We kept heading along the coast toward the Kona side of the island. My goal was to be there to photograph the sunset against the ocean and crashing waves upon black volcanic rocks that extend across the horizon. It wasn’t long before we came upon Punalu’u black sand beach and the small village of Kahiolo. Even though this was the same beach I had visited over 11 years ago, we somehow came upon a completely different part of it that I had not noticed during my last visit. As we parked and were walking towards the beach, we noticed an abandoned hut-like structure in the woods. It looked like some fancy 50’s beach house with large windows and concrete roof that was now overgrown with palms and vines. We soon realized that there was more; there were multiple buildings, all connected by wooden decks. Was this a resort? A shopping center? What happened to it? Google says it’s an abandoned tiki bar and restaurant. We explored the ruins for a bit. It was really a cool place. Watch out for broken glass and metal though and careful on the crumbling bridge. After exploring a while, we left the ruins behind for a look at the black sand beach.
I was eager for some long exposure photography of the waves crashing against the black volcanic rocks and was ready to get myself all set up. I even was able to use my new neutral density filter. I took shot after shot of the different wave patterns. It wasn’t quite creating the effect I was looking for, but I was satisfied with my efforts and even managed to see a sea turtle while I was on the rocks. I also got the first-hand experience in just how salty sea water is as my gear was covered in it. And I left my detail cleaning kit back at the hotel. I was beginning to think that this landscape photography thing was for the birds as not only was I having a hard time finding that perfect location at the perfect time of day, but now I was realizing the effects on my equipment. I made do with some spray and a wipe to get my lenses cleaned enough for our next destination, Kona.
We arrived at the lower part of Kona in the early afternoon and stopped at a coffee plantation just outside of town to pick up our first beans. We didn’t sample much of their coffee because of the time of day. Sometimes your just not in the mood. We trekked on and made another pit stop at a little sweet role bakery in South Kona. Then again went on until we neared the resort area where we would watch some beach volleyball and grab some food at one of the local fares. We even took a look at some of the other resorts we had considered to stay at and the one that I had stayed at during my last visit. It was very surreal to walk along the Oceanside restaurant that I had visited in a previous life.
We decided to continue on and found an unkempt road that led to a secluded beach. We ventured down this very bumpy road over lava flows for the better part of an hour when we finally came upon a secluded beach full of black lava extending into the ocean along the horizon.
Reason 2 why you should get the extra insurance and rent a 4×4 vehicle on the Big Island. Very rough Roads… If you really want to call that a road.
It would have been a great place to set up for that sunset shot, but the sky was full of clouds in the distance and the road was so bumpy I didn’t think we should drive it in the dark with a compact rental car.
We headed back to Hilo, this time taking the northern path along the coast. I have to admit, much of the drive was a blur for me as I dozed in and our out of consciousness. I was jarred awake after Dave shouted “what the heck was that?!” and pulled over. Apparently, the vehicle in front of us hit something, something big enough to take off its front bumper. Dave said he thought it was a goat.
Reason 3 of why you should get the extra insurance and rent a 4×4 when renting a car on the Big Island of Hawaii. Wild goats.
After a somewhat strange and eventful night, we finally made it back to Arnott’s Lodge for a shower air conditioning and sleep a little after 11pm.
I was up again and ready to go by 4:30 am the following morning. At some point, I’m sure the time change would hit me like a ton of bricks, but for now falling asleep between destinations was becoming great filler rest for me. We ate breakfast again at Ken’s house of pancakes; mainly because they are open 24 hours a day and well the place is like stepping back in time.
Today we were headed north of Hilo to see some waterfalls. The first of which were Akaka Falls. I was excited to see this again and it was going to be my second personal photographic challenge, a long exposure of Akaka Falls. I had to admit, so far I had not really accomplished what I had set out to do in terms of photography. I have been having a hard time finding the right scene at the right time of day. I was a little discouraged. This is why I should have connected with local photographers while I was here. I really needed to detach from the outcome of this, so even though I did not find the photographic scenes I was looking for and appeared to always be at the right place at the wrong time to photograph them, my soul still connected with Dave and the spirit of Aloha in this wonderful place they call Hawaii. It knows what it’s looking for and maybe the perfect picture is not it.
As we drove up to the Akaka Falls parking, a rainbow filled the sky above the road sign to the entrance of the falls. “What a beautiful sight,” I thought as we went around the gate well before the park opened. I noticed right away that the paths were different and a section of the falls was closed off. By the looks of it, a giant jungle tree had fallen right on the path during a storm. This was a massive tree, hundreds of years old. The impact of this ancient marvel took out complete sections of railing and stairs. As we walked up to the part of the falls that was still open, I realized that I was yet again not going to get the shot I was looking for. By getting creative with the tripod and very carefully going just beyond the tape at a very safe spot on the normal path, I was able to capture these.
This was one of those full circle moments for me. I have this same shot from over 11 years ago when I had decided to take control of my life. And here I am with the love of my life exploring everything in a whole new and wonderful light. What an amazing journey. It’s like a dream.
We wanted to look at some more falls in the area, but the rest of them involved some dangerous hiking or were on private property with no access. We decided to head back to the little town of Honokaa, where we found a delightful little café called Simply Natural where we stopped for a bite to eat. One of my favorite things to do in Hawaii or any place I travel to is to go into the shops and meet the local people. See what they do, find out their favorite place to eat. Most of them have really interesting stories and truly love living in Hawaii. This was a beautiful little town with interesting shops. We went into the Taro Patch and the Knickknackery as well as The hands of Tibet where they had some wonderful prayer bowls that made beautiful sounds. When we walked in, there was a woman playing them in no particular order. I have to admit, I was a bit jealous of her. I kind of wanted to try one out myself. By the time I had circled the shop once, I realized that the chick was still playing the prayer bowls and was really into it, though she had no particular rhythm going so the sound wasn’t so great. I looked at Dave and both us the shopkeepers who gave us a confirmation look of, “yes, this chick is crazy.” We chuckled a bit, bought a prayer scroll and were on our way. The lady at the Knickknackery was also very nice. It looked like she was moving and everything was 20% off. We found and purchased some renew lotion; crazy to run into another Melaleuca customer. After talking with her for only a brief while, she exploded into a whole story about her boyfriend getting into drugs and how sales had really been down since they built the new highway. She didn’t know what to do and you could feel the hopelessness in her. I comforted her and gave her my card. I told her a little bit about the course and how it had helped me. I told her there was a reason she told me her story and that I heard and felt her pain and that I knew it would get better for her. Even with her current situation, she loved it on the Island and fondly talked about how she moved when she was a teen. It seems like most people who come here and decided they want to stay get caught up in the rhythm and harmony of the Hawaiian Island. Time moves differently here and people’s priorities are different too. You don’t have to have great physical wealth to be rich.
There is something about this place; even the bums seem content and happy here. Seems like the hardest part is getting here. Once you’re here then Aloha will provide you with what you need. Could it really be that easy? Maybe, but check out the cost of real-estate in Hawaii before you make up your mind. Now I know why there are so many bums.