The Last Luau

My last tour was one more luau at the Polynesian Cultural Center. During the day, we went from event to event at the sound of the *pū:

Conch Blower, morning of Hi`uwai and Ho`okupu, Spencer Beach Park, South Kohala—Sept. 1, 2007. photo courtesy of Michael O’Brien

There were spear-throwing contests, hula dance instruction, demonstrations of early fishing with nets, and, as the “special guest” of the luau, the roasted pig (or kalua pig) was carried around for all to see.

As the evening progressed, the moon rose above the sea, and we enjoyed traditional hula dancing and singing from both women and men. The luau was wonderful; it consisted of kalua pig, pasta salad, roasted chicken, broccoli salad, potato salad and poi rolls (these soft and delicious rolls took on the purple color of poi, which is made from taro).

For dessert there was a small plate containing a slice of chocolate coconut cake, a generous slice of fresh pineapple and a square of Hawaii’s answer to tapioca pudding, **haupia.

As the night ended with applause and laughter, we all got on our respective buses, happy and contented. Our fabulous tour guide, a gorgeous Samoan girl, kept us laughing. She also made sure that the music on the radio was from us older folks’ generation. We probably annoyed the hell out of the young people as we sang along with “Sweet Caroline” (including the “bomp-bomp-bomp” as well) and other favorites.

It was a sweet and lovely end to my tours in Oahu. The following day was my last “free” day.

*From Keola magazine; post by Catherine Tarleton:

“The tropically iconic conch shell trumpet, or pū, is often seen at the lips of malo-clad beach boys, sounding the start of sunset and tiki torch lighting time. The tradition of the pū is ancient, sending out a sound that resonates attention, respect, and significance across the ocean and time.

In Hawai‘i for countless generations the pū has announced the arrival of canoes, the entrance of ali‘i, and the beginning of protocols. Today, its one-note fanfare is used to start a meeting, bless a home, or call a gathering to order.”

From Wikipedia: In ancient pū society, the aliʻi were the hereditary nobles (social class or caste). The aliʻi consisted of the higher and lesser chiefs of the various levels within the islands. The noho aliʻi were the ruling chiefs. The aliʻi were believed to be descended from the gods. They governed with divine power called mana which was derived from the spiritual energy of their ancestors.

There were eleven classes of aliʻi, of both men and women. These included the kahuna (priest/priestess, experts, craftsmen and canoe maker) as part of four professions practiced by the nobility. Each island had its own aliʻi nui, who governed their individual systems. Aliʻi continued to rule the Hawaiian islands until 1893, when Queen Liliʻuokalani was overthrown by a coup d’état backed by the United States government.

Aliʻi nui were ruling chiefs (in Hawaiiannui means grand, great, or supreme. The nui title could be passed on by right of birth.

**Haupia is a traditional coconut milk-based Hawaiian dessert often found at luaus and other local gatherings in Hawaiʻi. Since the 1940s, it has become popular as a topping for white cake, especially at weddings. Although technically considered a pudding, the consistency of haupia closely approximates gelatin dessert and is usually served in blocks like gelatin.



The Honolulu Homeless

I realize that there are homeless people everywhere. I saw them every day when I went for walks by Waikiki Beach. They sleep in tents or on park benches or wherever they can find a spot. They carry with them all their belongings; most are on foot. The luckier ones have ancient bikes or shopping carts.

Right beside the hotel where I stayed, there was an old beige VW bus stuffed to the gills with one old man’s belongings. Now and then I saw him get in or out of his home; I wondered what his story was.

From what I saw, there were two types of homeless folk: those who mind their own business and don’t bother anyone or ask for anything. The other type is a little scary; they read Bible verses loudly as if to punish people around them, and then there are those who feel perfectly fine in shouting homophobic slurs and what should be done to “those people.” I have no idea what their agenda is; perhaps it is just a way to be heard.

I get it; if you are homeless, Hawaii is a warm place to be. There are also many young people who live on the beaches; the locals call them “the beach kids.” Again, not knowing their stories, you wonder how they ended up there.

