Posted on November 10th, 2010

By Shelton A. Gunaratne©2010 Professor of mass communications emeritus, Minnesota State University Moorhead

 My fascination with volcanoes did not end with my near encounter with Pele, the goddess of fire, at the entrance to her abode in the awesome fire pit called Halemaumau CraterShe accelerated the velocity of the downpour that soaked me when I was about to enter her doorstep. I surrendered by turning back.

In the poem “Looking at Kilauea,” Asian poet Garrett Hongo (born 1951 in Volcano, next to the Kilauea Volcano) wrote that he saw

solidified eddies of paho’eho’e
swirled like fans of pandanus leaves
inundating Highway 130 near Kaimu;
or a frozen cascade of lava
sluiced over a low, dun-colored bluff
that foregrounds a deep-focus panorama over the sublime,
shades of gray and black plain of Ka’u Desert,
the mother’s breast of my universe.

 Hongo’s poem provides a perspective of a phenomenon that is still shrouded in mystery.

I decided to skip the trail leading to the summit of Mauna Loa, the world’s largest volcano, because I thought I had already seen enough of the molten magma, lava, cones, craters and calderas associated with volcanic activity. Experts say that about 600 volcanoes have had known eruptions in recorded history, while about 50-70 volcanoes are active each year. An average of 20 volcanoes erupt per year.

Day 3: HƒÆ’-¾mƒÆ’-¾kua and Kohala Coasts

 Monday (30 Jan.) morning, I checked out of Uncle Billy’s Hilo Bay Hotel and headed for 

Uncle Billy’s Kona Bay Hotel on the opposite (west) coast””‚some 63 miles by plane or 90 miles by road via Saddle Road and Hawaii Belt Road. However, I chose to drive on the longer semicircular west-north-east route, a driving distance of 122 miles.

First, I drove 14 miles northward along the Hilo Bay and stopped at the Akaka Falls State Park, a 27-hectare tropical garden in Honomu (pop. 541) noted for its two waterfalls””‚Akaka Falls on Kolekole Stream that drops 422 feet; and Kahuna Falls that drops 100 feet further to the north. A scenic 1-mile loop trail takes the visitor to both waterfalls.

Legend has it that Akaka Falls (masculine energy) marked the spot where God Akaka fell 422 feet to his death as he ran away from his wife when she found him with his mistress. Thereupon, the mistress created the Kahuna Falls (feminine energy) so the two falls represented the yang and the yin of Oriental lore.

Back on the coastal highway, I stopped at the Honomu Plantation Store to purchase a few odds and ends. Then, I visited the nearby Kolekole (“raw”/”scarred”) Beach Park to enjoy some of the goodies I bought at the store. Another 13 miles to the north along the HƒÆ’-¾mƒÆ’-¾kua Coast, I stopped at the Laupahoehoe (“leaf lava”) Point County Park, where a memorial recalls the 1946 “April Fools Day” tsunami that caused the deaths of 20 students and four teachers in the area.

The quiet, historic town of Honoka’a (pop. 2,233), another 19 miles to the northwest, was my lunch stop. Originally settled by the Chinese, Honoka’a was the center of the island’s sugar industry. With the decline of sugar, the HƒÆ’-¾mƒÆ’-¾kua district has seen better prospects in other crops such as pineapples, coffee, papaya, macadamia nuts and tea.  I visited the Hawaiian Holiday Macadamia Nut Plant and the Kama’aina Woods Factory.

Waipi’o (“curved water”) Valley, one of nature’s magnificent masterpieces, lies nine miles to the northwest of Honoka’a. It was the capital and permanent residence of many early Hawaiian kings (aliƒÆ’… »i) up until the time of King “ƒ”¹…”Umi-a-Liola (1510-1525). There also stood the ancient grass palace of the kings of yore. The lookout point, located on the top of the southern wall of the valley past the Last Chance Store in Kukuihaele, provides spectacular views of the idyllic surroundings, which no nature-lover can afford to miss. The view of the massive cliffs, which reach up to 2,490-ft. (760 m) alongside the coast, is a rare treat. These cliffs are ribboned with waterfalls in rainy seasons. Wild pigs, pheasants, turkeys and peacocks abound the valley, which has lush vegetation, taro fields and fish ponds. To explore beyond the lookout, one needs a four-wheeler or resort to self-propulsion.

