Saturday, February 27, 2016

Aloha from Hawaii

Welcome to paradise. What does one think off when one hears Hawaii? For me it was beaches, volcanoes and pineapples. I'm not a great swimmer (I always look like I'm in survival mode, flailing around), I don't surf (except on the internet) and I don't need to work on my tan (I'm already a rich mocha). But I did enjoy snorkeling. It was like being in an aquarium. The colorful corals and fish set in stunning turquoise blue waters was breathtaking (no, I wasn't choking on the snorkel mask). It's a whole other world out there that we don't think about. So much color, so much life, so much beauty. I have always said that I wish I could fly, but now I think swimming to the depths of the ocean would be a nice super power as well.

The volcanic landscape is from out of this world. The Halleakala crater has been rightly described as a lunar landscape. It is completely barren and so quiet that it is unnerving. The brilliant rock colors kaleidoscopic. As an aside, the sunset from 10k feet, above the clouds made me feel like I was in heaven. While Halleakala on Maui is an older volcano and has been eroded, Kilauea on the Big Island is younger. I walked on lava that was completely hardened only 20 years back. Hiking on a lava lake while listening to birdsong is an surreal experience. It's a stark contrast of beauty and destruction. The rocks splintered and cracked rocks make for fascinating patterns. And while life has begun to find it's way onto the lava field in the form of grass and shrub, it was fascinating to imagine the volcano with its blazing cauldron sloshing and exploding. The raw power of nature in all it's glory. One evening, I viewed a glowing lava field from a distance. Even from a mile, you could sense the power of the underworld forces. I visited a town that was threatened by lava flows last year. It's unnerving to see that wherever the lava had flowed, the land was completely destroyed with no hopes of rebuilding for a long time. Damn nature, you are scary. Oh and to top it all, you land on a lava field at the Kona airport.

One thing I noticed was that there were only Hawaii plate cars around. Then I realized that I was on one of the most isolated islands in the world. And how they hell did the Polynesians find these tiny pieces of rock in the vast Pacific? One of humanity's great mysteries. They navigated to these islands without modern instruments. Look it up. I talked to one of the guys who moved to Hawaii 10 years back about the difference between life on the mainland and life on the islands. He said there is a greater sense of community and belonging as the land and the people are finite. You can't be rude to anyone as you never know when your paths will cross again. There is a greater involvement in community affairs due to the culture and the small size of the community. And imagine there actually being a limit on options available. For e.g cars, doctors, lawyers, hotels, etc. If you don't find something you like, you actually have to accept it and you can't say I'll drive a 100 miles to find it.

A few thoughts about travel in general. For me being on vacation is not a matter of checking things of a list. I do like taking pictures like the ones already there on the internet. But being on vacation is more than that. It is being: present to yourself and to the sights around you. It is about seeing something new and experiencing something different. It is good to identify the goals of travel. For me setting expectations is the first step towards satisfaction. The goals could be bucket list, pictures, nature, food, people, experiences, getting away or being open for something new. It also helps to understand the difference between pleasure, happiness and joy. And I believe the questions to be answered is, how does travel lead to joy?

In these early days of my trip, I do feel a little overwhelmed. A sense of loss after the farewells coupled with being on the road for the next few months makes me a little uneasy. But I know that as I settle into a routine and learn to be more present to myself and to God, I will be more at ease with this whole adventure. After all this has been my dream for a long time. I look forward to new sights, experiences, food, people and adventures.

If you don't like raunchy humor, please stop here and wait for my next post in a few days. So I was at a beach the other day. The turquoise blue water and white sands made for a spectacular setting. As I pondered on how to capture it with my camera, I spotted a path leading up to a small cliff at one end of the beach. As I neared the top with my camera in hand, I saw the path continue further down to another beach. And lo and behold I was at a nude beach. It was as unexpected as the Spanish Inquisition. There were no signs expect for one that said no life guards on duty. I guess naked people have a natural buoyancy? I quickly put away my camera and selfie stick, because who wants to be seen at a nude beach with those things in hand? I avoided eye contact as it was difficult to make eye contact and I wasn't sure if it was against nude beach etiquette. I didn't want to butt heads with anyone. Now, nudists are usually the kind of people you don't want to see naked. I would say it wasn't the case this time. For a split moment, I considered putting and checking of 'swimming naked at a nude beach' off my bucket list. And as Nelly says "It's getting hot in here, so take off all your clothes." It was a hot day and it was tempting. I could end this post right here, but I'm not the kind of guy to leave anything hanging. At that moment I was too afraid of raising any red flags as I wasn't sure of the do's and don'ts at a nude beach. What if they went nuts all of a sudden? What if they didn't appreciate my assets? Some of them looked a little testy. So I threw in the towel and left, saving my birthday suit swim for another day. All puns, real or imaginary, in this account are intended.


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  2. Would have brought new meaning to the term "dark temptation". The kind of ending I would have gladly paid to read about, eh? ;-)