Posted by: bigislandtikiadventure | May 27, 2013

Creatures Great And Small

Happy Memorial Day everyone! Hope you are all enjoying yourselves, I know our friends in PDX are having a great time at Doc Kearney’s BBQ, wish I was there. But it’s pleasant here in Hawaii today, a bit rainy in the morning then mixed sun and clouds. The rain made things a bit steamy, it’s 81 degrees in the office at the moment.

Jen is in the living room nursing a baby mynah bird that fell from its nest in our roof this morning. Its sibling didn’t make it, but this little guy seems to have a fighting chance. We don’t know much about baby birds, but they normally eat every 20 to 30 minutes, so that will be a challenge but I think Jen is ready to take it on. We were able to get droppers of water and cat food liquid into his beak as well as some bird seed. He’s resting comfortably in a dish towel.

 

These guys are actually pretty obnoxious down here, they scream like crazy outside my office, go berserk at sunrise, steal the neighbor’s dog food and smack it on the roof, and refuse to get out of the way when you’re driving towards them until the last possible moment. But this little guy looks super cute now. They are pretty good talkers from the videos I’ve seen on the internet. But we really don’t need another pet…  I’ll try to give some more updates. Here’s a funny video of a talkative mynah if you’re interested:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gLlGKhJ4sbs

Sticking with the subject of the post, here’s another creature that would have made a fine pet:

Jackon

I was sitting on the lanai eating some fruit when I saw what appeared to be a leaf slowly moving across the yard by the bananas. I knew it had to be some kind of reptile and went to investigate. It was moving rather slothlike with mitten shaped hands and eyes that could look independently in any direction. But the biggest feature were the horns! I was able to stick my hand out, and it proceeded to crawl up my arm. We were able to trap it in a cooler, then I called our friend Chris who is somewhat of an expert on lizards. I thought this guy was somebody’s pet, but it turns out it was a Jackson’s Chameleon that were first released here in 1972. Chris raised and released some when he was living next door, so I can’t help but wonder if this dude was one of them. He semed tame and it was tempting to keep him, but we let him go and enjoyed watching him climb up and away in the orange tree.

jen jackson

Our friend Chris also gave us a pitcher plant, which is carnivorous and generally alien like. It’s doing well under one of the palms by the lanai. We dig it.

pitcher

Jen has also had some success with her orchids. It was slow going and frustrating at first, but we have one that is exploding with blooms. It goes well with the 70s brown out on the lanai.

orchid

Another fun activity I enjoy here is feeding the feral cats at the parks. Yes I’m in danger of becoming one of those Cat Guys. I like to show up and start shaking the treats and see who comes around. My favorite is this tuxedo manx kitty aptly named Bob. Bob is a harbor cat who lives in Kawaihae on the Kona side in Kohala. He really wanted to roll with us, even made himself at home in the back of the volvo. One local told us Bob once jumped in the back of his pickup and rode home with him all the way to Waimea! I really like Bob and try to go visit him when I can. Kawaihae is a great little town, also because the Kohala Burger & Taco is there. You can’t beat their swordfish burger. Yum.

bob

We had an additional fruit, Brazilian Cherries. These beat out the starfruit as my favorite. I think they are actually plums, they taste a little like them, but are smokier and exotic.

cherry

The lilikoi are everywhere and should be ripe soon. I’m going to try to harvest them all this year and make passionfruit syrup. You can’t beat a Port Light cocktail with fresh passionfruit syrup.

On the domestic front, the cats are quite happy with Hawaii life. Buck Buck moves between the heated bed on my desk, the top of the stereo, or the heating pad. It was 82 in the office the other day, but he still wanted to lay on the heating pad. When he gets too hot he flops down at my feet under the desk.

Buck Buck on the Heating Pad

Sticking to my second year resolution, I’m going to keep this post short. Happy Memorial Day!

Posted by: bigislandtikiadventure | May 5, 2013

One year ago today…

It’s hard to believe, but one year ago today we were making our trip to the islands. While it doesn’t seem possible, when I really look back it truly does seem like a long time since we were packing up the shipping container and readying for departure. Many things have happened, most positive, some really hard. But overall Hawaii has been everything I had hoped it would, she has definitely lived up to her end of the bargain. Mysterious, beautiful, demanding, magical in every way. And yet in the end just a place like any other, but again a place unlike any other.

One thing is for sure… we have no regrets about coming here. We are thankful every day for being here and know it is a privilege that may be revoked at any time.

My goals for the coming year are to sink roots deeper into the lava and bring as much to the table as I can, experience as much as I can. And to blog more! I’ve decided to try to write shorter more concise posts, so I don’t feel like I have to write a chapter in a novel every time I sit down to the computer. Wish us luck! We wish you luck too.

Mahalos

-The Continuing Adventurers

Mauna Kea Summit - April 20th 2013

 

Posted by: bigislandtikiadventure | November 29, 2012

Thanksgiving in Honomu

Of all the holidays we’ve experienced here on the Big Island so far, Thanksgiving was the best. From the delicious food and cozy weather to the sense of family and community, this year was one to remember.

With a twist of course… this year I was honored to participate in an ancient Hawaiian custom known as an imu. When I heard it first spoken of at our neighbor’s house, I didn’t understand why smoke and fire would be coming out of a large ostrich like bird. My confusion was soon corrected, and now has been replaced with much respect and some understanding.

As I was walking home from my Saturday yoga class at the gym a couple of weeks ago, our new acquaintance Tiny (who’s actually six four or so) told me there would be a Thanksgiving imu, and that we were invited and should bring something to throw in. I graciously accepted, and the Tuesday before went looking for him to get the details. He wasn’t home, but I was told I could find him downtown at Steve’s house (name changed) making preparations. I knocked on the wrong door at first but was guided to a couple of houses down.

Steve, Tiny and several other guys were hanging out, drinking beer and talking story in the open garage in the back of the house. My enthusiasm and interest in helping with the imu was soon rewarded, and I found myself embarking on a three-day adventure of chopping wood, cutting bananas with a machete, working huge white-hot lava rocks with a massive pair of tongs and altogether having a lot of fun. And drinking a good bit of beer.

Steve and his friends are mostly retired military guys with a lot of character and a great sense of humor. They told me crazy stories of their military days and great stories in general. I really enjoyed hanging out with them and just being allowed to participate at all was an honor. And in the process I got to get to know of my neighbors and community that much better.

The setup they have going is awesome. In back of the garage is a custom concrete set of stairs guarded by two large tikis leading up to the imu itself, a concrete platform and huge fire pit lined with firebrick, the light and delicate stuff you find in a kiln. It’s surrounded by bananas, ohia trees and hapu’u ferns and is covered by a large pole canopy. The pit is actually state certified, so Steve and his buddy Roger (again, name changed) can run the operation for fundraisers benefiting local schools and charities, or in this case for the community of Honomu’s Thanksgiving celebration. They seemed to run it like a restaurant, where Roger was the pitmaster and Steve ran the front of house and oversaw food preparation, although I got the feeling that either one of them could probably do the whole thing singlehandedly. They were extremely careful to execute everything the right way so as not run the risk of having their certification revoked.

I was put to work immediately, my first task was sorting the lava rocks they had collected, discarding any small or cracked ones (lest they explode, a possibility I never quite got comfortable with). Then it was chopping ohia wood to various sizes. This stuff is really hard and has a tendency to get nasty knots in it, so we had to truck off to Tiny’s and get the maul and chisel sharpened. We ended up with about a quarter cord of ohia stacked and ready to go.

After that, my friend Carl (changed…) showed me how to fell large banana plants with a cowboy rope and chainsaw. We then stacked the leaves in one pile, and the two foot stalks in another. Then, joy of joys, I got to split the two footers into quarters with a razor sharp machete, which splintered into ruler like shafts. I was told that the bamboo sticks acted as a buffer zone between the hot rocks and the meat, insulating against direct burning heat and allowing the mat to cook slowly and safely.

Then came the pyro part which started promptly at noon the day before Thanksgiving. We arranged the rocks and logs into a pile, with newspaper and smaller logs at the bottom, followed by steadily larger rocks and logs. This arrangement minimizes the amount of rock tumbling and subsequent restacking since the smaller logs burn quickly. Roger placed a long cardboard tube down into the center of the rock and wood pile, then poured flammables into the tube. He then lit the south end of the tube, and after if was burning steadily plunged it back into the pile. The tube acted like a giant carburetor, pulling air with a roar and feeding the blaze. Very soon the entire stack was engulfed in fire, serious porno for pyros.

