Sadly, it was now time to leave the Big Island, but not the state of Hawaii, so we weren’t too down. We packed up the ludicrous volume of stuff we have acquired in the short time we’ve been here, ran a few errands and had a final delicious – and impressive-looking – lunch at Hoppers, looking out over Dig Me Beach, in the town which has returned to its pre-race sleepiness. Unfortunately, we had to take the rental car back by 2pm and weren’t due to fly for a couple of hours, but it gave me a chance to catch up a bit on this blog.
A 40 min flight and we were back in Honolulu. For the sake of completeness, I’ll tell you about our rental car, but it is distinctive only for its battered state and not its size. It’s a Chevy Impala and has definitely seen better days.
On O’ahu we’re staying in Kane’ohe, just up the coast from Kailua. This is why the Kailua on the Big Island is often referred to as Kailua-Kona, in order to differentiate. We made a brief raid on Safeway and settled in to our condo. This is as good a time as any to question the Hawaiian love of Spam. With so much delicious fish, pork and beef, it is fairly incomprehensible to me, but it’s almost an institution. Yum?
The next morning (after an expensive, but necessary, trip to Urgent Care for James) we set out to explore this new island. First impressions are that it rains a lot! Not just light mizzle either, proper monsoon. When it does so, there are a hundred waterfalls that cascade down the jagged, densely green ridges. We drove up to the Nu’uana Pali lookout which gave us a great vista to the northeast, but the Ko’olau range itself was fairly obscured by low-lying cloud.
So we went to Queen Emma’s Summer Palace. Emma was the wife of King Kamehameha IV, half English, half Hawaiian. She was brought up by informal adoptive parents (a common practice back then) with very English practices and values. After becoming Queen, she travelled to England and met Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, who later became godparents for her son, who sadly died at about the age of 6. The palace was restored and furnished by the Daughters of Hawaii, and the tour is excellent. The house is furnished far more extensively than it would have been when Emma lived in it, because items from other houses have been sourced and are kept there. There was an amazing baptismal font, sent by Queen Victoria, and a stunning Ali’i cloak made of many thousands of red and gold feathers. The history of which Kamehameha did what is tricky to get straight in your head, but the Daughter who gave our tour did a great job of helping us understand. One of my favourite pieces of furniture was the egg-like cot.
Down the road is the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. The flag was at half mast as we entered, because there was a ceremony taking place – as we parked, the honour guard fired 3 shots. Every one of the 50,000 soldiers buried there, as well as those named on the solemn white columns, is a hero, but a few have more famous stories – Ernie Pyle, the war correspondent, and resting nearby, Ellison Onizuka who was lost in the Challenger Shuttle disaster of 1986. The cemetery itself occupies an area known as the Punchbowl – a volcanic crater whose walls form a natural amphitheater where the bodies of kapu breakers used to be brought for cremation. As ever, the sight of so many grave markers, plus the names of those whose bodies were not recovered, puts into context the degree of sacrifice. We walked up to the crater edge where the city lies sprawled below.
We headed up into the hills for the Tantalus-Round Top Scenic drive which takes you to 2013ft at the top of Mount Tantalus, with lush, dense foliage and panoramic views of the city, across to the ocean. As the sun set, we went home for a relaxing evening, prior to a planned early start the next day.