Incertidumbre means Uncertainty

I began hearing the word “incertidumbre” when we arrived in Peru, and have seen it in the newspaper repeatedly. Politics, the economy, and now the Corona virus Omicron variant, are all conspiring to make the circumstances around the world uncertain. How is a traveler to plan?

Peru’s national elections were held in July 2021 and at the time, I knew they were controversial. Keiko Fujimori, daughter of imprisoned ex-president Alberto Fujimori, and representative of the status quo, ran against Pedro Castillo, a teacher and union leader from northern Peru with no political experience. Castillo prevailed, and his win was hailed as a chance to combat corruption and self-dealing for which the presidency is known. At every event, Castillo wears a big straw hat with a high crown that is characteristic of farmers and ranchers in northern Peru.

The Washington Post summarized the issues that arose following Castillo’s inauguration at the end of July (click to see the article). It seems that President Castillo has no idea how to make legislation happen, nor do his advisers. Each time he appoints a cabinet minister, they promptly take a bribe or make a wholly inappropriate act or statement, and are removed. The average duration of cabinet appointees is running at around one month. Four months have passed, and more controversy than ever swirls through the corridors of power in Lima.

An effort to remove the president is beginning. It may take several tries, as government is highly factionalized in Peru, but the general tone seems to be that until Castillo is removed, the country will be rudderless. The situation may continue even longer depending on who and what comes next. With politicians attention fully focused on removing Castillo and keeping themselves on the payroll, there is little time to conduct the business of state.

Incertidumbre marks the economy of Peru, as well. El Comercio, the conservative main newspaper of Lima, describes business on the rebound, but notes that uncertainty is a watchword. Reports describe companies as planning to distribute dividends to stockholders over the next twelve months rather than doing any reinvesting or expanding, because investing during such unstable times is not worth the risk.

We see the result of this uncertainty locally, even here in Barranca. Inflation affects everyone, as food prices seem to be those most rapidly rising. The dollar is near record highs, which doesn’t help people who have made purchases in dollars that must be repaid at the higher rates. Several of our friends and neighbors invested in real estate over the past few years, and now find that just as they are completing construction of new apartment buildings, people do not want to buy, uncertain of what the future holds.

When we arrived in Barranca twenty years ago, it was nearly impossible to buy property along the beach. This year, the combination of Covid deaths and uncertainty has changed things. There are four properties with For Sale signs on them, a property for rent (With permit for a disco!), and two other houses that are for sale but not marked with realtors signs. Beach houses are to be had, and yet the market appears to be on hold this month.

I follow the blog of the Senior Nomads (click to see their blog), and look at the facebook page they host. It is full of comments from people who are traveling right now, in Croatia, Turkey, Slovakia, Slovenia, and other places that do not limit tourist stays to 90 days. People who are traveling now appear unconcerned about the future, whether they are visiting historic towns or skiing in new places. Are they wise or foolish?

Every day, we take time to walk down the seafront to the far end of our beach, and walk back along the water’s edge. At some point during our walk, we usually touch on some aspect of our future planning, trying to decide whether to pick up our European plans from 2020 and try again, or whether to spend the spring and summer of 2022 exploring places in the US where we might settle permanently. Though no one wants to hear an “organ recital,” many of our concerns are health-related, as we weigh returning to Chicago for another round of tests and visits vs. assuming all is well until November 2022.

In the meantime, every day is just a little bit sunnier than the last, as summer works its way down the coast toward us. There are always breaking waves to appreciate, birds floating overhead, and neighbors to greet. We’ll keep walking up and down until we decide what comes next.

Return to Barranca, Peru

We landed at 1:45 am, got to the gate by 2 am, were waved into the priority line (white hair?) and through immigration by 2:15 am. Our luggage showed up at 3 am. Fortunately, we’d decided to stay overnight in the Lima airport hotel, and we were in bed by 3:30 am. A long day of travel concluded successfully.