 

The name of the game is to get the lava rocks white-hot and all of the logs reduced to red glowing coals. I was instructed that any logs not fully burned must be removed before placing any food in the imu, otherwise people could get sick. They had large tongs made from long metal rods which we used to move fallen rocks and logs back to the top of the pile. The heat was intense and the rocks were heavy and unwieldy… a couple of times the wind changed and cinders blasted me head on. I had very little hair on the front of my calves after this adventure!

Once the burn was safely underway, we switched our attention to the front of house, namely Meat Preparation. Steve and I walked around his yard trimming Ti leaves to be used as meat wrappers. Kate (name changed) and Roger were kind enough to show me how to clean, score and remove the stems from the leaves in the traditional way.

In the garage, Steve had tables set up covered in stacks of long foil sheets. We pulled 15 or so partially frozen pork butts from coolers, which I split apart with a food safe chisel and hammer. Then we sprinkled a ton of sea salt on the outside, then crisscrossed and wrapped them in Ti leaves, then wrapped them in foil. We used wire wrappers of various methods to indicate whose meat was whose.

The turkey preparation was similar, except we removed the gizzards (for a dark meat version of Tiny’s lau lau) and placed a half stick of butter in each cavity, plus a generous showering of garlic salt.

The rest of the afternoon proceeded this way, a very happy time with different people dropping in, lots of beer drinking, talk story, and Steve continually grilling up chicken or eggplants or chinese noodles for his eager helpers and guests.

The allotted time for Meat Insertion was 5:30 PM. We were a bit late, which made Roger nervous since the coals were primed and ready. But finally it was a go, and we raked the giant stack of burning rocks and coals into a bed in the pit. We then put down the banana stalks, with the most of them concentrated in the middle where most of the heat was. Too much banana on the outside, as I was told, could make the rocks too cold for the outlying meat and lau lau. Then we formed a meat bucket brigade, with everyone passing meat bundles from the prep area up the stairs and into Roger’s expert hands for placement in the imu.

After the meat was loaded, we covered everything with banana leaves, then wet burlap bags, then tarps, and then enough earth to cover the entire pit up to ground level.

That was a lot of work, but we weren’t finished yet. We had to hang out all night and make sure no leaks developed. The danger is that a leak can let air down into the pit, which can restart the fire, burning all the meat. Roger had a nose for this… we would be hanging out, then he would suddenly run to the back, bending down and looking for the faint wavering of steam from a leak. I was told he could smell it even inside the house! It was great to learn what to look for, and after a while I think I was beginning to be able to smell it too.

I stayed around until ten or so, then walked up the hill back home, ready for Thanksgiving.

I was up the next day at 5:30, made coffee for everybody and headed back to the pit. Things were well underway, so I grabbed a shovel and helped dig up the goods. It was hot in the pit, the smell of charcoal, bananas and earth is something I will never forget. After intense digging and effort, we began to see the foil meat packages, and again formed the meat brigade. Each person’s meat was called out based on the custom wire wrapper. After all the bundles were removed, I stomped around in the pit, removing what dirt and burnt banana stalk that I could.

Then I went around to the front of the garage to a happy scene indeed. The sun was just starting to come up in all its glory of pink, purple, blue and orange. Tiny had the rice cooker full of rice, and was unwrapping the lau lau. I was offered the last Heineken in the cooler, and was given a plate, which I loaded up with lau lau, rice and kalua pork. Talk about some good meat… it was perfect. Crispy, yet tender, perfect smoke, just mouthwaterignly delicious. And the lau laus were pure greasy goodness, the taro leaf wrapper adding a minty tea like taste to the smoked meat. It was a fairly intense evening and morning, but during that meal and the whole day after, pure aloha reigned.

After the early morning mix plate, I said my goodbyes and went home to help Jen make stuffing and cheesy potatoes for Reverend Ed’s Thanksgiving feast. That, and of course listen to Alice’s Restaurant by Arlo, and watch the Cowboys and some of the Macy’s parade. It really felt like Thanksgiving, I have to tell you.

We walked down to Mr. Ed’s bakery with our neighbors and some of their friends from Canada. Another happy scene… people lined up in the bakery for the buffet, and outside at the tables under the canopy. Smiles abounded as we got our fill of chow mein, kalua pork and turkey, taro root casserole, and of course stuffing, gravy, purple potato pie and all the trimmings. Jen’s potatoes were a big hit, with one gal solely responsible for dolign them out. First Thanksgiving with chopsticks!

It seemed like the whole town came out for the feast, it was really something. After the feast, we went back to Jerry’s for some porch time and a glass of wine. All in all, a real Thanksgiving to remember. Aloha nunui, Hawaii!!

Posted by: bigislandtikiadventure | October 29, 2012

Tsunami!

Your favorite Big Island Tikiadventurers learned a thing or two about their new home this weekend. One circumstance after another led us to a compromising situation with the tsunami threat spawned last Saturday by a 7.7 magnitude quake off the coast of British Columbia. Luckily the threat was greatly exaggerated, otherwise I might not be here writing to you today!

We decided to head into Hilo late Saturday afternoon to attend the “Give A Hoot for Hunger” benefit partly sponsored by our beloved restaurant, Ken’s House of Pancakes. It was a good time, a real local event, consisting of all you can eat grinds by the participating restaurants, plus musicians and a comic hula competition. Afterwards, I was inspired by the nearly full moon to make an after dark foray to the beach parks in the Keaukaha neighborhood of Hilo and enjoy a romantic spell by the ocean under the palms. Sounds nice, right?

So… the road to the beach parks in Hilo heads south from town then dead ends at the last beach, and is surrounded by the ocean to the east and Hilo International Airport to the west. So there’s only one way in or out. On our way in Saturday night, we were surprised by the amount of traffic flowing in the opposite direction away from the beaches. Jen thought maybe they were just coming back from the beach parks after sunset, but since the time was 8:00 or so I thought this was odd. The other factor was that currently there is a major construction detour on that road, swinging you around the airport in the southerly direction, so I thought maybe that was the cause of the unusual traffic. Or, since we had never been down there at night, perhaps it was people just cruising, we really weren’t sure.

Undaunted, we made our way down to Richardson, our favorite beach park, and again were surprised that there were no cars anywhere. We wondered if the parks were closed and everyone was just very law abiding, or what. Now that would be surprising.  Again, never having been down there at night we just weren’t sure. We parked out front, grabbed our mini cooler and walked down to the shore. It was a beautiful night, the sounds and smells of the ocean were heavenly under the moonlit sky. Jen mentioned to me that I had a text as we left the car, but I was too busy messing with the cooler and locking up to get my phone out of her purse and see who it was. Big mistake.

As we nursed a beer by the rocks, we noticed a couple of Hilo cops passing by at high speed with their customary single blue “Hawaii Five-O” light flashing, then going past again. Halfway through our cocktail we decided that something just wasn’t right, and it was ruining our good time. Since we were pretty full and somewhat sleepy from the luau chow we decided to pack it in and head back. Returning on the beach road we noticed a lot of traffic again in the northerly direction and an unusually large number of customers at the gas station at the intersection of highway 19. Taking this in stride, we laughed and talked on our 15 minute jaunt up the road to Honomu and home.

No sooner than we had unpacked the car and begun to settle in back at the house when the first siren went off, shortly after 9 PM. The hair on my neck went up, I knew this was not the drill we hear on the first Monday of every month promptly at 11:45 AM. The siren is located just down the hill in town, and it was extremely loud coupled with the sirens from neighboring Kole Kole beach park and Hakalau. I immediately turned on the computer and Jen reached for my phone. She saw that the Hawaii News Now app I subscribe to had sent me several warning  texts, as had my good friend Johnny back on the mainland. The national tsunami warning center had a big banner up about the threat on their website, but it wasn’t apparent to me (an internet techie) that the banner was clickable, and everything else on the site was not helpful. I eventually figured it out, and read the dire prediction of 7 foot tsunami waves in Kahului Harbor on windward Maui as well as Hilo Bay. There was a warning for all Hawaiian islands, completely by passing the normal “watch” phase, which was highly irregular. Then the misinformation campaign began in earnest.

