“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying ‘good bye’ so hard.” – Winnie the Poh
Hawaii, the Big Island, was my fourth and so far last Hawaiian island to explore. After having much time by myself and being in contact with all these thoughts in my head I wished for a lighter week to get rooted again. And to enjoy the exchange with people.
Big Island is like its name says quite big. All the other Hawaiian islands fit inside of it. In contrast to Maui or Kaua’i you could easily drive for hours along the roads and not be already around the island. Getting a car was therefore again a must to see something. Hitchhiking is always a possibility but with having just 6 days here I wanted them to be enjoyable and spontaneous. Overnights in Kona’s hostels and camping grounds would round up the plan to get the full loop done.
Arriving on the west coast
As Kaua’i had the rooster airport Big Island rocked an outdoor one with no landing bridges but staircases at ground level. It’s nice to see a couple of airports and airlines all around the world as I will always have a special connection to flying with my mother being a flight attendant once – before me.
Still caught in the Kaua’i vibes I went to get my economic compact rental car – which in the end was a blast! – and while talking to a guy on the transfer bus to the rental companies I offered him a ride to town. As a reward I got an encouraging talk with Chris who works as a pianist in Seattle about the power of the islands, them representing the 7 chakras, and about letting go of thoughts. And all in 15 minutes it took us from the airport to his hostel. “Don’t think about the money. Let go of that thought. You can’t enjoy your time here. Just wish and ask for things like ‘I want a good job’ and pieces will fall in place.”
The next morning everything followed in the same rhythm when I had another beautiful conversation with Leila about the island, fruit, going around and encounter dolphins. „You know they’re there. Don’t try to follow them. Just relax in the water and float and they will come if you’re in good energy.“ When I told her that I also wanted to go to the Manta Rays but didn’t get a spot yet with one of the boat companies she told me about meeting these gentle giants, floating with them and sharing a magical moment. „Experience everything now as long as it is still there. You don’t know when it will be the next time your coming to Hawaii.“ So I guess I have to make that also working.
After these first two encounters on Big Island it felt like after the many heavy, deep thoughts and experiences I had while being on Kaua’i this island wanted to give me a different message. I made a memo to search about the chakra thing.
I spend the next days at exploring the cultural heritage park, learning about Hawaiian traditions and my first glimpse at green sea turtles. The story of the green sea turtle was part of a book which inspired me to do this trip a lot, the “Why are you here Café”. I roamed along the coast and stopped at several beaches. I think it was at Pololu Valley, watching the waves when I realized that nothing I was wearing in that moment I started with. Michael‘s shoes from our shoe swap in Queenstown, a tank top from the free stuff bin in Waikiki, board shorts left for free in my dorm on Maui and sunglasses from a beach on Big Island.
Fun fact: According to the Koppen Climate Classification System – the most common – Hawai’i rocks 10 out of 14 climate zones that our beautiful planet has to offer. 10. And they can even all be found on Big Island.
My first camping ground was still on the west coast and definitely more in the Zone 5: Hot Semi-Desert which I was quite happy about as even after sunset I could get the guitalele out and play a couple of songs in the dark and just the stars above me.
Waipo’o, west coast and Hawaiian islands’ chakras
After a rough night in the tent where I woke up around midnight and couldn’t go back to sleep for over an hour, filled with thoughts and some rays of clarity at the same time I started with a very slow and aware morning and breakfast. I was looking forward to a real bed and some proper shelter for my thoughts. And a breakfast without peanut butter.
Today’s drive took me to Waipo’o Valley, the lookout and a walk down the very steep only 4 wheel drive allowed road. I decided not to follow the group ahead of me to the left but rather turned right to the ocean. I passed a sign saying White Tip Shark Pond and a little girl who offered me a free tangerine. I chatted a bit with her until I heard someone behind me asking if I wanted to join them. I was invited to drink kava by Rocky, a local Hawaiian whose ancestors owned the land down the valley and who tried now to restore the self-sustaining pond which contained a whole ecosystem once and was the most important thing for the Hawaiians living down here hundreds of years ago.
The group was mixed with people being drawn to Big Island and we talked about energy in these places and the idea of the chakras Chris had told me in the car. I always love to hear and learn about new things. And the thought of some kind of energy guiding me on my travel path is fascinating. (May the force be with you.) Maybe I should have been alone on Kaua’i and earthen myself afterwards on Big Island before heading further on in my travels. Who knows? It was open and friendly and after the troubled night I felt very relaxed. When they told me that they gonna have live music tonight in their town my head switched my plans for today and I knew I had to go there. David invited me for dinner and told me I could put my tent up in his garden if I didn’t want to drive to the camping ground in the evening.
I loved the good karma around – and the kava inside. In the beginning of my Hawaiian adventure I didn’t know if I wanted to come to Big Island. But the Christmas present of Bridget got me here and I think I was meant to come here. Do you know that kind of feeling?
“Did you recognise that Hawaiian Islands don’t have a north-western road and there are no towns? It’s because that’s the spot where the souls leave this world in Hawaiian belief.”
