Thursday, October 02, 2008

The Big Hawaii Post...

Let me first start off by saying how incredibly nice everyone was on our trip. Everyone from the loyal customers who come out every year to the show, to the locally-based vendors, to shop-keepers and restaurant servers - all of them were so welcoming and sweet. I was so fortunate to meet many generous and kind people who made sure that I smiling at all times. I cannot begin to express just how deeply I was moved by the true beauty of the folks of Hawaii. They are simply amazing!

My most special thanks goes out to everyone from the Bead Gallery (Jamie, Jason, Amanda and Anna), Renee and Calvin, Alethea of DACs Beads, Kim of JuJu Beadz, Candice Wakumoto, Jodi and Heidi of LillyPilly Designs, and all of the wonderful customers like Donna, Susan, Lynn, and Maureen. You guys made doing the show SO MUCH FUN! It seemed like on the hour, someone was bringing me a present or something to eat or drink, making me laugh, or giving great suggestions on where to go and what to see while in Hawaii. THANKS AGAIN!

Our trip was packed with activities. To keep our strength up, we indulged in some delightful treats like cupcakes from Satura Cakes. Shown in picture to the left are the cheese cake, strawberry shortcake, and chestnut flavors. They were GREAT!

After the show closed, we did a drive around O'ahu. The first stop we made on the drive was at a tide-pool beach where beach glass and mysterious objects rolled around in the surf. We found many treasures and vowed to keep the exact location a secret.

We discovered a perfectly rounded "stone." Compared to other rocks around, it was significantly lighter in both color and weight. I had just seen the movie, Waterhorse, and all sorts imaginings ran through my head. Then the practicalities of smuggling an ancient sea creature through agricultural customs, (not to mention the additional weight to our luggage), persuaded me to return it back to the tide-pool to grow up happy in Hawaii.

One of the most amazing stops along our trip around the island was at the Byodo-In Temple in the Valley of Temples.
It was truly breath-taking.

Before walking into the main temple, one must first ring the bell. It's supposed to make you able to soak in the teachings of Buddha and live a happy life. Then you've got to cross a few bridges and remove your shoes before you can enter the inner sanctum. Inside is a HUGE Buddha and various carvings of Bodhivistas. The amount of detail was really striking.

The other really cool thing about Byod-In Temple is the koi fish collection. They were some of the biggest, most colorful, and plentiful I've ever seen! I imagine they've been fattened off of the many offerings made by tourists passing through.

Swimming along the koi fish were very elegant and stately black swans. They seemed not to be phased by the frantic feeding of the fish. Instead, they coasted easily through the frenzy as little white flowers fell from above.

Behind the temple was a bamboo forest. The trunks were inscribed with the names and dates of thousands of visitors. For a moment I considered adding my name too, but in the end decided against it. Instead, I opted to remember the act of being present in the moment, the breeze on my cheek, the light filtering through the swaying towers.

After we finished up at the Valley of Temples, we continued around the island. One of the other stops was one at the ruins of the old Kualoa sugar mill. Apparently it has a long history of misfortune. A little boy fell into a hot vat of syrup and later died from his burns. Later it closed for good once drought hit the island. Even during the day, this place seems to be haunted.

We went to the Tropical Farms, a macadamia nut farm outlet, and picked up some treats. I love their coffee tasting station. I've been spoiled with kona coffee every day. We also stopped at the shrimp truck for some tasty fried shrimp in wanton wrappers, corn on the cob, and brown rice. It was delicious!

Hugging the north shore, we continued to make our way around the island. It was incredible to see all of the different types of environments. It was also interesting to note the different kinds of beaches.

Eventually we made our way to Waimea Falls Park. Greg hurt his foot the day before and opted to relax while Cynthia, Azalea and I walked through the botanical gardens. They had a set up of a traditional Hawaiian village life, from housing to games they played.

