Kawaii: Eden of the Pacific

There is no way to experience the awesome beauty of Kawaii except by air.  When David made reservations for our helicopter ride of the island, we had no idea of the wonderful time we were going to have. 

 

This was the first time in my life that I flew via helicopter, and I loved it.  The chopper was pretty modern, the seats were quite cushy and comfortable, and the flight itself was nice and smooth, though not as smooth as a flight on an airplane.  Flying has its different characteristics, depending on what you are flying in.  I will say here that, so far, I have had the priviledge to fly on airplanes, a hot air baloon in the skies of Colorado, and a six seater plane over the Alaskan glaciers, on which we landed. 

 

During our helicopter ride in Kawaii, everyone aboard was wearing Bose headphones, and this made the flight less noisy.  David was able to compare this helicopter ride with the one he enjoyed in the big island, and he told me that the helicopter there was not as modern or comfortable, and that the ride was not as smooth. 

 

Besides keeping out the noise, the headphones were elso the way for us passengers to listen to our pilot’s descriptions of the landscape as we flew.  There were also a couple of microphones that we shared so that we could communicate with the pilot and each other.  This gave us the opportunity to ask questions as we flew. 

Our pilot was a special man.  He had been in the Armed Forces and, at some point during the flight, I asked him about it.  In his answer, he stated that he was no longer serving.  I can not quote his exact words to me, but what he said and how he said it told me a lot about him.  I could tell that he was a special soul, the kind of exceptional, sensitive and loving human being you do not find too often.  Throughout the flight, he remained very aware of my blindness so that he could do an even better job as a describer, and was interested in the way I perceived the whole experience. 

 

I could not help but to feel very humble as we flew over such awesome majesty of nature.  We flew over natural tree formations that made caves, canopies so dense that they made bridgesthat could easily support a good number of people walking over them.  All plants had huge leaves.  You could not see any way through this lushness, because there was no way.  And there were, of course, the volcanoes, the dormant ones that had all kinds of green things growing in areas outside and inside.  It was fabulous for me to fly inside one of these volcanoes, all the way accross it, and feel its walls through the protection of the helicopter, the same way I felt the sides of glaciers in Alaska as we flew.  While we were inside the volcano, the pilot told us that during those times when it rains and rains non stop, the inside walls of the volcano are covered with the thick white foam produced by the incredible amount of water that cascades down with a thundering roar.  I can assure you, all that you and I can do is to imagine this one, because only the most intrepid and valiant may dare approach this part of Nature to witness this most grand event as it is happening. 

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The Great Pacific Chicken Coop

Of the four major islands of Hawaii, Kawaii is the least inhabited, the most untamed.  The beauty of this island is wild and fierce like a warrior goddess, and can only be truly appreciated from the air. 

 

The humidity gets very high in the rainy season, the skies open wide and the rain pours down non-stop for days on end.  These tons of water give Kawaii the exuberance sought by Hollywood, among others, and captured in movies like South Pacific and Gerasic Park. 

 

There is another natural feature that is not so welcome in Kawaii: chickens.  Yes, chickens, especially the roosters that crow at all hours of the morning, especially the very early morning, and continue throughout the day.  You can see the chickens everywhere, on the roads, at hotel lobbies, even in restaurants.  And let me tell you, those chickens are smart.

 

The bus driver was parking at the site of our first visit in the island, when David said to me: “I can see lots of chickens under the vegetation.”  As the people got off the bus, David continued to watch the chickens and noticed that they were coming out from under the large, beautiful leaves  and grouping near the bus.  A thought crossed my mind and I said to David: “I think these guys come out when they see a tour bus because people give them food!”  And I decided that I was going to be one of those tourists. 

 

We got out of the bus and I rummaged in my big purse looking for the series of small packages of pretzels and other snacks that David and I had been collecting.  I could feel the proximity of the chickens and hear the cackle of the hens and roosters and the chirping of the little chicks.  It had been so many years since I was close to chickens and heard their sounds.  As I stood there by the bus with David and our young driver, this big group of chickens took me back to Puerto Rico and my beloved big beautiful backyard, where my father had hens and roosters, and where many chicks were hatched and grew up.  I felt comforted and nostalgic all at once.  I was feeling the sadness that comes from a life that will never be repeated, the joy of having lived that life, and the gratitude for the way I was feeling at the moment. 

