Touring North

It was exciting the next morning waking to the ever-present surf and opening the louvered doors to let in the vista.  The birds were already squawking and cooing.  We started the day with a swim in the pool which felt great.  After a shower, we strolled downtown to find a place to eat breakfast.  We considered Huggo's which is right next door to the hotel and has oceanside tables but there was a line so we continued on down Ali’i Drive.  We also considered Lava Java, a trendy internet café, but all the good outdoor tables were taken.  Continuing on, we came to Bubba Gump’s Shrimp Co. where a young lady beckoned us to come in with a big grin on her face.  She took us to a table by the water.  The place is based on the movie "Forrest Gump" and the entire staff act kind of goofy and happy in keeping with the theme.  There were lots of families with young kids there.  The food was ordinary, if not dull for the price.

Walking back to the hotel, we stopped at a small booth-like shop that sold some of the most original and colorful windsocks and streamers that I’ve ever seen.  We stopped and admired them and met Mark, the proprietor.  Stopping to talk with Mark became part of the happy "routine" of our daily walks into Kailua.  It’s nice to meet a friend and brother so far from home.  Across the street from Mark’s stand, is Ferrari's, a small coffee and macadamia nut stand.  We bought a pound of unsalted macnuts; I had never tasted them before and they were an utter treat.

Our first mission for the day was to see if we could exchange the smelly, noisy, uncomfortable Oldsmobile Alera.  So we headed back to the airport and the rental car agency.  Once again John stood in line but not so long this time. When he came back to where I had been waiting he was smiling.  He showed me our new vehicle – a snazzy dark blue Chrysler Sebring convertible.  Wow!  We were jazzed.  We’d never thought about getting a convertible – I hadn’t been in one since college days – but it was the only car they had for us.  It was smaller than the Alera but who needed all that room?  The trunk lid felt solid, the inside was odor free and it felt real comfortable.  With the top down, and happy smiles, we headed out.

Instead of going back to town, John drove North on Rte. 19, Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway also called Queen Ka for short.  Our great corner room and now our new car gave us a burst of vacation optimism and real fun.  Hanging onto our hats, we drove past more fields of black rock decorated with white rock graffiti.  This lava flow had poured down in 1800 from Hualalai which rises behind Kailua-Kona and a few miles north there is a Mauna Loa flow from 1859.  There is still little vegetation on any of it.  Once out of Kailua, there are no houses or settlements for miles.  But as we drove farther north beyond the big lava beds, there was more grass and shrubs and we could make out the mountains and hills draped with clouds.  Occasionally we would get a view of the coastline. There were roads heading down to the ocean but most didn’t look paved.  We pulled down the paved road to Waikoloa Beach and found ourselves at the Hilton Hotel.  We got out and checked it out knowing we were going to have to deal with finding new accommodations.  It was newer and plusher than the Royal Kona, which at one time had been owned by Hilton.  The Royal Kona has the same luxury but it is now a bit worn and shabby compared to the Waikoloa Beach resort where the prices are two and three times higher.  There were nice touches like beautiful parrots on perches in the open-air lobby, lovely tropical grounds from what we could see and there were a lot of people, many families.  But it didn’t have the crashing surf right there around you.  The Royal Kona is built on a rocky point jutting out into the ocean and it is continually encountering the full force of that massive body of water.  We both had the same feeling that we were glad we were staying so close to town and to the mighty surf and decided to see if we could book a longer stay in our great room.

Before we started back up the coast, we decided to put the top up on the car because the sun was just too strong and we were not used to it.  It was actually a relief to get back into the shade and air conditioning.  As Rte. 19 took a sharp turn to the right heading towards Waimea, we veered to the left and followed the coast northward.  We stopped briefly at Kawaihae harbor.  The coastline here is green with lush grasses and some trees contrasting with the ocean’s variegated shades of blue, purple and green.  At the northern most point of the land we noticed the wind pick up as the road turned to the east.  Our car had a gauge that told us what direction we were heading in and what the outside temperature was.  This was great information and really interesting to see how the temperature changed relative to how high above sea level we were anywhere on the island.  We were now several degrees cooler than Kailua because of the wind and the elevation.

