If you live long enough.....
Trip Start Apr 15, 2008
10Trip End May 17, 2008
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It started in Ho'okena...that's the campground where I was given the gift of swimming with spinner dolphins. In addition to that magical experience, I meet some delightful people, among them a woman about my age and her two daughters, ages 21 and 28. I immediately like them....she seems like a real salt of the earth kind of person...directly meeting my eyes when we talk and listening as well as sharing information about herself. And both her daughters have a real sparkly energy and an apparent enthusiasm that makes them a joy to be around. We share some time and then go our separate ways as travelers do. And then 2 days later, as I walk along this remote stretch of beach hoping to see some sea turtles, I instead see two faces poking out of a tent...the two young women as well as their mom wading thru the water, also looking for signs of life. A total surprise and a welcome one, no doubt.
They invite me to camp with them and I'm happy to be a part of their group...we put our random food items together and call it dinner and then sit until after sunset chatting...they're beginning to feel quite familiar to me...I only like them more as I learn about them more intimately. And then I learn that they're Mormons. And I'm really taken by surprise...they just don't fit my preconceived notion (otherwise known as stereotype) of what Mormons are like. Here I am feeling significant commonalities with a Mormon family...who would ever think?
Well our time only gets better and better. The next day we go snorkeling in search of sea turtles and we do find some but we also find some startlingly cold water which, when mixed with warm springs coming from under the ocean, results in a viscosity in the water that obscures our vision in spots. But the day is entirely delightful...this family has rented a 4WD and Linda, the mom, is more than willing to use it. We head to the Waipi'o Valley, only accessible with a vehicle like this....we drive down narrow steep and rutted slopes, and thru streams along the valley floor. We hike to a magnificent waterfall....we stand under it and get saturated...through every item of clothing we have...and try to snap some photos quickly, pretty much drenching the cameras in the process. These three women simply continue to defy my version of who they "should" be. I'm having the time of my life with people whose values I've always been completely perplexed by and have challenged whenever opportunity arose. And because of their openness and willingness to share, I'm learning about their values, and the unfolding of their lives, and feel nothing but compassion and joy at our connection.
After a delectable Thai dinner in Hilo at the Garden Snack Shop (or something like that---definitely check this place out - huge platters of fresh, impeccably spiced foods---check out the photos), we drop the girls off...Linda is headed back home tomorrow so we go back to the Kona side of the island to camp. Of course, it's gotten late and arriving at the campsite at midnight, we find the gates locked...guess we're way after curfew. It's pitch black out and a little intimidating but we hike on into the campground and get settled. All is well...
But the adventure isn't over. In an effort to make every second of her Hawaiian time count, we get up way too early and head over to Maclawena, a secluded white sand beach...that's only accessible by 4WD. Well this is the ultimate test of this vehicle...we're cruising over a lava-based road with ledges and ruts way deeper than anything I've ever driven on...that either of us have ever driven on I think. We keep trying to choose the best section of the road but the truth is there is no best section....and we come to the conclusion that it really doesn't matter where we drive...it's all a mess. I keep expecting to bottom out and lose the undercarriage...but astonishingly enough, it doesn't happen...well only once and only a little contact. This is a wild ride...but with the seat belts to keep us generally in the car, it's all very exhilirating and we make it to the beach and it's everything I've heard it to be.
And as we're walking and talking we just about trip over a sea turtle on the shore. And shortly after we see lots and lots of sea turtles, babies, teenagers and adults...rocking in the waves in water that's only about 1 or 2 feet...they're surfacing and feeding and playing in the water at our feet. More and more keep appearing....they're not frightened by our presence...we watch them, they watch us....it's incredible.
And then it's time to go...no actually it was time to go about an hour ago...it doesn't look as though there's any way Linda will make her plane...we bump our way out, hustle to the airport and say our goodbyes. And now I sit and reflect on the fun we all had together...but more than that, on a lesson that needed to be learned again, I guess. The lesson of non-judgment, of seeing every person and every experience with fresh eyes, with an open heart. The lesson of gifts that I will receive if I allow myself to receive them...sometimes those gifts come in the form of people. And my appreciation in being offered these new friends to share this time and this learning with.