
One volcano, Kilauea, is very active right now. They have opened up a viewing area right near where we were staying - a 6- or 7-minute drive from our cabin. This is for watching where the lava flows into the ocean. We went there immediately after arriving. You drive through this rather apocalyptic landscape to get to the viewing area...it was covered by a lava flow in 1983:
I can't even get my head around this landscape...the plants pushing their way through what should be such unforgiving stuff...
And then there was the flow hitting the ocean...every few seconds you'd see lava-debris spewing up. It was incredible...Watching the earth expand...watching history happen, essentially, since the Island is actually growing because of the flow...
The best time to go, though, is after dark, when everything is glowing red. R did that on her own, one night while I was in hospital. Her pictures are amazing. That alone is a reason I have to go back - I have to see it for myself...
The day I had my accident, we went to Volcanoes National Park:
Again the amazing contrasts. Here, we hiked down to this bleak volcanic landscape through this beautiful, cool, fern-y rainforest:
We left there, planning to return later in the week and do more lava-viewing. But later that afternoon I had my accident, and so it was not to be. We were at the black-sand beach two minutes from our cabin - Kehena Beach, a gorgeous, hidden little crescent you get to by scrambling down a volcanic rock cliff. Having a dip at the end of this very satisfying day of volcanos and a passionfruit margarita in Pahoa. The result? Breakage. Hospital. Sigh.
But all in all, I am in pretty good spirits, and so taken with the Big Island of Hawaii that I must get back there.