Puna is a zone most who reside there probably wish I wouldn't tell you about.
Or more specifically, the zone along the shoreline near the Red Road.
A bit of an eye-opener really.
I friend has been living here for about a year so I took them up on their endless invitations to come for a bit.
So in what would be about the equivalent of a lower 48 county, this zone is served by what is a rural road, some parts paved, some not. This road is never more than about 100 yards from the ocean. It traverses through jungle and over lava flows. Every 50 or 100 yards there is a two track and down each one of these are numerous parcels of land accommodating residents. All of this is off-grid, although there is wi-fi coverage amazingly in some places. The resident live under tarps and in very innovative minimal structures that resemble what would happen if someone started building a house but stopped after getting just the roof up. These places are furnished various was from delux -like everything you'd see in a house furniturewise- to bare basics resembling just an encampment. Occasionally someone has a few solar panels. Water is from rain catchments.
Practically no one I've met in the neighborhood works.
Need breakfast, stroll over to your guava and mango trees, or take a short walk to the beach with your net.
Most the people here seem to have families, lots of children. I've met numerous women in their early to late 30's with four or six kids. They all go to the public school and that's about the extent of the family's interaction with the mainstream social fabric.
Since my friend is native american and lives on a parcel owned by a native american I've been socializing at numerous social functions like traditional birthday ceremonies, swet lodges, and 'meetings' -the native american church kind that go on for two days and involve eating 'medicine' and assorted other rituals I of course don't quite comprehend the significance of.
Since the weather here never various much, it is always between 70 and 85 degrees, can rain off and on for ten minutes ten times a day or not, you can see how life here is way more than easy. And reeeaaaaaaalllllly slow-paced.
At a traditional ceremony/party for a boy's first brithday last Tuesday we were at a residence out of some post-civilizational scene. Deep in a cane field among two minimal 'houses' and a huge tarp awning with about 40 adults and as many really young children everyone looking like they were out of some wilderness novel. Sweet. The food was amazing, nothing cooked, and even the birthday cake was all raw ingredients with intense colors of blue and yellow.
Pictures later. It's time to get naked down on the beach.
"Aside from the realities of price and space, the requirements set by New York landlords are also bound to help turn a bright-eyed renter's outlook grim. To start with, landlords want only tenants who earn at least 40 times the monthly rent, which means an $80,000 annual salary for a $2,000 apartment.
"Those who don't make 40 times their monthly rent need a guarantor, usually a parent, who in turn must also make at least 80 times the monthly rent. In addition to a security deposit, some landlords also want the first and last month's rent. Tack on a broker's fee and a prospective renter for that $2,000 apartment is out of pocket nearly $10,000 just to get the keys to the place. "
Understandably, no one I met in Puna really wanted their photo taken, or a photo of thier residence. There are a lot of people hiding out from one legal entanglement or another. Also, on this entire island there are only 200 cops so people in the jungle here take security issues in to their own hands and that begins with a low profile. Theft is the number one nuissance in the area.
The nearest equivalent to a club scene is actually Kehena Beach. It is not a municipally maintained property. "Clothes optional", black sand, muscular surf, and tricky rock path descent as access, occupied by a nearly constant drum circle that provokes dance and song, Kehena gets populated mostly by locals. The only real tip off the beach is there, cause you can't see it from the road above, are the numerous vehicles parked along the fields and groves above. The crowd is all ages to the extreme from several weeks old to people in their nineties. The scene peaks around late afternoon and starts to wind down when the tide comes in high up the beach later in the early evening and begins to choke off the entrance to the access path on the beach. Sunday seems to be the best party of the week. Wild music, throngs of naked sun and surf bathers, extremely diverse local population, plenty of intoxicants abounding and zero heavy attitudes. The kind of civil society social activity with no surveillance or applied authority which probably sounds too free to urban people.
Goblin, I haven't found the resort you mentioned but the town nearest to where I'm staying is about twelve miles away and it is Pahoa. In the local dialect it translates as knife. Back in the days it got that name because cane field workers would go there on the weekend to get drunk and usually cause altercations featuring their cane knives. Quaint, no? Today, the sign on the one little main street through the village, which is a collection of about 30 small buildings slightly redolent of a town you might see in a place like Montana, -the sign pointing out where the police station is is almost completely obscured by a large bushy vine, I suppose as an open advertisement about the overall need for law enforcement and an advisory also not to count on it too much. Pahoa has four or five small restaurants, Thai to Mexican, a decent organic grocery, post office, laundromat, gas station, and a couple of alcohol depots. Someone just opened a 'music club' but no one expects it to work cause people here just don't spend money on that kind of thing. About five more miles up the road there is a concentration of larger stores and a nice coffee shop with inexpensive web access. If you want more than this you gotta drive or hitchhike (very common here) to Hilo which is the second main town on the island after the more middle class Kona.