 

As I shared my memories and feelings with David and John, our bus driver, I proceeded to open the little packages of crackers and pretzels and slowly crush them and drop them for the chickens.  Despite the fact that it was totally unnecessary, I could not refrain from calling the chickens the way my parents taught me in Puerto Rico.  I was having a ball as I scattered the food about so that all the chickens could get some of it.  David commented about the way in which the adult chickens stepped unceremoniously on the little chicks as they all ran to get the food. 

 

John came over to us and handed something to David, then David said to me: “Here”, signaling to me that he was handing what he had to me in turn.  I was delighted to have in my hands one of the chiks.  I asked John how in the world did he manage to grab the chick without being charged by the mother hen.  “The hen is busy trying to get food, so I went around and grab the chick when she was not looking”, he explained.  I will have to say here that I found this to be strange behavior from both the mother hen and the chick.  Once, in my big beautiful backyard, I tried to take a chick so I could hold it for a little bit.  Well, I was able to grab the chick because the mother hen was distracted somewhere else.  Immediately, the chick started to chirp its distress call at very high decibels, and the next thing I know, there was this hen running towards me, ready for war.  I do not think I have to tell you here that I dropped the chick and ran into the house faster than I can type these lines! 

Well, I guess the chickens in Kawaii are different because the chick did not give out a distress call and mother hen never came to its rescue.  When David placed the chick in my hands, I noticed that it was immobile, and I said: “I think this chick is sick, it is so listless.”  “No, it is just scared”, explained John.  But very soon the chick felt less frightened in my hands. 

It was such a wonderful feeling for me to hold this tiny ball of little soft feathers!  I opened one of its wings so I could feel it.  Regrettably, I was handling the chick far too softly, and my hold on it was too loose, so the little one was able to slip from my hands, jump on my shoulder and then jump off very quickly.  I wish I had been able to hold the chick for longer.  Still, I am glad for the brief moment I had. 

This Planet Earth

So many of us love and worship the beach, and flock to it whenever we can.  We all know about the cream colored or white sanded beaches, and some have had the fortune of visiting beaches painted with pink sand.  Now go into your imagination and pick up an artist’s brush.  Travel in your mind to your favorite beach and use your magical brush to paint the sand black.  Yes, black.  Do not forget to paint the sand that is in the water.  When you are finished using your black paint, stand back and admire the results.  Start by standing on your beach on a perfectly sunny day.  See how black and beautiful the sand looks?  And look at the ocean, how its blues are so deep that they almost look purple.  Now allow the skies to become overcast and watch as the ocean blues acquire a definite tone of charcoal gray, blending smoothly with the beautiful sand.  Stay here for as long as you like and paint this gorgeous seascape with the colors of sunrise or sunset. 

 

Is this spectacular or what?  Black sanded beaches are a gift from our oceans, as they pound incessantly at the lava rock from which islands like the big Hawaii are born.  standing on that beach and crouching to scoop up handfuls of its black sand was such a wonderful experience for me that I did not mind having that sand getting in my open shoes and between my toes one bit.  I do not think I need to tell you here that I never bothered to remove that rare and beautiful sand, I just let it leave my shoes on its own time, I wanted it touching my feet for as long as it was going to stay in my footwear, knowing full well that the touch of black sand, as well as every other instant of my life in the Hawaiian islands, was a once in a lifetime experience. 

Table for One

Hawaii, the Big Island, the largest island, the youngest island, still in the process of creation. It is so awesome to think that humans have dared to build their homes and cities so close to Kiliawa, home of the fire godess Pele, a volcano still alive, slowly spilling its lava down its sides, lava that slides down and disappears into the ocean.  The most spectacular views of the big island can be seen only by helicopter, and David had the opportunity to do this.  We decided that he would go in this helicopter ride by himself, since we had already scheduled another helicopter ride in Kawaii.  So I had the opportunity to enjoy our nice hotel room and its balcony, having it all to myself for an afternoon.

 

There is nothing like listening to the ocean. No two waves sound the same.  I had a great afternoon sitting on the balcony having lunch and then slowly enjoying a bar of Lindt dark chocolate as I sat and listened to the ocean right beneath me.  And the birds, the ever present birds!  So many of them, so many lovely songs, they provided the perfect accompaniment to the crashing of the waves on the lava rocks.

Daughters of Neptune

Morning at the beach in Waikiki.  The beach, the beach!  I was craving spending time at the beach with a tremendously forceful, burning intensity that impressed even me.  The morning was perfect in every way.  The sun was ruling in a clear blue sky and the temperature touching my skin was just right.  We walked the couple of blocks from the hotel to the beach, through the streets of this neat and interesting part of Awahu. 

