Kohala Adventure Day

So what is there to do in Kohala, the little nubby tip of the Big Island?
First, drive up the mountain road listening to the Lilo and Stitch Soundtrack-- Kamehameha Children's chorus and Elvis, baby. Admire the burly cattle in the green pastures, the moth-eaten cactuses, the spindly iron-wood trees, and the odd over-wrought houses with stone lions in the driveways next to the ramshackle lean-tos.
Drive down the hill to Hawi, past all the old plantation houses. They could be anywhere-- Waikapu, Maui, or Lihue, Kauai-- tight orderly little gardens of Ti leaves and potted orchids, Japanese-influence high sloping roof, latticed crawlspaces. I can imagine the interiors by conjuring up my husband's grandma's house: the memorial Japanese dolls, the hand-quilted pillows and light quilts, the ironing board draped in ti leaves to weave into leis or wrap around rice balls for a beach picnic.
Drive further into Hawi: pass scruffy dusty hippy hang-outs: canvas houses and outdoor kitchens-- shirtless guys with long blond ponytails and naked babies, dusty greenhouses with opaque walls, rumpled gardens with taro, tomatoes, and corn, undocked lambs in the shade of self-consciously planted koa trees shading yurts.
In Kapa'au walk past the galleries and book shop and stop for lunch at the miniscule Pico's-- a steamy, sweet and savory lamb gyro with a chunky greek salad: giant greek olives, feta cheese, tomatoes, cucumbers. The two tanktopped baristas/chefs pulled an oozing tray of cheese pastries out of the convection oven while I waited. Trudge up the short driveway behind the patio to Kenji's House-- the 12 year old boy docent gushes about Kenji free diving for rocks and shells. He wrote when, where and with whom each rock was collected on tiny rolls of paper and wedged them into the rocks' nooks. He used the shells to decorate things: busted cooler lids because the blank canvas for a mirror-image sea horse parade. He sharpened tools for the ranch, collected shells, glued them to things, and never married. His house and all of his things (art, tools, coke bottles full of sand, and two soft aloha shirts) are now a one-man museum. In the future will we all have our own museums in addition to our fifteen minutes of fame?
Drive back down the coast road with an orangina from Picos-- say hello to the friendly ghosts at the serene Lapakahi Historic Park. Hike out onto one finger of lava and find the carved Hawaiian chess game facing the ocean, taste the salt in the salt-drying platters ground out of the rock, crack open a coconut and watch the bright yellow fish in the dark water over the dark rocks, avoid the wasp nests in the reconstructed lauhala huts.
Keep driving south. Veer off for Kohala's mac nut factory "Free Samples": a warehouse cheerfully self-titled "nuthouse." It reeks of new varnish and fresh paint-- the offgassy taste impregnates the samples of wasabi macnuts and chocolate coated coffee beans and coats your mouth and sinuses for hours. But you can watch the cheerful machinery chugging out cans and cans of salted, plain, honey roasted and jalapeno mac nuts and buy horribly expensive boxes and cans of nuts to take home to Japan with you.
Drive on to Kawaihae and stop for Shave ice ($2.50 for three flavors, including my favorites Li Hing, Lychee, POG, lilikoi and Melona, and another .50 for a snow cap-- a drizzle of sweetened condensed milk on top) and for some tako (octopus) poke at the fish market. I bought 1 lb of dense red ahi, ruby-translucent, and watched as a fisherman unloaded a coffin-like cooler full of shiny big catches into the shop. Drive past the harbor, watch the giant cranes unloading the matson containers of stuff that has traveled thousands of miles from China to California to Honolulu to Kawaihae before being carted on to the Walmarts in Kona and Hilo. Stop at Spencer Beach and swim with the babies in the murky water above the now-submerged Shark Heiau. Admire the micronesian barbecues- the girls and women swimming modestly in their long shapeless dresses-- the men and boys in gangsta clothes and dark tattoos, smoking cigarettes and sitting on the picnic table. Admire the preparation necessary for a local day at the beach: full canopy tent, drink coolers, food coolers, chairs, radio, hibachi grill, mats, mattress, towels, clothes, floaters, fishing pole, spears, snorkel gear, ice and cooler for the fish! Drive back up out of the sun and into the fat raindrops, wave to the horses and donkeys at the dump, and then go home to eat your ahi and wasabi macs.


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