In the morning, Carlos collected us in our car, and we set off on a shopping trip to Wong, our mega-grocery of choice, filled the back seat with groceries, and headed for Barranca. As we drove down the hill to the beach, the sun was out after a mostly overcast day, lighting the ocean like a postcard. Our freshly painted facade looked quite nice, and we pulled into the back parking area to see blooming hollyhock, geraniums, and other flowers. What a welcome! The back yard is in spring bloom with the trees leafing out again, flowers, and birds twittering. Daily temperatures hover in the high 60s, and the sun is in and out depending on the breeze and coastal mist.

We arrived around 5 pm, to the crazed running around of the two dogs, and greetings from Fernando and Dalmira, our caretaker couple. It is good to be back.

The next day, as we were still shaking off the effects of travel, we took our usual stroll to the opposite end of the beach and back, noticing the new fish sculpture and construction that grew up during the pandemic. People kept busy by building a room here and a room there. Next door, a second floor has appeared.

Our neighbor Miguel is finishing up the beach’s biggest new development, a four-story apartment building, with eleven units looking over the water, and many more with the “garden” view. He is almost ready for people to move in, though the real estate market here is not as hot as in the US.

We are both surprised and amused to see a new cafe serving acai bowls here–so trendy.

We visit the market, still a very busy place, with 99% of people wearing masks. Many people in Peru wear double masks in stores, and the market is indoor-outdoor, with good air circulation. The number of vendors has decreased, the remainder spaced slightly farther apart. We bump fists or salute the people we recognize, asking after family members and the business.

A notable casualty of the Covid pandemic is our grocery store. Only a few years ago, there were no supermarkets at all in Barranca, and we purchased most of our dry goods at a store much like people did a century ago in the US. Standing at a counter, we read a list and the sales person collected each item from a shelf or somewhere in the back. The opening of a Metro supermarket was a landmark for us, bringing contemporary shopping to Barranca. The pandemic seems to have done it in, however. Metro, just as we arrive, is shifting its inventory to be a warehouse store. No membership, as in Sam’s Club, but no small packages, and very limited selection. The items we went to Metro to obtain are gone (freshly baked sesame rolls, peanut butter, cheese and deli meat, pickles), and instead there are ten pound bags of sugar, rice, and flour, gallon jugs of cooking oil, and loaves of white bread. For the majority of shoppers this may be useful, but not for us.

We return to our bodega of choice, Marlene’s, which has weathered the rise and fall of the Metro in Barranca, and we shop as we did twenty years ago when we first arrived. The good news is that they have some of the items we are looking for. Somehow, it takes the entire morning to visit the market, Metro, Marlene’s, and the hardware store, and by the time we get home again, I think it’s a good thing Jonathan enjoys shopping enough to go out and do it without me. I will eat anything he chooses to fix.

A street by the market in Barranca

The streets of Barranca are as crowded as ever. Congestion reached new heights during the pandemic, and two the main streets have been converted to one way. In general, it’s an improvement, though it takes a bit longer to get to specific places. The city is bustling as usual.

On the way to Peru

Today was a landmark day, finding us back on an international flight to Peru. It’s been 20 months since we were last in Peru, and when we left, we planned to return in early November, 2020, just over a year ago. Since then, we’ve lived in different levels of quarantine for the pandemic, gotten vaccinated, and then booster shots. To prepare for this flight, we also got Covid tests, though they are not required. Good thing, too, because our results are still not back, and our flight to Peru takes off in less than two hours. We also filled out a health affidavit for the Peruvian immigration authorities that took each of us about five tries to complete, save, email to phone, and make screen shot. (Now it’s done, and we’re checked in for our flight.)

Since we were last in South America, I turned 70 (how did that happen!?) and somehow all our aches and pains have gotten slightly worse. Our seats on the plane are a bit less padded, our stamina has decreased a little bit, and a full day of travel seems even more tiring than it used to. We face an uncomfortable question. Should we keep up our life of travel, or is it time to ease up? This is entirely our choice. We can still afford to travel, and we have always worked our various medical appointments into our plans. I still see an eye specialist every month, no matter where we are. Jonathan saw a bunch of doctors while we were in the US to track down the source of a nagging cough. He can continue with that when we are in the US, though most doctors would prefer to have him around for a test, a few weeks, a consult, a few weeks, another test, another consult. This gets frustrating for us, as there seems to be an open-ended procession of things to do and we’d like to set a departure date.