The full glory of the beach embraced me completely.  My feet felt gently warm as I walked on the sand.  The air was full of the perfume of the sea, and I felt as if its singing waves  were just for me alone.  No way was I going to refuse the invitation to go into the water. 

The sun, the sky and the ocean took me in completely, and I was giddy with joy.  The beach and me were the entire universe that morning, there was nothing else.  I felt as if we were the whole of creation.  I was a child again, five years of age maybe, and I had entered the realm where there was no personal war, no fear or pain. 

As I sat in the water facing the great ocean and digging around for its treasures, I wondered if I could get up, start walking and keep walking until I became a permanent part of this universe.  I fancied that, if I did this, I would stay forever in this perfect world, where there was nothing but beauty and my greatly intense emotions of being alive and consumed with joy.  Of course, the wise old woman in me knew perfectly well that this was silly.  Then I thought with sadness about a Puerto Rican poet, Julia De Burgos, who walked into the ocean to end her life.  Funny, she walked to let the ocean swallow her because of her great agony, because life had lost its brightness for her, and she had nothing left in her soul but grief and despair.  And here I was, thinking about walking into the sea to perpetuate the emotions that my body could barely contain. 

Living in New York for so many years has turned me into an autum bird, feeling at my best when temperatures are cool or gently warm and the air is crisp and clear.  But I was not always this way.  I was born in Puerto Rico, into the perfection of nature, and I became a child of the trees, the plants and the flowers, no matter where they were.  My mother, however, was a child of the ocean through and through.  That was the place where she felt at home, and she was, of course, being a true daughter of Neptune.  Her wishes always were to be cremated and taken to her beloved ocean, where she could become a part of it, and it a part of her, forever. 

I know now that I have become a daughter of Neptune as well.  I almost never visit the sea, and I guess that, deep in my soul, I miss it terribly because, if and when I have a chance to go there,  the fire of my emotions burns me as it did that morning, at Neptune’s home in Waikiki.

arrival

The flight is over.  Yeah!  David and I stampeded out of the plane as fast as we could, along with the rest of the herd.  Warm, very warm, and I was starting to sweat.  I thought to myself, foolishly, of course: “I hope the temperatures here are not excessive!  Looking back, I now know that feeling super warm was the shock of being cool in New York City for so long, and that we were walking fast.  We were inside Honolulu International, but it felt open to the outside world.  Open spaces!  Yes, open areas through which the Pacific trade winds could flow unimpeded.  And birds!  Birds, birds, birds everywhere, filling the air with their wonderful songs, the lovely feathered ones that would be our constant companions through our stay in paradise. 

After grabbing our suitcases, we went to find the greeting person from our tour company, who presented us with beautiful lei.  Yay, Hawaii at last! 

One of the airport’s porters, in charge of taking our suitcases to the bus that would take us to our hotel was talking with me and raving about the dining area of the hotel we were staying, the Pacific Beach.  He mentioned this aquarium which was “really nice,” as he put it.  He also said that the food there was so delicious that many locals, including himself, went there for lunch regularly.  I was very glad to hear such a good recommendation from someone who sounded like he knew what he was talking about. 

And boy, did he ever!  The aquarium he said was “very nice” was three stories high, about a hundred feet in length, and heaven knows how large in diameter.  It was filled with 280,000 gallons of water, and it starred three magnificent manta or sting rays, who commanded awe and respect as they gently and unhurriedly moved their “wings” while going about their underwater flight.  The choreography of this spectacular aquarium was complete with abundant plant life and fish of various colors, all framing the presence of the riveting manta rays. 

The food!  The food!  The food!  Papaya to die for, served with skin and all, so I got to eat it as I did growing up in Puerto Rico, living in the house with the big beautiful backyard.  We had a papaya tree, but it was not in the big beautiful backyard, it was actually in the side garden of the house.  My father would watch the growth of the fruit and he would know exactly when to take it down from the tree, no easy task.  He would cut the fruit and all we needed to do was to gently scrape off the seeds and chow down.  Here at the Pacific Beach in Waikiki, Honolulu, I did not have to scrape the seeds, but I got to enjoy the skin.  I will tell you, I would not have minded a bit if I had to scrape the seeds!  Okay, so there were the papaya, the pineapple and other fruits.  There were eggs deliciously prepared with vegetables, Portugese sausages, freshly  squeezed fruit juices.  I just wish they had not strained the juices, especially the guava.  Lunch and dinner were no less delicious.  There was the famous kalua pork, kalua chicken, salmon, mahi mahi, rice, vegetables.  No wonder the residents and working people in the area went there to eat, as the porter told me back at the airport!  It was heaven!

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