The airwaves and cable TV stations were filled with stories and warnings. Downtown Hilo was completely shut down, only merchants were allowed in to grab whatever merchandise they could from their storefronts. All flights were grounded at Hilo Airport and downtown Honolulu was evacuated. We were told to fill up water containers as the water system could be shut down to prevent inundation. Emergency messages blared, the screech of digitized messages coming from the television and radio, and the dreaded emergency tone you only expect to hear during those annoying civil defense tests during the last quarter of the football game. And the sirens kept on at ten-minute intervals. Frightening.

Through this we told ourselves that we were secure, as our home sits almost a half mile from the ocean cliff face at over 400 feet above sea level, well away from the tsunami evacuation zone indicated on the map in the phone book. It would take a truly biblical wave to cause us any trouble. But then a radio announcer urged everyone to get to at least 600 feet, which made me start thinking about getting in the car and heading up the slope towards Mauna Kea! Why he said that I’m not exactly sure. The civil defense messages would cut in periodically, and it was disturbing because they were garbled and almost completely unintelligible. People couldn’t escape trough the airport on time and were trapped on the other side by a locked gate, supposedly because the runway took too long to clear. We also learned that the sirens in Keaukaha had malfunctioned which was why we hadn’t heard them on the beach earlier. The police had resorted to driving and flying around in helicopters with bullhorns spreading the word, but of course we didn’t hear any of that either. Our Civil Defense Director said in the paper today that it’s normal for some stations to malfunction during the monthly tests, but the Keaukaha sirens passed the last one. Really… that’s normal… wonder how long he’s going to have his job.

The first waves were predicted to come in at 10:38 PM so we waited anxiously. The distant ocean sounds outside were noticeably louder than normal, but I think this was due to the high surf forecasted for the weekend and independent of the tsunami event. There were no lighted cameras in Hilo Bay, so the television only showed Waikiki and traffic exiting Honolulu. The director of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center was, in my opinion, disheveled and not very coherent either in his predictions or explanations thereof. He acknowledged on camera as having made a mistake by not going to the watch phase first and expressed disappointment in the fact that the first wave wasn’t bigger. Bizarre.

The first wave was a non event, barely a foot of elevated surf in Hilo. But the director explained that the first wave usually is not the worst, so we should just be on the safe side and wait. It was apparent to me that tsunami science is not as well understood as I once thought, and that perhaps our island is not prepared at all to deal with a large one. Someone reported on Facebook or something that boats in Hilo bay were grounded and lying on the sand, which of course all media outlets began repeating. We learned the following Monday from a Hilo boat captain that said at no time was this ever remotely true. Very strange.

The sirens continued for the next hour, but then we eventually went off to sleep convinced that the events that transpired were merely a false alarm. We had dodged the bullet this time. But lesson learned… always check your texts, and be more aware of your surroundings. If the earthquake had been closer to home, we might not have been so lucky. I’m going to look into a weather radio, especially if we decide to try camping at some of the more remote parts of the island. All in all it was an eye opening lesson in preparedness.

Glad to be writing still,

Your Adventurers

Posted by: bigislandtikiadventure | October 26, 2012

Tropical Haps

This post doesn’t really have a theme, just a running narrative on what’s been going on since our last post, which obviously doesn’t include a lot of blogging, sorry! Hopefully Jen has been doing a better job on Facebook. I do see a lot of things happening there through her profile.

One thing I’ve got to talk about is bodyboarding… I’ve been getting into it a lot more lately and am starting to get the hang of it. I was nervous about hitting the waves at the local hot spot Honoli’i beach park due to stories I’ve heard about outsiders running into trouble with the locals in Hawaii. That, and the waves tend to be larger than the in-town Hilo beaches I’ve tried. It turns out that I can handle the waves and the people couldn’t be friendlier. Honoli’i comes from two Hawaiian words, hono which means “brow of a cliff” and li’i, which is an abbreviation of li’ili’i meaning “small.” The cliffs there are dramatic and help to make it the truly special place that it is.

The park itself is about 10 minutes south of us on Hawaii Belt Road towards Hilo, across from the beautiful Alae Cemetery and around the bend. The road winds along the top of the cliff where everyone parks and walks down the steep stairs. Many people are friends of the park and keep it in immaculate condition. There are constant landscaping and restoration projects going on. Here are some pictures from the top.

From this picture I can see that I need to work on my Shaka desperately… looks more like a heavy metal goat gone wrong or the international sign for telephone. The surf spot is at the beach below.

 

One of the coolest things about this place are the turtles- they’re in the waves everywhere you look. It’s like they are your surfing buddies. You’ll duck a wave, and see a turtle also ducking the wave, or doing a flip as he goes over the top. One time a huge honu head came up for air about two feet away from me, and although they wouldn’t hurt a fly it made me a little uneasy anyway. You can also see them sunning on the beach when they get tired (like me).

Similar to most beaches on the Hamakua Coast, this one was formed at the mouth of a river by convergent streams farther up the mountain. This makes for some cold currents by the breakwall but they help push you out to sea. The waves break fairly evenly, but more so on the north side by the rocks. You have to be careful there and bail out early or you’ll end up in a tight spot. Same goes for the south break. I’ve learned the hard way not to ride in too far at any surf spot lest you end up on rocks in shallow water. The waves coming in can knock you over if you lose your footing. Unless the swells are over 3 feet the waves are always manageable and fun.

We like to pau hana (quit work – also means “weekend”) early and go to Honoli’i on Friday afternoon, then hit Ocean Sushi in Hilo for the freshest and most reasonable sushi around. I have never seen Honoli’i crowded, and our hangout spot has so far always been available. We absolutely love this place.

It’s also comforting that there are lifeguards that keep a watchful eye out. Which is good, because if you’ve ever seen the show Hawaii Air Rescue on the Weather Channel, you know that emergency services are virtually nonexistent on the Big Island. For anything serious you have to get airlifted to Queens Medical Center in Honolulu, which can be dicey if the weather isn’t cooperating. So basically it’s a really good idea not to get into a serious accident around here.

In other news… the backyard fruit scene continues to unfold in all its juicy glory. The latest is the star fruit tree, which is my absolute favorite. I’ve had them cut into the star-like cross-section on pastries in the mainland, but that pales in comparison to a freshly picked one. You basically just pick it and eat the entire thing. I’ve heard them compared to grapes in terms of taste, which is somewhat true, but they have a perfume like flavor unlike anything else and perfectly exemplify a tropical fruit to me. I go out there every morning to see if one has ripened overnight. If they fall off they will fall victim to bugs immediately, an unacceptable tragedy. The oranges and tangerines have been coming for a couple of weeks now, as are the strawberry guava. Those are especially delicate as they explode into bloody seedy carnage if they suffer a fall.

Our neighbors Linda and Jerry are fantastic, and in addition to being great people they have also helped me with tropical plant tips. They spotted a papaya tree that I didn’t even know was back there. They have also constructed picking devices made from long pieces of bamboo with a basket that has one side of wire teeth. They had ladders up in the avocado tree and with the extended picking devices managed to get just about every avo available. They’ve been selling them at the Wailea farmer’s market up the road, which is a really fun thing to do on Tuesday afternoons. I bought some Loep Chong there, which is Chinese sweet sausage smoked over Ohia wood. It’s awesome in a black bean sauce with chicken and Hamakua mushrooms.

At Jerry’s birthday Linda showed me their dragonfruit plants and the nocturnal pollination that they require. They are a cactus, and their blossoms are otherworldly. Huge, white and alien looking, the cavernous flowers only open at night. There are no insects to pollinate them nocturnally here, so they have to be pollinated by hand with a paintbrush. Very cool. The fruit are exotic too, they are reddish-orange-sunburst with dragon like scales coming off of them. You can slice them in half and the inside looks like chocolate chip ice cream, a white fruit with little black seeds. It tastes like a mild kiwi.

I don’t know what took us so long, but we finally got some actual tiki torches. It’s a ritual to light them at sunset and let them go into the evening. Tiki of my dreams! We also got some paper lanterns that I’m working on lighting up. And of course many a Mai Tai is enjoyed on the lanai.

Buck Buck has figured out how to defeat his electric fence, so outdoor privileges have been suspended for all cats. He chased the neighbor’s cat right through the fence without getting zapped, or zapped only once. There is a way to turn up the range and power which is what I have to do. Problem is that the signal goes on the back side of the house, and if it’s up too high it will zap him in the catbox. Not a desired outcome.

