The windows are all fogged up this morning! Brrrr.
Puna, Big Island; it is not a hot place. It is a warmish place. It is a soggy place, a friendly place, an earthy place (despite the lack of soil), a forward thinking place strewn about with sustainable living minded folk altering the paradigm of societal structure…
I have been here two weeks. My hosts are a friend from Utah who I’ve known for many years and his more reserved fiance who is a tech music star and spends lots of time away on tours and gigs all over the world. Travis is a candid multi talented artist, hot sauce gourmet, hair stylist and angel. I love my hosts.
They will be leaving for gig/holidays soon and mine will be the responsibility of caring for the 2 lovely husky dogs and wide array of exotic plants which are their other passion. These boys are a couple of months along in the construction of their new house. The grounds are already crocheted with hundreds of varieties of palms, bromeliads, fruit trees and more, overwhelming my knowledge by leaps and bounds. Their “apron” is magnificent. I am told that when a lot is purchased, the neighbors will patrol and disapprove of the new owner if he does not produce a certain curb appeal to his lot prior to building. (!) The road end of a driveway is what is known at the apron around here. The degree of disapproval varies according to the neighborhood. Their apron is magnificent.
I have entered the ocean exactly 3 times. Near here is a lovely warm pool, partially separated from the ocean by a rock wall. It is a delightful temperature. Being the windward side of the island, the water is mostly very rough and crashing onto lava rock in most places. A new friend showed me a protected “pool” inside a natural rock breakwater near Hilo. That pool is frequented by at least one giant turtle who swam nonchalantly past me in 4 feet of water. The shallow water and sandy bottom make this little place a dipping paradise with adjustable temperatures depending on how close to the river mouth you choose to venture. During a little escapade to the West Coast which I will describe further along, I had a short snorkel at Two Step (Honaunau), down the hill from Captain Cook. Here was a bright and lively coral garden with the usual suspects; brightly coloured damsel fish, parrot fish, trumpet, trigger etc. The dolphins frequently taunt snorkeling tourists here but did not make an appearance this day
I ventured by bus (Hele-on or “hell on wheels”) from Hilo to Kailua-Kona and on to Captain Cook one day, thinking this a grand plan. Little did I expect an 8 hour voyage. The beginning of my trip was pleasant, sitting at the very back of the bus and chatting with a young local fellow who was full of knowledge, interesting information and the odd stab at humour. Once he de-bussed in Waimea the scenery changed abruptly from lush tropical forest to mountain meadows to desert scape, eventually switching back to tropical lushness around Kona. The bus route is a northerly sea board route cutting off the very northernmost tip of the island.
Hours and busses later I arrived in Captain Cook and was picked up by my hostess Barbara, the charming angel fruitcake who I intend to spend January to April with at the Dragonfly Ranch (www.dragonflyranch.com). This is an adorable old-ish B&B nestled on a hillside among verdant flora and towering trees, which are incorporated in the structure.
The common modus operandi for Hawaii is to “hire” people to work for you but not pay them…it’s even difficult to find unpaid work here! While I embrace this concept, I am not quite ready to drop out of the rat race to that degree. I have three vehicles to keep on the road, man! The latest addition to my fleet is a 1983 diesel Mercedez named Sir Gallahad and whose tank is filled with locally made Biodiesel.
This island is a haven for creative folk and the markets are full of local crafts and foods. Yesterday GMO was definitively banned on the Big Island (with the exception of papaya). If finding employment is nearly impossible the ease of getting your product to the market is, by contrast, relatively simple; you just have to fork out some dough…
Speaking of dough, I have been experimenting with a new sourdough starter I built here. I am still struggling with the challenge of baking at sea level. My new friend Gerry gave me some water kefir grains and so our kitchen now has a nice variety of “enlivened” beverages: my first batch of water kefir turned out delicious, I also made a scrumptious ginger beer!
Puna, one of the 5 counties, is the youngest land formed by the active volcano and is still at somewhat of a risk of destructive activity. A mere thirty years ago a lava flow permanently cut off the southbound coastal road and smothered a village.
This threat is the main reason for the low cost of land here. I have not researched but I’m told that 3 acre lots are available in some areas for $10000. In many places there is hardly any topsoil and hobbit holes and lava tubes lurk below the surface. Trav and Evan were very careful when using equipment to clear their drive, as heavy backhoes etc have been known to plummet through a weak spot into a gaping chasm!
