Our day started early with our group boarding a tour bus which would take us from Kona to Hilo. Our driver, Danny, had been driving that route for 10 years and made the day a great experience. He made a hit with me right away when he said he enjoyed his job because the people were always different – “Like you, wow” he grinned. Naturally he got a good tip.
As we toured along the coast and across the island, he stopped and broke off branches of Macadamia trees, coffee trees etc. to pass around so we could see how they grew. We also saw sugar cane, bananas, papaya, guava, coconuts, and others. We passed by Jimmy Stewart’s macadamia ranch and his ranch sign was out near the highway. We also passed along the Parker Ranch - 331,000 acres, second only in size to the King Ranch in Texas. The Parker Ranch was still the largest owned by a single family. Other interesting sites were the longest mountain in the US, the southernmost tip of the US, and a large old tree planted by Mark Twain. Danny couldn’t believe his eyes as we approached this beautiful secluded area and there, hanging from this historic old tree, was a sign that said “Garage Sale”!
At the outset of our drive, Danny informed us that we would reach our first comfort station in about 15 minutes. Thereafter, on the quarter hour he would reassure us that our comfort stop would be in about 15 minutes. However, some two hours and eight announcements later, we did stop in a lovely spot before continuing on to the volcanic areas of our tour.
On our way up to the Kilauea Crater, the only active Crater, we viewed the ’71 lava flow that was so destructive. Our driver had watched that eruption and flow for two days. We were told that it takes a crater forty years to cool after an eruption. We stopped by the lava flow from a 1920s eruption, where the astronauts trained because it was so similar to the surface of the moon. Only a short distance away, there is enough snow for skiing three months out of the year. After viewing many of the lava flows, we were driven to the top of the big volcano Kilauea for spectacular sites.
There is a constant flow of steam-like vapor and strong odor escaping from the surface. Having seen the top of the volcano where its hot, dry surface erupts, we then took the bus back down to its base. Here, the lush, green, tropical surroundings were unbelievable. Only two miles apart from the moon-like surface, where there is a yearly rainfall of six inches, here is a rainforest that gets 100 inches a year. There is a tunnel right through the base of the volcano, which allowed us to walk all the way through. A chilling experience in more ways than one.
Before leaving the area we enjoyed a delicious buffet at Volcano National Park Restaurant, and then viewed a beautiful color film in their theater showing the actual fiery eruptions, and flow of the Kilauea volcano. In contrast to the dry, barren craters, our next stop was a nursery where the plant life abounded in vibrant colors, and orchids and anthuriums dominated the scene. Our trip to Hilo continued, and the driver pointed out a tree-line street of banyan trees, all planted by famous people including Mr. and Mrs. Nixon, Amelia Earhart, Franklin Roosevelt, and Cecil B. DeMille. Hilo is located on the rainy side of the island, which is plush and green with oriental landscaped parks. We stopped at the beautiful Rainbow Falls State Park and climbed to the top of the Falls.
All good things must come to an end, and so our tour of the island of Hawaii was over. While waiting for our flight out of Hilo on Aloha, we sipped on those exotic cocktails in the lounge. Our plane stopped over at, of all places, Kona, before going onto Maui. Two pretty recent high school graduates from Texas were just arriving for their first visit to the islands and they were bubbling over with enthusiasm in that familiar southern drawl. One of the girls works for Shell Oil, and we laughed at her “welcoming committee” when we landed at the airport and two Shell trucks pulled up alongside our plane. After they deplaned, another young girl visiting her friend was enroute to Maui, and just as excited. For the next 20 minutes she would be my seat companion along with a six year old girl, Simily, who was traveling alone. It really made me feel like I’d waited much too long for this trip! Simily was very bright and chattered incessantly the entire flight while clutching her teddy bear. It was the roughest of any flight we had, and it didn’t calm my nerves that most of her remarks indicated that we were going to crash! The whole time I was reassuring her that we weren’t, I was secretly saying to myself that she was probably right. Simile had been visiting her father in Hawaii and was on her way home to Maui. When I asked her how long she’d lived there, she replied, “about 20 years!”
When we landed in Maui and got off the plane I could understand how the plane had bounced around. We had been warned by our tour guide to really “hang on” while getting off, because of the strong winds. It was the strongest wind I’ve ever encountered, including Oklahoma. In fact, the wind blows so hard on the Maui beaches that the sand blows against you with a painful sting. I found it necessary to sun on the grassy lawn of my hotel bordering the beach.
One of the couples on our tour must have been from Oklahoma. As we boarded our bus for the hotel I heard him sarcastically remark to his wife how much he loved the wind – – – it was just like home. She reported that she “liked it,” and that naturally if she liked something, he wouldn’t! So much for happy couples traveling together. I was thankful there had been no irritating quarrels during my entire trip to spoil its contentment. Another interesting tour member of our group was never seen except for flights between islands, and buses to and from our hotels. This Hicksville senior citizen never spoke, but sat with hands folded, looking straight ahead, with her straw hat askew and ever present white ankles and black oxfords.
After a forty minute drive, we arrived at our hotel about 7:30. As we were standing around waiting for our room keys, I was approached by a man staying at the hotel who offered to buy me a drink after I checked in. He was nice looking, and it was a tempting offer, but since he was “waiting for the boat to come in,” so to speak, I figured he must be desperate, and fortunately I wasn’t! I just said thank you, and went on my way. After getting settled in my room, I walked down to Whalers Village a couple of blocks away. Quaint shops and restaurants and old whaling artifacts abounded. I ran into a few people on our tour and we stopped at an outdoor pizza parlor for a late dinner which was very good. I took my doggy bag back to my hotel refrigerator and feasted on “cold“ pizza two days later.
It has been a long, long day since we started our long bus tour across Hawaii at 7:30 AM and my satin pillowcase was never more welcome!