The Road Past Hana Maui

Kau'iki Hill – Hana Maui

It’s easy to drive the road to Hana and see all the beauty along the way, but it’s hard to imagine what it was like living here in ancient times.  I’ve been on all kinds of tours all over the world.  I enjoy them because as a photographer and writer, it’s wonderful to have a guide to not only tell the stories of the land and people but to have someone to ask questions.  It often spurs my own imagination and gives me great research tips and things to track down later.  Many people on vacation often miss out on this information when they drive the road to Hana themselves.  They think in mainland terms such as “when we get to Hana we’ll stop and have lunch”, or “it’s only like 30 miles to Hana, we’ll be there in no time”.  Unfortunately, hours later when they arrive motion sick and dizzy from the winding road they realize Hana is a small town, I mean really small!  Driving through town to Hana bay is about a 2 minute drive.  But as you round the corner and see the canoes on the beach and the park pavilions with their concrete picnic tables don’t let the seemingly tranquil bay fool you.  At the far end of the bay where the boat dock is, look up to your right at the large hill sitting right on the bay.  This is Kau’iki Hill, and is a famous cornerstone in the history of the entire Hawaiian Island chain.

Hana Maui Bay

Hana Bay, Maui

waianapanapa state parkIn ancient Hawaii, Hana was an area favored by the Alii (royalty) and was the seat of power for the entire island.  One of these kings, who was of the great Piilani family of Maui chiefs*,  commissioned a road be built around the whole island. It took this king most of his lifetime and that of his two sons to finish it, but it united the villages and chiefs of Maui, and made this island one of the most powerful of all the islands.  So powerful in fact, that it was a major goal of Kamehameha to conquer it.

Over the centuries, stories have evolved which explain that Hana was attacked at least 4 times by invaders from the big island*.  This area changed hands with Hawaii chiefs several times and these stories of legendary battles were passed down for generations through chants. The fighting skill of the Maui warriors was well known on the Big Island, and they were well aware of the difficulty of taking Kau’iki Hill.   Kua’iki Hill could be seen from ocean going canoes and was a landmark for people coming as far away as the island of Kauai.  The chiefs and warriors of Hana were fierce fighters and many chants tell the tale of battles that raged from Kaupo to Nahiku, but over the centuries it was known that the fortified hill of Kua’iki was the last stand for defending Maui Chiefs*.

big island HawaiiMaui for years, but finally achieved it himself in what is estimated to be the 1790’s.  It took a fleet of 1000 canoes carrying an estimated 100 warriors each*.  This invading fleet of canoes filled every bay from Wainapanapa to Kipahulu.  The battles lasted for months and the Maui warriors beat these forces back several times.

alau island, hamoa beachIt is said that the warriors of Hana had a unique style of warfare in which they used slings and stones which enabled them to damage and even sink canoes from shore.  But the sheer numbers of invaders was too much to overcome, and the people fell back to their fortified fortress of Kau’iki Hill.  Even though it was well provisioned with food, spears and stones to throw down upon advancing fighters, Kamehameha found a weakness.  Freshwater springs existed on the eastern flank of the hill, and one of his trusted commanders found it and destroyed it in the dark of night.  hana bay beachEventually the hill was surrendered and Kamehameha moved on to battle the last of Maui’s chiefs in Iao Valley, where the waters ran red with the blood of so many killed.

Today Hana is one of the most peaceful and friendly places on Maui.  It’s beauty is heavenly, and this is how it should be experienced, but keep in mind that this beauty was fiercely fought for in ancient Hawaii, so please respect this hallowed ground and tread lightly.  Oh, and take your time and enjoy it, because it really is the land of royalty.

Aloha Nui Loa

Kipahulu*Moses Manu, The Story of Kihapiilani,Ka Nupepa Kuokoa, Aug. 9, 1884.  MS SC Sterling

*S.M. Kamakau, Ruling Chiefs of Hawaii, Translated from the newspaper Ke Au Okoa  1961 SC Sterling

*Abraham Fornander, An Account of the Polynesian Race: Its Origins and Migrations  London 1876-85

*Pi’opi’o State Park signage- Hilo, Hawaii – Kamehameha Schools Alumni Association, Mamalahoe Chapter

Sudbury Bush Planes

Sudbury, Nickel Capital Of The World

Sudbury Bush Planes

Planes Taking off from Lake Ramsey in Sudbury

Sudbury is the gateway to the North. It is located about 400 km north on highway 400 which eventually becomes Highway 69. Stopping in Barrie for dinner is a standard ritual as most people like to get out of Toronto as soon as possible to avoid traffic rush. As you drive into Sudbury I notice that it has definitely gotten greener since the last time we were here. There has been a massive re-greening process that has been going on for the past couple decades spearheaded by the mining industry that destroyed the land in the first place.