For now, we are back on the road, weighing whether to spend the next travel season of March through October visiting Europe as we had planned, or whether we might do better to spend those months testing places we might want to settle in the US. We can rent for a month, or three months, or even a year, but we will have to move again at the end of each stay.

Last year, during our extended visit in California, we thought perhaps we’d look for a longer-term place to rent near Monterey. It’s beautiful, there are lots of trails to hike and ocean shore to walk. By the end of our stay, though, we realized that California is going to be short of both water and housing for the foreseeable future. Is that our best choice? Before we settle for living in a man-made environmental disaster, we’d like to try a few other places, starting on the east coast of the US. We haven’t given up on our desire to be near the ocean. We will spend many of our afternoons in Peru walking down the length of our beach and back, trying to sort our priorities. I’ll keep you posted.

November gets cold

There were a few beautiful days at the beginning of November when every day’s walk was gorgeous. Springbrook, Herrick Lake, and Greene Valley forest preserves have been our regular stops. Whether it’s midday or sunset, we always find something beautiful or interesting or both. We saw a bald eagle at Greene Valley, then chatted with a woman who said the eagles have been regular visitors for some time.

We go out almost every day, though I tend not to take pictures on the cloudy days. On one beautiful day we went into Chicago to see The Magic Flute at the Lyric Opera, and spent ten minutes on the bridge over the Chicago River watching a tall building under construction. A construction crane was perched about 20 stories up in the air on the central shaft of the structure. Its huge boom picked up a rectangular piece as big as a shipping container and v-e-r-y slowly swung it around the building, then brought it to the side under construction, where it gradually disappeared into the framework. Everything about it was remarkable. How did they get the crane up that high? What will they do with it after construction is complete. How do they get the huge piece into place and release it? Modern construction is an amazing process. The city is a forest of concrete and steel with its own wonders to observe.

Goldfinch

It turned cold, I got my warm coat out of the storage unit and began wearing my heaviest shoes. We haven’t been seeing many birds lately. All the species that migrate south have taken off for warmer places. We still see the hardy locals: robins, cardinals, sparrows, chickadees, goldfinch, bluejay. As many of these pass through our yard as visit us on our bird walks.

Kingfisher

We took a last stroll at Churchill Woods in Lombard, where we’ve seen many different birds on previous visits, and it began to sleet as we got to the far end of the path. We stood in the shelter of the trees and bushes for a few minutes, watching waves of sleet blowing along the surface of the river. We saw a pair of large owls fly to a tree on the edge of the woods, then swoop into the forest. Walking back along the river, a kingfisher perched by the river, vivid against the branches. The sleet let up long enough for us to play pooh sticks on the bridge, spot a woodpecker, and finish our walk.

As much as I enjoy our walks in the woods, and as much as we have appreciated the many parks and forest preserves in this area, I am ready to fly south for the winter.

[The photo at the top of this post shows branches of a black walnut tree that has dropped its leaves but not all its walnuts.]

October’s Bright Blue Weather

My title is from a poem I had to memorize in grade school, and it still comes into my mind almost every year when the light slants sharply in the late afternoon, and the trees change color. The month of October sped by. It’s always a month of transition, when we return to the US from our travels, visit family and friends, see a few doctors, and head to Peru for the winter.

Veterans Memorial Park, Naperville

Our plans often change during this period, and this year was no different. Initially, Jonathan was heading to Peru just a few days after we arrived in Chicago, and I planned to follow three weeks later. As it turned out, we have both been in Chicago for six weeks, changing our flights to mid-November. We planned to visit our daughter Lillian and her husband Neil on our first weekend back. It is always fun to see the improvements in their house in Champaign, and to taste Lillian’s cooking with Neil’s delicious home-brewed beer. Rather than that being our only visit this month, the silver lining in our extended visit has been the opportunity to see friends in and outside the Chicago area, and take some walks through the trees as they change color.