I backtracked to the main highway to continue my journey westward. My next stop was Waimea/ Kamuela (pop. 9,241), 15 miles west of Honoka’a.  I was now in Hawaii’s paniolo (cowboy) country; so I paid a short visit to the 135,000-acre Parker Ranch (established 1847), once superlatively called the largest privately owned cattle ranch in the United States. It has more than 50,000 head of cattle and 500 horses. The ranch is the venue of the annual Fourth of July rodeo. Waimea is also the headquarters of two astronomical observatories standing on Mauna Kea: the W. M. Keck Observatory and the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope. I also had a casual stop at the Kamuela Museum (now defunct). After leaving the ranch, I drove 13 miles west to Kawaihae, an unincorporated village on the Kohala Coast, from where the Parker Ranch ships its cattle to feedlots in Oahu.

First, I stopped at the 86-acre Pu’ukohola Heiau (“Temple on the Hill of the Whale”) National Historic Site exhibiting the ruins of the temple that Kamehameha I built and dedicated in 1791. Second, I relaxed at the adjoining Samuel M. Spencer Beach Park, just to the southwest of the heiau, simply trying to figure out the reason why the white sand of the Kohala Coast has become such a magnet for the epicureans.

As I cruised along the Mauna Kea Beach Drive, a couple of miles to the south, I found that one of the draw cards was the magnificent setting of the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, where I tarried to vicariously experience the splendid luxury of conspicuous consumption without necessarily splurging my “wealth.” When Mauna Kea opened in July 1965 (with 154 guestrooms compared with the current 258), travel writers considered it the most expensive luxury hotel ever built, at $15 million. It was closed twice””‚once from 1994-1995 and again from 2006-20o8″”‚for renovations. It pampers its guests with its coastal golf course, 13 tennis courts, as well as all sorts of amenities and recreational activities.

The Pavilion at Manta Ray Point, noted for its architecture inspired by 18th-century Buddhist temples, offers a selection of food to please the taste of all epicureans.

After waking up from reverie at Mauna Kea, I drove the last 34 miles south along the coastal road and reached Kailua-Kona (pop. 9,870) about 7 p.m. I ate a light dinner at McDonald’s and checked in at Uncle Billy’s Kona Bay Hotel where I spent the night in Room 1023 with absolutely no clue that my daughter Carmel would come out of her mother’s womb in less than three hours””‚at 9.52 p.m., Hawaii time.

Day 4: Final Exploits

I decided to celebrate my final day (Tuesday, 31 Jan. 1984) in Hawaii by treating myself to a Royal Hawaiian Breakfast and to rest in the hotel until 10 a.m. Because I had arranged to leave the “Big Island” from the Kona Airport at Keahole for Honolulu (to board my flight to Australia) in the evening, I had almost an entire day for further exploration.

All the spots that I planned to visit were located no more than 30 miles south of Kailua-Kona along the coastal road named Ali’i (“Grand”) Drive. The parallel highway SR11 was for those in a hurry.

First, I drove past all the resort hotels to Kahalu’u Beach Park, north of the Kona Country Club. Enticed by the greenery around me, I gave in to my temptation for self-propulsion so I could establish greater intimacy with the place. I walked southwest to the Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort, another haven for the epicureans.  In the vicinity, I also paid homage to the birthplace of Kamehameha III (1825-1854), who was born on 11 Aug. 1813.

Second, I visited the Daifukuji (“The Temple of Great Happiness”) on Hooper Villa Road (facing Cahill Drive) in Honalo. I had some difficulty locating this Zen Buddhist temple standing to the north of the Daifukuji Soto Mission. Backtracking on Ali’i Drive, I turned north on Kamehameha III Road, and then south on SR11 until I came to the intersection with Hooper Villa Road. The Ven. Kaiseki Kodama, a Japanese monk, founded the temple in 1915. He walked around the island twice to collect the donations for its construction. The Japanese community, associated with the area’s coffee and macadamia plantations, rebuilt the temple in 1921. The architects applied an eclectic blend of Western and traditional Japanese forms to the new structure. Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, the temple was forced to close until 1944.

The main hall highlighted the historical Buddha. To his right was the seated figure of Zen Master Dogen and to the left was Zen Master Keizan, In the alcove to the right of the main altar were two more figures: Bodhidharma Daishi, who carried the Teachings from India to China, and Daigen Shuri Bosatsu, another great bodhisattva.  I entered the hall, chanted the precepts and the prayers just as I was wont to do at Aggrabodhi Vihara in Weligama (Sri Lanka) under my mother’s guidance. That the Zen masters had replaced the disciples of the Buddha and the Hindu gods did not concern me the least.

Third, I went to see the Captain James Cook Monument in the Kealaketua Bay Historical Park. Hawaiian tradition says that a chief named Kalanimanokahoowaha killed British explorer Cook (1728-1779), who was on his third voyage, at this spot on 14 Feb. 1779. Four of the Marines with Cook were also killed. The Hawaiians dragged Cook’s body away.

