Friday, May 15, 2015

Sunsets and Turtles  (Part 1)

   I like to travel. 
   I have an unquenchable curiosity about the world. I blame it on all the reading I’ve done and the wonderful places that books have taken me. And, to be honest with you, I have trouble with my feet. They’re often itching to be away, these feet of mine, and travel scratches that itch. 
   So today, instead of blogging about my combative marriage and the humor to be found there, I thought I’d recall happier times in other lands. 
   Hawaii, for instance. 
   After a week in Hilo, Saucy Boy (that’s my wife’s nickname) and I drove over Saddle Road and arrived at our hotel in Kona just in time to register and settle in before sunset. What happy timing on our part, because they enjoy their sunsets at the Kona Tiki Hotel. Behind the hotel is a patio scattered with tables, surrounding a small swimming pool on three sides. The forth side is a low wall over which one looked straight out to the Pacific Ocean and the setting sun. Tiki-torches, lit by the guests, flamed golden nearby. 
   That first night we found ourselves sharing a table with another couple; Diana, an ex-pat American and her husband Paul, a true-blue Australian of the old school. She did most of the talking, while he topped up the drinks, grunting the occasional quip. He was a quietly hilarious guy with a dry Aussie humor that I found irresistible. Gin and Tonic was their drink, like ours, so we shared a few, turning our chairs to gaze at the beautiful sunset roaring into our eyes. As the sky darkened our conversation ceased and we sat in silent contemplation, sipping our drinks. 
   Up came the moon and down went the gin.
   If our time at Waikiki had been Hawaiian urban ukulele chic, and our time in Hilo rural verdant waterfall lushness, our time at Kona was sea and sunsets. Every day, after a simple breakfast at the hotel, we headed for one of half a dozen beaches recommended by guidebooks or locals, all quite close by car. Arriving at the beach we dropped our towels under a coconut palm, applied sunscreen and stepped the few feet to waters edge. Saucy Boy, the flat of her hand shielding her eyes, stood and scanned the horizon. I laughed and called her the Ancient Mariner. 
   “Look who’s talking, graybeard,” she said, giggling and stroking my chin. I hadn’t shaved in a few days, beach-bum style. She smelled of coconut from the sunscreen and her smooth, tanned skin was warm to the touch.  
   “Come on,” I said. “Let’s see if there’re any fish.”
   Holding hands we threaded our way through the tourists and submerged in waist-deep water. After an unflattering view of huge white tourist thighs, my goggled eyes sighted bright yellow Tang fish, nipping at the swaying grassy stuff that grew on the rocks below. A large Rainbow Parrotfish darted by, chasing something or being chased. There were fish everywhere! I adjusted my breathing, reminding myself to relax, and looked around for Saucy Boy. We headed along the reef away from the tourists. Not ten minutes into our first swim we spotted a sea turtle, swimming in about fifteen feet of water, languidly stroking for the open ocean. Saucy Boy was elated and we followed it for awhile, careful not to touch or hinder it. He was a dignified, if sluggish creature with surprisingly evocative eyes, altogether not unhandsome. We wished him well and turned back towards the reef. At one point, we found ourselves surrounded by hundreds of black parrotfish, becoming part of the school for a moment, a funny feeling we both commented on later. It was a wonderful swim. I still have trouble believing the variety of fish we saw, especially in such a public place with so many people.
   In the afternoons, we read or wrote, avoiding the sun and contenting ourselves with just looking at the water from our lanai, or terrace. We were on the second (which is the top) floor, offering a lovely view of the horizon and closer up, of the surf rolling in and crashing on a small, rocky beach. This beach, or cove really, was right next door to the hotel and the home to hundreds of nasty-looking crabs. I used to wander off down there to have a smoke and got to know the place reasonably well. The crabs turned out to be very shy. I found the spot very contemplative.
   What is it about the sea, with its music and motion?
  Nights, after a sunset at the hotel, we dressed up and went out to dinner. We were usually back and in bed pretty early. 
   There was a new beach to discover tomorrow and more turtles to see.

   To be continued…

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