Place of Refuge.
What better start can there be to a day than visiting a place of refuge? The Pu’uhonua O Hōnaunau National Park has a sanctuary that was sacred to the ali’i, the rulers. Maka āinana (commoners) like us would have been killed simply for gazing on the ali’i or allowing their shadows to fall them. Women weren’t allow to cook (which would have just broken my heart) and certainly weren’t fit for sacrifices (still waiting on the downside here). They weren’t allowed to eat with the men or to have certain foods that were associated with the gods, like coconuts and bananas. (Okay, now wait a minute here.) There was only one punishment for breaking any of these kapu (laws), and that was death. No leniency allowed…unless the rule-breaker could reach a place of refuge, where no blood was allowed to be shed and where the priests would provide pardons. All would be forgiven and the community would have to take the rule-breaker back. The trick was, the maka āinana couldn’t set foot on the sacred space they’d have to pass over to reach the refuge beyond, which meant a treacherous swim, often with pursuit hot on their heels. I guess that if you actually lived to attain the refuge, the gods must favor you.
We got to hear the ranger talk and play the bamboo nose flute in tribute to the energy/spirit/mana of the refuge, and then we walked around to experience more of the peace and beauty of the place for ourselves. I knew this was restoration, but there were signs of the original refuge, as in the stones with bowl shapes still carved into them that would have been used for grinding and mixing. In any case, it was to my mind one of the most beautiful spots on the island.
We went straight from the sacred to the sublime with a quick stop at the Royal Kona Coffee Plantation and then the Donkey Balls store. What are donkey balls? You ask. Probably not what you think. They’re macadamia nuts covered in fifty layers of Hawaiian chocolate lovingly crafted almost like a samarai sword, then rolled in espresso or cocoa powder, sea salt, cayenne pepper or…name your poison. There were also half-assed balls (half one kind of chocolate, half another), boar balls, monkey balls and, well, you get the picture. Unbelievably, ridiculously good. Lunch, then two parks for petroglyph viewing, Puako Petroglyph Archaeological Preserve and Puukohola Heiau National Historical Site. The first site you had to look extra carefully to spot the petroglyphs, een with the guide, because they were so old. Erosion had done an exemplary job on them. At the second, we missed the trail leading to the marked petroglyphs .7 miles away, but ended up finding others on our own along an amazingly beautiful little beach at Mauna Lani. These were a lot less eroded and so perhaps more modern, but still beautiful and such a thrill each time we discovered one. Also, Ty found many dogs along the beach to love and so was very happy. We also finally, finally got a mongoose shot, though from very far away.
On our way out we did discover the marked trail, but by then we were concerned with catching our flight. We had to stop back at the hotel for our bags, got changed, cleaned up and to the airport on time for our sad but inevitable trek home.