I took a swing around the eastern US, with a stop in Asheville, NC, where the trees were just changing, the farmers market was full of pumpkins, and the mountains are always beautiful.

From there, I went east to Syracuse, where I visited my mother (She turns 97 in Feb.). We ran errands, visited the cemetery, and decorated for Halloween. We were able to visit my brother Tim and his wife Margie at their home on Otisco Lake, a beautiful spot. I took a few walks around the property of The Nottingham, where mom lives, and found some lovely places. I made a short exploration into the Westcott neighborhood near Syracuse University in search of a resale shop and found an area full of wall murals and interesting shops. I’d like to go back when I have more time. In the evenings, I chatted with Sharon, friend of my sister Catherine, who put me up sight-unseen! We had a good time swapping stories. Ordinarily, I stay with mom, but that isn’t allowed in these times of Covid. It’s a good break to have to leave the Nottingham at night, and on my last night, Tim, Margie, Sharon, mom, and I went out to dinner together. It was an excellent visit.

The month wasn’t over yet. From Syracuse, I drove through a downpour to Nyack to visit archaeology friends. The rain didn’t bother me particularly, as traffic was light and the roads were not flooded. I got to see the Adirondacks full of rushing streams. Dave and Lori live in a wonderful old house, carefully restored by Dave over the years, and full of remarkable things they’ve collected. I turned to look into a sitting room and burst out laughing. “I haven’t seen a stuffed head that big since Hemingway’s house in Cuba!,” I choked out. Lori assures me that the moose died a natural death (really). I think it’s almost as tall as she is.

We had a spin around Nyack to look at historic houses, and incidentally, Halloweeen displays. It is a beautiful community, and the views out over the Hudson are spectacular. From nearby, we could see the new Tappan Zee Bridge, a long span across the river, stretching away into the distance.

I drove back the way I came, ogling the flooding of low-lying stream banks and flood plains, glad that the rain had stopped. The rain muted the colors of the changing leaves, and many were knocked down by the rain, but the drive through the hills is lovely, and a weekday drive through this region is pretty quiet.

I arrived back in the Chicago area in time to spend Halloween with our friend Peggy, who put on the lights in her front garden at dusk. A parade of trick-or-treaters stopped by, and we helped hand out treats. And so, as quick as a snap of the fingers, there went October.

So Much Hawaii, So Little Time!

I have written more about Hawaii than any place we’ve visited in quite a while. Part of the reason is because we had visitors (after a year!) and went to see many different things. It also turns out that I like the Big Island very much. The weather was perfect, 75 degrees F with breeze every day, morning and night. We had one day when it rained most of the day, and the rest of the time the weather was lovely. We had far fewer bugs than we expected from a tropical climate, too.

We left Hawaii after a month of exploring, and yet there are still many, many places that we haven’t visited. Keep in mind that our idea of a good time includes visiting every place along the shore that has a name, even if it turns out to be the edge of a cliff. We also like to drive to the end of every road and walk to the end of the trail from there. Not everyone would enjoy this, but we do.

We saw the rare Palila on the slopes of Mauna Kea (photo: Restore Mauna Kea dlnr.hawaii.gov)

We did some bird watching, and even saw a couple of the rarer birds on the island. This pleased us no end, but so did seeing escaped cage birds here and there (colorful finches, parrots).

One last treat we tried, malasadas, came via Amanda, from a friend who has spent a lot of time here. Every day, two women arrive at the same pullout along the highway with a tiny blue house on a trailer. They heat up their fryers inside and open their window around 11 am. Every malasada (donut) is made to order. We tried malasadas filled with peanut butter, lillikoi (passion fruit), haupia (coconut pudding), pineapple, and mango, and one plain malasada rolled in Japanese powdered umeboshi (dried salted plum). “Malasada” in Spanish means “badly roasted.” I don’t know exactly how you get to donuts from that, though I read that it’s based on the contrast between their crisp exterior and soft interior.

I chatted with a man while we both waited for our malasadas. He and his wife were in Hawaii for their 20-somethingth visit, spending two weeks in several places, for a total of six or eight weeks, and he always comes for malasadas.

