Monday, December 12, 2016

Lovely Lana'i

We woke to tall orange volcanic cliffs towering above the boat. They looked unstable, and in fact I did see a small rock fall, sounding like gunfire and making white splashes in the blue sea. Five of us did yoga with Amanda on the top deck, struggling in my case with both being out of practice, and the motion of the boat, which made the balances even more challenging. But it was a peaceful way to start the day, and reminded me to breathe deeply as I sat through the tedious but unavoidable and very American safety lecture before our first snorkelling session - though, to be fair, Dai Mar and Mitch did do their best to make it funny too.
The sea was on the cool side - I keep forgetting that it's winter here, despite being in the tropics - but tolerable, and the snorkelling was sufficiently good to be distracting. It helped that Dai Mar is a marine biologist and easily excited by the sea life, which was quite catching. Pyramid butterfly fish? A deep-sea reef dweller, everywhere but here! We were more spontaneously thrilled later to see dolphins riding the bow wave in fabulously clear water - but Dai Mar made sure we knew that this was the rare pantropical spotted dolphin, and special.
We were on our way to Lana'i, which was until 1992 mostly owned by Dole. They have now taken their pineapples to countries with cheaper labour, and the island is since 2012 98% owned by Oracle man Larry Ellison, who is gentrifying it. A long curved avenue bordered by tall, narrow Cook Island pines took us to the ambitiously-named Lana'i City - a town of around 3,500 people. It centres on Dole Park, which is full of pine trees and surrounded on all four sides by neat, painted wooden buildings, one of which is a cinema that Larry has made state-of-the-art (showing, appropriately, Moana while we were there). It reminded me of Cape Cod - it felt much more American than Pacific. 1950s America, though, with kids trailing home from school, riding their bikes on the footpath, one girl yelling out "Hello, Uncle!" to a man mounting his motorbike under the trees. Good eateries, galleries and museum - and 13 varieties of Spam in the grocery shop.
Our driver, Isaac, was funny and garrulous (it's called 'talking story' in Hawaii), sharing tales of his slightly wayward youth - regular detentions in the prison featured - but claiming no crime on Lana'i. When a new policeman arrived and growled at the locals for encouraging theft by leaving their keys in the ignition, people said, "But dude! You're from Maui!"
We took a walk along a tall, sheer cliff (about which we received no safety warnings) to look out over Sweetheart Rock and its ancient and mysterious wall, where Mitch told the tragic love story that explains it. Rich orange rock, low sun, sparkling sea, a bright red cardinal, an ugly cane toad... Nice place. Not many tourists get here - but we did, thanks to UnCruise.

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