Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you. -- Carl Sandburg
There's only one rule that I know of, babies -- goddammit, you've got to be kind. -- Kurt Vonnegut

December 11, 2012

Hawaii - The Big Island - Day 2 South Point

1801 Lava Flow from Mauna Loa - N Kona
We headed for the southern most point in the US.  We found a restaurant in Kailua-Kona for breakfast and then headed down the highway.  The north Kona coast on the western side of the island is extremely dry.  The airport is located on the westernmost point formed by the 3rd volcano, Hualalai, then the land curves back a bit before it goes due south along the Mauna Loa flanks.  As soon as you get past the west point, it starts to green up again.  Lush tropical vegetation is up a thousand feet or so above the ocean.  Here is the Kona coffee belt. A sweet spot with lots of rain on the lee side of the island part way up the slope.

We stopped at the Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park.  It is the royal grounds and behind it is the place of refuge.  It is a lovely spot where the royal of the Hawaiians lived along with the priests.  There's a big wide and tall wall made of black lava stones.  On the other side of the wall towards the sea is the place of refuge.  If a person could make it to the place of refuge which could only be done by swimming across the bay, then he or she would be safe no matter what reason they had for being in danger.  The life of the ordinary Hawaiian was fraught with tons of taboo things (or kapu), any breach of which could result in being killed on the alters of the priests who constantly wanted humans to sacrifice.  They could not walk on the royal grounds on pain of death, couldn't walk on the shadow of a royal, or look at one so getting to the place of refuge was no small task.  They would do their best to kill anyone trying to get there before they reached it so it took determination and smarts to make it.

The Bay by the Place of Refuge

The Place of Refuge

Tikis at the Royal Grounds


It was here that I think I really understood why when the missionaries arrived in Hawaii  that they converted to Christianity so quickly.  The native Hawaiian religion and society was incredibly bloody and totalitarian.  The common people must have lived in terror all the time of the sneaky and bloodthirsty priests looking for the smallest transgression of unreasonable taboos to make an excuse for sacrificial murder.  Funny how they lived on these idyllic islands but had such a brutal religion and governance.  When the missionaries came, they offered a religion with just as many rules and transgressions so it seemed familiar but you weren't killed for them so it was a huge improvement.  Shaming was much less horrible than murder.  It must say something about humans.  Reminds me of the Lord of the Flies.

There are still plenty of Hawaiians who still have a spiritual feel and practice for their old religion but they no longer kill people.  They erect rock carens and things and drape them with plant ropes and things.  All visitors are asked to respect them and leave them alone.  The Park Service doesn't allow visitors to get on the Hill of the Whale heiau because Hawaiians still hold rituals on it.  All lava rock is considered the body of Pele, the great volcano goddess, or essentially the mother earth goddess.  The legend goes that no one may remove any lava from the islands or Pele will curse you for taking her body.  The Hawaiian Post Offices are filled with boxes of returned lava rocks.

We drove down to the southern most point in the US - the bottom tip of the Big Island.  It is farmland with coffee plantations and then macadamia nut orchards interspersed with 1950 lava flows.  Because of the rainfall, these lava flows have a lot of vegetation growing in them.  As we made the bend to the east at the bottom of the island is the Ocean View Estates.  It looks like a grand ambition that failed to materialize.  There are small houses interspersed with much less frequency than the big grid laid out on the map.  I read that there is no water there and there isn't enough rainfall to capture it as people do in the moister areas.  People have to truck in water.  We found a Hawaiian BBQ place and had lunch.  There's a lot of rough lava with the scrubby vegetation you see where there is moderate rainfall.

Just a bit further, we turned down the South Point Road which goes due south past lovely ranches with cows and then gets drier and drier as we descended towards sea level.  Near sea level, it is bone dry with brown grass and a big wind farm.  There were quite a few people there.  It is believed that this is the point where the first Hawaiians arrived when they found the Islands.  There are ancient canoe moorings as this is a great fishing area with the confluence of ocean currents.  The point is steep cliffs but to the east side, it levels out and you can reach the ocean on more or less flat ground.  Some people were swimming off the cliffs and climbing back up.  Others were fishing, casting their poles off the top of the cliff.  Some of the fishermen said they were just killing time until nightfall when they would get serious about the fishing.  It looked treacherous with fishing off a cliff in the dark. I suppose they knew what they were doing.

In front of the light tower that replaced the old lighthouse is an ancient heiau for fishing.  This one was a square marked by a low rock wall with an entry from the south.  It is believed to be one meant for fishing.  The ocean is wild and beautiful here with strong waves and cross currents.  I didn't hike this time to the famous Green Sand Beach but did a decade ago the first time I came.  It is an unusual olivine mineral and black sand beach a 2 1/4 mile hike down a 4 wheel drive road.  Olivine is formed in extra hot magma. The wind was very strong on this exposed point.  The trade winds that week were exceptionally strong as there was a front to the north that was doing a squeeze play with the trades.
Cliffs at the South Point

S Point

S Point canoe moorings

S Point canoe moorings

S Point - fishing pole cast off the cliff to the sea

Ancient fishing heiau and light pole

To the east of S Point just a bit

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