Phoebe is enjoying her retirement. She doesn’t get around as much but enjoys her lanai time too.

We got a new patio set, so the one we had got relocated to the front yard, except for one chair which Buck Buck has since adopted as His Majesty’s Throne:

Linda introduced us to a couple of other new friends, who coincidentally also happen to be named Christian and Jen, and used to live in the house next door to us. How about that. They are super nice and are the caretakers of a farm north of here in Umauma. It’s at about 1000 feet and has sweeping ocean views and surrounded by eucalyptus forest. They live in a huge yurt on the property and have done some amazing things with aquatic farming. They have a fish pond which creates fertilizer for the hydroponic produce, which feed the fish, that feed the plants, and so on. Pretty cool. They invited us up for a bonfire which Chris started with a wicked propane flamethrower. We enjoyed hanging out up there.

Not all adventures have been fun I’m sorry to report. A couple of weeks ago I was at my Saturday morning yoga class in the Honomu gymnasium. We were just finishing up with a meditation when I heard a kitten bawling. I went out back and sure enough there it was, a tiny black and white kitten all alone and in really bad shape. It couldn’t have been more than a couple of weeks old and its eyes were swollen shut and hideously huge. I grabbed it in my towel and ran home to take it to the vet. Poor Jen had no idea what was in store, I got home and yelled “I found a kitten, but it’s probably not going to make it. We need to go now.”

We learned from the vet that the poor thing had a contagious eye infection, and both eyes would have to be removed. It was really tough. But the vet assured us that blind cats will adopt eventually. We thought about fostering it, but we weren’t sure if our own cats had been properly vaccinated against FIV that is so common here. So we covered the costs and a vet tech offered to foster. Overall it was a very difficult Saturday morning, not the agenda we had in mind. But sometimes you just do what you have to do. Hawaii has a huge feral cat population, we see them everywhere.

On a happier note, we’ve had some really fun weekend trips over to the Kona side. If you ever get the chance to stay in Kona, I have to recommend the Royal Kona Resort. It’s at the south point of the Ali’i Drive attractions, the grounds are pristinely manicured with beautiful koa and tropical almond trees and the surf thunders all night long. The corner rooms on the higher floors of the lagoon towers are the money. The deck is basically all yours for almost 100 feet and looks down on the luau grounds. There’s a private protected beach and ocean cove that is truly a slice of heaven. Add to that Don the Beachcomber’s Mai Tai Bar,  and you have a place I’m loathe to leave. Jen will tell you that I pitched a fit like a four year old when she didn’t want to stay Sunday night and drive back early the next morning. Work, shmork! Well, I guess I didn’t throw that big a fit, but I shure as heck didn’t want to go. At least I got to drive back to my oasis in the Quiet Village. Waaah! Call the waaahmbulance.

The other place we like is the Kona Seaside Hotel. It’s like 1978 in there, the lobby is all rocks, tikis and tropical plants, open air. It’s so Brady Bunch goes to Hawaii, just call me Mike. The rooms all have green and blue shag carpet, bottle bottom glass and rattan furniture. We basically stream KKNE AM 940 Hawaii from Honolulu the whole time, it’s our soundtrack. With the kama’aina (resident) discount you can get garden view rooms for $60, a real steal given that it’s across from the King Kamehameha hotel (home of the Iron Man competition, which we did not attend). We cough up $20 more to have rooms in the main tower facing towards the King Kam and the Kona Brewing Company. Their growler shack is super cool by the way.

On the south side of the hotel there’s a pool and a deck that has a great view out over Ali’i drive to the ocean. We like to go there for sunset cocktails and people watching. Last time we met a virtually tame gecko that would eat peanuts out of your hand and help you with your beer!

We seem to find tame birds everywhere too, they are kind of like a dove/pigeon mix, but look like blue parakeets. The little ones we call “LBs” and the big ones “BBs”, Little and Big Buddies, respectively. Peanuts are the universal treat, we even trained one to stand on one leg at our new favorite Kona beach, Kokaua.

Kokaua Beach is in front of the Four Seasons resort in a gated community. The downside is that you have to look at oceanfront mansions, but the beach itself is fantastic, and the fact that there is only limited parking keeps the crowds away. From what I understand the sand was trucked in to the swimming cove and beach. The tropical almond trees are perfectly manicured, and provided artistic relief to probably the most incredible sunset I have ever seen. It clouded up in the afternoon except for a couple of inches of sky over the horizon. When the sun hit the clearing it tuned a fiery orange and became a distended oblong gradient as it plunged into the ocean and disappeared with a blip. The afterglow was gorgeous. Pictures don’t really do it justice, I wish I was a better photographer.

In the picture above on the left side is a rock formation that looks just like a pirate skull…

There were heiau ruins here, so the Hawaiians seemed to agree that this is a place of mana (power). Until I get my 4×4 and can get to more isolated beaches, this one’s probably my favorite.

Hawaiian politics continue to be interesting. They have a custom here of getting out to support your favorite candidate, Hawaiian style. Basically you grab a lawnchair, some signs, t-shirts, a cooler and your friends and fellow supporters, then head out to the highway or other main thoroughfare and wave at passing traffic. Jen especially likes to wave at everybody, even if they aren’t someone we support. It’s hard not to, it’s an aloha thing I guess. The ads here don’t seem to be as nasty, and the campaign rallies are great, complete with the candidate’s lei looking like a floral centerpiece arrangement around their head with a luau band playing in the background. Love it.

Mahalo for reading our latest post, I’ll try to keep ‘em coming more frequently.

-TikiMan Out

Posted by: bigislandtikiadventure | September 18, 2012

The Mainland Revisited

It’s a strange concept to many, but even bigislandtikiadventurers go on vacation, which is exactly what we did for 10 glorious days. Our itinerary consisted of a short three-day stopover in PDX followed by a week in Jackson Hole, WY. My sister JA calls Jackson home, and our parents also made the trip so it was a real family jamboree. Admittedly this is a belated post, we actually got home 8/28.

We were very interested and somewhat anxious to see how this trip would play out, in terms of what it would be like to leave Hawaii, how we would feel back in PDX, how the mainland would be for us, and what it would be like to return home once again. Would we miss Hawaii? Would things be exactly the same on the mainland, or would they seem different to us? Would we just forget everything and move back? We were about to find out.

The biggest concern of course was the cats. We didn’t have our good friends to watch them anymore, and it was a reminder of how great it was to have help from our mainland buddies and how little we had to worry about on past vacations. But our good neighbor Linda agreed to help, and it turns out she did a wonderful job and all was very well indeed upon our return.

We decided to take the red-eye option to PDX through LAX to maximize our time there with our friends. So we set out for the airport around 8:30 PM, thankful that the cats weren’t joining us on this trip. The Hilo airport is awesome, it feels like 1975 in there, the furniture is all lanai style couches your grandma might have had, complete with plastic cushion covers. We bid farewell to the tropicality of our island home and took off into the night.

We were able to sleep away most of the trip thankfully, even during our layover in LAX, so we arrived in PDX around 10 AM only a little bit tired. Nothing a Coffee People mocha couldn’t fix… mmmm miss those for sure. Of course it was raining and chilly when we arrived, even though it had been 94 and 100 degrees the two days prior. It was strange to actually rent a car in the Portland airport, and stranger still to not head to our former home in St. John’s. Instead we cruised down in Southeast to stay with our good friends John and Jules (and Sadie of course).

And did we ever receive the royal red carpet welcome… what a blast! Many of our best friends showed up that afternoon for a real Portland style throwdown in the sanctuary that is John and Jules’ backyard. Shawn K smoked up some amazing Memphis style ribs, Lori brought all manner of desserts and my favorite beers, John and Jules grilled up some broke-da-mouth honey wings and strawberry rhubarb pie, and Matt and Jen busted out some excellent berry cobbler. I love Oregon in late August and September, that was always my favorite time to be there. No humidity, every day is perfect, the brown and blasted yards with colorful roses and flowers, clear, comfortable  nights of stars. All in all it was everything I could have hoped for in a return visit. Thankfully, we somehow we managed to see almost everyone on our list during the three-day whirlwind trip.

We also did a walk by of our house in St. Johns, and I was happy to find that everything looked great, almost better than I remember because the landscape company had the plants looking awesome and the grass clipped to golf course length. So far the rental arrangement has been as about as hassle free as I could have imagined, let’s hope that continues.

