Somewhere Over Pololu (Hawaii, Day 5)

Rainbow curls over the black sand beach of the Pololu Valley on the Big Island of Hawaii

A rainbow arcs over the black sand beach of the Pololu Valley on the Big Island of Hawaii.

It’s not often I get to dive. Yes, I live in SoCal, but the water there is downright frigid, so I haven’t been since my beginner certification many moons ago. My volcano flight wasn’t until the next late afternoon, so I booked myself on a morning dive with Kona Honu Divers once again. This time out, we hit Koloko Arches, which had wonderful arch and tunnel formations that made me wish I’d sprung for that underwater camera. We spotted a host of critters, including a crown of thorns starfish and several eels.

After my dive, I headed north up the Kohala coast in search of the Puako petroglyphs and ran into a band of scavenger hunters. I so badly wanted to crash their party and join in, especially when I learned it was part of an Internet conference, but I let the nerds be.

Puoko petroglyphs on the Big Island's Kohala Coast

Puoko petroglyphs on the Big Island’s Kohala Coast

Next stop: Hapuna beach, the oft-named “finest beach in the country.” Yes, it was pretty and the sand was powder white, but beyond that, I didn’t get why it receives so many accolades. I found Oahu’s Kailua far more picturesque and inviting. To each his own.

Café Pesto turned out to be a bit of a letdown. For all the hype this Italian restaurant receives, it didn’t do much for me, and you can’t blame it on the vegetarianism since the waiter recommended my pizza before I’d explained my dietary restrictions. I think I might have been able to teach the chef a thing or two about Italian cuisine.

The highlight of the day came while driving the final stretch of route 270, through picturesque Hawi and its Old West storefronts. At the end of the road sits the Pololu Valley, a majestic swath of green that tumbles down to a black-sand beach rimmed by steep emerald cliffs. The view from the top was wonderful, but The Book declared the 20-minute trek to the bottom even more photogenic, so down I went, a fine mist acting as natural coolant. About halfway down I began to ponder the return trip upwards and so confirmed the validity of The Book’s decree via a passing Aussie before continuing the descent.

The black sand beach of the Pololu Valley, on the Kohala Coast of Hawaii's Big Island

The black sand beach of the Pololu Valley, on the Kohala Coast of Hawaii’s Big Island

I wouldn’t say it’s that much prettier at the bottom, at least not when it’s misting/raining, but I am glad I spent extra time in the valley. The beach was the first I’d stood on that was an usual color, and I found it interesting that my camera had such a difficult time reconciling this contrast, especially when challenged with a composite of just my pasty white legs and black sand. I think that shot almost fried the processors. In spite of the superstition against taking lava rocks, I scooped a spoonful of sand for my grandmother, who for some reason has begun a collection of soil from around the world, then began the climb back up the six or so switchbacks.

It was at this point that I noticed the most vibrant rainbow I’d ever set eyes on, an unbroken, iridescent arc that spanned from the valley’s green cliffs clear across the water, as if hoping to reach the Maui shore. I must have taken 20 photos of the rainbow, which appeared to glow against the gray mist, like a piece of Oz breaking back into Kansas. Perhaps one day I’ll get around to threading all the shots together.

Day 1: Escape From Cube Life
Day 2: Manta Heaven
Day 3: Paddling to My Death
Day 4: The Southernmost Gaffe in the United States
Day 5: Somewhere Over Polulu
Day 6: Grounded in Hilo
Day 7: To Fly or Not to Fly
Day 8: Don’t Make Me Go!

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