While we waited, we watched a young man opening drinking coconuts. He could balance the coconut and whack off a chunk at the same time, managing not to injure himself or spill the coconut.

We liked our malasadas well enough, but they are, after all, donuts. If that’s your thing, you’ll love them.

Considering the range of our activities on Hawaii, no matter what you like to do, you’ll find a bit of it here.

Historic Hawaii

Hawaii is known for beach vacations, surfing, leis, and mai-tais. There is a lot of interesting history here, too, and we had a chance to explore some of it during our visit.

We started just down the hill from our house, at the birthplace of King Kamehameha (Kamehameha l or the Great). It’s the banner photo for this post. We didn’t realize how close it was at first, because the access road to visit the site is a lumpy 4WD track that parallels the runway of the tiny Opolu Airport and then runs along the shore until it ends near the site. What remains of Kamehameha’s birthplace are low walls of lava that outline a large compound with a few generous sized interior rooms that was the family home, originally finished with thatched roofs. There would have been easy access for fishing from the shore or boats, even chances to go surfing.

Very near by is the Mo’okini heiau (hey-ow), a ceremonial center that was the focus of large gatherings and offerings. There are many heiau around Hawaii, ranging in size from a single large rock on a stone platform, to huge enclosures. Mo’okini is distinctive as one of the oldest and largest heiau on Hawaii. It was also a luakini heiau, a place used for animal and human sacrifice. An associated tale recounts that the heiau was built of stone passed hand to hand across eleven miles from the source to the Mo’okini site. The structure is an enormous rectangle made of stacked dry stone that is roughly 250 ft x 120 ft in size. The walls are ten feet thick at the base.

Exterior of Mo’okini heiau
Entering the Mo’okini heaiu

It is still possible to walk into the Mo’okini enclosure and get a sense of how imposing it would have been to participate in a ceremony there. Some visitors leave offerings of flowers, fruit, braided leaves, rocks, crystals, and shells.

The story goes that due to intergroup conflicts, Kamehameha was moved from his childhood home to a more remote location in the Waipio Valley and grew up there, safe from family enemies. Captain Cook arrived just as the future King Kamehameha I was building his chiefdom, and provided examples of European warfare. Kamehameha hired European advisers, and began to use cannons, guns, and even had a 40 ton ship of his own built in Honolulu in 1796. Battles were fought among chiefs on Hawaii and after defeating his rivals to become King, Kamehameha I expanded his ambitions to the other islands, succeeding in uniting all of the Hawaiian Islands by 1804. This historic first made Hawaii a political power, as it was an important way station for whaling ships during the first half of the 19th century, and a port for trading ships heading from Asia to the west coast of North and South America.

Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historic Site

Kamehameha didn’t turn his back on tradition, using Mo’okini and also constructing another very large heiau at Pu’ukohola that was the site of battles as well as offerings. Though we were able to enter the Mo’okini heiau, Pu’ukohola was closed to visitors. There is a tall rack just down the hill from the entrance that is intended to hold offerings. As at Mo’okini, there were flowers and braids of greenery resting on the offering stand. Below Pu’ukohola is Mailekini heiau, a somewhat older structure that was turned into a fort by Kamehameha, lined with cannons that he purchased from traders when he realized that European armament was the way to stay dominant over the islands.

Pu’ukohola heiau on the hilltop, viewed from Mailekini heiau, near the shore

It may look like all of Hawaii is covered in heiau, but there were many villages along the shore. Land was allotted in narrow strips (ahupua’a) from the coast far up onto the sides of the volcanoes to give each family group a bit of each kind of land and the resources of each area, like fishing territory along the coast, farmland, forest for wood and thatch, areas with lava rock for construction, or fine grained stone and obsidian for tools. We visited the Lapakahi State Historic Park to see a village site. This area was occupied until about 1920 when the water table dropped so low they ran out of water.

A village of stone houses, now lacking their thatch roofs, with one fully reconstructed house in the distance. Lapakahi State Historic Park

In addition to the fortress-like heiau, and coastal villages, Hawaii has a number of places where people went to create petroglyphs, pecking and scratching shapes onto relatively flat surfaces of lava. We visited the Puako petroglyphs, an extensive area of shapes that are both familiar (men, women) and also abstract.

