Hawaii & a kiss of Polynesian Culture!

Possibly, our earliest association with Hawaii is a Bollywood song from the 1987 movie, Mr.India! :)

The islands of Hawaii form an archipelago of islands in the Pacific. The 50th state of USA is also the only island state of the US. An interesting fact – There are only 12 letters in the Hawaiian alphabet – A,E,I,O,U,H,K,L,M,N,P,W – that explains why all the places in Hawaii sound similar and confusing!

Some of the most popular Hawaiian islands are the Big Island, Maui and Oahu. We chose to visit the Big Island and Oahu as all the attractions we were interested in, were on these islands.

The highlight of our trip was a visit to the active volcano – Kilauea, one of the most active in the world! Kilauea is one of the 5 volcanoes that form the Big Island and is still continuing emission from a 1983 eruption. Visitors can see the crater of the volcano up close. We were also lucky enough to see some molten lava flow down the hillside, making its way to the sea.

Near the volcano there are a few Black Sand beaches which are formed when the sea erodes volcanic rocks and deposits the sand along the coast. The Black Sand beach south of the volcano is also frequented by Hawaiian Sea Turtles which are protected by the law. It was ‘cute” to see them hoist themselves out of the water and up the beach! :)

Hilo is the city you would fly to, closest to the volcano. Along the Hilo Bay, is the Banyan Drive lined by Banyan trees planted by many celebrities. Some of these trees were claimed by the sea in Tsunamis of the past.

Unknown to us as we took off from Hilo to Oahu, a massive earthquake had just hit Chile in S.America. In the aftermath, Tsunami waves were expected to hit the Pacific, all the way to Japan. Caught in the middle are the islands of Hawaii!

The next day we woke up to calls from family telling us about the impending disaster. Soon, at 6am Tsunami alert sirens blared throughout the entire state. People were asked to stay away from the beaches. Guests at hotels along the beaches were evacuated to the third floor and above. We packed, put all our things in the car and drove away from our hotel. There was chaos everywhere. Cars where backed up to more than a block to fill up on fuel. People were advised to stock up on drinking water and food for an entire week. This left the shelves in all supermarkets, empty in no time at all! Throngs of people waited with shopping carts, just to get into the supermarkets! We weren’t very concerned with hoarding up on food, though we did buy lots of water and food to last the entire day. Some tourists like us were squatting in McDonalds with all their stuff and the line of people waiting to be served extended way outside the eatery.

Our hideout during the Tsunami warning was the Dole Plantations, located on high grounds in the middle of the island. Dole has the Guinness Book of World Record’s World’s Largest Maze. One can easily spend 2hrs in the maze, looking for the 8 hidden stations within it! After wandering around lost for some time, we decided to follow the kids and squeeze through shortcuts that were cut into the maze walls! :)

As soon as the Tsunami all-clear was sounded, we spent the rest of the day cruising all around Oahu’s coast, exploring the beautiful blue beaches along the way. Kualoa, on the windward side of the island has breathtaking beautiful mountains. A host of movies like Jurassic Park, Godzilla, Mighty Joe Young, 50 First Dates, You Me & Dupree, Windtalkers, Tarzan, Pearl Harbor (to name a few) and TV series like LOST were shot here.

Historically, Oahu is famous for Pearl Harbor. The Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor was the immediate reason for USA joining World War II. The visit to the memorial built over the sunken USS Arizona begins with a very touching 30min movie. A small amount of oil still leaks from USS Arizona and is referred to as ‘Black Tears’ of sorrow of the victims of the attack. Also open to tourists are USS Bowfin, a sub built after the Pearl Harbor attack and USS Missouri, the ship on which Japan signed surrender.

Luau, a Hawiian traditional feast, is a must-do in Hawaii. It is a night of huge amounts of food (usually a buffet), Hawaiian village style activities and dance entertainment by folks from the Polynesian islands of Hawaii, Samoa, Tahiti, Fiji and Tonga. I had a temporary tattoo done and made my own headband of flowers. We also tried our hand at a few native games. Guests are welcomed to a Luau with a ‘lei’ (garland) greeting and Mai Tai (a Hawaiian drink). There are some essential Luau rituals like the Imu Ceremony. ‘Imu’ is an underground oven dug out of the earth and lined with hot stones, charcoal and covered with layers of cloth and leaves. A pig that was roasting in this pit for several hours, is unearthed during the Imu ceremony. The roast pig is turned in a typical Hawaiian dish called ‘Kalua’, for the guests.

Saw a volcano in action and survived a Tsunami threat. Our respect for nature and faith in God increased in leaps and bounds, thanks to this trip! :)

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