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Arrival and Welcome - Aloha!
by Don and Peggy Doman

The view from Hale Moana Uli.

A tropical flower from Hale Moana Uli.After we arrived in Hilo, we picked up our rental car and Randy drove us all to Paradise Park in the Puna District of the island of Hawaii. Our friends Donn and Debbie Irwin had a three-bedroom home built there several years ago, which the rent out through a local agent the months they can't travel. For Randy and Sue Lord this was a return trip. They've stayed there several times. This was the first time our business schedule allowed us to get away from the office for more than a few days.

Our last long vacation was about four years ago when we traveled to Europe with the Irwins and the Lords and two of our other favorite couples (Rob and Vickie Erb, and Jan Runbeck and Mike Mowat). As we drove from Hilto to Paradise Park, Randy and Sue pointed out the sights and kept up a running commentary for our newbie and anxious ears.

Donn and Debbie Irwin in the kitchen at Hale Moana Uli.The Irwin Home felt, well . . . almost like home. We had seen photographs of it being built as well as vacation photos over the years. And of course, we had heard many a story about the home and the island. Happy people love to share their joy. Most of our friends are happy . . . that's why they are our friends.

Debbie greeted us each with a kiss and a lei . . . and made us a welcoming cocktail. The smell of cooking bacon made the home feel even more like home. Breakfast on our arrival was a sampling of what we would have most mornings when we ate at home. Sometimes we ate at home and sometimes we would head out for a destination with a favorite breakfast restaurant along the way.

Breakfast at Hale Moana Uli.Peg's favorite breakfast item was a papaya half with a lime wedge squeezed onto the papaya. Another favorite was the fingerling "apple" bananas. They taste like regular bananas with just a hint of apple of the Gala variety, perhaps. In addition to fresh fruit, we would often have toast with Macadamia nut butter or Kona Coffee Jelly. Portuguese sausage was also usually on the menu . . . and fried eggs. Pastries were also sought after. In other words, we tried to be really healthy, but we didn't always make it.

Although for our first breakfast we had Hawaiian oranges, they didn't seem too popular. Fruit peelings and rinds would be put into a compost bowl, from which the contents would be stuffed into one of the many cracks in the lava that formed a central part of the Irwin backyard.

The dining room at Hale Moana Uli.Randy gave us a tour of the house, while Donn and Debbie continued with food preparations. The dining room table was where Sue and I would work at our computers and check our emails.

Although I read my emails via my HTC EVO, I hate trying to type replies with my meaty paws. I prefer to write on my laptop. Sue had more emails to answer, so she used her laptop most days. Debbie has her office upstairs just off the master suite. The dining room table saw a lot of evening action as we played the dominoe gamge, Mexican Trains.

The back of the house has a lanai where much of the living is done.

Our bedroom at Hale Moana Uli.Joining the three couple was Debbie Irwin's stepmom, Darlene Dennewith. She had a bed in the upstairs office. The Lords had a bedroom downstairs across the house from our bedroom. Each bedroom has its own bath. Each bedroom also has a ceiling fan as does almost every room in the house.

I don't do well in the heat, so our bedroom was perfect. A window on the side of the house and a window on the front of the house provided a cross breeze, which cooled our room. I slept on the side of the bed facing the front of the house. When I slept with the shades up, I could look out my window from the bed each night and look at the star filled sky. From our open windows we could hear the surf and were lulled to sleep each night with a chorus of croaking from tiny frogs.

Breakfast from the lanai at Hale Moana Uli.When breakfast was completely prepared, we served ourselves and then either sat at the kitchen bar of sat on the lanai. This was a good introduction to the lanai. Each morning would begin with coffee on the lanai. From the lanai people would stare out at the ocean, sit and read, stand and smoke, sit and play cards or electronic Scrabble, or merely talk.

The Irwin home is located in Paradise Park, where building lots are a full acre. For small farms, the lots of five acres. The Irwin home, Hale Moana Uli (house of the deep blue sea), faces the ocean. At the end of their lot is an access road and then lava cliffs which overlook the pounding surf. The cliffs are about a hundred and twenty yards from the lanai. From the lanai you can see the ocean (keeping an eye open for whales) and the backyard (keeping an eye open for the resident mongoose family).

Lava Tree National Park - Photo.After breakfast and storing our clothes Peg and I got a tour of the area. A lot of it didn't make sense on our first day, but after than geographically we began to figure out where we were and how places related to each other.

One of our first destinations was Lava Tree Park. It's a beautful setting. The lava trees were created in a 1790 lava flow. The flow buried trees up to 11 ft deep in lava. When cracks in the old lava opened up allowing the molten lava to drain away, the lava surrounding the trees was already starting to harden and remained above ground. What's left is hollow forms of lava, where trees used to be.

There are still deep cracks that are dangerous.

Mexican restaurant in Pahoa.As we drove around the country side, we saw a hotdog stand almost in the middle of nowhere. We didn't stop then, but a week and a half later, the Irwins and the Lords found the stand somewhere else and ate hotdogs. They passed on the reindeer and buffalo hotdogs, and chose instead all-beef hotdogs. The idea of a reindeer hotdog intrigues me.

We continued on our tour with food in mind and arrived in Pahoa, where we stopped at a Mexican restaurant. It was a strange place. An ambulance came and picked up a customer there, while we were eating. The word was it was a reaction to prescription drugs that she was taking. Still . . . I don't think I will return.

The streets of the village of Pahoa.Our introduction is real rain happened as we drove into Pahoa. I watched people waiting for the bus in tee shirts and unconcerned about the rainfall. It rained almost everyday in Hawaii . . . it's just like Washington only warmer.

The village of Pahoa seems like something out of the old west . . . or at least eastern Washington . . . or Oregon. A boardwalk connects old shops. Some cities talk about the tough side of town and warn about going to certain section. Many visitors are warned about going to Pahoa. Sometimes you should listen to words of warning and sometimes you should just disregard them. Our last evening in Hawaii was spent in Pahoa and we had an excellent time.

After our Mexican dinner we started back to Paradise Park and an early evening. Some people stayed up and talked. I was happy to go to bed and relax. I knew that most days would be busy and filled with new sights and wonders.

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