Puako Petroglyphs

No one is sure why these images were created, and petroglyphs are found in a number of different places around the island of Hawaii and on the other islands. Whatever the purpose, they are very durable, and great food for thought on a walk. It can be hot out on the fields of lava, and there’s lots of advice to take water with you. It’s an interesting walk through the trees to the site, and the variety of shapes is intriguing. It’s impossible to tell how long ago each of these was made.

From long before the days of King Kamehameha right up to the present, Hawaii has a rich history, unique to these islands, that is worth thinking about. People lived in an area so far from where their ancestors started out that they created new stories to describe their origins. They constructed a way of life that served them well for a long time, and many of their descendants are still part of today’s Hawaii.

Snorkeling with Manta Rays

I’ve talked about beaches and snorkeling, the volcano, the botanical garden, and other activities we enjoyed. We owe some of the fun to the suggestions and planning by our visitors. Lyra’s research found Kona Style, a company that offers a sunset boat ride followed by watching manta rays feed in the dark.

The opening photo is sunset at the start of our boat ride. Above is just after sunset and before dark as we were arriving at Manta Bay.

Manta Rays (Internet photo)

We met at the company’s base in Kona, where we were entertained by the young man supervising check-in. He told interesting stories about Kona and the manta rays, explaining that in one particular bay where manta rays are known to feed, tour operators are allowed to shine lights into the water to attract plankton that in turn attract the rays. Manta rays are mature when they are 9-12 feet across, and weigh 800-1500 lbs. (The very largest are over 23 feet across and weigh over 2500 lb.) Overfishing is the greatest threat to the survival of these giant creatures. In recent years, the financial benefit of tourism has been recognized as greater than the benefit of killing mantas

We were a good example of manta ray tourism. Once onboard the boat at around 5:45 pm, we enjoyed the sunset on the ride to Manta Bay (30-40 minutes). Mai-tais and beer were available, and music played. It was a festive atmosphere. We arrived at the mooring just as it became dark. One particular feature of this tour is that Kona Style’s catamaran has an ingenious set of stairs that make it easy to get into the water, valuable for those of us in the creakier age bracket.

There were other boats around and we could hear the shrieks of other visitors as manta rays drifted into their lighted area and swooped upside down, flashing their white bellies as they scooped up plankton. Mantas are filter feeders and have a large central opening where they collect plankton from the water. It gives them a menacing look, but they are not interested in people. We were warned not to let any object dangle from a wrist. Should a strap get hooked on a manta’s mouth, they would pull it (and the attached person!) until the strap broke. Yikes!

After almost an hour in the water floating from the handrail around a block of lights, we’d seen a half dozen mantas, needle fish, and a few gurnard that looked like tiny wind-up toys. We’d also had a look at some of the larger pieces of plankton, tiny wiggly underwater creatures. I was content to go back on the boat. My arms were tired from holding them over my head on the rail and looking down at the sea creatures.

I wore my own wetsuit under the wetsuit jackets handed out on board, I was just starting to get cold when our time was up. Though we hadn’t noticed, it had rained while we were in the water, and most of our gear had gotten wet. I huddled under my damp towel until I was drip-dried enough to change. We cruised home chatting about what we’d seen, sipping tea, hot chocolate, or more beer and mai-tais. It was no longer raining, so the ride was pleasant. We had a great time, and I recommend Kona Style to anyone interested in the experience.

Things to think about when planning to snorkel with manta rays:

Timing: 5-9 pm from meeting at the tour company office to ending up there. You might want to eat something beforehand or bring snacks.

Cost: About $125 per person

Speaking of food: Water is provided, and tea, hot chocolate (not terribly hot water, though) on the way back. Beer and mai-tais are available to purchase. Do you get seasick? Some of the people who had cocktails on the way out spent the trip back throwing up over the rail.