Mostly, I've found this part of Hawai'i to be much more of a foreign country and not very much American. The population is extremely diverse, totally in to its Polynesian heritage. Everyday attitudes and conduct are kind of like a california times 500. And since the big island is the least tourist-overrun things don't appear to be as expensive as on the other main islands.
I've found out these posts are being accommodated by Mango Tree, a free unsecured wireless coverage here in the jungle that no one I've spoken with seems to know who set up, where the signal really originates or how its financed. If you haven't figured it out by now, like a lot of things in Puna, about this it is best not to ask questions.
Aside from the escape and hanging out with my friend Magic, who I've known since I was 10, I did come to hike in to the back country on the volcanoes. So here's some photos. There are two vents acting up on the volcano, which hasn't been as active as now for the past 200 years so people here are kind of expecting some big boom. The place I wanted to get to.requires you to get a permit from the national park service to hike to the area but you can get a permit on the spot for free -it's mostly so they can keep track of you if the mountain decides to go off while you are out there. This part of the volcano has been especially active, parts of it have actually collapsed in to itself recently. Before you go in to the area you are constantly warned about 'vog', the fumes from the volcano that contain among other things sulfur dioxide and trioxide, both of which can do you in. There is always some of this around that you have to walk through, but it's up to you when you want to cut out depending on how thick it gets.
This is the volcano. You are prevented from getting any closer than this, it is about two and a half or three miles off. Its about a six or seven hour roundtrip to get to this. There is only one difficult passage, when you descend down in to a dormant crater, but that is a short bit. Needless to say, you won't see anyone else out here.
It has some kind of effect, you do get woozy. It goes way up in to your sinuses. But I'm thinking they wouldn't let anyone near it at all if it was really deadly. The 'effect' took a half day to wear off. Mostly it is of course the odor you notice, it can go from really sulfuricly biting to something not very describable cause it is so primordial -you know, it comes from deep inside the earth. Burning rock.
My stay in Puna is done for now. I definitely would come here again. It is good to know about a place so wide open where a person can live for practically nothing
Spring is a good time to come to Puna. There are a number of large festivals. The winter months can be very rainy. Watch out for the airports in Hawai'i. Because everything is so lax culturewise any kind of information about directions, times, connecting flights and the whereabouts of your bag is sparse. One of my bags was sent to Guam and took three days to get back and I had to keep on the airlines about it. In Honolulu don't ride the shuttle bus between terminals, it runs literally at about 5 miles per hour and you can walk to your connection with less friction. For some reason only the airlines know I was able to get a much less expensive ticket to connect to Kona instead of the town much closer to Puna which is Hilo, it just meant about a two hour highway ride from Kona to Puna. On the big island, if you don't know anyone, it is not hard to find reasonably priced places to stay but there are also amazing places to just camp out with minimal gear. In general people are very easygoing and friendly in Puna though there is a little bit of an edge especially around Kapoho and the Red Road so it really makes a difference to have friends there. Overall there is a big disconnect between locals and visitors. If you google ˜Puna' you can find loads of practical information if you want to go.
Puna is a place where I feel like I am so self indulgent simply by being there.
"Residents on Hawaii's Big Island say vog levels from Kilauea's main crater are increasing, forcing them indoors.
"For eight years, Tony and Sam Bayaoa have grown thousands of bright red, yellow and pink protea flowers on their farm. Then in March, Kilauea volcano opened a new vent and began spewing double the usual amount of toxic gas.
"Now about 70 percent of their crop is dried, brown and brittle.
"Big Island crops are shriveling as sulfur dioxide from Kilauea wafts over them and envelops them in "vog," or volcanic smog. People are wheezing, and schoolchildren are being kept indoors during recess. High gas levels led Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to close several days last month, forcing the evacuation of thousands of visitors.
Residents of this volcanic island are used to toxic gas. But this haze is so bad that farmers are thinking about growing different crops, and many people are worrying about their health.
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