Monday, August 13, 2018

THE PLACE OF REFUGE on the Big Island of Hawaii

When I am on the Big Island of Hawaii, one of my favorite places to visit is Pu’uhonua o Honaunau, or the Place of Refuge, a 45 minute drive south of Kona. At the edge of the ocean, it is the perfect place for a picnic lunch, exploring tide pools, and learning about ancient Hawaiian culture. Once a sacred spot, it is now a National Historical Park.
Coconut palms line the shore in the Place of Refuge
On our recent visit to Hawaii we spent an afternoon there. After listening to an introductory talk from a park ranger, we explored the grounds on our own following the numbered posts that were explained in our brochure.
Carved figures guard the heiau (temple) where the bones of 23 chiefs are contained.
We learned that the first Polynesians arrived in Hawaii about a thousand years ago. People settled the islands and lived in family groups governed by chiefs or alii. Complex rules or kapu  governed every aspect of life. If kapu was broken the punishment was death. BUT if the person could make to a designated place of refuge or Pu’uhonua, a priest could cleanse the sins and the person could return to village life. During times of war the Pu’uhonua was also a sanctuary for children, elders and noncombatants. Defeated warriors could also seek safety in the refuge. When the battle was over, they returned home.
This 12 foot high stone wall, built without mortar, divides the royal grounds from the Place of Refuge
There are two main parts to the park–the royal grounds, which is where the priests lived, and the Pu’uhonua or Place of Refuge.
Fish pond in the royal grounds
In the royal grounds there are several shallow ponds that were used to keep fish for the royal menu.  As we looked into the water we could see dozens of circular depressions in the bottom of the pond, each occupied by a pair of fish. These were their nests.
Each circular nest is guarded fiercely by its occupants
Before metal was introduced to Hawaii by Europeans, tools and building materials were made of stone, wood, shells and other natural materials.
Two shelters in the royal ground display examples of canoe making and other craft skills.
Small holes carved in the surface of this rock were used for playing a strategy game called konane. It is played with black and white pebbles.
Complex rules governed ancient Hawaiian society.  In the time of kapu, examples of infractions included a man eating with a woman, a fisherman catching a fish out of season, or a commoner casting his shadow on a chief. In 1819 the tradition of kapu ended and the places of refuge were no longer necessary. Elsewhere on the Hawaiian islands were other Places of Refuge. This is the only one that has been preserved.

Monday, August 6, 2018

A DAY IN KAUAI, Hawaii's Garden Isle

Na Pali Coast, Kauai, Hawaii
At the end of our trip to Hawaii last April we flew from Kona on the Big Island to Kauai, for a short, but relaxing vacation before returning to Los Angeles. We spent two nights at the Plantation Cottages in Waimea--historic cottages from the sugar cane era.
Lawn in front of our cottage at the Waimea Plantation Cottages resort
Ours was built in 1910. It was modest but had a million dollar view as we sat on our front porch just a few yards from the beach. For supper we ate at the barbecue restaurant in the main lodge as we looked out onto the coconut grove.

Waimea Plantation Cottages
Kauai is the oldest island in the Hawaiian chain. On the rugged north coast the cliffs are almost vertical. The week before we visited torrential rains (up to 50 inches falling in one hour!) poured down the cliffs, causing mudslides that closed major roads. Luckily our plans had been for the south side of the island so we weren’t affected.
By the time we arrived the weather was perfect--sunny and warm--a change from the rain and overcast we had experienced most of the time we were in Kona. Part of The Descendants was filmed in Kauai, and it looks just like the movie.
Looking into Waimea Canyon
Our main activity was a drive to overlooks of Waimea Canyon--Hawaii's version of the Grand Canyon--and the Na Pali coast. The road began in Waimea, gradually climbing along the edge of the canyon. We stopped several times at both official and unofficial overlooks. We noticed the bright red of the soil–an indication that when erupting lava created Kauai, it contained a lot of iron.

One of the many waterfalls in Waimea Canyon
Art tried, with only moderate success, to photograph the white-tailed tropic birds that we saw soaring on the updrafts in the canyons. They were far away and moved fast, but he managed to capture a few with his long lens.
White-tailed tropic birds nest on the steep canyon walls
On the other hand, chickens were everywhere and close-up. Chickens, or jungle fowl, were brought by the early Polynesians to the islands and have gone wild. Most birds that you see in Hawaii have been introduced.
Chickens and doves
About half way along the Waimea Canyon road is Kokee State Park, where we stopped to eat our  picnic lunch. We ate in the shade of a tree while watching a group of hula dancers practice on the grassy field near the visitor center. A small museum in the park tells about native vegetation and bird life in Kauai (with stuffed birds on display.) Outside the museum there is a guide to local hikes. There is also a restaurant in the park–the only place to eat on the canyon drive. Apparently one can also rent cabins in the park.
Na Pali coast viewed from the end of the Waimea Canyon road--at 5148 feet above sea level
The end of the road is a spectacular view of the Na Pali coast–sheer cliffs above lush greenery and a small beach with sparkling waves beyond.
The beach at Waimea in front of the Plantation Cottages
We retraced our steps to return to the Plantation Cottages for a swim in the resort pool and walk along the beach.
Wrangler's Steakhouse is in one of Waimea's historic buildings; in 1909 it was Ako Store supplying local rice and sugar plantations
Then after dinner at Wrangler's Steakhouse, a restaurant in town located in a building that had once been the general store, we sat on our front porch to watch the stars come out. Orion rose over the ocean in front of us and the Big Dipper and North Star were low in the sky behind us. It was a perfect end to our short stay on the Garden Isle.
At 5148 feet above the Na Pali coast, Wai'ale'ale is one of the wettest spots on earth.