One of the interesting things about driving in Hawaii that you won't see in any of the other islands is the lava messages. Because it's so black, tourists find white rocks to write messages to their loved ones or to other travelers. I always think "we should add our mark" but then we never do. Oh well, maybe next time.
Getting in to Kona we could get a much better feel for the damage than we could the night before. In the light of day you could see stores boarded up, people hauling mud & debris from their shops and probably worst of all, the seawall and road in front of the King Kam completely torn up.
Interestingly enough, the place where the young intrepid Aussie videographer had filmed the tsunami coming over the wall to flood the street looked like nothing had happened. We heard it's because the clean up crews had been hard at work since before sunrise.
Arriving at Kahalu'u (near the Outrigger Keauhou) we saw a ton of cars parked on the street, which we hadn't noticed last time. It turns out that the parking lot was locked down because it had been completely destroyed as well. The gates to the beach were closed, but there were still about 50-75 people on the beach or in the water. Walking up we could immediately see that the beach definitely wasn't anything like the one we'd swam at two years prior. The ocean bed was on display and you could see a ton of mud where previously had just been lava and coral. Immediately we heard a park supervisor tell everyone to get out of the water because the beach was closed. Strangely though, the lifeguards were on duty so they hadn't gotten the memo either.
It was nearing lunch by this point so we decided to go into town to grab some grub. We should have eaten at Huggo's on the Rocks but we were swayed by the idea of a new place with nearly a hundred beers on tap. Because I have no common sense but a recent love for IPAs, I ordered the tsunami IPA. Ouch. Alan got one from Maui Brewing Company. Both were decent but nothing to write home about. The food was just meh, but at least the view was good.
Before leaving Kona we decided to see if the Koa & titanium ring shop had opened so that we could see about getting Alan another ring. Sadly they were still closed, but this gave us an opportunity to visit the lovely farmer's market where we bought - finally! - fresh lillikoi. Our last day of the trip and we finally found our favorite tropical fruit. There were a lot of other tchotchkes available for purchase but we decided to hold off on our souvenir shopping until later.
Leaving Kona we decided to drive south to visit a coffee plantation to learn more about the coffee we love so much. Based on the guidebook at the condo we visited Greenwell Farms, arriving just in time to catch a tour of the grounds with another couple (the girl had on so much makeup and perfume that I found myself repeatedly distracted by both). The tour was interesting and informative, if not life changing, and afterwards we were able to sample the various brews. We ended up purchasing two bags of coffee - one for us and one for Alan's mom (to thank her for watching Dakota). The pearberry coffee - the best they offer - is pretty mild so it's not the "kick you in the teeth" flavor I like, but it's quiet fruitiness is a nice taste, with a pleasant lingering on the tastebuds.
Leaving Kona we decided - since it was our last day - to see if one of our favorite beaches from our last trip was open. I didn't have high hopes for Kua Bay since it's right down the road from the Four Seasons and we had learned that the FS had to close because of wave & debris damage. We needn't have worried - not only did we get a great parking spot but we got to spend a couple of hours in the sun & water with Alan finally being able to do the body surfing that he had looked forward to all trip. I'm a bit of a chicken so it took me a lot longer to brave the waves, but once I did the water was gorgeous. Even better was the fact that standing in the waves, looking out over the horizon I could see whales breaching. It doesn't get much better than that. Unfortunately, this jaunt was marred somewhat when I stepped on a lava rock and bruised the arch of my foot. But that's nothing compared to Alan impaling his foot on someone's discarded earring. That sucker bled, and bled and bled. To close our our day we sat there on the white sand eating our lillikoi and watching the whales breach. It doesn't get much better than that. (Unfortunately I don't have any photos yet because they're all on the disposable that I *still* need to get developed.)
Back at the condo we decided to walk over to A Bay to watch the sunset on our last night in the islands. Unfortunately, the beach was completely closed and guarded. It turns out that the water had come up over the sand bar, washed out the wall to the sacred pond, and completely eroded that section of beach. We weren't to know this until we walked over to the Marriott to watch the sun set from their laws (several other folks from the Waikoloa resort area were doing the same thing so we didn't feel too much like interlopers; I also appreciated the Marriott not stationing guards at the known side entrances telling people not to come in).
|You can see the missing barrier in these photos and where the sea water is flowing into the pond. Also in some of these photos you'll be able to see the palm trees that used to line the beach floating in the pond area.|
It was a truly gorgeous sunset, and the ambiance was made even better by the Marriott piping in Hawaiian music. All around us you could hear people talking about their tsunami experiences. The couple behind us was supposed to arrive on Friday morning but because of the surging tidal waves and the uncertainty of damage to the island, their layover in L.A. was an extra day and they had just gotten to the islands a couple of hours earlier. The couple next to us flew 15 hours from New Jersey, never even knowing about the tsunami until they arrived at the resort and the front desk told them about the beach being closed. I guess I expected people to be more bent out of shape than they were. We regularly hear people complaining about their hotels, restaurants, the service ... basically, everything under the sun. You spend a lot of money to get to and stay in Hawaii - I imagined I would have heard a lot about ruined vacations and wasted cash. Instead there was a sense of comeraderie and quiet awe. I have to wonder if the damage in Japan also put into perspective for many folks how much worse it could have been. After all, we're all still in Hawaii, safe and sound, only mildly inconvenienced. We could have watched our temporary residences flushed out to see like the house in Kealakekua Bay. Or our entire town destroyed by cold ocean water like in Japan.
All in all, our entire trip was a great one. It felt different somehow this time though. We've visited all of the islands enough times now that we don't feel the need to put together a detailed itinerary. We've pretty much seen and done all there is that we want to see and do. We can go at a more leisure pace and just let us go where the mood strikes. Even without the tsunami evacuation and subsequent experiences, this wasn't as relaxing a trip as our previous anniversary vacation in Jamaica but it filled me with a quiet happiness. I also didn't get as depressed as I usually do when leaving Hawaii. After all, I wasn't going back to a job I hated that literally made me sick. In fact, I started my new job the very next day, well rested and ready for the next phase of my life.
For the first time in we don't know how many years we don't know what our next vacation is going to be. We don't have plans lined up, and we certainly don't have tickets purchased. I have an overwhelming desire to revisit Paris for our end-of-summer-Becky's-birthday-trip, but airfare is prohibitively expensive (just to get there we'd have to spend what we spent on this entire trip). I guess we could go to Mexico but it just doesn't call to me. I checked yesterday and the timeshare in Kauai is available. I'm tempted. Very tempted.