Unfortunately the valley was in a state of drought. What is said to be normally lush and green was barely hanging on. (Apparently drought was the main reason that the original inhabitants of this valley were driven away.) So, Waimea Falls was more like Waimea Pond.

After our hike through the dwindling botanical gardens, we headed across the road for a swim at the beach. The water was warm, but hard to navigate. For an experienced swimmer like Greg, it wasn't a problem. But for Cynthia and I, who are poor swimmers it was hard to stay afloat in the rough surf of the North Shore.

We had dinner plans with the ladies of LillyPilly, so we had to rush back. The drive back took us through the core of the island, which is verdant farm land. The soil is rich and dark and it's understandable how some of the best produce comes from this paradise.

Duke's, where we met up for dinner, featured the freshness of the island ingredients with great success. The happy atmosphere punctuated with singing Hawaiian ladies was busy and bustling. My favorite dish by far was the calamari. It was soft and seemingly melted in my mouth. The garlic mashed potatoes and fresh seafood was also killer.

Across from our hotel was a museum called the LuCoral. Their collections feature carved gemstones and information about coral. It was a quick and free trip that spotlighted lots of sparklies. For instance, the outside wall studded with huge pieces of rose quartz.

Earlier that morning, I had a massage from the Spa. After a show closes and lots of running around, it was absolutely divine. I was so completely relaxed. Walking through the museum was a nice little trip that didn't require me to hike or swim. The collection of jewelry, beads, and small sculpture was a wonderful low-impact activity that Cynthia and I strolled through before really diving in - literally.

One of the really cool features of the LuCoral museum is the indoor, man-made caves. To the left is a picture of Cynthia standing in front of one of the really endearing displays. It was very much like walking through a cabinet of curiosities. One of my favorite parts was the coral collection, where they spotlighted various specimens in different colors and sizes.

Just down the road a piece from our hotel and a walk along the beach, was the Waikiki Aquarium. It turns out that the Waikiki Aquarium is one of the oldest public aquariums in United States and has a substantial collection of sea-life. I love aquariums. It feels as though you're walking through an under-water world with a close-up view of some of the most mysterious and private creatures.

My most favorite part of the aquarium was definitely the jelly-fish display. Everything seemed to melt away as I watched the undulating forms unfurl before me. I could have spent hours watching these fascinating creatures move gracefully through the dark tanks. It was a great extension to my early morning relaxation. Even though it was busy with lots of tourists, the calm movements lulled my senses and made me completely at ease.

One of the things that really struck me was the abundance of color and pattern. I loved watching the various sea-creatures darting brilliantly through their watery homes. It made me think of Ernst Haeckel and the illustrations he made for his seminal work, Artforms of Nature. His work is inspirational and it is truly amazing to see some of the muses that helped generate his masterpieces.

After one more quick spam roll and a swim at the calm and swimming-pool like Ala Moana beach, we went on another mini-road trip to the West Side. We had aims of watching the sunset from the furthest point on the island. The views to get there were simply stunning.

I am deeply effected by the dramatic scenery.

One moment, the sky is dark and a thousand shades of swirling gray over a flat horizon. The next moment there is a piercing blue sky, raked across with white clouds and jutting red earth struggling heavenward.

Pushing forward, past the last traces of modern amenity, we found ourselves on a bumpy and pothole-laced stretch of highway. To our left was the ocean and to our right, high outcropping cliffs. We stopped at Kaneana. This is a primal place that still sings of monsters and mythology. Across from where we parked was a yellow concrete barrier. Behind it lay gaping the entrance to a HUGE cave. It seems like everything here is soaked in history or mythology. The placard (which seems to be now missing) states:

"Kaneana is a sacred ana (cave) that ancient Hawaiians named after Kane, the God of Creation. From inside the depth of Kaneana, symbolic of the Earth Godddess's womb, mankind emerged and his existence spread throughout the Waianae Coast. The souls of those who passed on go to Kalae O Kala'au (Kaena Point). From there souls ascend to Po, the realm of Ancestral spirits, completing the cycle of life. In ancient times entry into Kaneana was Kapu (forbidden) for this was the home of Nanaue, the Shark Man of Kaneana."