You do not need to know how to snorkel: In fact, you are not given flippers because you must stay still and hold onto the float. Snorkeling around on your own isn’t allowed. You’re given a pool noodle to put under your legs. It works very well, though your arms get tired. (Try holding your arms over your head for 40 minutes straight. Even if you are lying down, it’s a challenge.)

Energetic Music: A party vibe is promoted by the music played during the cruise both directions. If you are not a fan of party music you won’t enjoy it that much. Just close your eyes and think of manta rays.

Who is on the trip: Those of us in the vicinity of age 70 were about double the age of most participants. It’s definitely something for 30-somethings who can afford the booking and enjoy snorkeling. (I definitely enjoy snorkeling, but I was a bit older than the typical passenger.) That being said, the crew was good with everyone.

Speaking of the crew: There was a boat captain and three crew members, two of whom were in the water with us, one at each end of the float. When it seemed like we weren’t seeing many mantas, they pushed the float around to try and get a better position. The people in the water worked Hard, and the captain kept his eye on their movements, the float’s position, the boat’s position in relation to the other five or so boats in the area, and communicated well with his crew in and out of the water. They were all quite skilled, hard working, and good at what they were doing.

A Saturday in Hilo

There is a Saturday market in Hilo that we decided to visit. It was a long drive, almost two hours, and we decided to include a stop at the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden in the same area.

The Farmer’s Market in runs seven days a week. The booths are more permanently installed than other farmers markets. and more unkempt from the wear and tear of daily use. One section contains fruit and vegetable sellers, while the others have clothing, jewelry, wood objects, and other items. It’s a sizeable market for a small city, but not on the scale of Pike Place in Seattle, for example.

From the Farmers Market, we took a brief drive around the lovely Liliuokalani Gardens. It was a hot day, and we decided against a walk. We also realized that we could spend much more time in Hilo. The Wailoa River State Recreation Area is in the center of town and includes a large fish pond. There are lots of places to walk once you’ve had a stroll around the Liliuokalani Gardens. We contemplated changing our plans to have lunch in a cafe overlooking the shore and staying in the area, but we had planned on a stop at the Botanical Garden, so we tore ourselves away.

Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden with our visiting friend Peggy

The Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden is one couple’s vision of how a coastal garden could be created. Between 1977 and 2017, Dan and Pauline Lutkenhouse developed a 17 acre parcel into the garden today. It is a private enterprise, now run by their children, and seems to be thoughtfully run. We were impressed by how well-kept the trails are. A steep boardwalk at the start of the walk is manageable, and themed loops take visitors past groups of orchid plants, anthurium, and out to a waterfall by the coast. I felt a twinge of disappointment to find the large Bird House was empty, but the fact that the non-native birds have been transferred to a sanctuary is probably for the best. Macaws are pretty, but they are native to South America, not Hawaii. They are best left in the wild in the first place.

There were flowers and intriguing plants everywhere. We walked the entire trail in a couple of hours and enjoyed it thoroughly. The tall canopy of palms and rain forest plants created dappled shade that kept us cool as we strolled. We carried our own water and snacks (there’s no cafe), and stopped now and then to enjoy the surroundings. We were glad we’d chosen the garden over the city.

Windward (East) Kohala, Hawaii

Just east of us lies a turning point in the landscape. Beyond it, the weather is wetter, the hillsides greener, and the coast is shaped differently. We set out to explore as much of the shore as we could, and immediately ran into high, steep cliffs. There are some tiny patches of beach and rocks at the base of some cliffs that can only be reached by boat. We went to Keokea Beach Park where local people built a breakwater pool for swimming and snorkeling. Typical for Hawaii, there isn’t much in the way of beach, but restrooms and picnic tables that make it a good spot to spend a day.

The Pololu and Waipio Valleys angle across the top of the island, each huge and lightly occupied. It is possible to walk down to the beach at the mouth of each valley, though many more people visit the overlook than make the hike.

The main road dead ends at the Pololu overlook, only a few miles from our house. King Kamehameha was born in a family compound just over the hill from our house, and spent his youth along the coast, including the Polulu and Waipio Valleys. We are living in his former stomping grounds.