I walked back up the valley along the steep road and got caught in a spontaneous reflection about what I just heard with a woman from town who did her morning workout on the steep road. “That’s beautiful. I’m invited by rich friends of mine to go to Italy for 3 weeks. I’m so thankful and looking forward to it – after I could accept the fact that someone is paying that much money for me.” I met her later on again when she bagged groceries into brown paper for customers at the supermarket and I felt really happy for her.
After pitching my tent in David’s garden he prepared in his one room studio a delicious salad and veggie burger accompanied by a pretty good tequila with pomegranate drink – we named it the Big Island Sunrise – and talks about saying yes to chances which had brought him on an Asian concert tour with a pianist where he played the solo cello although he was a bassist. “If someone asks you and invites you to join take the chance and don’t let the thought ‘I don’t think I can do it’ stop you. You can. I would have never played for million people live on TV out of a concert hall in South Korea if I had that thought hold me back.”
We went afterwards together with Philomena who stays as Woofer/volunteer with David for more Kava and live music to the local café Sea Dandelions in Honokaa. My first Hawaiian rain showers led us quickly down the road passing by the old theatre and cinema which offers a fabulous range from Star Wars on Saturday to Ecstatic Dances on Sunday. I talked with Philomena about being away from home and not having cuddles for 5 months now as friends and family are far away and we both really missed these. I said that I would love to have Dixie, the neighbor’s cat, in my tent tonight for some cuddles. We both laughed.
Well, but Dixie waited already for us to return and when I got quickly into my tent as it had started to rain again Dixie joined me. We needed some time to find the right position as the tent started to get wet inside, my air mattress being small and not cat proofed and she undecided if she wanted to be on top or curled in my arm. But the purring and warm creature made me happy.
The wind rattled and tugged on the tent. The night was disturbed by nature and a cat not used to cuddling with a human. Around 2 am I decided to get into the car and slept curled up 4 more hours.
Volcano Park Try and southern alternative Plans
I woke up when it was still dark outside, packed the wet tent and headed off south to Hilo, for a breakfast underneath a rainbow, a hot coffee out of a beautifully ugly mug and the rainbow waterfall without rainbow.
Today’s originally plan was to explore and hike the Volcanoes National Park and take the Craters Road as a scenic to do road trip. I made the plan without the government so I ended up on a parking lot and taking a nap in the car as the park was closed to the government shutdown. Could this ever happen in Germany, I wondered. After the nap I took the only opened hike, a little 2 miles loop, and decided for a plan B – driving around the park and trying to get to the lava fields.
To get a glimpse at a recent lava fiel you drive to the south eastern part of the island, drop your car off, rent a bike and cycle for 30 minutes along the emergency road through an older lava field. I felt a bit like Walter Mitty (if you don’t know the movie, recommendation!) as I rode my cheap bike over the gravelled road.
Once I arrived at the closed gate number 3 I got off and walked on cold and hard lava directly into the field, following a green patch of trees as a landmark to the still warm lava. Different sounds followed me as I made my 45 minutes journey across. On a lava field every step responses with a different sound from below. Hard stone. Sandy crunch. Hollow echoes. It felt different than the old lava field in Iceland.
As I got closer steam rose out of cracks everywhere. It was getting warmer. A partly active lava field. I stepped outside my comfort zone and got way closer than normally to see the red shine in several cracks along the hillside. Others scrambled closer and closer into the warm but still black field. I stopped at some point. I wouldn’t go that close. I have an important appointment in LA and don’t wanna miss that.
When I was back at my bike the sunset revealed even more red cracks underneath the black stones where I had been 45 minutes before when the sunlight had disguised it. I switched my headlights on and cycled back to my car.
Dolphins, a shark and majestic manta rays
Floating freely in the blue ocean I look at the dolphins all around me. Jumping out of the water and do a spin to give a hint what they were named for. When I boarded the boat after a way too early start into the day at 5:15 am to be at the wharf around 8 am I had no idea if we were really going to see a couple of dolphins. And now there are 40 at least. I can’t believe what I’m seeing here. Spinning and swimming above and next to me, bellow me turned on their backs to show off their white bellies while looking at me. At some point I turn around and they are literally everywhere in their pods of 5. And just blue ocean with white rays of sun to lighten up the width around us. I think there are 2 or 3 tears underneath my swim goggles. This is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen in my life. Thank you, Bridget, for pushing me to do it with your Christmas gift.
On the small charter boat of ‘Into The Blue’ it was just the 4 of us and Captain Chase. So we were free to swim and float or rest and chat on the boat whenever we liked. I guess we’ve been in the water for over 20 minutes with these dolphins before we headed to a second stop and even more dolphins. I remembered Leila’s words and just floated relaxed and waited for their curiosity to bring them closer.
