We explored Oahu with our traveling friends, Glenn and Dorothy Marsh. Jim drove us to our destinations: Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial, the Punchbowl National cemetery, and the shoreline from Waikiki to the east, around the base of Diamond Head, and back on a highway trough the mountains.
The next day we drove to the North Shore, hoping to see some big surfing waves. The scenery was nice, but there were no big waves. We walked in the Waimea Valley Audubon Center, enjoying gardens with plants from around the world. Waimea Falls were powerful as a result of recent rain.
Our friends, Georgene and Ed Yamada, met us at the airport. We visited the home they built after the hurricane Iniki struck their old plantation house in 1991, and then we all had lunch together. Our Elderhostel started with dinner at our hotel. We spent five days exploring Kauai.
Nelson, our leader, is Hawaiian. He taught us about the culture and brought in excellent speakers on language, history, geology and weaving. We went on field trips all around the island: east and north to the Kilauea Point National Wildlife, the Waioli Mission House and Hanalei Beach, where many movies have been filmed. We also saw taro and guava plantations. We went west to the Kauai Museum, the Grove Farm Museum, the National Tropical Botanical Garden and a blowhole called Spouting Horn. We learned that sugarcane growing is no longer productive on the island. We then went north to Waimea Canyon, dramatic with red soil, dark green vegetation and sculpted landforms. In the center of the island, usually covered by clouds, we could see the 5,028-foot Mount Wai`ale`ale, an ancient volcano. The mountaintop rainfall is more than 400 inches a year, making it one of the wettest spots on earth and creating a swamp on top of the mountain. Our weather along the coast was a mixture of sun and clouds with some rain, but we comfortably wore shorts all the time.
We flew to Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii for the next five days. Our University of Hawaii at Hilo leader, Claudia, met us with flower leis. She introduced us to knowledgeable guides on field trips to Hawaii National Volcanoes Park and the town of Kalapana, which has been destroyed by lava. It was impressive to stand on a thick crust of lava that has covered 180 homes. We listened to the story of displacement told by a Hawaiian woman who grew up in Kalapana. Her dream is to construct a cultural center where the families can return and the children can still learn the stories and way of life from the elders.
We walked in a lava tube, felt the waters of a geothermal pool, explored a reef ecosystem and saw the tallest falls in Hawaii, 420 feet high. We visited the Lyman House and Museum, learning about the many cultures that came to Hawaii and the missionaries who came to teach in the 1800s. The Hawaiians quickly became literate once the missionaries devised an alphabet for their oral language and then taught them to read and write.
We learned about hula and chants from a woman who came to the islands and adopted the culture for her own. We also visited the highly rated Hilo Farmers Market, an orchid grower and some elegant gardens with unusual plant specimens.
When the day of departure arrived, we were sorry to say good-bye to a group of Elderhostelers we had enjoyed meeting. Nelson had said it was a pleasure to be with people who truly cared about learning, and Claudia commented on the high caliber of questions she had been asked. As students, we appreciated the enthusiasm and friendliness of our leaders and speakers. We said “Mahalo nui loa” for adding to our understanding of Hawaii and its people. “Thank you very much.” Aloha.