On our last day on Hawaii’s big island, Joan and I had a long wait from our hotel’s discharge time until the midnight flight from Kona to Vancouver.
We stayed on its open, spacious verandah after lunch, watching small but colourful fish swimming below the railing we were leaning on as the tide turned. Not wanting to wear out our welcome, we left mid-afternoon, pointing the rental car south into unfamiliar territory. Near the Sheraton Hotel was a memorial to King Kamehameha III, lush tropical gardens contrasting with the towering lava rock wall, guarded by a large dragon-shaped rock (and a mongoose which posed for Joan’s camera).
The drive wound through variable territory: tall grass and lush growth broken by lava ledges and walls (hidden caves within), and views of the ocean. Gated roads suggested much of this was sacred land. We tested one without a gate, but soon a young female security guard stepped out of her hut to greet us. “These are all private houses,” she smiled. U-turn time…
Continuing upwards, we inspected suburbia; when we reached the main road, the ocean was far below us – but that was where we wanted to be. A sign promising four miles of narrow, winding road to Kealakekua Bay solved the problem. Part way down this pretty, paved road I screeched the car to a halt for I’d spotted a roadside stall selling leis. Untended, with colourful, aromatic plumeria (frangipani) leis hanging on its wall, an honour box accepted three dollars for the one Joan chose. Its perfume filled the car for the rest of the day.
The next sign pointed to a church built in 1824 so onto that even narrower road we went – and were glad we did. A wonderful couple, caretakers of that hallowed, well-loved building, greeted us and showered us with God’s blessings, shell necklaces, and literature as we toured the church and the grounds. We parted, somewhat reluctantly, with Hawaiian-style embraces and kisses on the cheeks, and a feeling of having been in an exceptional place.
A few moments after leaving there, we arrived at the rocky shore below the church. With unplanned but remarkable timing, we saw the sun beginning the final stage of its descent into the sea. As we watched and snapped photos of one last sunset, the sun quickly disappeared into a cloudbank just above the horizon. Near us, Hawaiian youths wandered, and fragrant flowering trees blossomed near the homes. Ocean kayaks sat safely above the water of this tiny state park and, to my especial delight, we could see the Captain Cook Monument, practically inaccessible by road, across the bay. Tropical twilights are short-lived so we just had time to enjoy this memorable spot before darkness engulfed us.
Our last hours went by quickly.
We dined at Bubba Gump’s, indulging ourselves with a delicious new drink, strawberry flavouring providing the “lava flow” for which it is named. Once at the airport, Joan realized it would be best not to take her beautifully perfumed lei onto the plane. As passengers disembarked from “our” plane to begin their Hawaiian vacations, she singled out a grey-haired lady and placed the floral lei around her neck. Smiles beaming from her and her husband, from Joan and all of the rest of us who watched, told us that this lady was thrilled to be greeted to Hawaii – with a lei.