After leaving the temple, I drove further south on SR11 to Kealaketua, where I stopped to buy some luncheon food and visit the Ken Hamilton Macadamia Nut Co. At Captain Cook, I left SR11 to reach Kealaketua Bay, where I ate my lunch. On the way, I stopped to buy a pound of Kona coffee to take home to Australia.  At the bay, I also visited the Hikiau Heiau in the vicinity.

Fourth, I drove four miles further south on the narrow coastal road to see what turned out to be the star attraction of the day“”‚ PuƒÆ’… »uhonua o HƒÆ’-¦naunau (“Place of Refuge”) National Historical Park. As the Wikipedia explains, the park:

preserves the site where, up until the early 19th century, Hawaiians who broke a kapu (one of the ancient laws) could avoid certain death by fleeing to this place of refuge or puƒÆ’… »uhonua. The offender would be absolved by a priest and freed to leave. Defeated warriors and non-combatants could also find refuge here during times of battle. The grounds just outside the Great Wall that encloses the puƒÆ’… »uhonua were home to several generations of powerful chiefs.

The concept of refuge associated with the park seemed to me so Buddhistic because it is so close to the abhaya bhumi privilege mentioned in Buddhist literature. I will leave further discussion of it to another occasion.

I left the refuge to return to Kailua-Kona, where I returned the rented car at the airport and got on the evening flight to Honolulu.

Figure 1: My Travel Route on Day 3 and Day 4 — (Anticlockwise) From Hilo to Captain Cook. Note the highway offshoot from Honoka’a to the idyllic Waipi’o Valley. A=Hilo; B=Honomu (Akaka Falls); C=Laupahoehoe; D=Honoka’a; E=Waipi’o Valley (Kukuihaele); F=Waimea (Kamuela); G= Kawaihae; H=Mauna Kea Beach Hotel and Resort; I=Uncle Billy’s Kona Bay Hotel (Kailua-Kona); J= PuƒÆ’… »uhonua o HƒÆ’-¦naunau National Historical Park (Captain Cook)


Picture 1: View from the Waipi’o Valley Lookout (19 Aug. 2006)

 (Photo by Paul Hirst. Wikimedia Commons)


 Picture 2: The Daifukuji Soto Mission, a Zen Buddhist temple in Honalo, Hawaii  (18 Aug. 2009).

(Photo by W. Nowicki. Wikimedia Commons)

    Enter Carmel


 My wife Yoke-Sim, who left for Australia with Junius on 1 Jan. 1984, was expecting to give birth to our daughter within a matter of days. Our friends in Rockhampton, Qld., were willing to take care of Yoke-Sim if she were to deliver her second child before mother and I returned to Australia.

Carmel, in her typical obstinate way, decided to arrive in this world before my mother or I could arrive in Rockhampton.  Carmel was born at 5.52 p.m. Tuesday, 31 Jan. 1984, Queensland time, at the Mater Hospital.

At the particular moment when Carmel’s birth was being witnessed by nurse Diane Black and Dr. John Birks, it was 9.52 p.m. Monday, 30 Jan., Hawaii time. I was spending the night in Room No. 1023 at Kona Bay (Uncle Billy’s) Hotel, Kailua-Kona, unaware of my daughter’s birth. I was relaxing after a 100-mile exploratory excursion from Hilo to Kailua Kona on Highway 19.

As I later gathered:

  • Yoke-Sim felt contractions about 6.30 a.m. She rang Mater Hospital about 9 a.m. 
  • Kathy Cant accompanied Yoke-Sim to Mater Hospital about 10.30 a.m. 
  • Yoke-Sim was in labor from 11 a.m. 
  • Yoke-Sim gave birth to Carmel (7 lbs 10.5 oz.) at 5.52 p.m. 


My mother arrived in Rockhampton Wednesday (1 Feb.) after a stopover with relatives in Sydney.

I arrived in Rockhampton Thursday (2 Feb.). Dentist Robert Kwong, a friend, gave me a ride from the airport to our home in Frenchville, North Rockhampton, where my mother was looking after Junius.

Thereafter, Kwong took me to Mater Hospital, where Yoke-Sim was doing well with the latest addition to the family.


One Response to “The Travels of a Journalist—41b (Hawaii Ho!)-CARMEL ARRIVES IN CAPRICORNIA BEFORE DAD LEAVES PUÊ»UHONUA”

  1. Ext1411 Says:

    This is a very interesting piece – I particularly enjoyed reading about Carmel’s arrival. Thank you.

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