The trail to the beach from the Pololu overlook is steep and rocky. Jonathan decided to make the trip armed with his walking stick, a wise idea as the trail was not only steep but much longer than we thought. Far down the trail we met a woman who had decided not to continue. It was just too much of a hike.

The views were fantastic. Finally at the bottom, we found a sandy beach, driftwood, and rocks. It’s not safe to swim, so we walked along the black sand. A number of other visitors had made the trip, everyone strolling the beach, sipping their water bottles, or sitting on a log.

The walk back up the hill from Pololu Beach got a bit long toward the end. Jonathan took a head start so that he and his stick could take their time, and ended up back at the car first. Lyra walked with me. I began to tire after a while and she insisted on taking my backpack while I sat on a rock. We got all ready to keep going, and found we were about 50 feet from the end of the trail and the parking lot, just around the next curve. I guess it wasn’t so bad after all. Here are a few more photos of the beach and the valley.

Having successfully visited the Pololu Valley, we debated visiting the Waipio Valley further east. The road from the overlook to the beach is described as perilously steep and narrow, only suitable for 4 WD vehicles. Going with a tour is recommended, unless you are game for walking down. Our young folk decided to get an early start one day and hiked to the bottom.

In a separate (large) car, we drove to the Waipio overlook to get a feel for the area. The road down the hill is very steep indeed, and narrow, with shallow pull-outs that indicate passing can be trouble. However, Jonathan has many years experience on unpaved, 4-WD only backroads of central Arizona, the canyons of NE Arizona, the forest roads of the Pajarito Plateau in New Mexico, and generally wild areas. He thought we’d be fine, so we tipped over the edge and drove down. We were extremely fortunate in not meeting anyone coming toward us on the way down.

What we didn’t realize is that the road to the beach makes a sharp turn just at the base of the escarpment, so we drove to the very end of the road up into the valley, and looked at the waterfall (trail to the base of the falls currently closed). We turned back and discovered the beach turnoff and drove out to the shore, surprised at the number of vehicles and the size of the parking area. Who should we see on the road but our children just as they were leaving the beach to hike back up the hill. We persuaded them to stay a while longer and ride up with us (lol).

Away from the beach, the Waipio Valley is home to a number of farms growing taro and other crops. The hills are deep green and unmarked by houses, quiet and imposing. Considering the awful drive to get in and out, the valley is quite isolated. Only tourists spoil the tranquility. Our group interrupted the peace and quiet, but it was a lovely visit…..

We watched a group of horses at the edge of the stream test the waters and then wade upstream to a small island to graze. When is the last time you saw horses roaming on their own? They wanted nothing to do with the beach or the tourists.

I was a bit surprised to find families that had driven down the incredibly steep and narrow road for a day at the beach. They unloaded lawn chairs, towels, umbrellas, picnic boxes and settled in for a stay. I think most visitors are like us, in the valley for an adventure, not planning to stay very long. The drive back up took a bit longer, and we had to pass a few other vehicles v-e-r-y slowly.

The drive from Hawi to Honokaa, the turn-off for the Waipio Valley takes an hour. There are other shore access points marked along the highway with small blue and white signs, but we don’t want to spend that much time in the car to visit a tiny rocky beach when there are many similar places near us. There was one exception. We drove most of the way to Hilo (90 minutes) to visit Honoli’i Beach Park, the one place in Hawaii that is known to be a source of beach glass. I had to see what I could find.

Honoli’i Beach Park. That’s our picnic table below the palm tree.
Jonathan admires the finds

It was a long drive, but we went with all our visitors so everyone could try their hand at collecting beach glass. We took a picnic and found a table in the shade, a good home base. Everyone found glass, in lots of colors, though mostly small pieces.The surf is rough, so swimming isn’t recommended, even though there are lots of surfers. The river that enters the ocean at this site pools behind a sand bar, creating a safe swimming hole. On the drive toward Hilo, we passed over a number of streams with rushing waterfalls heading to the sea.

Waterfall in the Umauma Valley

It took about three weeks to get all these visits into our plans, and I am thoroughly pleased with the range of places we’ve been able to visit and the wonders we’ve seen.

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