On Monday we headed out to the Gorge to visit Jen’s folks and have dinner. I was happy to see her parents were doing well, as were her sister and husband and the doggies too. Dan cooked up some tasty lentil and sausage stew, and Mom made my favorite, vanilla ice cream with wild blackberry sauce. To me that dessert is the essence of summertime in the Gorge, and I was delighted to enjoy it again.

Tuesday we were up at the crack for our 6 AM flight to the Hole. My folks were held up in Salt Lake, so we went with my sister JA and had a beer and some lunch at a great spot at the base of the Tetons. It was an amazing view that I was to thankfully see a lot of over the coming week. I didn’t take this picture, but I love this replica of a sign from the 30s:

The cabin we stayed in was perfect. It was located in the nearby town of Wilson, just a 10 minute drive from Jackson, and much cheaper to rent than a lot of places in town. It was a guest house on a large property that looked straight up at the Tetons. We spent a lot of time sitting on the porch out front just watching the puffy clouds roll by and checking out each Teton individually, giving it the attention it deserves. You could see the tram at the nearby Jackson Hole ski area lazily going up and down. Dad and I had some inspired bluegrass pickin’ sessions, we did a lot more singing than usual, I chalk that up to the surroundings.

I really got the cowboy spirit on this trip. Not that I bought a hat or anything, but being there in the wide open spaces really opens up the imagination to all things frontier. I guess the Louis Lamour books didn’t hurt either. I felt like I wanted to eat a steak there the entire time, and finally on the last night I got some 1” ribeyes and grilled ‘em up with some Vidalia onions. These were the small variety of ribeye,  normally they are 2″ thick at the natural grocery we frequented. I was also introduced to the Spicy Strawberry Margarita, which I had at Calico’s down the road. The first sip burns intensely, but I think the sweetness, alcohol and resulting capsaicin endorphins make it all worthwhile.

We did some driving around Grand Teton National park, and Yellowstone too. My dad and I got in an early morning hike up Death Canyon straight to the base of the Grand Teton, past Phelps Lake and the Rockefeller Reserve. We were a little concerned about bear attacks, as the road to the trailhead had just been reopened after heavy bear traffic prompted its closure. Should we get the bear spray or not? We decided that if the ranger told us we needed it, we would get it, but she didn’t so we just made a lot of noise on the trail and it all worked out fine.

The air was super smoky, it seemed like the entire state of Idaho was on fire and blowing smoke our way. Fortunately it cleared up for the last few days and the weather was gorgeous. The near zero humidity was a sharp contrast to moist Hawaii, as were the cooler nights where a fleece was actually required.

We took a cable car up to the veranda lounge at the Jackson Hole ski area. My sister said the only bears she had seen were from the tram, and right after telling us that we spotted what I believed to be wolverines sunning themselves on the still-warm rocks at sundown. The veranda was a fantastic place for cocktails. I really want to come back in the wintertime and hit the slopes, even though I hear it is a difficult mountain to ski.

Fortunately we were able to be there for JA’s birthday on our last Sunday in town, and what a good time that was. JA’s beau Robert threw a Mexican fiesta for her, complete with a purple donkey pinata and awesome comida.

Robert Randolph, the king of the sacred steel guitar, and his band were playing that evening at the park up the street that sits right at the base of Snow King mountain. Basically the whole thing turned into a huge party. Some of JA’s friends had a house on the corner where everyone was hanging out on the roof. I enjoyed meeting all of my sister’s friends, she has a great life there in the Hole.  Some really great people, all super chill. 

JA bought some pink mustaches which were a lot of fun. I wore mine like a big pink unibrow, so attractive.

One of the highlights for me was the donkey, or more specifically the head of said donkey. During a trip back to the house during the concert I got the idea to put the donkey head on as a mask, and so my sister wore it on up to the show. Robert thought this was interesting too, so we went into the crowd wearing the donkey head. We ended up giving it away, and watched with amusement as the donkey was passed from head to head during the show, disappearing for a while, but always reappearing again. We even got it back at the end of the concert somehow, although its eyes were gone and the teeth were hanging off. Fun fun fun! It was the last concert in the park for the year, and it was a blow out.

We also had some fun adventures in Yellowstone. The scenery was wonderful, but honestly my favorite part of the trip was visiting the Old Faithful Inn. This place is old and incredibly spooky, I really want to stay there. There’s several floors winding up that are visible from the ground floor in the great room. It ends with a crow’s nest at the top that was closed in the 1950s due to earthquake damage.

A couple got married there that day, you can see them on the top of the Inn:

In the picture above you can see the veranda over the main entry with old wooden chairs, a bar, and a view of Old Faithful. We elected to see it the old-fashioned way from the visitor’s center. You have to do it, right??

Wildlife viewing opportunities were scarce, at least compared to the last visit Jen and I made to the area. But we were able to see a moose or two on a tour my sister took us on north of Jackson on the way to Mormon Row. If you look closely there’s actually a young moose in the photo:

Just kidding that was in the town square. Here’s the real moose photo, although you can barely see it to our right:

On our second to last night we drove up to the Granary restaurant, which had a spectacular view of the Spring Creek ranch down in the valley as well as the Tetons. Much eating, wine drinking and merriment was enjoyed by all.

All in all the Mainland Revisited was a wonderful experience, everything I could have hoped for, and I was genuinely sorry to see it end. We only get to see my family for a couple of weeks a year, and it seemed like we were just really getting into a groove when we had to head back home.

We had a godawful 6 AM flight out of Jackson Hole, but the beautiful night sky, stars and subsequent sunrise that morning were spectacular. The only hitch was during security there was a bit of alarm as the TSA agent discovered a poisonous brown recluse spider in Jen’s backpack! She asked if we had been in the back country, I responded that I did use the pack on the trail. But we’re not really sure where it came from, only glad that nobody got hurt.

The gate to our flight brought us out on to the tarmac, where we had to wait to board the plane. I almost froze to death in my shorts. But the view of the Tetons at sunrise was amazing.

We headed back through Denver, which is a strange airport, there are conspiracy theories that it is the HQ of the new world order, google it sometime, very strange.

There was one point when I was walking through the concourse to get some food, and I saw a departing flight to Portland. I immediately got a strange feeling, a pang of regret, mixed with a little sadness that I no longer thought of it as home. A wonderful place filled with people I love, yes, but not home anymore. Hawaii is home now, and we were ready to get back to the tropicality. But we know hardly anyone there, we have yet to establish firm roots, so at that moment I felt a bit like a ship adrift at sea. I guess you can say that to me the mainland felt very different, and I felt differently about it. It’s hard to put into words, but something has definitely changed for me. I didn’t get the urge to drop everything and return, but was more appreciative than ever for the people and places on the mainland.

So now we’re back in our little Quiet Village, all is well, fall is coming and with it a little cooler weather and less sun. However September and October statistically are fairly dry, so we’re looking forward to that. Plus we got word that our first mainland visitors are confirmed for December! Yay Shawn Jack and Lori! We can’t wait to entertain and share da Big Island with friends.

Aloha for now!

Posted by: bigislandtikiadventure | July 7, 2012

Islanders, Officially

We recently received another couple of indicators that this adventure is real and not just a vacation – Hawaii Driver Licenses and Plates! We’re proud to be sporting the ‘Bow on our car and in our wallets. Go Warriors! The Shuttle looks great with ZAN plates. Got the Oregon plates hanging with honor in our offices. Oregon my Oregon!

I’ve also filed my business here, and am greatly anticipating sending a check to the state each month for the General Excise Tax (GET), just a modest 4% right off the top. Ouch! I know, I know, paradise tax, yeah yeah yeah.

But the past few weekends help to remind me as to why I’m paying that tax. We’ve seen some amazing sights, from a surreal sunset atop Mauna Kea, to the sunny beaches of Kalapana and Kona. Basically we’ve been working hard during the week, relaxing Friday nights, then taking off Saturday AM for an overnight adventure and returning late Sunday. It’s escapism to the extreme and I’ve been loving it. There’s just so much to see and do.

Three weekends ago we stayed at a hotel with a unique location – right over the water! The front half of the hotel stands on piers over a network of tidepools. We could look down from the balcony in our room and see turtles and fish swimming around the rocks and coral. There were also heiau nearby, which are sacred buildings created by ancient Hawaiians. The hotel has been actively involved in their restoration and they are impressive.

