Thursday, October 7, 2010

Kailua-Kona - Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The ship came into port early but this is a place where we are “tendered”. That means that the ship stays out a half-mile or so of Kailua-Kona and we take small boats to shore. Probably the dock area is not deep enough. The cruise lines sometimes select other spots to be able to dock, but this makes it harder for passengers to get around town. When we got off the small boat, we could walk Kailua-Kona’s streets and get the lay of the land. This is the only place where we are not going to rent a car. The airport is eight miles away and there is not a shuttle provided to the rental car location.

We quickly realize that Kailua-Kona is not a sleepy town today. We notice that the beach area has been transformed into an Olympic-type swimming course. Hundreds of athletes are swimming the course. We notice huge signs with “Ironman” on them. We hear so many languages that we cannot decipher. We learn that this is a worldwide competition. Hard bodied men and women are standing around, making the average person look obese. The competition also features a bicycle portion. The bike course is 112 miles long. Not sure about the swimming portion, but obviously neither of us will be entering the race.
We found an older, white-haired guy in a Hawaiian shirt, hawking a “historical tour of Kona”. The tour includes a stop at the oldest Kona coffee plantation, founded in 1850. The Greenwell Plantation is one of hundreds of plantation, although it happens to be one of the largest. It has a processing facility on the property and so other farms sell their beans to Greenwell’s.

We decided to take the 3-½ hour tour. Besides the coffee plantation, we visited St. Benedict’s Historic Catholic Church, also known as the Painted Church. The founder of this parish realized that his primitive Hawaiian parishioners could not read. Being a painting enthusiast, he decided to take important stories from the Bible and paint them into murals on the interior church walls. Although not Michelangelo, the work was impressive. The church also had a parish cemetery, filled with above ground crypts. It wasn’t because of a high water table as it is in New Orleans, but because of the lava. The lava is so hard that it can only be dug down six inches.

We also stopped at the Place of Refuge Pu’uhanua O Hanaunau National Historic Park. Ancient Hawaiian people inhabited this preserved park. Reenactment areas were set up and a walking tour was designed for visitors. It was absolutely beautiful and it was clear why it was a beloved place. Carvings that look like Native American totem poles dot the area. Scary faces on those carvings! They were designed to keep invaders away. The beaches were actual lava rock and people were actually sunbathing on the hard surfaces. It was a rather hot day and so it must have been really warm on those rocks. The park also had some wildlife at home, including sea turtles and interesting birds.

Dennis and I have laughed over the last few days about the Hawaiian street names we have struggled to pronounce and names that Garmin has massacred. Our tour director explained that there are only fourteen characters in the Hawaiian language and one of the characters is an upside down type apostrophe. That explains why we see so few letters in Hawaiian words (King Kamehameha, for example). The apostrophe separates vowels into syllables. The true spelling of “Hawaii” is “Hawai’i”. The “w” is actually pronounced as a “v” within a word. It is pronounced as a “w” at the beginning of a word. So, it is pronounced, “Havai-i”. Enough of the language lesson for today. lol

We learned quite a bit about Kona coffee and now understand why it is so expensive. There is a relatively small area where designated Kona coffee is grown. It is a mere 22 miles north to south and a strip that begins 800 feet from the shore to 2,500 feet wide. Not much land. This specific area has a certain temperature average and up to 80 inches of rain per year. This is compared to only 8-10 inches in the town of Kailua-Kona!
When the coffee bean (more like a cherry) is picked, and is then processed, the volume of the bean ends up only being 1/7 of the original weight. So, a pound of Kona coffee requires seven pounds of beans to be picked. Wow. We also learned that 20% of all Kona coffee worldwide comes from the Greenwell Plantation. Once the beans are processed, they are sold to different coffee companies. The coffee companies actually roast the beans and then label the coffee with their name. The beans, prior to roasting can be preserved for two years.

We were lucky enough to actually see the beans on the trees and Dennis held a couple in his hand. The bean or berry is actually peeled. There are three layers before you get to the real bean that is roasted. The red portion is believed to be very good for you and is well known in the health food industry. A drink is made from the skin of the bean.

We had a chance to taste fourteen different flavors of the coffee (we only tried three). One unique flavor is made from Peaberry beans. Peaberry beans are not typical beans that look like two halves (kind of like a walnut half). Peaberry beans are single. It creates a Kona coffee that is sweeter. Mmmm. I bought a couple bags of this “gold” coffee. It will be brewed for special occasions in the next few months.

Sadly, we faced more cloudy skies today. Some of the pictures would have been so much more dramatic had we had sun and blue skies. Some of them with white skies will probably end up having a sunset behind them once Dennis is finished working with them in Photoshop. lol

We photographed the historic Hulihe’e Palace and another historic church in town. Dennis took a tender back to the ship and I walked around town a bit longer. I caught the last tender back to the boat. Once everyone was on board, the ship departed Kona.

Our final island will be the northernmost Hawaiian island, Kaua’i. We will be there for two days. It is reputed to be the most beautiful island, with gorgeous waterfalls and beautiful flowers.

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