It is early morning, still dark and pouring with rain out there. It won’t last. Every day it rains here. The rain coat my mum gave me just as I was leaving sure is coming in handy! I am staying in a subdivision called Leilani Estates and is commonly dubbed Graylani Estates. It will be overcast here and sunny just a few miles away at the seaside. That is good news because this morning I will be joining some new friends for a hike somewhere down near the water and ending up at a little known swimming beach; a rarity on this side of the island.
OK folks, well that just about wraps it up for this update. I do have a skype interview for a part time coffee tour guide job on the Kona side. When the boys return from their holidays I plan on spending the remainder of my stay in the sun over there. The possibilities for paid work are far greater over there, as it is the more touristy side. Wish me luck!
OK, it may not be exactly HOT here but now that I am hearing from friends and family about the frigid weather in Utah I would like to express my gratitude to Madame Pele for being my gracious hostess.
Well! Reading that now, in July, in my little retreat in Utah, I giggle remembering how new and weird the vibe of that place was to me then. That was just the beginning though! I stayed until March 25th and had many more diverse experiences, which I will now attempt to portray!
I never did return to the Dragonfly Ranch; beautiful as it was, further communication with Angel Fruitcake revealed that I would probably not have been comfortable work trading there. I decided to give up looking for paid work and focus on being somewhere lovely and simply enjoying it.
Throughout December I had been corresponding with an old colleague of mine from the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary days (1992 to 2000) who had intended to move to the Big Island after 6 months on Oahu. We considered work trading together at a farm on the West side but the one she settled on did not appeal to me. I opted, instead for somewhere lovely; a lush hideaway in the Ka’u desert (!!!not!! desert, that is) on 12 acres in a place called Wood Valley at 2500 ft elevation. With a few exceptions the main highway around the island cuts in at around 1500 ft above sea level and inland from the shore by a mile or two. If you imagine the island as the shape of a volcano (5 volcanoes actually), you can easily visualize this. Most of the shoreline is bare lava and not navigable. Properties will be either on the sea side (makai) or the mountain side (moaka) of the highway. I ended up well on the mountain side of the highway; five miles up Maona Loa’s flank; apparently, not for the weather…
Man, did it ever rain…
Every single day…
Some days for a few hours; other days for most of the day; other times for days and nights on end…
I felt as though I was in a video game that was impossible to win; stay alive was doing very well. Let me explain.
I am struck by the incredible irony of these climactic extremes: at home I plant a seed and daily watch as it pops it’s head through the soil, bravely growing microscopic amounts; I water it lovingly, encourage it, coddle it and hopefully it becomes a beautiful vegetable. If I should miss so much as one of my bi-daily waterings it would wither and die. In Hawaii I flung a machete mercilessly until my arm was too tired and plants just mocked me as they regrew inches within hours! Bananas, halyconia, ginger, vines (hell vine, terminator vine, hitchhiker vine or desmodemon, to name a few). It was impossible to get ahead and difficult to maintain a level of upkeep.
My hostess was a charming, youthful but elderly lady whose husband died precipitously, leaving no instructions for the running of the farm. She was winging it and had been taken advantage of by several “helpers” who work traded for accommodation. I did the best I could without becoming overly stressed until the sheep episode…I loved the house, the serenity, the friendly cardinals, the abundance of food, the solitude. I even had a short and sweet romance! I struggled with the endless rain which actually kept increasing until I finally threw in the sopping towel and moved to South Kona for my last 3 weeks!
There I stayed on a school trust farm which had to meet a certain criteria of revenue from organic produce sold. There were pineapples, avocados, dragonfruit, macadamia nuts, bananas and ginger. There were chickens and eggs and loud, obnoxious all night cockadoodling roosters; dogs, cats, wild pigs occasionally…And other woofers. It was not as serene but it was very comfortable, pleasant and DRY! My hosts were wonderful folks. It was 2 miles from the dolphin snorkeling spot and near enough to civilization to go down the pub for a pint on occasion! Here my friend from the Sanctuary joined me, having been disappointed with the coffee farm she came to the island to work trade at. She and a sweet german girl were my cheerful companions.
Sir Gallahad is now in good hands up there in Wood Valley and I am back home where it is sooooo dry and windy I would gladly teleport back to Hawaii for a spell!
Extra wet it was in Hawaii this year; extra dry t’is here…
Ah the weather…
Here’s freezing atop Mauna Kea at sunrise.