Every day I saw the homeless, I felt awful for not giving them anything. I wanted to help but didn’t know how. I felt sick and sad that so many are in need. In my mind I thought, ‘you could give them everything you have and it wouldn’t make one drop of difference.’ There I was, in a place I’d always wanted to see, and, through no grace of my own, was able to go there and enjoy myself. How did I end up with so much and they with so little?

Honolulu, like many other cities, has had a homeless problem for a long time. You have to wonder how these folks got to where they are now; what happened to them that they now are living on the street?

I wish I had an answer.




The Majestic Circle Tour

The next-to-the-last big tour I took was the Majestic Circle tour. It was amazing, and possibly the best of all the tours. In it, we circled the whole island of Oahu in a comfortable tour bus. Mike, our guide, was absolutely great. He was a big guy in his 60s, with a beard longer than the Crankee Yankee’s, plus a Santa hat. He had stories to tell all through the trip, which enhanced the whole experience.

We enjoyed all the sights on this nine-hour tour; Diamond Head, the Halona blowhole (which, by the way, was not blowing that day), Hanauma Bay, Nuʻuanu Pali, the North Shore, Waimea falls and Waimea Bay. On that day, there were plenty of surfers to watch. We also visited the lovely Byodo-In Temple, a replica of an ancient Japanese temple.

oahu 120mile fullday tour including dole plantation

We also visited the Dole Plantation and enjoyed some fabulous Kona coffee, roasted macadamia nuts and of course, fresh pineapple.

Part of the circle tour, showing the island called Chinaman’s Hat.

Waimea Falls.

Just walking up to Waimea Falls was a treat in itself; there were flowers and plants and trees, the like of which I have never seen. Honestly, to me it seemed like being in the Garden of Eden. On the way out, I stopped at a table where a young man was sorting and cleaning sea shells. I asked him if the sea shells were native to Hawaii, and they were. In fact, this young man made a living out of diving for them. I bought a beautiful lavender and cream-colored cone shell, which now looks great in my collection.

Back on the tour bus, Mike told us to pass along a lunch menu and choose what we wanted. He said, “as you are in Hawaii now, let’s do as the natives do, and eat at a shrimp truck.”

Fine by us all! I ordered garlic butter shrimp, and when we all arrived at Fumi’s Shrimp Truck, I enjoyed the best shrimp I’ve ever had. It came with two small scoops of sticky rice and oddly, canned corn. But it was all delicious.

I went back to my hotel feeling as though I had taken in so much beauty that day. I understand now why Hawaii is fondly called “Paradise.”




The “Bottle Birds” and Other Wonders

My wonderful AAA gal had set me up with all the tours I wanted to take, and she spaced them out so that I would have a tour one day, and the next day I’d be on my own. It worked out beautifully. On my “no tour” days, I did a lot of exploring in Honolulu.

You could certainly tell us tourists; when the mornings were around 65 degrees, we would walk around in sleeveless dresses, shorts, t-shirts; in short; summer clothes. The native folks were bundled up in sweaters and coats.

The condo I stayed in had a gorgeous view, and I was able to see lots of rainbows (a common and beautiful occurence in Hawaii). Each morning I had a cup of delicious Kona coffee on my little balcony (or lanai, as they call it) and I watched and listened to the birds.

What I called the “bottle birds” greeted me each morning with their signature call that sounds like they are burbling in a bottle. It was always a great start to the day. Also there were white doves who often soared past my window. There were also beautiful white cranes everywhere.

I sort of fell in love with the trees and flowers in Oahu; it was a lovely thing to hear the palm trees rattle with every breeze. Speaking of palm trees, here’s a funny thing I heard about the coconut palms. As nearly each street in Honolulu has rows upon rows of them, the city makes sure that all coconuts are removed from each tree. Want to know why? If they didn’t do this and a random coconut fell on someone’s head, the city would have to pay the doctor bills!

Another wonder is that there are rainbows nearly every day. Most days it was warm and sunny, but always with a lot of puffy clouds here and there. Often there would be a short and light sprinkle of rain, not even enough for us tourists to raise an umbrella. I privately called this atmospheric condition “sprinklets.”

Almost without exception, most visitors were in pairs or groups. I only met one woman around my age who also was on her own. We agreed that it was a great way to travel, meaning we could do what we wanted when we wanted. There were visitors from all over; China, Japan, France, New Zealand, Australia and more.