Next door is Kahalu’u Beach Park, which is one of the best and easiest to access snorkeling spots on the island. If you ever find yourself on the Kona side, I recommend staying a night or two at the Kona Outrigger Hotel. We saw some great live Hawaiian music while watching the sunset from their Veranda Bar. A very romantic place.

The next day we decided to hit Ke-Awa-Iki, one of the lesser known beaches up in South Kohala, which is north of Kona. The scenery up there is fascinating. Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa loom in the distance with lush greenery, and then the volcanoes slope rapidly downward into hot, dry lava fields of utter destruction. Towards the coast there are oasis (es? i?) 0f palm trees and vegetation that magically appear out of the jagged fields. A haze of vog that normally hangs over the land here added to the exotic landscape.

Just past the 79 mile marker is a parking lot carved out of the lava fields that leads to one of these beaches. The gate to the road was locked so we had to walk 15 minutes over some nasty a’a to get to the beach. It turned out that the palm trees that looked so inviting from the road were fenced off with barbed wire, part of the Brown Estate, so we set up camp on the beach of black sand and bits of coral. Since Jen’s maiden name was Brown I didn’t understand why we just couldn’t go on in, but we stayed outside anyway.

The snorkeling here was sublime. I’ve never seen so much coral. There were some strong currents, and since there were only a couple of other people on the beach I was a bit anxious about going in. I asked a friendly fisherman to please call the coast guard if we appeared to be heading to Antarctica on a rip current.

I think during that swim I really learned what “going with the flow” actually means. There were times when we would be swimming with a school of fish, and then a large current would hit. Rather than expend energy fighting the flow, everyone (namely us and the fish) just let the current move us around wherever it wanted. Then once the turbulence had passed, we just continued on with our own plans. It was very Zen just floating with the fish, everyone stopping and then moving in the same direction at the same time. No need to waste your time fighting the universe when it’s pushing you, just go with the flow, and after the storm’s over just keep on keeping on.

The sun was hot on the beach, and since there was no natural shade we were glad to have the artificial shade provided by the canopy chairs. There was one lone palm tree however, which turned out well in this photo (you can click on any photo in a red frame to see a larger version):

There is another custom around here that people seem to enjoy. They gather small white stones and bits of coral and “graffiti” messages on the black lava along the roadside. It’s vandalism technically, you will see people pulled over creating messages, and then farther down the road you will see teams of volunteers dismantling them. I had to get in on this action, so I graffitied on the beach (and took it down before leaving don’t worry…)

The next weekend we headed up Saddle Road to the Mauna Kea Visitor Center. Saddle Road was built in 1942 by the Army as a rapid means of getting equipment from one side of the island to the other. It has a nasty reputation, but as of a few years ago it is almost entirely paved, and although windy and steep with a few blind curves it is very manageable now. It’s called Saddle Road because it runs through the valley created by the neighboring volcanoes of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. We left on Saturday afternoon and planned on arriving about an hour before sunset.

The turn off to the visitor center wasn’t well-marked, so we blew by and didn’t realize it until we were halfway around the island. We doubled back and found it, driving up through the clouds on the steep road. Then at some magical point all the clouds vanished and we were driving above them in a lunar landscape of high altitude lava. In this picture, you can see the shadow of Mauna Kea projected onto the clouds. Very cool.

For acclimated Hawaiians, it’s cold up there, we’re talking 35 degrees Farenheit after dark. Fortunately the  Visitor’s Center had hot chocolate and volunteers with some powerful telescopes set up for viewing. We opted to drive further up the mountain road for our own private viewing party. We will definitely be back for more stargazing through those scopes on a less crowded night.

After the sunset the stars were incredible! My petty binoculars couldn’t afford much detail, but what I could see was crystal clear and ultra bright. The only problem was the 30 minute parade of 4×4 vehicles (and their headlights) ferrying tourists down the summit road past our pull-off. My thinking is, if you’re going to the trouble of driving all the way up to Submillimeter Valley for the sunset, why not catch at least a bit of the second act and enjoy the cosmos for a spell? Next time I will look for the 4×4 road that goes all the way around the mountain to see if we can find a better viewing location and avoid all the traffic and headlights.

After a while we threw the Shuttle into low gear and made the steep descent back to saddle road, and on towards Kawaihae and Kona town. The latter half of saddle road was  fun, lots of pit-of-your-stomach dips and winding turns, I can only imagine how great it must have been to drive it in a Willys Overland back in 1942. We arrived at the Kona Islander for a late check in and hit the rack.

In the morning we made plans to hit another fine Kohala beach known as “Beach 69″ (chuckle). Apparently it got its name because it was in front of telephone pole #69, but at some point it was changed and became pole #71 as it stands today. Whatever you want to call it, this place is a world-class beach- gobs of sand, every color of blue ocean contrasted with black lava and green vegetation. There were lots of little hangouts among the large driftwood trees and lava outcroppings. Our own little setup was quite idyllic and I didn’t really want to leave, it was such a perfect day at the beach.

 

I suppose you may be wondering what else is going on besides an endless-summer-type Hawaiian vacation? Well lots of things I suppose. Work has been very busy for me, a fact for which I am most grateful. Jen’s been busy too but things have been going well. Buck Buck is happy because he can now go outside! The backyard looks kind of like a cross between a miniature golf course and a demolition area. There’s a loop of yellow wire going around the perimeter with little white flags sticking up every few paces. The wire loops back to a power supply on the back deck. Ole Buck wears a “static correction” device that beeps if he gets within a couple of feet of the wire, and gives him a zap if he pushes it further. So far so good, we’ve managed to herd Phoebe and Cosmo without such devices and keep them out of the front yard and away from any roving dogs.

We’ve been cooking some ono grinds (good food) at home. The ahi (Tuna) is unbelievably fresh, delicious, and affordable. One of our favorite meals is to sear an ahi steak and serve it over a green salad with homemade ginger-lime-honey-passionfruit vinaigrette, passion fruit and limes coming from the backyard and honey from a friend’s apiary. I also dig the ono fish, which the Hawaiians love best. It has a more intense and buttery flavor. I pan-fried it and served it over some roasted pineapple salsa with these crazy 2 foot long Chinese green beans.

One new thing we’ve had to get used to is not having garbage service. Every Saturday (or Tuesday or Thursday) we throw the tarp into the Volvo and haul our rubbish (it’s not called trash here) to the Honomu Solid Waste Transfer Station. It’s about half a mile down the Old Mamalahoa Highway. You can toss your trash into a compactor with an ocean view! One problem was that we forgot to wash the tarp one time, and put it back in upside down the next time, resulting in a nice litterbox stank on the Volvo trunk mat. After attacking it with every solvent known to man I think we might finally have the funk out.

I’ve been walking many mornings up Akaka Falls Road. It’s straight uphill so it’s a nice workout as well as a beautiful walk. It’s basically all pastureland up there interspersed with wild palms, bananas and eucalyptus trees. On the way up you get the nice Mauna Kea views, on the way down it’s all ocean. Occasionally I’m encouraged on by a rainbow.

The beach parks around here are interesting. They aren’t what probably comes to mind when you think about a beach, mostly because there isn’t much sand due to the newness of the land. They are more like rocky hangouts but no less beautiful or inviting. Up north on the Hamakua Coast where we are, most of the beach parks are under bridges in gulleys formed by rivers flowing out to sea. The steep valley walls are covered with every tropical flora imaginable. Paradise is definitely what comes to mind when you’re there, you just have to see it to really appreciate it. About a mile up highway 19 from Honomu are Kolekole Beach Park and Hakalau Bay. They are connected by the Old Mama highway and are some of my favorite places to walk and explore. The rivers also make a good entry point for surfers and bodyboarders. I’m trying to get in good shape so I can safely try those activities in the near future.

We’ve found a great Hawaiian music night, it’s at the Hilo Town Tavern on Tuesdays from 6:30 to 9:30, which is great given our up-with-the-sun down-with-the-sun schedule. It’s called kanikapila night, it means literally “sound the string” in Hawaiian and is modeled after the kind of musical jams that occur at family or community gatherings. It’s awesome, these guys can really play, and I’ve never heard such tight and seemingly effortless harmonies.

