Friday, December 5, 2014

68 hours of Hawai’i – The Big Island [Blog Series] Part 2 Kohala & Kona Culture

I am 2 blog posts in to what will be a 5 post blog series showcasing Hawai’i, The Big Island.  Back story - I was fortunate to be one of Fairmont Hotels Destination GoPro Heros and with this privilege came the task of filming our story and experiences at one of Fairmont’s North American resorts for three days.  The first blog post unveiled the luxury Joel and I enjoyed at Hawaii’s very own Fairmont Orchid, not something we are accustomed to but certainly worth experiencing. Read - 68 Hours of Hawai'i Part 1 Fairmont Orchid  Next up - Culture and you need not look any further than along the western and northern shores of Hawai’i. (After this I promise to get to the outdoor adventures unique to Hawai’i)
From touch down to take off, our time spent on the Big Island was 68 hours.  11 of these hours consisted of Joel and me exploring the history, culture, agriculture and taking in the diverse landscapes along the Kohala and Kona Coasts.  Being an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, obviously there is a need for growing and producing its own food.  The Big Island has mastered the perfection of growing coffee and nuts and it just so happens I am nuts about coffee!

Kona Coffee, a market name for coffee cultivated on the Big Island, comes from coffee beans grown specifically on the slopes of Mauna Loa and Hualalai.  The coffee plant originates from Brazilian cuttings that were introduced to Hawaii in 1828.  The Kona Coast provides ideal growing conditions; morning sun, afternoon cloud, and rich volcanic soil.  Better than any other region within the Hawaiian Islands.  Since we are both coffee drinkers, the plan was to visit a coffee farm but it just so happened that our visit to the Big Island coincided with Kona’s 44th Annual Coffee Festival.  So we did what any self-respecting coffee connoisseur would do.  We checked out the festival and drank some coffee.  Damn! The coffee was good.  Smooth, clean, and no bitter after taste at all.  I could easily go back to the Kona Coffee and Tea Company and sip cup after cup of delicious 100% Kona Coffee.

Fully alert and packing a sweet coffee buzz, Joel and I continued our cultural adventure with a scenic drive along Painted Church Road, a narrow windy road in Captain Cook territory.  Nestled in between churches and a peace sanctuary we stumbled upon Joe’s Nuts.  I am not making this name up, I swear!  Joe’s Nuts, a macadamia farm, is an eclectic mix of agriculture and interesting characters.  We never met Joe, if there even is one, but we were greeted with a warm Aloha by the lady of the farm.  We learned all about her nut farm, the collecting and processing of macadamia nuts, her goats, mango trees, vanilla plants and history of ownership of the farm.  Of course, no visit is complete without sampling some of the many different flavors of macadamia nuts.  Needless to say, the 100% Kona coffee macadamia nuts were my favorite! Brewed with Bills’ best coffee, (Joe’s brother maybe?) kissed with sea salt, raw sugar and vanilla.  Mmmmm.

Prior to visiting Hawai’i, my knowledge about agriculture on the islands included the obvious; tropical fruits, coconuts, and coffee.  Never did I consider the Big Island to be home to one of the oldest, largest, and most historic ranches in the United States.  Driving along Kohala Mtn. Road took us right into the heart of Parker Ranch country.  Founded in 1897 by an eighteen year old John Parker, his job was to bring the thousands of wild cattle that multiplied from the first 5 cows that were delivered in 1788, by Captain George Vancouver, under control.  The grazing lands and pastures that make up Parker Ranch provide a beautiful landscape.  Rolling open grass fields, scenic views of the Pacific Ocean off in the distance and Kohala Volcano, the islands oldest volcano, as a backdrop.  Such a contrast from the lush tropical forest and dessert like terrain of the Kohala Coast that border Weimea and Parker Ranch country.  These are only a few of the diverse landscapes that Joel and I were able to explore in the 68 hours of being in Hawaii.  We need more time!

The part of travel that I love best is talking with locals and listening to stories they tell about their history, their land, and their culture.  Stories like the one that was told to us by one of our cab drivers who was born and raised on Hawai’i.  Joel and I, being the typical tourist, asked about what it was like growing up with active volcanoes and had he ever been affected by lava flows? Not directly affected was his response but he did tell us all about Pele, the volcano goddess of fire.  How she had the power to create and destroy through lightning, volcanos, lava flows, and fire. Those who are greedy or unkind were punished by having homes or crops destroyed by lava flows.  She was known for her temper.  I’ll say!  Legend has it that if lava flow threatened your home, you were to clean it and present her with a beautiful gift and she would spare you.

Another notable historical tidbit that was mentioned to Joel and me by numerous people was King Kamehameha.  Had we seen the statue? Did we know about their most beloved Hawaiian hero? Because so many people had mentioned the King, we had to learn more and stop to check out the statue.  King Kamehameha was born on Hawaii, in North Kohala near Kapaau, in 1758.  The year Hailey’s Comet passed over Hawaii.  After many years of conflict between the Hawaiian Islands, in 1810 King Kamehameha was able to unite the islands and maintain peace and tradition values.  He was a great warrior that is respected and known as the monarch who founded the Kingdom of Hawaii.
Kings, gods, curses… these all seem to be part of history on Hawai’i.  Joel and I are not ones to sit poolside or play beach bums for a day while on vacation and certainly not with only 68 hours of vacation time.  Stories we are told while exploring has always been a large part of our family adventures and so is learning more about these stories.  A great place to relive days when those who broke kapu (sacred laws), defeated warriors or non-combatants could go to find refuge is in Pu’uhonua o Honaunau, a National Historical Park on the south Kona Coast.  It was a place where blood could not be shed.  A place where kahuna pule (priests) performed a ceremony of absolution so offenders could return home safely.  For a few hours Joel and I walked through the self-guided grounds, snapping pictures of old religious sites and temples.  My favorite feature of Pu’uhonua was the Great Wall, built in 1550 and is 10 feet high and 17 feet thick of stacked stones so tightly stacked, no mortar was required.  A flood of memories from our time on the Great Wall of China came over me.  What is that travel quote? I want to make memories around the world.
We wrapped up our cultural experiences with a Hawaiian Luau, traditional Polynesian feast and Fairmont Orchid’s presentation of Gathering of the Kings, a performance that retells the settlement of the Pacific.  We were taken on a journey throughout Polynesia; Samoa, Tahiti, Hawaii, and New Zealand, and how each chief would be linked to a star that guided them.  An entertaining way to explore dance, costumes and traditions throughout Polynesia.  This also served to be one of the few times we could explore the Hawaiian culture through food, like Poi and Ahi Poke.  So many wonderful dishes and the Mai Tai’s were pretty tasty as well.
That is it.  11 hours of Hawaiian history, culture, agriculture and landscapes explored, experienced, and sandwiched in between our 68 hours of Hawai’i.  Coming up on Parts 3 – 5.  It’s time to adventure by land, ocean and air to see for ourselves what Hawaii is made of.  Are those beaches really what some refer to as paradise?  Does Hawai’i really grow rock? And can I out swim a fish?  The final 20 adventurous hours of our 68 Hours of Hawai’i coming soon!

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