It was a beautiful day for a drive and it was exciting seeing new scenery.  We passed through the small town of Hikopaloa, which to be truthful I can’t remember.  We saw a sign for Upolu Airport and John wanted to stop and check it out but we were past the road before we even saw it so we drove into the old sugar town of Hawi (pronounced Havi).  It is a quaint old town, not the tourist town of Kailua but with some galleries and restaurants and a bed and breakfast.  It reminded us of Phoenicia or Woodstock in New York.  John has a friend that he met on the internet who lives in Hawi and had extended us a welcome.  John tried to call him but there was no answer.  So, we continued on to the next town, Kapa’au (also called Kohala).  We stopped here for a while looking into some of the galleries and gift shops which had beautifully made handcrafted items and a well-stocked used book store.  We saw the famous statue of King Kamehameha – the original one that was rescued from a shipwreck off the Falkland Islands.  There is a lot of history in this town and I will want to come back and investigate it further some day as well as to take some pictures.  I was still without my battery charger and cables so I was being very conservative with the number of pictures I was taking.

We drove on to the small village of Niulii.  The road took some very sharp curves as it bent around the deep gulches cut by streams coming off the Kohala Mountains rushing to the sea below.  This whole area was very lush with big trees and vegetation and steep slopes.  We saw a small house down in the bottom of one of those gulches, a private tropical paradise.  Just outside of Niulii we took a one lane road to Keokea Beach Park.  It was good to be back down at sea level where the surf was still crashing against the rocky shore.  There was really no beach to speak of but impressive rocks and waves.

It was getting to be late in the afternoon and we decided to head back to Kailua.   Looking at the atlas, we could see that there was only a mile or so left before the road ended.   What we didn’t know was that at the end of the road was the Pololu Valley.  The view from the lookout up top is impressive (I’ve since seen photos of it) and the walk down to the valley and the beach is not too difficult.   It will be an outing that we will reserve for our return trip someday.

We drove back to Hawi and took the turnoff on Kohala Mountain Road, Rte 250, which would take us to Waimea.  We gained elevation on this road and lost degrees of heat.  The landscape was verdant and lush with awesome views of the ragged coastline down below.  The higher we climbed, the cloudier it got.  By the time we reached Waimea (also known as Kamuela) there was occasional drizzle in the air.  It was interesting how the clouds gathered around the land especially the high points.  The temperature was in the 60s here.  Waimea looked like a fairly large well-developed town.  This whole North Kohala area was very rural and the homesteading looked good up here.  But today we were only passing through.  In Waimea we turned onto Mamalahoa Highway, Rte 190, and continued south towards Kailua.  We passed the Parker Ranch, an enormous historical and working ranch.  For miles we could see their cattle grazing on the grassy slopes in the misty rain.  We pulled off the road to take some pictures and got a classic Hawaiian rainbow.  A group of Japanese tourists also pulled over for the photo op.  The rest of the drive back to town was beautiful.  We found all over the island that many drivers were in a big hurry and they would drive right on your tail if you weren’t going fast enough.  As a tourist, you want to drive a little more slowly and enjoy the sights.  Where possible, it is best to pull over and let the impatient ones - usually young locals - pass.  As we descended towards sea level, the clouds vanished and the temperature hopped back up into the 80s.

When we got back to the hotel, John went to the front desk to see if he could negotiate some more nights in our room and to see if my battery charger and cables had arrived from Sarah.  He was able to extend our stay through Monday night but then a convention was coming in and they were booked solid for two nights.  My package had not arrived.  This was Friday night, so that would mean I would have to wait until Monday.  I was already being very conservative with the number of pictures I was taking, so this was disappointing.  We gave Sarah a call and she tracked the package and called us back and said it was in Kailua and should have been delivered.  I went back down to the front desk and inquired again.  The girl went back again to check and just at that moment the driver came back, saying he’d forgotten to drop off one package.  I gave a huge mahalo (thank you) to the beaming young wahine (woman) when she handed me my freedom to snap as many pictures as I wanted.  I got back to the room in time to join John in taking some shots of the sunset and the people gathering down below for the luau.

John called the local movie theatre to find out if they were showing "The Return of the King" and found out that they had just stopped showing it.  We love going to the movies and had been looking forward to seeing that film on a big screen.  But this was to be a vacation from all of our usual activities; we didn’t see one movie while in Hawaii not even on television and only watched the local news sometimes for weather reports.

We weren’t hungry enough for a luau so we again consulted "The Big Island Revealed" and drove into town to one of the shopping centers where we found the Oodles of Noodles restaurant.  It was right next door to a large health food store where I bought some great aloe gel that helped my skin past the shock of such intense sunshine and we picked up some water and papaya juice.  We ate at an outside table at Oodles of Noodles and had delicious, zestily seasoned and unique pasta dinners.  I thought we would eat there again before we left the island but it was not to be.  It will be something else to look forward to on our next visit.

We returned to the Royal Kona for another restful sleep lulled by booming surf.


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