One beautiful moment of a different kind was when Lane – who told us before that she wouldn’t go into the ocean because she was scared of fish for her whole life – suddenly jumped next to us three into the water and put the goggles on as the dolphins kept coming on. On our second sighting she was even the first to be in the water right off the boat before Chase has even set the ladder in the back. “There was a baby dolphin which jumped out of the water. When I saw it I knew I had to get into the blue.” Being part of something so powerful to let you forget all about your fears and just enjoy the moment was amazing.
The only intervention we had was when we saw a local celebrity. Laverne, the fat tiger shark, about 15 feet long. It freaked me out a lot when she passed us by close to the ocean ground. I still tried to realise it being a real shark when Kylie muffled the word ‘shark’ into her snorkel. The four of us being pretty sure Laverne wouldn’t hurt us but also having our first real life shark decided to go back on the boat for a while. As the dolphins were also gone this seemed to be a pretty good idea.
I was lucky to be on a boat with these three American girls who were as well stunned by the beauty of this moment. Although they had been more considered and brought underwater cameras to capture some pretty awesome shots – and a Bud light to enjoy afterwards.
We got even pretty close with the boat to another bunch of humpback whales and I guess I was smiling all the way on that wonderful trip while trying to drink the Bud without pouring everything on my shorts due to the waves.
Having a wonderful cold beer at Kona Breweries and chilled and friendly talks afterwards with Lane and Dawn rounded up an already perfect day. And it seems I have another reason to go to Ohio. And thanks for making it possible to have a ride in a convertible Camaro!
But the long day was still not at its end as I had booked the night snorkel with manta rays for the evening. When I strolled around the beachfront to bridge the time and get a new toothbrush – I must have packed my last one together with the stored away wet tent – I ran into Chris from day one. We had another really good 15-minute-talk. He was buzzed with having a kava just before – “I’m totally in the mood to watch you getting a tattoo on Hawaii now.” “Well, that has to wait til LA.” – and I made a mental note to get kava as well on my last evening here. We said our goodbyes and I went back for preparing my night adventure.
It’s good to have someone to make you feel safe again in the dark ocean after I had too many thoughts about sharks stuck in my head. The crew from “Hawaii Oceanic” on our small boat was like that and I was excited again. Even when the Captain said to me “Here, you don’t have to wait for the others, just jump from the side into the water and swim to the light board, they are already here.” while a huge black shadow passed our boat in the direction of the green lights I had to breathe in deeply but then let go of the rail. Manta Rays. I didn’t think they would be that huge. I paddled to the old surfboard with the manually attached handrails and green lights. The latter ones to attract the plankton, the handrails for us to hold on and be safely floating above them, all stretched out in a horizontal. Gentle giants. Appearing out of the dark below us, mouths wide opened and doing their somersaults just below our bodies, inches away from your face, your skin. The biggest one that night had 11 feet wing span.
People around me were making all different sounds into their snorkels, laughs in disbeliefs, awws, breathing. The whole spectacle lasted 20 minutes, 30 minutes? I have no idea as I was totally lost in time and space. Even when we were back on the boat, riding through the dark back to the harbour, a drink and some chips in my hands, I was lost in that moment.
This was together with the dolphins in the morning one of the most magical days in my life.
Photo credits and huge thanks to Hawaii Oceanic, check them out if you ever come to Big Island (facebook.com/hawaiioceanic/).
After having these encounters I was in such a relaxed mood on my last day in Hawaii. That wonderful time with all the sea creatures was giving me an incredible good and hard goodbye at the same time. I just walked around Kona a bit and along the Ali’i drive, trying to imagine how it would be to do the Ironman here, having a fresh Ahi Poke Bowl and maybe getting a last minute souvenir?
The afternoon I spent with Nils doing a road trip to Mauna Kea. Although the summit road was closed due to ice and snow – welcome to Hawaii! – and the stargazing cancelled as thick patches of cloud were not in the mood for disappearing we had fun in driving, exploring and enjoying warmer temperatures again later on.
We made my last evening pretty cool with a kava session in the local kava bar and nice chats with a group of other people in the hostel’s yard where I also found new owners for my tent and snorkel mask. Yes, this was a pretty nice goodbye to hostel life for now. And just before going to bed Amanda showed me how I could finally manage the crow in yoga. I can’t wait to try it out in LA.
So this was it. A travel destination that I had on number 1 of my bucket list for over 15 years. I can tell that my favourite island has been Kaua’i but each and every place had something unique to go to and remember.
- O‘ahu – beaches and the north shore waves
- Maui – volcano sunsets and valley roads
- Kaua’i – mystical cliffs and shapes
- Big Island – sea creatures
It felt a bit like rushing through these 4 islands. But in the end I wanted to have a glimpse at each of them and feel the differences. I will miss taking my showers and bath in the ocean. And I’m happy to get a reminder for the trip and for following my dreams soon in LA. And after 5 months into travelling I need a rest now at a place I would call home for a while.
I’m thankful for everything I got to experience on my travels so far. And I’m thankful for all your support, family and friends, without whom I couldn’t have made it here.
So I’m happy. Very happy. And happy to come back again.
Bye, Hawai’i. 🌺