We’re having a lot of fun, but from what I can tell holidays here are going to make me homesick for Portland. Apparently “holiday” around here means one thing: go to the beach! And that’s exactly what everybody mostly did for the Fourth. Well not exactly, it really means put up your easy-up or canopy, bust out the BBQ and hang out all day. The Hilo bayfront was closed off for fireworks, a classic car show, skateboard contest and BBQ cookoff. The whole area basically transformed into an easy-up city, with the easy-ups actually provided by the city, complete with folding table and garbage can. That’s all well and good, but I am definitely having a sit down traditional dinner for Thanksgiving, I can tell you that. It was a nice day, but I really missed ole Portland on the Fourth. It’s just such a great time to be there and I miss everybody. Toots and the Maytals and Steve Miller at the Blues Fest!

We’re slowly starting to meet people and hopefully will be active participants in island community someday soon. It’s been like a big vacation so far, with work and stuff too, but now it’s time to start putting down some roots. This place feels like home and it’s time to start making it that way. We’re loving the adventure, but as always miss our dear friends and family.

A hui hou!

-bigislandtikiadventurers

Posted by: bigislandtikiadventure | June 18, 2012

Quiet Village

Just like the Les Baxter song, this truly is the iconic Quiet Village in the South Pacific. Beautiful Honomu, population 500. No stop lights, no bars, no gas stations, not much really except Jan’s convenience store which closes promptly at 5:30 every day, a few sarong shops, a gift store, a store that sells only antique bottles, a mission or two, and a couple of cafes. But what it lacks in convenience it more than makes up for in beauty, tranquillity, and paradisical splendor.

Just past the 13 mile marker north of Hilo on Hawai’i Highway 19, a.k.a. Hawaii Belt Road, Honomu is frequented by tourists on their way to visiting the famed Akaka Falls. Which explains the sarong shops, as I’ve yet to see anybody that actually lives here wearing a sarong.

Here’s a a picture of bustling downtown Honomu:

If you were to turn around 180 degrees from where this photo was taken, you would be looking at the Honomu gymnasium and one of the largest banyan trees I’ve ever seen.

 Then, if you were to continue down past the tree, the road dips down into a large curve and turns into a gorgeous section of the Old Mamalahoa Highway. 

This is one of my favorite places to walk. A bridge over the river adds peaceful music to the scene.

To get to our house from town, you bear right up the hill onto one lane Stable Camp Road. If you drive all the way to the top of Stable Camp, you get a nice view of the ocean and the houses on our street. A faint arrow shows the approximate location of our house.

Turning 180 degrees from this angle gives you a gorgeous view of Mauna Kea.

Elevation means a lot here. How high up you are helps determine what can grow, what your climate will be, how much it rains, the humidity, etc. A small variation can change things dramatically. We are sitting at 430 feet above sea level, so things are moist and tropical. The ocean is less than a mile away, so at high tides you can hear the waves crashing on the rocks. Night brings the Coqui frogs, the sudden sound of fruit crashing to earth through the trees, warm ocean breezes, and rain showers so intense that at times you almost have to cover your ears. There are some strange noises too. One night sound baffled us so much, I actually recorded it and sent it to a Hawaii bird and recording specialist. Turns out it was an Australian Cane Toad. If you’ve ever seen the show Lost, it sounds an awful lot like the black smoke monster! If you want to have a listen, I posted it at the link below. You can also hear the Coqui frogs, and what sounds like someone screaming in the distance (but it’s actually just a rooster).

http://www.aracnet.com/~jcw/night_noise_1.wav

People we talk to seem to like Honomu and this part of the island in general because “there’s real dirt.” South of here the land is much newer and you can’t go very far down before you hit the lava. Of course dirt is required for things to grow, and grow they do. The backyard is full of mature fruit trees some 100 feet tall or more.We couldn’t believe what we found back there… huge two-pound avocados, mangoes, bananas, mountain apples, limes with a mysterious orange flesh (not 100% they are limes, but they taste limey), oranges, lemons, pineapples and passionfruit. Of course we have absolutely no idea what constitutes the proper care and feeding of tropical plants, but we’re sure going to have to learn.

Bananas

Here’s a picture of the back of the house with the money tree next to it. Legend has it that if your money tree gets taller than your house you’re going to be rich. Then everyone should be rich according to legend because these things get huge in a hurry.

The back yard is fenced with large 6″ square wire, but dogs roam freely here so the cats are soon going to be back in shock collars for use with an in ground electric fence. They are stuck inside for the time being, but the warm temperatures and open windows keep everybody relaxed.

The front yard is basically the driveway with an ohi’a tree, a retaining wall and grass. Across the street is pure jungle wildness full of Ki plants, wild ginger, and palms of every description.

You can see the ocean in the distance from the back bedrooms upstairs. I was able to finagle my way into using the largest bedroom as my office. Why not? You can’t enjoy the view lying in bed at night. Even with the shades down, sometimes it gets so bright I actually wear a hat with a visor, and have tried working in sunglasses. I have to watch it on conference calls because the tropical birds can really get loud. But the office is truly an inspiring place to work and play music. I am very grateful. And so are the Tikis! They have a shelf of honor all their own and are very happy to be back in the islands.

The living room is large and has fir floors like all the rooms upstairs. Buck Buck was very happy to have all his furniture back, including his favorite chair.

Here’s Cosmo chilling next to Buddha in front of the dining room window downstairs. She’s sitting on the electric fireplace Jen got for Christmas lsat year. Not sure when we’re going to use that… maybe for hanging stockings next Christmas.

One nice thing is that we are on county water, not a catchment tank as was the case in our Volcano house. I never showed a picture of that, here it is, our humble but perfect landing pad on our last day there.

And the car that came with it, code name Tyrone:

One of the happiest parts of all this was going to pick up the Shuttle (Volvo) at the harbor. They say people love their cars, and I’m no exception. Seeing the Shuttle in the Matson lot was like greeting your favorite uncle as he walks off the plane. I get comments now and then about the Oregon plates, I usually respond with something about “how great the tunnel is from the mainland.”

Now the other Matson item wasn’t as much fun. You see our house is on a one lane road, and the front yard is really small, so basically there was no way a 20 foot shipping container plus a ramp was going to fit in front. We tried in vain to scope out a safe spot to have it dropped nearby, risking bites from dogs trying to knock on doors. Eventually we decided to have it dropped at the Conen Freight yard in Hilo, then rent an 11 foot truck and hire a couple of movers. It actually worked out, the only hitch was Matson didn’t open our container to inspect the goods like they said they did, so of course I didn’t bring the keys to the locks and had to cut them off.

We just backed the truck up to the container, pulled up the hydraulic ramp, and made three trips to Honomu from Hilo Bay.

We seem to have brought just the right amount of stuff, everything we need and not much we don’t. Some people told us to just sell everything, you won’t need it in Hawaii. I have found that not to be the case, it’s a lot like life everywhere else. You need stuff. The main exception is clothes. Basically I’ve been wearing the same 3 pairs of shorts and 4 shirts since I got here and am delighted. If there weren’t neighbors around honestly I wouldn’t wear much at all. It’s just so pleasant all the time. At night you might get a little chilly, then you just get under the sheet. That’s about it. Some days it gets really sticky when it rains a lot, but fans go a long way to keeping you comfortable.

My iPhone home button crapped out, but I was able to set up the accessibility feature and work around that. I am waiting in fear for our electronic devices to fizzle out, the humidity is constant. Supposedly all things electronic have a half life here in Hawaii. Paradise tax I suppose.

We really haven’t been trying to meet new friends or be very social to be honest. It kind of feels like a honeymoon except we’ve had to work and do a lot of other difficult things. But it’s been a wonderful adventure so far. I miss my dear friends in Portland! What I wouldn’t give to have a beer with y’all right now. Sorry it’s been a while since the last post, I’ve been pretty busy with life here and haven’t been that motivated to spend time at the computer after a long work day. But I’m getting back into the swing of it, so check back soon for another post. And give us a call! All the numbers are the same, although cell service is spotty up here and texts don’t usually make it. But we get them eventually when we head to town.

Aloha from the Orchid Isle!

Posted by: bigislandtikiadventure | May 20, 2012

West Side Story

A weekend day with nothing to do, what a treat. I had been dying to get some snorkel gear and get out in the water world, so that’s exactly what we did last Sunday. The best dive shop on the island is Jack’s Diving Locker (arr! mandatory Pirate joke) in Kona town on the west side of the island. So once again we head south on highway eleven around the southern tip of the island.

