I just got back from a week in Hawaii.
It all happened at the last minute, but when my husband boarded a plane early Sunday morning for a business trip to Oahu, I went with him.
What I remember most:
- the weather. Sunny days, pleasant breezes, brief, gentle showers, rainbows...
- the rainforest. So many exotic trees (and so few actually native to Oahu, whose flora up to 2000 feet was once upon a time grazed down to the root by wild cattle, or razed to plant sugar cane.) I saw the African tulip, with its burnt-orange blossoms. The ginger plant, with its tubular, demurely pink blooms--until they open and you look up into their lurid red throats. A type of euculyptus that holds water, so that the trunk remains spongy for days after a rain and is surprisingly warm to the touch, like flesh. A native Hawaiian tree called the hua or the hau, or something similar, which looks like nothing more than a grove of pick-up sticks. Another tree whose name I can't recall that grows 20-30 feet a year, with lacy, fern-like leaves and a gracefully spreading crown to gather as much light as possible.
Most fascinating tree was the great banyan tree from India. Sprouted from seeds dropped by birds, it roots in the branches of other trees, sending runners down to find the soil. These grow and twist and fuse, eventually smothering the host tree. Caught within the strangling lattice of roots, the original tree rots away, until nothing is left but its shape as defined by the Banyan roots--which continue to spread and grow over other trees, or find other Banyans to merge with. (There's a banyan tree in India that is virtually a one-tree forest.) To the Hindu it represents eternal life. To Robinson Crusoe it made a fine tree house. To SF writer Brian Aldiss, in his novel Hothouse it was the tree that took over half the world. And some say that the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden was a banyan tree. So not so unexpected to find it in paradise.
- the birds. Cardinals with bright red heads like their mainland counterparts, but with bodies of gray and white. A small bird whose name I can't recall, but it warbled haunting, musical songs in the rainforest. White cockatiels flitting through the canopy like little ghosts. Alien birdcalls that put me in mind of Jurassic Park (parts of which were indeed filmed there); I kept expecting a dinosaur to poke its head through the foliage. Tons more birds that I can't name. (Wish I'd brought a bird-and-tree guide.) No seagulls, though. How odd.
- the fruit. Pineapple, guava, mango, papaya--fresh, or squeezed into juice, or flavoring my tea. Coconut shavings in my morning oatmeal. (Some of life's joys are simple.) Someone told me to try white pineapple, also known as sugarloaf pineapple, but I couldn't find any. Next time!
- the waves. When the wind blows against them, it skims spray off the tops like the manes of white horses. In fact, I swear I saw an entire herd once, galloping and plunging toward the rocks, just like the river horses in The Fellowship of the Ring. The seas were a bit too calm for the really big waves (which can, I'm told, reach 50-70 feet on the North Shore in winter); the largest waves last week reached 25 feet, though I unfortunately missed seeing those. We went the next day, when they were 10-12 feet, and watching the surfers at Sunset Beach was endlessly entertaining. I loved the entire north shore of Oahu, which is delightfully stuck in the sixties: sun-bleached surfers living out of their cars, following the waves; quaint little surfer/tourist shops; a refreshing dearth of resorts and urban development, and a fierce (nay, militant) desire on the part of the locals to keep it that way.
-the shopping. Most fun was haggling for jewelry at the International Market in Honolulu. The less interested you appear (I discovered), the lower the price drops.
-the USS Arizona. Several hundred sailors still lie entombed in its depths. The memorial is both moving and sobering.
-the luau. Living as I do in the pork barbecue capital of the US, I can say with authority that North Carolina barbecue, eastern or Lexington style, cannot hold a candle to Hawaiian pit-roasted pig. I am prepared to exchange blows over this.
-the weather. Those endlessly warm, sunny days...
-the merging of indoors with outdoors. You'll be strolling around inside, say, a hotel lobby, or an airline terminal, or a shopping center, and then suddenly you're outside without having walked through a door. What a climate.
-the wildlife. Basking sea turtles. (I saw three!) Far out to sea, a breaching whale, probably a humpback, which winter here. Mongoose playing in the shrubbery. Feral chickens everywhere. You're as likely to hear a rooster crowing in the rainforest as some more exotic bird.
-the Tahitian-style hula. Mesmerizing. Those women can really shake it!
-the music. You hear the liquid strains of Hawaiian music everywhere, and it's not just for the benefits of tourists. There's a thriving Hawaiian music industry. Before the trip, I never cared for it; now the sound of it transports me instantly to the Islands.
- the weather. Did I mention the weather?
Monday, February 19, 2007
I just got back from a week in Hawaii.
Posted by Beth at 1:10 PM