Christmas Day 2007 - South Point to Kailua-Kona

Trip Start Dec 27, 2008
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Flag of United States  , Hawaii
Wednesday, December 26, 2007

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Christmas Day 2007 - South Point to Kailua-Kona

South Point is an amazing place not only from the viewpoint of its geographical location but also from its ability to inspire the imagination. There is a realization that being here on Christmas Day 2007 may be the most remarkable place we have spent Christmas together considering the spectacular geographical location.

It is hard to resist the urge to contact someone at this point and let them know that we are here!

To share the exuberance, I sent a text message to my brother and his family in Detroit, Michigan and to my stepson, Mathieu, in Montreal. I guess they were too busy celebrating Christmas to reply.

Buoyed by the experience of having visited this beautiful place, we headed back the 5 miles to Highway 11 that connects Hilo with Kailua-Kona.

As we drove west along Highway 11 we were almost immediately deep into the throngs of another lava bed that had crossed the highway on its way to the sea.

A look at the map indicated that we were skirting the southern limits of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

The sight of masses of black igneous rock and the total desolation that surrounded us was a reminder of the spectacular volcanic activity that had marked this land in such a monumental way.

Certainly it would have been more breathtaking if we had been fortunate enough to be visiting at a time when molten lava made a rare appearance but as they say, it is good to leave some things to the imagination.

To say that this was the most unusual Christmas Day we had ever spent was an understatement.

Well, maybe the previous Christmas (2006) was even more unusual for me since I spent it alone in Prince George while Barbara was back in Montreal visiting with her relatives.

No, it's not that we don't get along; we just have a relationship which is not based on us being joined at the hip and incapable of doing things independently.

As I write this (April 16, 2008), Barbara is off in hinterlands of Northern BC in Fort St. John and Dawson Creek looking after the needs of the visually impaired - a worthy cause to say the least.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I am here in Prince George looking after the needs of a Grade 8 class at a local middle school whose regular teacher is absent for a few days. That keeps me more than busy as the process of just stepping into a classroom as an outsider has its own challenges.

I therefore have my hands full and it hardly leaves me any time to do what I like to do - blog.

On second thought, being in the tropics on Christmas Day 2007 just doesn't cut it. While it may be easy to be pious on Christmas Day in Heiligen Blut, Austria, it is hard to be pious on Christmas Day in the tropics.

The temperature, the swaying palm trees, the sandy beaches, the rolling waves and the rain forests all conspire to muffle whatever Christmas spirit that one may be able to muster.

I did luck out however back at the Border's Book Store in Hilo when I picked up a CD entitled Sacred Works.

Just look at the selection:

1. Exsultate jubilate: Alleluia
Composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791)

2. Miserere mei Deus: Miserere mei
Composer Gregorio Allegri (1582 - 1652)

3. Ave verum corpus in D major
Composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791)

4. Ellens Gesang III, Op. 52 no 6 "Ave Maria"
Composer Franz Schubert (1797 - 1828)

5. Was mir behagt, ist nur die muntre Jagd!,"Hunt Cantata": Schafe können sicher weiden
Composer Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 - 1750)

6. Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben: Jesu bleibet meine Freude "Jesus, joy of man's desiring"

7. Ave Maria
Composer Charles Gounod (1818 - 1893)

and perhaps the best

8. Gloria in D major, RV 589
Composer Antonio Vivaldi (1678 - 1741)

If that selection doesn't conjure up images of « ersatz » Heiligen Blut, Austria, I don't know what does.

So here we were endlessly playing this "pious" Christmas music, getting into the mood so to speak.

I was greatly enjoying it, all the while hoping that I would not hear those fateful words from the person sitting next to me - "I am tired of this, can I put on my K.D. Lang CD?" - or something like that!!

Neither of us is particularly religious, although that is the background in which we are both rooted and therefore the music felt just right.

I also had to reflect on how the works of the great composers pay homage, in a beautiful way, to the roots of Christianity. One may not agree with Christianity but the music has the capacity to reach into the depth of the soul for a moving experience.

As the music tugged on our heart strings, we had plenty of time to reflect on our life, our times and the general state of things.

In the end we considered ourselves to be fortunate to have this opportunity of having this valuable time together to explore Hawaii in such an opportune manner.

Our philosophical interlude was however rudely interrupted at some point along the west coast of Big Island when someone expressed an urgent need for a WC. This led us on a desperate search which ended up with a precipitous descent from Highway 11 to the Pacific Ocean and Hookena Beach Park.

It was nevertheless a welcome break from the driving as we strolled along the beautiful beach and observed the locals having their Christmas Day picnics along the waterfront.