We gave in to temptation and stopped in for some sugar goodness at the Punalu’u Bakery in Na’alehu. This place rocks. They make these Portuguese doughnuts called malasadas and they are to die for. This time we had the chocolate filled variety, which were great, but my faves are the lilikoi (passion fruit). Their coconut filled pan are also really good, and so are the endless varietes of sweetbread. Believe it or not the taro sweetbread is excellent. I also picked up a new CD by the na hoku award winning band Ho’okena. It has a tribute song to our kama’aina President Barack Obama.

Pumped up un sugar and coffee we cruise the remaining hour and a half drive to Kona and in no time find ourselves at Jack’s. This place is somewhat legendary and has been around since the mid seventies. They have been involved in several ocean conservation causes over the years and many celebrities dive with them. One particularly avid customer was none other than Jerry Garcia! Here’s a photo of a plaque we saw hanging in the shop:

The staff told us that they still have dives on the books for Jerry that he never took. Aww Jerr…

Since we live here now I decide to splurge and get some nice snorkel gear. Nothing super fancy just good solid gear. It’s easy for a leaking mask, broken fin strap or a malfunctioning snorkel to ruin your day in the water. The friendly staff help us make our selections.

I’m informed that since I have facial hair going on that any mask might spring a leak since it’s almost impossible to get a good seal. The mask I pick out has an auto purge feature just for this scenario. Basically you just blow out through your nose and supposedly any water in the mask is ejected out through a one way valve. Which is good because I’m pretty attached to my goat and would hate to have to give it up.

We decide to get diver fins that can go on over diving booties. Diver fins are stiffer and require more kicking energy when swimming on the surface than the more flexible snorkel fins that are usually recommended. However some of the more advanced snorkel spots can be rocky, surgy, and generally challenging to enter. Lava is sharp and slippery so to us rubber soled booties are essential. They might also provide some protection against stepping on a super sharp sea urchin.

While picking out some gloves I notice a handy laminated field guide to Hawaii’s undersea life. My attention is immediately drawn to the shark section. Makos, blue tips, white tips, tiger sharks, “can be aggressive”, “very aggressive”, “the most dangerous shark in Hawai’i.” Gulp… Well subsequent research indicates that you have about one chance in a million of being bitten by a shark in Hawai’i, and the odds of a serious injury are even less than that. But still, its kinda freaky.

We also pick up a diving map of the island, and the staff give us a few copies of hand drawn maps their customers create for the various diving spots. They indicate parking, entry spots, where the fish are, currents, and are pretty handy all around. After that we are ready to check out. I won’t say how much we spent. All I can say is that Jen now gets to pick out any dining room table she wants.

Gear in hand we cruise down Ali’i drive south to Kahalu’u beach park, which we are told is one of the best and easiest snorkel spots on the island.

Kona side is very different from the Hilo side in our opinion. It has more of a mainland feel in places, and it’s hot. High humidity and 84° F at the shore make conditions feel ovenlike to us. We could see mirages on the road to the beach.  All houses seem to have AC and don’t have the louvered windows and whole house breezes we love so much. It’s also quite a bit rockier and drier, and volcanic haze is more apparent. But the land is incredibly beautiful, with more bouganvilleas and other blooming plants than you find on the east side. South Ali’i drive is funky and the beaches are packed.

I don’t care how dorky it looks, I like our Wheelie Cool cooler on wheels and backpack chairs with sunshades. It just makes loading in and out of the beach so easy. Jen’s got some cuts on her hands and feet from a misadventure at Punalu’u, so to avoid infection she opts to hang on the beach while I assemble the gear for a virgin dive.

I’m also wearing a long sleeved white t-shirt as snorkeling can lead to a marvelous sunburn. Amidst all the families and kids I hit the water. It doesn’t go very well. The surge makes it really tough to stand on one foot and snap the fin straps into place. I swear they shrunk when I hit the water! Which is probably exactly what happened, the cold of the water making the rubber contract. After politely refusing a friendly yet embarrassing offer for help, I finally manage to get the fins on, and recover the glove that floated out of my pocket towards the beach. I get my mask on and… it leaks. Dude! What a bummer. Well I decide that’s not going to stop me, and try the auto purge feature. No dice, it just sprays water in my eyes, and the same amount of water that was purged comes rushing back in. Ughh… where’s the shark? Yeah why not?

But I eventually start cruising around the reef, and there are indeed some really cool fish, like Yellow Tang (chuckle) and Rainbow Parrotfish. And the Hawai’i state fish, the marbles-in-your-mouth, dare you to say it “Humuhumunukunukuāpuaa”. Or you can just say Triggerfish, your choice. Engrossed with the undersea spectacle and keeping my mask free of water, I finally come up for air and discover that I’m the furthest person out towards the ocean. Sooo it’s time to head back in and see how Jen is doing with the beer.

As I’m telling her about my (mis) adventures, a portly guy decides to hop up and go for a walk on the seawall in front of us, then promptly stumbles and takes a swan dive to the rocks below. Whoa! I run over and expect to find a grisly scene, but miraculously he managed to fall into the only pool of water along the wall. Lucky lucky. I hand him his hat and spilled drink, he’s embarrassed but OK.

It’s been a nice day at the beach, but we decide to pack it up and head back before dark. On the way, we decide to detour down the road to Kealakekua Bay and check it out. On arriving at the park, we’re approached by a friendly guy who offers to take us in a kayak to the Captain Cook monument for some excellent snorkeling. We decline, so he instead invites us to join in a poker game with his buddies. We hang out with the locals for a while, which I’ll admit was a bit of culture shock for me. Their somewhat pidgin dialect and foreign sense of humor made me feel a bit like an out of place haole. But they are friendly enough and invite us to come back any day after work and join the game.

On the way back we stop at our new favorite bar/restaurant, the Shaka Bar in Na’alehu. The southernmost bar in the USA! A nice way to wrap up a free Sunday.

Posted by: bigislandtikiadventure | May 18, 2012

Whittington! Smashing I say.

We keep finding ourselves on the road south of Volcano towards South Point. There’s something about the raw mysterious beauty of that land that we find simply irresistible. It’s hard to describe, you start out through the majesty of the national park, then hit grasslands with monkeypod trees interspersed with mac nut farms and areas of abrupt destruction caused by lava flows from eras past. Then you’re in Ka’u coffee country with mauka coffee farms tucked away in the mountains. It’s the least populated district on the island so there’s never a crowd.

Once you cross the southernmost point, the land starts to change and you see the first of the bouganvilleas found in such abundance on the Kona side. I think it’s something about the trade winds colliding with round-the-island leeward winds and currents that define this place.

So it’s Friday night in Volcano, population 2500, what do you do? Buck Buck would rather us stay at home, and gives us a guilt-inspiring look from the bay window most anytime we head out.

But the will of the cats aside, the answer for us was to pack the usual cooler ‘n chairs and hit Whittington, a beach park we’d seen on previous drives. Our trusty guidebook said it wasn’t much more than a rest stop with picnic tables, but we found it to be a very special place.

No matter how drenched the surrounding highlands are it looks like it almost never rains at this beach. Conditions were tropical but very dry. The surf really pounds around here, and tonight was no exception. Standing near the ruined trestles of an abandoned sugar factory dock and watching the waves crash in was thrilling. The lava formations are fascinating, some that looked to me like the faces of ancient warriors.

Then there was this crazy open mouthed formation that I could just see spouting fire at its creation:

Generally it was just an evening spent wandering about in the tropicality just enjoying the land. Even with sunset the breeze was warm and stayed so after dark. Lots of feral cats call this place home so naturally we had to try to interact. I have to admit that we’re getting pretty used to the warmth and beauty of Hawaii, it’s hard to imagine ever taking it for granted, but I suppose it could actually be possible.

There were maybe ten people total at the park when we got there, and then it thinned out to only the overnight guests. These guys had a sweet camp site under a huge tree.

The surrounding hills reminded me a little bit of the Klickitat River in Washington State, but with different trees and a little more green.

You find a lot of estuaries next to the sea all over Hawaii. Many of them are fishponds created by ancient Hawaiians. You can’t have the ali’i going hungry.

All in all this was a great place to be. Ahh the tropicality… (sigh). Is tropicality even a word? I guess it is now.

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