On some of the tours I took, there were many areas to see and there were time limits to each stop. I made sure that I memorized a few of my fellow travelers so that I wouldn’t miss the bus. So in my head I chose a few people to watch for, and I named them to myself so that I would remember them. One of my most memorable ones were “Fruit Salad Head Lady” (she had her hair in several elastics; each clump of hair was a different color), and “Crazy Clown Leg Guy,” who had a massive tattoo of Stephen King’s “It” clown on his right calf. Sounds funny, but it worked for me!

Just being in Honolulu was a thrill. I never in my life thought that I would travel this far from New Hampshire. It didn’t take long for me to feel right at home, though. Everyone I met was kind and welcoming, and I learned quickly to say to all “aloha” which means love and appreciation (and much more) and “mahalo” which means “thank you.”

Speaking of thanks, thank you all for reading this travelog. Mahalo!



Snorkling With The Turtles

I went to Hanamua Bay to snorkle with the turtles. I hadn’t snorkled since I was a kid, and I hadn’t gone swimming for over 20 years, but hey—the body remembers. When you see the bay, you can not only appreciate that the water is a gorgeous blue-turquoise, but it is encircled by a half ring of hills. When you see it from above, it looks like two protecting arms around the bay.

We were told to be very careful of swimming beyond that “U” shape; the tides can get pretty fierce out there (and there could be sharks). In the shallows, there are loads of coral reefs where fish and sea urchins like to visit. We were admonished to 1) only use “reef safe” sunscreen (the ingredients of regular sun screen has caused over time the death of many of Hawaii’s coral reefs), and 2) not to touch the turtles, fish or other sea life. Fair enough.

The water was actually pretty comfortable, and I found out that I remembered how to swim with flippers and a mask and snorkle. I swam around for a long time, but the turtles were no where to be seen. (Seriously, they don’t have a time table; it’s a “catch as catch can” deal.)

However, the little part of the sea I was paddling around in had plenty of beautiful fish to see. They were sporting their gorgeous colors (as if to make up for the no-show turtles) and acted as though they knew that they were the big entertainment draw. I also saw sea urchins tucked away in the holes in the corals, their spines twitching as if to say “don’t trend on me!”

Honestly, after all that beauty, I didn’t mind a bit about the turtles. It was enough to swim in the ocean and see the wonderous sealife there.

Hanauma Bay

The Diamond Head Tour

For some reason (and also because I knew nothing about Diamond Head), I thought that this would be a walk-around to see the flora and fauna, waterfalls and rock formations. Turns out it was a hike of no less than 760 feet to the top!

Luckily, there were many folks my age and older, and we would step off the trail now and then to catch our breath. But it was all worth it; the views were amazing, there was a refreshing cool breeze the whole way, and also I met some wonderful people. By the time we got back down again, we all received certificates of achievement in climbing Diamond Head. Quite frankly, it was a sight to see from all angles, and I have the blisters to prove it!

I learned a lot from being on my own in Oahu. Certainly the tours were wonderful, and I got to meet a lot of people from all over the world. It was a huge life lesson in how to manage on my own; I hadn’t realized how very dependent I had become with the Crankee Yankee. In fact, in the nearly 17 years that we have been married, I slowly began to become lazy.

If we traveled anywhere, I was happy to let the Crankee Yankee drive. If there was a problem with anything regarding the house, the vehicles, the bank, etc., the Crankee Yankee handled it all.

When I was single, I did everything on my own and managed just fine. When I was married to my first husband, it was me who handled all the money, bills, cooking, cleaning; in short, just about everything.

Over the years, the Crankee Yankee and I have our own system which works beautifully for us. He handles everything to do with the house, vehicles, banking, etc., and I manage the indoor and outdoor cats, the laundry, cooking, cleaning and so forth. It’s a routine we both agree on and are comfortable with.

I sort of found myself just by being on my own for two weeks. I missed the Crankee Yankee and all the cats, and in the last four days of my trip, I really wanted to go home. Funny how that is; you finally go on the trip of your dreams, and it turns out that home is really where you want to be.

