There Be Giants in Hilo!
Halfway Through My Walking Program for 2013
% of Days Walked
% Towards Goal
Weight on 01/01/13
Weight on 07/01/13
% of Weight Loss
During a recent trip to Hilo on the Big Island of Hawai'i, I had an opportunity to stop in at a local Starbucks coffee shop. Immediately upon entering the bustling java oasis, I spotted a lone table close to an outlet in the wall.
Perfect, I thought.
5 minutes later, I realized I had been premature in my assessment of the situation. Apparently, the reason why this table situated in a prime location in the shop was empty was because it just happened to also be in a dead spot, inaccessible to WiFi.
I needed to document some impressions for an article I was working on, so I decided that my best option was to hoof it on over to the Naniloa Volcanoes Resort where some of my family members from Kaua'i, my father and his wife from Maryland, and I were staying. The walk, I estimated, was about two miles away. I had memorized a few key landmarks and was confident that by connecting the dots, I would find the hotel without any hitches.
The Two-Mile Path from Starbucks to Naniloa Volcanoes Resort
Wailoa River State Park
Ten minutes after leaving the coffee shop, I came across a huge public park. Located on the banks of the Wailoa River between downtown Hilo and Hilo Bay, the Wailoa River State Park is about 132 acres and is managed by the Hawai'i Department of Land and Natural Resources.
The park surrounds Waiakea Pond, an estuary fed by natural springs and host to several saltwater species. While strolling through the area, I saw a handful of walkers and joggers taking good advantage of the roads and walkways along the lush green lawn while reveling in the picturesque and tranquil ambiance of Waiakea Pond.
Holding vigil over the park is an ornate 14-foot tall statue of King Kamehameha the Great, founder of the Kingdom of Hawai'i. Princeville Resort on the island of Kaua'i had originally commissioned the statue. However, when the Garden Island locals proudly pointed out that Kaua'i was the only major island that had never been conquered by Kamehameha I, a change of site was in order. In 1997, an alumni group of Kamehameha Schools raised funds to have the statue transported to the Big Island. In 1997, the statue was put on display in the Wailoa River State Park. Seven years later, the statue was restored in gold leaf.
In the background, the tall coconut palm trees stood like stoic sentries ready to fight to the death for their beloved ali'i, Kamehameha.
Who am I? I thought in the midst of this royal gathering.
Yesterday's Roots Embedded in Today's Soil
When I left the statue, heading north towards Hilo Bay, I came across three senior citizens tending to a small garden bed of transplanted taro plants. The leaves, when boiled, are reminiscent of spinach. The tubers, or large roots, of the taro plant can be boiled and eaten like potatoes. Or, true to the ancient Polynesian ways, the taro roots are pounded and mixed with a minimal amount of water to form the staple delicacy known as poi.
The thought of poi triggered thoughts of the wonderful feast that awaited us at my sister's home an hour or so later. Even with a heavy backpack, I picked up my pace as I headed north towards Kamehameha Highway.
Once I got there, I turned east. After a few hundred yards, I came to a bridge just before the intersection I needed to turn east on. I took a couple of photos here--first, of the boats moored along the south side of the bridge, and then, once I had crossed the street, one of the north side of the bridge.
Deep sea fishing is plentiful off the coast of Hilo. Fishermen bring in hauls of ahi (yellow fin tuna), aku (bonito), mahimahi (dolphin), marlin, and a host of other ocean species to this particular area of the bay.
At the Suisan Fish Auction located just a stone's throw to the north of the ship with the tall mast in the photo to the right, local fisherman gather to sell their fresh catch Monday through Saturday mornings at 8 AM.
The Giants of Banyan Drive
The massive trees that give Banyan Drive its name loomed up ahead like emerald atomic mushroom clouds. There was a curious feel to this section of Hilo--a balanced contrast, if you will, between the ominous presence of these gargantuan entities and the surprising comfort of their benevolent protection while walking in the midst of them.
I was a stranger in their neighborhood--an interloper, at worst; a friendly tourist, at best. This was their home, and I wanted these magnificent creatures to know that my temporary passage under their canopy was pure and honorable.
My thoughts turned to the devastating tsunamis that have wreaked tremendous havoc in this particular area over the last century. One would never know by gazing upon this picturesque community, however, that it has borne the brunt of nature's maritime fury on multiple occasions. Time after time, true to the tough and enduring survival instinct of the ancient canoe-borne mariners who first inhabited the Hawaiian Islands centuries ago, the people of Hilo have persevered and collectively, like a Polynesian phoenix shaking the ashes from its feathers and once again taking flight, rebuilt their port city.
I walked at a brisker pace, anticipating my arrival soon at the Naniloa. Hilo Bay to my left afforded a lovely breathtaking view, even at ground level, of a large body of water in the shape of an inverted U kissing the densely populated coastline. Far across the way, the other side of Hilo was steadily losing its color to a black and white effect as charcoal clouds, pregnant with raindrop infants eager to be born, dimmed the now forsaken afternoon sun.
As if in cued response to my ambling meditation, the first drops of rain fell like kamikaze dive bombing mosquitoes upon my head, face, and arms. I quickly gave thanks for the magnificent banyan trees, inherent allies now as they buffered me from the liquid onslaught. That which made it through the chlorophyll giants was nothing but a sweet mist, a spritz of leaves mixed with floral fragrance. On a humid day in Hilo, the effect was both refreshing and exhilarating.
I managed to return to the Naniloa without getting drenched, thanks to the banyan Goliaths, with just enough time to plug my laptop in at one of the simple dining tables just off the lobby area and do some writing and eBay work prior to dinner. In addition, I took three last photos with my cellphone of the grounds and a bit of Hilo Bay from the veranda.
In keeping with the theme of giants, I think it only fitting to include the obvious fact--underscored, of course, by even the most perfunctory glance at a map of Hawai'i.
The very island I happened to be on--the youngest of the Hawaiian archipelago--is itself the baby giant of its siblings. I assign it infant status because it's still in the midst of tremendous growth spurts, the kind that we humans see happening in our own species from infancy through adolescence. Careful assessment of these photographs reveal subtle evidence of this process--what the locals refer to as vog, a heavy atmospheric film of volcanic ash that permeates the entire island and even rides the southeasterly jet streams to some of the neighboring islands.
Essentially, the island is alive and growing and reminding its inhabitants (and the rest of the world, for that matter) that new land is vomited up from the wretched bowels of the earth in the here and now.
I acknowledged the island giant...and the other giants of Hilo as well...as I sat there tapping away at the keys on my laptop. As much as I needed to be mindful of that singular moment, reveling in a celebration of a two-mile walk in which I had metaphorically ascended the beanstalk and found the giants to be friendly and benevolent, I was also aware of a heavy vog in my heart...
All too soon, I would have to say goodbye to this island paradise and my beloved family of origin.
Clear across the country on the east coast, my walking buddy and excellent writer, Kathryn Stratford, shares her experiences with us.
- Walking Along South Boston's Harborwalk To Castle Island
Come with me as I stroll along the Harborwalk in South Boston, ending up on Castle Island. With photos and thoughts, I hope to show you my experience