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Jungle

Started: 2018-04-16 11:29:31

Submitted: 2018-04-22 18:06:40

Visibility: World-readable

In which the intrepid narrator visits a botanical garden and sees a waterfall in the jungle north of Hilo

On Thursday, 29 March, I took a call in the morning, so we didn't end up leaving the house until around 11:00. (I felt conflicted about taking the call versus seeing all of the things I wanted to see in Hawaii; but no one else seemed to mind the leisurely morning at home.)

Our first stop was Target in Hilo, where we picked up a swim suit for Calvin, as well as various other provisions. (We did not discover that Calvin's current swim suit no longer fits him until he tried to change into it at the beach the previous day.) I also got gas to fill up my Yukon XL, which was a costly experience. (Not only was the the large SUV a gas-guzzler (its navigation computer estimated average consumption at 18 miles per gallon) but retail gasoline in Hawaii was more expensive than even San Francisco, since everything for sale on the island had to be shipped to Oakland or Seattle or Long beach, then carried across the ocean on a Matson ship.)

Our next objective was the Four-Mile Scenic Drive, a narrow winding stretch of highway running along the coast north of Hilo. The jungle closed in around the road, giving the feeling of driving through a (well-lit, green) tunnel, punctuated with stunning views of the ocean.

We stopped at the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, nestled in a narrow valley with a small parking lot that nonetheless had space to park my vehicle. We crossed the road to enter the botanical garden, and immediately began descending a long boardwalk running down a narrow valley with brilliant green jungle on both sides. As I expected from a botanical garden, many of the plants were identified with nameplates, though I couldn't help but notice that most of the plants were not native to Hawaii, but originated in mainland tropical forests. I was especially interested by the placement of the orchids: most of the garden's palm trees had orchids attached to their trunks using nearly-invisible monofilament, attractively placed around eye level.

Cascades in the jungle at Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden
Cascades in the jungle at Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden

I was amused by one plant in particular, a plant with broad leaves that reminded me of a banana plant that was identified as "Firecracker Heliconia", presumably because its flower looked just like a string of firecrackers.

Firecracker Heliconia
Firecracker Heliconia

The path took us down to the ocean and back in a loop, past more trees and plants than I could count, many of them identified with little signs.

Kiesa, Julian, Calvin, and Sasa look at the ocean
Kiesa, Julian, Calvin, and Sasa look at the ocean

After we completed our loop, we continued along the Four-Mile Scenic Drive and stopped at What's Shakin', a nearby lunch spot recommended by one of my guidebooks. They seemed to grow much of their own produce in the back, with several avocado trees and a bunch of banana plants. Their menu was centered around numerous shakes, plus a variety of sandwiches and other lunch foods, and it was all good.

Akaka Falls viewed from the parking lot
Akaka Falls viewed from the parking lot

Properly fortified by lunch, we continued up the road to Akaka Falls State Park, which my guidebooks assured me had a 400-foot waterfall. We could see the top of the falls from the parking lot; for a better view, we walked the short lollipop loop trail to see a secondary waterfall, past a grove of banyan trees with massive aerial roots hanging ominously from their limbs, looking like tentacles waiting to entrap unsuspecting passersby.

Large aerial roots
Large aerial roots

Then we reached the overlook where we could see the full length of Akaka Falls, from top to bottom, a thin strand of water falling free from the volcanic rock to the thundering basin far below. The green of the jungle was muted under overcast skies but the scene was magnificent.

Akaka Falls
Akaka Falls

By the time we made it back to our vehicle, it was late afternoon and I'd run out of things I wanted to do. We drove back to Hilo, past the monument showing the high-water-mark for three separate tsunamis in the twentieth century, and stopped at Liliuokalani Gardens, perched on a a grassy park on the shore of Hilo Bay.

Julian crosses a bridge at Liliuokalani Gardens
Julian crosses a bridge at Liliuokalani Gardens

We walked through the sedate Japanese-style gardens in a public park, with ornamental ponds and stylized bridges nestled between towering banyan trees and outcroppings of volcanic rock.

Liliuokalani Gardens
Liliuokalani Gardens

Our final stop was Coconut Island, a little park on a small island in the bay. There were a few small sandy beaches providing swimming access to the murky water in Hilo Bay, plus picnic tables and a shelter. The view back to Hilo and the island's summits of Manua Kea and Manua Loa might have been better if not for the overcast skies.

Calvin, Kiesa, Sasa, and Julian at Coconut Island
Calvin, Kiesa, Sasa, and Julian at Coconut Island

We drove back to our Airbnb on Banyan Drive, a boulevard lined with massive banyan trees planted by various famous people in the twentieth century -- including one planted by Richard Nixon. The trees were labeled with signs indicating who had planted them, which proved to be hard to read while one was driving past.

We ate supper at our Airbnb (mostly leftovers from various restaurant meals over the week), and made plans for our last full day in Hawaii.

For more pictures from the jungles around Hilo, see Photos on 2018-03-29.

If you want to kiss the sky, you had better learn how to kneel.
- U2, "Mysterious Ways"