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This city was known for it’s moon like landscape as it was devoid of trees and most top soil. The city of Sudbury is located on the rim of a large crater that was created a couple hundred million years ago. The meteor impact brought a lot of minerals near to the surface in large quantities, especially nickel. There are probably a hundred mines in the area operated by either Falconbridge, now called Xtrata or Inco, now Vale Inco (lots has changed in 3 years since my last visit). During the process of refining the ore to extract the minerals a fuel was needed in the burning process. Trees were dumped into these long trenches and the ore trains would drive up to the edges and dump the ore from the mines on top. The wood was then burnt and the sulfur exhaust was given off crept along the surface killing everything in it’s path. Over the years the process has been improved and refined.

In 1970 the Super Stack was built to help push that noxious gas up into the jet stream. This helped reduce the air pollution in the city and pushed it further away. This change contributed to many things including acid rain that has killed many lakes hundreds or thousands of kilometers away. You can see it’s devastating effects in Killarney Provincial Park which is about 80 km south. You can see the Super Stack from about 40 km outside the city as it’s about 1500 feet tall. Mining has been a major part of the city for the last 125 years. It will be for many years to come as the prices and demand for minerals continue to increase worldwide.

The city also boasts things besides it’s mining achievements. There are lakes everywhere that are wonderful for swimming, boating or fishing. Bell Park is one of my favourite (getting my Canadian spelling on) swimming beach with a great place to jump into the water or to have a picnic under the trees. Our first time there this trip there was a thunderstorm as we started down to the water. Our swimming time was cut short as lightning hit the top of St. Joseph’s Healthcare Center which is located just next to the park (many of us were born in that hospital). The hospital of my birth will soon be closed as a new hospital is being built just down the road. I am proud to say that the patriarch of the family has contributed to the construction of many of the buildings in the city including Laurentation hospital, Science North, Laurentien University, Cambrian College and numerous mining industrial complexes. We would meet him often at this park during the summer months for lunch and sometime tour these buildings during construction or renovations.

The surrounding countryside is great for mountain biking, hiking, picking blueberries and building forts in the summer. In the winter it’s great for cross country skiing, snowmobiling, sliding and with all the lakes ice fishing too. You always run the risk of running into wild animals and sometimes they stroll right into the yard.

Sudbury is on the south rim of a large valley. The valley is a huge flat plain with great farming and many rivers. The Vermillion River is one that snakes through the center of the valley and is one that we know very well. We have canoed almost the entire river on many occasions over the past 30 years. Another beautiful river is the Onaping River which flows into the Vermillion. The Onaping Falls has been painted in many seasons but some very famous Canadian artists but I can’t remember who at the moment. All around the valley is great places to camp, fish and enjoy the outdoors. We didn’t have a lot of chances to do that since it thunder stormed every couple days.

Japanese Garden

St. Louis´ Other Wild Side

Immersed, I took in the sounds of screeching birds and pushed huge leaves from my path as I made my way to investigate the bursts of color that were still just a blur in the distance. I pressed on. After dodging the occasional puddle, I discovered the tropical pink pineapples, deep violet banana blossoms sprouting from their tree top perches some 25-feet above me and bright white orchids, all sprinkled with water droplets. The air felt even more moist than the flowers looked and I realized it was at least 20 degrees hotter than only just moments ago, yet somehow the sound of rushing streams made it seem less sweltering. As I wiped the sweat from my forehead, I almost forgot this was early March in downtown St. Louis.

Ottoman Garden

Ottoman Garden

I thought to myself that a botanical garden was an entertainment option most people don’t take advantage of in the big city. It was then that I realized that St. Louis was more than an arch, blues and riverboat gambling—it could be a natural oasis too. The Missouri Botanical Garden’s Climatron Conservatory hosts not only these plants but also displays an array of exotic animals, like poison frogs and puffer fish, and is just one of the 31 gardens and conservatories that stretch over some seventy-nine acres.

When back outdoors, I followed a walkway through electric blue magnolias and fountains, going from garden to garden and it even afforded me a pass by the 1850s Victorian estate of Englishman Henry Shaw, who founded the garden in 1859.

