Off to Waipio

Despite threats of flash flooding and torrential rains, we set off yesterday for the Eastern side of Hawaii. (Um, we lived in Florida for several decades & now live in upstate New York–give us vinyl ponchos a hoodies, a bottle of water and some Macadamia Crunch popcorn and we’re ready for anything Mother Nature’s got!). We made the right call.

We drove back through the rolling, tufted terrain of Hawaii’s ranches. The vast openness let us see both the bright blue peaking through the sky and the dense, angry clouds building around Mauna Kea. And the whipping wind seemed a permanent fixture: all the trees were bent away from it with little foliage on the side pummeled by the winds that must flow down from the mountains daily. Oddly, alongside these scrubby trees we also saw cactus!

Then, after Waimea, everything changed. The vegetation became lush, overwhelming, sometimes rising 30 feet on either side of the road. We were nearing the Waipio Valley–a beautiful green basin at the bottom of massive cliffs. Even the short walk to the overlook takes you down at a 45 degree angle, leaving you with a glimpse of black sand beaches crashed by white capped waves and a patchwork of green farms.

After proving my womanhood by raising back up the path in, I paused at the top, pretending to take in the majesty of the sea and actually trying to catch my breath while looking cool. Something caught my eye, and I grabbed Ned and the kids–within moments it all made sense: we were standing high above a pod of whales. Several started showing off–breeching high above the deep blue ocean. We could follow them for miles from that height. Amazing!!

At lunch, we stumbled upon Tex’s Drive-In, a restaurant recommended by Blaze–a Sheraton worker who provided a short overview of the island for us on our first morning and has somehow grown into a mythic figure in our running vacation narrative in a way that can only happen in our family.

Hawaii is full of these places called “drive-ins” that are really “drive-up & parks”–little locally owned restaurants serving burgers and plates (meat, mac salad & rice). Tex’s is famous for its Malasadas: Portuguese fried sweet dough, with an assortment of fillings. They’re deliciously addictive, like the jelly doughnut of your dreams! Whales & malasadas–and we’re only halfway through the day!

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