The sight of tents again made me regret that mine was safely packed away back home.

Just past Kealakekua Bay we passed the Captain Cook Monument which commemorates the spot on the beach where Captain Cook met his demise.

In November 1778, Cook landed here during the harvest season and was welcomed by some as the god "Lono" incarnate. When he left in February 1779 and was forced to return due to a storm, the aura of "deity incarnate" was shredded and Cook was now viewed as a mere mortal to whom the red carpet was no longer extended.

When a dispute over an allegedly stolen boat arose, Cook and his party became involved in a confrontation with the natives. Captain James Cook was a victim of this armed skirmish on the beach at Kealakekua Bay.

While a monument on the beach marks the spot where the famous Captain Cook met his untimely death, it is not accessible by land due to an earthquake which hit the area in October 2006.

Our final stop before the town of Kailua-Kona was perhaps the best known of Hawaii's famous coffee plantations - Royal Kona.

We arrived too late to take a tour of the facility but not too late for a "degustation" of the many coffees available here to be sampled.

The timing was just right as this was late afternoon and therefore it was our normal "coffee time".

We savored the Royal Kona coffee along with the samples of banana bread which had by now become our afternoon Hawaiian staple.

Our arrival in Kailua-Kona also came with the realization that in Hawaii (Big Island) there are only two main towns and commercial centers located at opposite sides of the island - Hilo to the east and Kailua-Kona in the west.

Kailua-Kona quickly filled us with a sense of excitement generated by the level of activity along its main drag adjacent to the bay, the beautiful setting of the town on the Kona Coast and the number of colorful shops we looked forward to exploring.

It wasn't long before I found myselt uttering the words "This is the place to be on the Big Island".

I haven't changed my mind on that point. If you have one place to visit, or use as a base on the Big Island, I would choose Kailua-Kona.

On the other hand, the Big Island is, well - "too big" to be explored from one location.

In retrospect, our strategy of splitting our time between the eastside in Hilo and the westside in Kailua-Kona served us well.

Finding accommodations during the Christmas holiday season proved to be difficult as the choice of accommodations even a month previous to the actual trip was limited. It was thus that we ended up at the Kona Seaside Hotel - the same hotel chain as the Hilo Seaside.

As I compare the two hotels, it is apparent that the Kona Seaside is a better hotel because it is newer, closer to the downtown and less "clammy". But then, that's the difference between the windward and leeward sides of the island.

While checking in, we overheard the lamentable story of a middle aged Oriental couple who had rented a PT Cruiser convertible and who lost all their possessions - including money and passports. While they were visiting the beach, thieves were busy slashing the roof of the convertible and helping themselves to the contents.

There is a reason why every rental car has a large yellow sticker glued to the inside of the trunk which reads - Do Not Leave Valuables in the Car.

During all my years of travel I have been a strong believer in using a hidden money belt for valuables and passport. I wear it across the small of my back well out of reach of ambitious and unwelcome hands. It is not fool proof but it is about the best thing one can do while traveling.

It has served me well, except for one time in Munich many years ago. I was staying in a "pension" and as is my habit, I hid the money belt under the mattress.

Sure enough, the next day, I was on a train one hour out of Munich when I reached back to check whether I was wearing my money belt. To my dismay, I was not. It was still under the mattress back in the "pension".

I got off the train at the next stop to phone the "pension" about my predicament. This being Germany, there was no problem. They looked under the mattress and they found it. I beat a hasty retreat to retrieve my most valuable possessions super glad to be on my way again.

Getting back to Kailua-Kona, that evening we ate at Tante's Restaurant which specialized in Hawaiian and Filipino cuisine.

It is located on Ally Drive which skirts the beautiful bay in Kailua-Kona. We could look up from our table to see the lights of the cruise ships anchored about a mile off-shore. Passengers are brought ashore by tenders as there is no adequate cruise ship harbor, contrary to Hilo.

The prices were very reasonable and we chose a Hawaiian dish which included pork adobo and chicken lau lau with poi made from the taro plant. Poi is the Hawaiian staple that is high in protein. It replaces staples such as rice or potatoes which are common in other parts of the world.

Poi is a gooey, mauve coloured paste that borders on " ". The phrase "acquired taste" also comes to mind.

On our way back to our hotel we strolled through the lobby of the four-star King Kamehamehas Kona Beach Hotel where I took some of the attached photos.

We had paid $110 a night for our accommodations; here it was $330 per night. But then again, for the people I call "decimal movers", that's after all, only $33 per night in their scheme of things - a real bargain.

Coming Soon:

Exploring Kailua-Kona
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