The English Woodland Garden certainly made up in aroma what it lacked in color. Among the simple green and brown, with only an occasional burst of yellow daffodils, I felt my eyes almost sting from the strong pine scent. The Boxwood Garden was full of walled hedges arranged in a maze I could have easily gotten lost in had they been taller than my knee. Manicured in the shape of an ancient emblem, this garden seemed to be stolen right out of another time. I stayed longer there than I did at any other garden, taking my time admiring the precision and craftsman ship—and resting.

Japanese Garden

Japanese Garden

After a break, I was eager to see the famous Seiwa-en Japanese landscape garden and it wasn’t long before I started noticing the perfectly rounded bushes and carefully drawn lines in the sand around them, known as Karesansui. Amidst the stone walkways and willows exploding in lavender blossoms was an old bridge where I fed the hungry aquatic animals below. I tossed the food over the side and had to laugh as I watched the ducks in fierce competition for my meager gifts of sustenance with the giant koi fish, who were considerably bigger. The downfall of this visit, aside from sore legs, was that I came too early to see the orchid show, which employees say is a favorite among visitors, who come from all over the world. They´ve met people who come from as far away as South Africa. Not bad for $8 a head, leg workout included free of charge.

The next day I found myself wiping my brow again as I entered the tropical conservatory at the Butterfly House in Faust Park. Approximately 60 species of butterflies from all over the world filled the room. Their sizes varied from as small as my palm to as big as my hand. Amongst the huge tropical plants, flashes of blood red, black, lime green, lemon yellow, purple and light and dark blues appeared and disappeared in the same instant right in front of me making the experience as nerve-racking as it was exhilarating, mostly because of the caution signs warning not to touch the butterflies, as it could injure or kill them. I found myself adopting a walking rhythm of slow, leery starts and panicked, abrupt stops when one would dart out in front of me. I regretted bringing my purse too. After a few accidental swings and close calls, I learned to keep it clutched to my side. Elsewhere in the Butterfly House are some not so desirable creatures like giant cockroaches, rhinoceros beetles and millipedes. The House, started eight years ago by Sohpia M. Sachs, is an educational facility, after all. So, though I groaned through it making faces, I figured it is only fair to display a full range of the Earth’s bugs, beautiful or not and I can put up with anything with a mere $6 admission.

The place that was most expensive and farthest to get to may have been the best of all three. The Meramec Caverns, located in Stanton, Mo., an hour outside the city, opened to the public in 1933. Further exploration revealed 26 miles of underground passages and as I found out, those 26 miles held a past full of rich history, natural phenomena and, surprisingly, pop culture.

It was the first time on this trip I was chilly as my tour group entered the first and largest of the cave’s rooms—the ballroom. It is not a nickname. Socials were held here in the 1930s as much as Boy Scout meetings are today. Complete with a disco ball, it houses up to 3,000 people. As green, blue, yellow and red lights lit the way, we were led through winding walkways with some low ceilings and up 58 slippery steps, which the guide later admitted to me was tourists’ least favorite part. One of our first stops was at Loot Rock, where Jesse James and his crew hid out from police. A million scenarios ran through my mind when the tour guide the pointed out the bear dens no more than ten feet away from it. We were also shown secret places where gun powder was made during the Civil War.

Hollywood has even been attracted to the cave on occasion. We were shown the spots where scenes were shot for Lassie, the famous fight between Tom Sawyer and Injun Joe in the film Tom and Huck and an episode of the show People Are Funny, in which two newlyweds got tricked into staying in one of the caves for a ten-day honeymoon.

It is a magnificent cavern that extends 364 feet below the ground and seven stories above it. The most fascinating parts of the tour for me were the formations, taking on shapes of a wine table, a curtain of stalactites up to 70 feet long and Onyx Mountain. This 33 million year old underground mountain is the 3rd largest in the world. While one side glows in peach, white and pale blue hues, the other side was black and dying from a lack of oxygen. Maybe the most intriguing feature of all was what the locals affectionately call Adam and Eve, a stalactite and stalagmite directly aligned and are the closest in the world to meeting and forming a column. On my way out, I decided that I would pay another $15 and do it all over again if I didn’t have to be back home the next day.

These special places showed me people can escape tourist traps and get to see what else there is to a big city other than concrete and congestion. When I looked past the typical big buildings, crowded bars and constant road rage, I found a whole new wild side to St. Louis.

Burning Man Burns in the Desert North of Reno Nevada

In the desert north of Reno Nevada there is a festival called Burning Man. This takes place over the labor day weekend every year and it’s quite a festival to behold. Our last trip here was back in 2003 and we have been really wanting to visit again. It was a great time and definitely worth the time and money to take part in this unique art festival.