Friday, March 25, 2011

Waimea Valley (Oahu, Hawaii)

One of the most beautiful places we visited while in Hawaii, albeit only briefly, was the Waimea Valley, which we stumbled across while returning from the North Shore of Oahu to the town of Kailua. It was just closing for the day by the time we got there and we were not able to do much more than walk around the gardens near the entrance and see some of the peacocks that live there. I actually contacted the person in charge of media relations about doing a story on the site but they never got back to me and there is always something else to do in Hawaii, so we will have to check this site out next time we are on the islands.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park

KAILU-KONA, HAWAII -- I have discovered a number of very interesting places in the area in and around where we have been staying on the "Big Island," to include the wonderful Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park just a few miles away and off the main highway, 11. Was very glad to be able to spend some time exploring and photographing it!

This U.S. National Historical Park located in the Kona District on the Big Island of Hawaii was established on November 10, 1978, for the preservation, protection, and interpretation of traditional native Hawaiian activities and culture and includes the National Historic Landmarked archaeological site known as the Honokōhau Settlement. In 2000 the name was changed by the Hawaiian National Park Language Correction Act of 2000 observing the Hawaiian spelling. (Shown at top are some reconstructed agricultural structures, essentially large planters, being used by the site staff to grow taro and other traditional crops. Below that is a much larger area in the park that appears to have been used for the same thing.)

"Kaloko and Honokōhau are the names of two of the four different ahupuaʻa, or traditional mountain-to-sea land divisions encompassed by the park. Although in ancient times this arid area of lava rock was called kekaha ʻaʻole wai (lands without water), the abundant sea life attracted settlement for hundreds of years. (Many of the fruit-bearing trees shown here appear throughout the park. They are known as noni and have a pungent, bitter fruit that was used only when needed as a "starvation food.")

Kaloko (meaning "the pond" in the Hawaiian language) is a site of fishponds used in ancient Hawaii is on the North end of the park. The first reference to the pond comes from the story of Kamalalawalu, about 300 years ago. The kuapā (seawall) is over 30 feet wide and 6 feet high, stretching for 750 feet. Constructed by hand without mortar, the angle and gaps between the stones deflected the surf better than many modern concrete seawalls.

Several restored trails include about one mile of the Māmalohoa Trail. It was built in the mid-19th century, and evolved over the years into the Hawaii Belt Road which encircles the entire island. The coastal trail is part of the Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail. The Honokōhau boat harbor provides a launching area for traditional canoes, fishing boats, Scuba diving and snorkeling tours of the area.

Honokōhau means "bay drawing dew" and refers to the ancient settlement on the south part of the park. This area can be reached via trails from the park visitor's center, or from the small boat harbor access road on Kealakehe Parkway. Features include loko iʻa (Ancient Hawaiian aquaculture fishponds), kahua (house site platforms), kiʻi pōhaku (petroglyphs), hōlua (stone slides) and heiau (religious sites). The ʻAiʻopio Fishtrap is a 1.7-acre pond, with a stone wall forming an artificial enclosure along the naturally curved shoreline of a bay. Small openings allowed young fish to enter from the sea, but as they grew larger (or at low tide) they were easily caught with nets inside the trap as needed. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1966 as site 66000287.

ʻAimakapā fishpond is an important wetland area protecting native birds including the koloa maoli (Hawaiian Duck, Anas wyvilliana), ʻalae keʻokeʻo (Hawaiian Coot, Fulica alai), āeʻo (Hawaiian Stilt, Himantopus mexicanus knudseni), auʻkuʻu (Black-crowned Night Heron, Nycticorax nycticorax), among others. The area is currently under reforestation, after the removal of non-native invasive plants. It was added to the Register of Historic Places in 1978 as site 78003148."

Text in quotes is courtesy of Wikipedia and will be replaced with my own words as I have the time! All the photos are my own and were taken as of this posting.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Honolulu International Has Free Wi-Fi

HONOLULU INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT (HNL) -- Very pleased to see another airport that provides its passengers with access to a free wireless Internet connection!

