After four days at Benny and Kaikala's home, we’re off to visit another Island. We catch an afternoon commuter flight to Kona. I last visited the Big Island when Benny and Kaikala's got married back in the late seventies. The Big Island is, well - big. There is a lot of history and a lot to see on this island and I want to share my experience with my family. We arrive at Kona by the Sea to check into our condo. Pleasantly surprised, ours overlooks the ocean and is filled with all the amenities of home – it is spacious, clean, with a full kitchen. At night we leave the patio door open so we can listen to the soothing sound of the surf pounding the sand. Soothing is good.
Up until now, we have not heard from Sam but the next morning I see a missed call on my cell phone. It’s Sam! He’s left a message saying he’s at the St. Joseph's Children's Shelter in Minneapolis. He wants me to call a social worker to give my okay for him to stay there. Sam must have worn out the welcome mat at his friends house. “Why couldn't he have kicked him out before we left for Hawaii? He could have been here with us”. By the time I call the Shelter, Sam is gone. I call Donna. I get her voice mail. I leave a message saying I'd heard from Sam and that we are relieved to know he is okay and to please call with any updates
Kaikala had said the snorkeling is really good at Kealakekua Bay. She said, "get there early before the tour boats come." The next morning, Zach and I decide to check it out. To get there we have to descend through a steep and winding canyon road. Along the way we see an old Hawaiian Coffee Plantation named Kealakekua Coffee Company and a sign for the Painted Church. This is an area with a lot of history. Kaikala says the best diving is by marker that recognizes Captain Cook who discovered the Hawaiian Islands. On the morning of January 17, 1779, Captain James Cook and his ships, the Resolution and Discovery, sail into the sheltered waters of Kealakekua Bay (Pathway of the God) during the height of a local religious festival. Thinking Cook is a returning God, the Hawaiians welcome and honor him. Later, trouble follows, and the Hawaiians realize that Cook and his crew are not immortal. In the end, Cook is surrounded and killed at this very spot. This monument is only approachable by a rugged foot trail or by water. The best way for me to reach this beautiful spot is by kayak.
As we finish our descent, the paved road ends. We drive along a dirt road until coming upon a group parked cars. Almost immediately, we are approached by a local Hawaiian named Kimo. He rents Kayaks. He asks us if we want to rent one but as I reach for my wallet I realize I've left it behind at the condo. He tells me it will be okay to rent a kayak, as long as we come back tomorrow to pay him. I don’t want to do that and decide to see what we can without renting a kayak. As we walk over the rocks with our fins, snorkels and fins, we see a group of people pointing and staring out into the water. As we look closer, we see a group of spinner dolphins jumping up out of the water. It is quite a sight and exciting to watch as they gracefully perform their acrobatics jumping and spinning out of the water.
As I look beyond the dolphins, I can vaguely make out the Captain Cook’s monument. It looks less than a mile away and I ask Zach if he wants to swim out there with me. Being the wise soul he is, he decides to stay close to the beach. Being the dreamer I am, I start swimming out to the monument to see just how good the diving really is. I start swimming thinking I’ll make the monument in no time. As I swim some more, I realize that the monument is a little further than I though. I am a good swimmer and decide I’ll go for it. As I am swimming, I see the spinner dolphins in the distance. Several kayaks pass me by. As I get closer, I see what Kaikala was talking about - there are two big boats, crowded with people packed like sardines. I see a lot of snorkels protruding out of the water. I’m thinking the diving must be really good but it sure looks crowded. Then I get a revelation – why am I putting myself in harms way by swimming in the middle of the ocean alone? I’ve left my son behind while pursuing my self-centered desire to make it to the monument. I stop swimming and pause for a moment. Wasn't the purpose of this vacation to spend time with my family? I do a 180 and swim back to the shore. When I get there, I am exhausted. I see a kid walking on the rocks. It’s Zach who has his eyes focused on me. When our eyes meet, he’s eager to show me a coconut he’s found. I tell him that we will come back tomorrow, early, and rent a kayak and snorkel at the monument.
When we return to the condo, Channa is relaxing on the balcony with her leg elevated and reading a book. I tell her Sam called and it sounded like he was okay. She is relieved but still very worried about him. I show Zach how to open the coconut and eat the fruit. It is sweet, chewy, and quite good. Channa wants to do some sightseeing. There is a concierge at our resort. I ask what she suggests for us to see and where can we find sea turtles? She tells us to visit a historical park called Pu' Uhonua O Honaunu. She says there are lots of sea turtles there.
A brief history lesson: In old Hawaii, if you broke a law the penalty was death. Perhaps you had entered into an area that was reserved for only the chiefs, or had eaten food that was forbidden. Laws or kapu, governed every aspect of Hawaiian society. Your only option for survival was to elude your pursuers and reach the nearest puuhonua, or place of refuge. As you enter, a great wall rises up marking the boundaries between the royal grounds and the sanctuary. Many carved wooden images, Ki'i in Hawaiian, surround the Hale o Keawe, housing the bones of the chiefs that infuse the area with their power or mana. If you reached this sacred place, you would be saved. Pu`uhonua O Honaunau, formerly known as the City of Refuge Park, was set aside as a national historical park by Congress in 1961. Utilizing many local artists and artisans with authentic and traditional tools, the National Park Service has restored the site to its original appearance of the 1700's. The park is of major cultural and historical significance. It is situated on 180 acres, but is easy traversed on foot. A brochure and map for a self-guided tour is available at the Visitors Center. The park has two major sections, the Palace Grounds and the Pu`uhonua O Honaunau, the Place of Refuge. Separating the two areas of the park is the Great Wall.
Our walk through the park starts at the Palace Grounds, the former home of the ruling chief. It is surrounded by a beautiful coconut palm grove overlooking Honaunau Bay. The nearby beach was strictly reserved for Royalty. On display are samples of canoes carved from koa wood with lashings of coconut fibers. All of their construction was from materials native to the land. As we continue on the path we see models of the different types of houses and storage sheds which sit on the palace grounds.
Channa, Zach and me can feel the spirits surrounding us - everywhere we turn there are Ki'i statues that look to me like Tiki's. The detail of expression on their faces shows in great detail the emotions they seem to possess - the Ki'i are strategically positioned to keep evil spirits and bad karma from entering the compound. Some are positioned to face the ocean in a "lookout" kind of pose. Others are in front of the houses that once housed the chiefs of the time. Many facial expressions show the natives baring their teeth, with their nostrils wide open that invoke fear in us! The detail in the carvings brings these characters alive. The intense facial expressions helped prevent ancient intruders from invading the sanctuary. As we continue to explore the park, Zach yells out, "Mom - Dad - come here!" We walked towards a shallow lagoon and Zach is standing on a rock looking down at a group of sea turtles sunning themselves. "Wow, they are beautiful!” I grab my camera and start snapping pictures. One starts moving towards the water and when he finally gets in, he looks even more beautiful in the water. The water makes his shell shine and his leathery head, legs and tail look shiny black - and where he crawled like a snail on the rocks, he swims gracefully in the water. The magical spirits of Pu`uhonua O Honaunau are an elixir for Channa and me. We need relief - we are hurting inside. Sam is always on our minds and we just hope that he has enough sense to stay out of trouble. We ask for good spirits to keep him safe. I'm glad we took the trip - Zach is giving us pleasure simply by wanting to be with us. I see the delight in his eyes that say he is having a great time, despite his older brother not being here. We walk away from the park feeling cleansed and repaired.