Thursday, March 5, 2009

Hawaii - Day seven

Monday, November 3

We drove to Makawao this morning to have breakfast again at Casanova’s, enjoying a completely clear sky and gentle tropical breezes as we sipped coffee on the front porch.

It was about 45 minutes drive from there around the flank of the island, past the wealthy resorts and hotels that line the beach of Wailea. We passed Little Beach and Big Beach, headed for the jumbled lava flows of Ahihi Kinau Natural Preserve.
Located on the lee side of the island, this area is quite literally a desert, with very little rainfall. Lava flows down the side of the mountain here were not composed of molten lava. The lava cooled as it flowed, and the surface was churned into a jagged, sharp, alien looking landscape that is miles wide. The view toward the mountain at first glance is one of utter and complete desolation. On closer examination, you can see widely scattered places where extremely hardy plants are beginning the slow process of colonization. The lava flows are very old, but even now there is almost nothing there except an environment so hostile that were you to attempt walking across it that you would probably not survive if you fell down.

Close to the shore however, small drought tolerant trees and bushes have taken root, providing a little bit of shade, and the constant pounding of the waves has produced a beach composed of rounded black lava pebbles and rocks, and in a few spots, even some black sand.

We spread our towels on the lumpy surface and shuffled into the water with masks, fins, and snorkels. Below the surface was another alien, though not nearly so forbidding a landscape. Myriad varieties of coral have covered the bottom with strange and beautiful shapes and colors, and an amazing number of different kinds of colorful fish are in great abundance. We paddled along slowly, enchanted.

Corrugated fingertips were a clue that we’d been in the water a long time, so we headed back to the beach for some lunch. Before long though, we were back in the water, leisurely paddling along the shore in the opposite direction. In one spot we saw three sea turtles. The largest was almost a meter across the top of his shell, and he looked at us from no more than five feet away, completely unafraid. Moving slowly as not to alarm him, we swam above and alongside him for several minutes before we finally headed off in another direction.

Back in the car we drove back toward the main town of Kahului, then turned uphill, climbing up to turn back again on another road along the flank of the mountain. From high above the populated lowlands we watched the sun set behind distant clouds, and headed back one more time to Makawao for a sumptuous dinner of spaghetti carbonara and fettuccini with scallops at the elegantly appointed side of Casanova’s.

Tomorrow we fly to Hilo on the big island.

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