Honolulu International Airport is a beautiful, recently renovated facility with nice amenities in the departure zone and convenient to the various gates; there is nothing worse than not being able to easily get a drink or something nice to eat once you have gone through security and this is one airport that is doing it right.

I am currently at the airport waiting for a Hawaiian Airlines inter-island flight from Oahu to the "Big Island" of Hawaii and the second leg of my current trip to the islands. Check recent and upcoming posts on this site for photos and information about the places I have been visiting and writing about!

Name: HNLFreeWiFi. Other airports with good free wi-fi access include Charlotte International Aiport in North Carolina and Fort Lauderdale International in Florida (although the latter had especially wretched food and beverage options).

Mysteries of Honolulu

OAHU, HAWAII -- Robert Lopaka Kapanui strides across a mythological and haunted landscape populated by gods, ghosts, and demons. When he tells the tale of a Hawaiian hunter who accidentally chased a giant hog into a sacred valley, encountered a god there, and was soon after claimed by him, he is not describing an archetypal character from some vague point in a legendary past, he is talking about a cousin who met his demise just a few years ago. (Above, Kapanui prays to the resident spirits at a ruined mansion in the hills above Honolulu that once belonged to King Kamehameha III.)

It should thus be no surprise that Kapanui is the founder of Mysteries of Honolulu, an increasingly popular tour company that explores some of the strangest and most spiritually charged -- and sometimes most frightening -- spots on the island of Oahu. (Male and female guardian stones at a temple site associated with childbearing and fertility, the former with an anomaly that some consider to be a manifestation of spiritual energy.)

Kapanui says that he prefers skeptics to experienced ghosthunters or paranormal investigators on his tours because they come with fewer preconceived notions (something, as someone with many preconceived notions, that I understood after visiting a number of sites with him). By the time even the most incredulous have taken one of his nighttime outings, however, few are not moved at least a little closer toward a belief in the unseen world, and even fewer fail to be impressed with Kapanui's abilities as a storyteller. (Here a participant on a recent Mysteries of Honolulu tour -- appropriately, an OB/GYN -- tries out some sacred birthing stones at a temple site).

One of the sites we visited our first day out with Kapanui was Ulupo Heiau, a thousand-year-old sacrificial temple said to have been built in one night by the menehunes, a mythical race of little people similar to the fairies and dwarves of European folklore. The remains of this once massive structure are atill an impressive 30 feet tall and 140 feet wide, pointing to impressive architectural abilities. (Here is a view along the north face of the ruined temple, with a sacred boulder in the foreground. At the corner to the right is a path said to have been built by the menehunes that leads to a well.)

This site had many stories associated with it and a number specific areas of note within or around it, including a sacred grove where a reptile woman who seduces young men is still believed to dwell (the same sort of creature is believed to inhabit a watefall in the nearly Waimea Valley). There were also signs of active usage of this site, to include a primitive altar with bananas, papayas, and other things Kapanui said were characteristic of offerings to the god of the ocean.

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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument

PEARL HARBOR, HAWAII -- One of the most significant and moving things I had the opportunity to do during my last trip to Hawaii, in March 2011, was to visit what is now collectively referred to as the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. I am all the more glad I was able to do as as I reflect upon this 70th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and hope my friends and readers will enjoy some of the photos I took during that trip.

Covering wartime events that took place in the war with Japan, the monument preserves and interprets the stories and key episodes events in the Pacific Theater leading up to the U.S. entering World War II, its effects on the mainland, and the signing of the Peace Treaty in Tokyo Bay, Japan, that marked the end of the conflict.

Here are some of the images I took of the monument, including, from the top, the following:

* The Arizona Memorial, erected over the site of USS Arizona, the great battleship sunk with more than 1,100 hands lost during the December 7, 1941, Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor;

* A view from the Arizona Memorial of USS Missouri, where the ceremony recognizing the Japanese surrender took place in Tokyo Bay (note in the forground the slick of oil, still seeping up from the sunken vessel after nearly 70 years);

* The USS Bowfin, "the revenge of Pearl Harbor," an attack submarine that preyed on Japanese shipping;

* The anchor from the Arizona; and,

* One of the gun turrets of the Arizona, which protrudes above the water.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

On the Ground in Hawaii

KAILUA, HAWAII -- Me, my wife, and two friends of ours have just made it into Hawaii and are kicking off an 11-day visit to the islands, which we will be splitting between Oahu and the "Big Island" of Hawaii itself. (The picture shown here was taken from the place we stayed at in Kailua back in 2004, which is not far from where we are right now.)