Above is the sunset seen from Kaena Point on the Leeward side.

This really was a magical place seen at a magical time. The shoreline seemed to have recently formed. This probably means that it occurred within the past few decades or possibly centuries. I say this because I saw what looked like the remains of metal pipes embedded in volcanic rock. Sandy beaches were missing here. The steep climb down was overgrown with spiky aloe, and the shore jagged and dotted with craters, tide-pools, and salt-beds. Crabs scuttled amongst the stones. Sea urchins clung rock-like to the basins of the tide-pools. The waves crashed down heavily and dangerously along the rocky edgy, swirling outwards in whirlpools and riptides. The wind blew relentlessly, spraying sea-foam and saltwater in the air. This was a primal place and its power fully evident.

Above is a short video taken of the shoreline at Kaneana. I wanted to try and capture the full effect of the spirit of this place. I don't think it really does it justice. How can I relate the feeling of balancing precariously on a rocky outcrop while listening to the violent thrashing of the sea? Or really convey the fright of discovering that hidden amongst the tide-pools so easily navigated with little thought is a shaft falling 50 feet to a hidden cave? Shivers still run down my spine as I think about gazing down one of these shafts in the dying light and seeing a white fin-like shape moving about. Perhaps Nanaue?

(NOTE: Oddly enough, much of the local legend and mythology of Kaneana and Nanaue was read AFTER visiting the place. Maybe my over-active imagination is in synch with that of the ancient Hawaiians?)

The video above was made on the ride back to the hotel from the Leeward Side. It isn't much to look at, as it was really dark, but it's really entertaining. (Make sure to turn the volume up.) Aptly, Azalea was telling me ghost stories and telling me how she would defeat all of the "creepiest things." Maybe she had Nanaue in mind as well?

On our last day in Hawaii, Cynthia and I went snorkeling at Hanauma Bay. Afloat in a yellow life-preserver, I think I did all right. (I'm still not used to only breathing through my mouth.) The water was pretty choppy and kind of cloudy, but I saw a couple of fish and a little coral-reef action. Unfortunately the surf was so heavy that it knocked Cynthia down and banged her up pretty good. She's got some nasty bruises on her knees and even one under her eye that I can only guess is from the mask. Despite Cynthia's injuries, it was really beautiful there and we watched a mongoose family play and look for food. That, and we went out for Hawaiian barbecue afterwards. So not all was lost.

The voyage home was a long one. It was hard to leave Hawaii behind. A place so beautiful with so many wonderful people sticks in your proverbial guts; it becomes embedded in your spirit. Even when sitting in an airport terminal with your bags stacked around you and your head resting on an chair-arm trying not to bump your neighbor, thousands of miles away, 40 degrees colder - you are there. I am still there gazing at the ocean.


Christina J. said...

It sounds wonderful. I really loved this post. Thanks for making me feel like I just visited Hawaii!

Unknown said...

Vampires and Sasquasch how cute!!!
It just makes me feel wonder what is was like for the Islanders so many many years ago living in their huts, fishing and drinking in the supreme beauty. That had to of been some kind of life! Happy and prolly carefree wow. You are so generous Andrew with the glimpses you give us on the exciting embarks you guys get to. Thank you and thank you! xx

Anonymous said...

sounds like you guys had a lot of fun! miss you all and thanks for posting that azalea video. she's my little hero!

jennifer said...

i'm jealous. nice jellyfish.

Ulla said...

Wow! You lucky duck or should I say fish!

Andrew Thornton said...

It was a wonderful trip and I'm so happy that I got the great opportunity to do so.

I still think about the ocean and the waves and tides and currents. Despite the fact that I can't really swim, I'm fascinated by the connection I have to the sea. I long for it and fear it and love it and feel so much like there's a drop (at least) of sea water in my veins. I think it comes way of our mom.