Mature Life Features

Cecil Scaglione, Editor

Big Island Memorializes Liberated Queen

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By Igor Lobanov

Mature Life Features








The Hale o Keawe temple at Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Park on the BigIsland once was the home of the Hawaiian aristocracy.

— Big Island Visitors Bureau photo

HAWAI’I —- It wasn’t your average royal-family spat. It required a renowned English mariner to navigate the emotional shoals to resolve it.

  Queen Kaahumanu, a liberated woman for day, was adored by her people and was the first King Kamehameha’s favorite among his 21 wives. But her independent ways were a source of conflict with the warrior monarch.

One day, she ran away. She eluded her pursuers and, accompanied by her dog,  swam four miles across Kealakekua Bay to what is now Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park. Hawaiian custom prescribed that those who violated kapu (the ancient code of law) and made it to this lava-tipped intrusion into the sea some 20 miles south of Kailua-Kona were safe from harm. Priests provided ritualistic purification, allowing the law-breaker to return home.

Still fearful, Kaahumanu hid behind a large stone that still stands along the short nature trial and was discovered when her dog barked, but she refused to leave her hiding place.

The king opted for diplomacy in the person of Capt. George Vancouver, the British explorer who happened to be visiting. Persuasion carried the day. The queen emerged and was reunited with her husband.
The year was 1792, and King Kamehameha (The Great) was  warring with powerful chieftains throughout the Hawaiian chain. In the next decade, he would unite the islands into a kingdom that would launch Polynesian Hawaii’s golden age and endure till the dawn of the 20th century.

His reign initiated a family dynasty spanning 80 years with five successive Kamehameha sovereigns. Those who followed included the popular Merrie Monarch, King David Kalakau, whose devotion to preserving nature, music, and dance ranged from sponsoring free nightly theatrical performances in front of his palace in Honolulu to reviving the revered hula, the story-telling dance condemned by straight-laced missionaries.
King Kamehameha I restored the  Ahu’ena Heiau, an ancient temple to the god of prosperity, Lono. It remains on the grounds of the King Kamehameha Kona Beach Hotel in Kailua-Kona. Visitors can view the carved idols along its outer walls but the interior, still considered sacred, is open only to Hawaiians. The colorful early-June parade through town commemorating Kamehameha’s birthday ends here.
Other remnants of ancient Hawaii include the ancient fish ponds and petroglyphs on the grounds of the Mauna Lani Resort to the north in the Kohala district.
To fully grasp the Big Island’s startling range of natural beauty, consider a self-drive tour of at least two or three days for the 200-plus-mile circuit. From the Kona International Airport, it’s a 10-minute drive to the tourist center of Kailua-Kona, with its historic buildings and white-sand beaches. Continuing south, you pass through small settlements and  the stark lava landscape at the bottom of the island.

The route rises to north almost imperceptibly to 4,000 feet above sea level and the entrance to the island’s premier attraction: Volcanoes National Park. Give yourself several hours to view the home of Pele, goddess of fire, and the ongoing interaction between molten lava the island’s vegetation, wildlife, and human habitation.
Then it’s downhill to the rainy windward side and Hilo, the island’s administrative center. Better known as a “natural greenhouse,” Hilo’s verdancy marks the gateway to the Hamakua Coast, a north-shore region with towering waterfalls, lush rainforests, and gentle communities whose lifestyle differs sharply from the resort-oriented sunny west coast. Waipio Valley, a bit of Eden extending inland, is home to a few farms. It’s accessible only by locally available four-wheel vehicles or on horseback.

As you roll around the northern end of the Kohala Coast, you run into a string of fine accommodations. First in line is Laurence Rockefeller’s legendary Mauna Kea Beach Hotel. Perhaps you’ll arrive in time for dinner on the terrace at dusk, and be as lucky as we were to see a crescent moon hanging over the evening star. Later, we strolled to a nearby rocky point to watch manta rays surface seeking dinner among fish drawn to the illuminated waters.

Mature Life Features, Copyright 2003

Written by Cecil Scaglione

September 22, 2011 at 12:05 am

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