We have been putting together a great itinerary of activities, and some of the most fun and exciting are the ones I have been discussing with fellow author and ghosthunter Lopaka Kapanui, head of the Mysteries of Honolulu tour company. Among other things, he will be taking us to a number of haunted sites of historical significance including an ancient sacrificial temple and a clifftop battlefield where some 5,000 people were driven into the sea. Lopaka is very knowledgable and a lot of fun to talk to and I can tell we are going to have a great time with him.

Other things I am hoping to do while on Oahu are visit Pearl Harbor and the Arizona memorial, which I have not yet managed to do on previous trips, but will likely do early on; possibly take a helicopter tour, options for which I am exploring right now; and going back to the Diamondhead and Punchbowl volcanic craters. My wife and her friend would also very much like to do a luau and are exploring some of the options.

We are also excited to hear that one of the volcanoes on the "Big Island" of Hawaii itself has been erupting since Monday morning! The one time I visited this island, during a 13-day cruise my wife and I took on NCL's Norwegian Wind over the 2004-2005 holidays, we went out to Volcanoes National Park, and it was amazing to be able to stand right next to live flowing lava. So, among the other things we do on the big island this time round, a return to the volcanic lava fields is a must. (That is me surrounded by oozing lava back in 2005.)

Keep your eye on this site for more about our plans and then reports and pictures on what we do on the islands! And your own comments, suggestions, and feedback are certainly welcome.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Credit Card Promises vs. Reality

SANA ANTONIO -- Have discovered that there is a serious disconnect between credit cards that offer free airline baggage as a cardholder benefit and the ability to actually use this benefit at cbeck-in. We have just had a problem, in fact, with an AAdvantage/American Airlines card in this way. Will be researching this out and writing more about it. Be sure to comment here if you have had problems of your own of this sort!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Clovis, San Angelo, and the Llanno Estacado

CLOVIS, NEW MEXICO -- Drove up here from Canyon Lake, Texas, on personal business straight northwest through Fredericksburg, Abilene, Lubbock, and the Llanno Estacado and spent the night just a few miles west of the Texas line. My wife Diane and I are staying at the La Quinta on North Prince Street. Did not realize that we were going to pass into the Mountain time zone and suspect this happened when we crossed into New Mexico. Very cold here, much more so than back home in south Texas, and a freezing wind was whipping through the area and driving people indoors.

God bless Clovis, I now truly appreciate the meaning of the word "cow town," as the smell of manure is just slightly noticeable everywhere here. And, on our way out to a casual dinner at the local Wingstreet, a tumbleweed about the size of a dishwasher rolled right in front of the car and got hooked on the front bumper for about 100 feet.

After a relatively stressful 500 mile drive up here it was nice to unwind with a soak in the hotel hottub and enjoy a glass of local Plum Loco red table wine (a little on the sweet side, and definitely too much so as an accompaniment for food, but decent for an aperitif or desert wine). Hotel itself was fine and our stay would have definitely been on the pleasant side if they had not done such a poor job with breakfast; sending guests out without a cup of coffee for the road is a bad way to leave them with their final impression.

On the way back the next day we took a different route, down across the flat plain between Clovis and Big Spring, across Cannibal Draw, and into the "Pearl of the Concho," in San Angelo. There, we toured Miss Hattie's Bordello Museum and had a nice visit with its curator, Mark Priest. A chapter on this fun site will appear in my Texas Confidential: Sex, Scandal, Murder, and Mayhem in the Lone Star State, which I am pushing to get finished this month.

Now, to get ready for our next trip, to Hawaii!