From AYC And You Creations, some Diamond Head Facts:

  1. Used To Be a Military Base

The first military reservation on the islands of Hawaii was called Fort Ruger and was built inside the crater of Diamond Head. It was purchased for $3,300 in 1905 by the US Government. The government considered Diamond Head the perfect place for a military presence because the elevation and steep mountain walls acted as the perfect spot to fire in a 360 degree radius at incoming ships in the nearby waters. Diamond Head Crater is now a state park and no longer used as a military facility.

2. Diamond Head Mountain is 300,000 Years Old

About 300,000 years ago, there were small volcanic eruptions on the island of Oahu creating 3 significant craters in the area: Punchbowl, Diamond Head, and Koko Head. To the Southeast of Diamond Head is an area called Blackpoint, created by the lava flow from the eruptions. It’s interesting to note that the eruptions in some places covered coral reefs that now are over 100 feet above sea level, meaning the sea level was at least that much higher than it is now. It was an active volcano at one time, over 150,000 years ago, but has been dormant since and there’s no lava in the crater.

3. How Diamond Head Got Its Name

The name of Diamond Head became famous in the 1820’s when crews from British ships discovered calcite crystals on the crater. Because they believed they were diamonds, they named the famous volcano what it’s currently known as. Later, the British found that the crystals were, in fact, not diamonds.

4. Mount Le’Ahi

To the locals in Hawaii, Diamond Head Crater is actually called Le’Ahi. Le’Ahi means “brow of the tuna fish”. Hawaiians believe the legend that Pele’s sister, Hi’iaka gave it the name because from a distance, the crater looks like the back and fin of a tuna fish.

Diamond Head Aerial View

The Polynesian Cultural Center Tour

All I can say about this tour is wow, wow, WOW!!! There was so much to see and do, and during the day, there was a river show. We all sat on benches and watched the show that explained all the different peoples of the islands; Samoans, Figians, Hawaiians, Tahitians and of course the early Polynesians. Later on, there was hula dancing and songs, and then later on, the amazing men and boys who do the fire dances.

Some brief history of the Polynesian Cultiral Center: As early as 1844, missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (popularly called the Mormons) were working among the Polynesians in Tahiti and surrounding islands. Missionaries arrived in the Sandwich Islands (Hawai’i) in 1850. By 1865, the LDS Church had purchased the 6,000-acre plantation that encompasses all of Laie.

The LDS Temple in Laie — started in 1915 and dedicated on Thanksgiving Day 1919 — attracted more islanders from throughout the South Pacific. By the 1920s, LDS Church missionaries had carried their Christian teachings to all the major island groups of Polynesia, by living among the people and speaking their languages.

The Polynesian Cultural Center is an homage to all the peoples of the islands; there are lessons in making flower leis, coconut leaf headbands and fishing with a handmade net and more.

I had seen the “fisherman’s hook” everywhere in Oahu; lots of people wear them:

KanaKala Pacific Hawaiian Made on Maui Hand Carved Bone Fish Hook Necklace Men. Our Moana Movie & Zac Brown Band Inspired Replica.

*”The Hawaiian fish hook necklace is commonly known as Makau. As its design suggests, this handmade Hawaiian Jewelry symbolizes a connection between the wearer and the ocean. The jewelry is a symbol of energy, strength, prosperity, abundance, and good luck. Since the ancient Hawaiian livelihood was very much dependent on the ocean waters, so, the fish hook necklace signifies a deep respect and love towards the oceans.

As per the ancient Hawaiian belief, it also signifies that once it is worn, the fish hook becomes a part of the wearer’s spirit. Hence, on being handed over to anyone in the wearer’s family, it establishes a sacred, spiritual link between the closed ones and bridges the gap between time and distance. Therefore, this handmade heirloom Hawaiian Jewelry forms a very integral part of a family throughout the generations.”

I never knew what it meant until the meaning was made clear during the river show. In the beginning, there was only one big island. During the show, the chieftan picked up a huge fishhook and mimmicked cutting up the big island into five separate ones; Oahu, Molokai, Maui, Lanai, and the “big island,” Hawaii.

At dusk, there was a magnificent luau, featuring kalua pig, baked chicken, pasta salad, coleslaw, poi (made from taro, a local root). And no, I did not eat the poi, but I did eat a poi biscuit!

It was a fabulous day that I will never forget.

* From Living Aloha Creation.