Friday, 15 October 2010


Today is my last day on this magical happy island. "Aloha!" is used for both "hello" and "goodbye" and as I don't really want to say goodbye it seems very appropriate. Today I'm having my private lei making class with an incredible, Hawaiian grandmother. She works in the hotel, as does most of her family and friends but today is her day off and she has come in to teach me this local art. Firstly we have to gather our material, whilst I wonder around the base of the trees selecting the prime blooms she is shimmying up the Plumeria trees to get us more. We fill a large wicker basket and then find a shady spot out of the midday sun for the benefit of the one of us who has an English rose complexion.

She explains that we have to carefully sort the heady perfumed flowers and decide on a design. The act of sorting the blooms allows them speak to you and the characteristics of each type of Plumeria reveals itself. The pure white ones with the tiny yellow centre overhanging my rooms terrace wilt too quickly so these are pushed to one side. The very yellow ones are the most robust so I will insert those in between the more delicate purpley and pinky ones which are my favourite. My wonderful teacher shows me how to thread the blooms onto dental floss with a giant needle whilst serenading me on her ukulele and telling me about her fascinating life.

We've gathered enough flowers to make two leis so it seems silly to waste them. She explains if I keep them in the fridge they will last a couple of days but I have a flight to Honolulu and then LA later so their life expectancy is rather curtailed I suspect.
Adorned in my gorgeous leis, I spend the rest of the time in this idyll enjoying a last meal at the Ocean Grill, capturing a few more shots of palm tendrils against those impossible blue skies and even as the little bus takes us to the airport, more of the local flora and conifers lining the roads.

I still can't really believe I got to visit Hawaii, this beautiful island of Lana'i and M's dream place to visit before she died. It really is like no other holiday I've ever enjoyed, and I will never forget my little slice of paradise. And for a few hours at least I have perfumed flower leis as my memorable taste of Hawaii to accompany me back to the real world.

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Thursday, 14 October 2010

Life's a beach

After a bit of paddling and futile turtle spotting yesterday it was time to hit the beach again.
Today it's the Four Seasons Manele Bay private beach and they're prepping for a wedding at dusk. I haven't attempting any surfing or snorkeling on this trip, due to leaving my packing dangerously late for leaving for the airport to catch my flight I haven't packed anything remotely resembling swimwear.
I could kit myself out in the hotel shop but I decide I don't really need to fully immerse myself in the sea and I'm perfectly happy to dabble my toes in the azure water, walk barefoot on the golden sand in a big hat and sip a delicious raspberry cocktail whilst reclining under an umbrella.
Wish you were here?

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

The Garden of the Gods

Today I have the urge to go on a little photographic exploration of the island and have procured the services of a local driver and his jeep. He's promised to take me to all the photogenic hotspots and if we're lucky we might see some turtles. A couple of the others think this is a fine idea and grab their Nikons and join me.
We start off with a visit to and the history of Lana'i City. A place with an astonishing number of churches considering the population. And not used now though, a curious tiny 'open-air' jail. It's great to have the benefit of a true native who can regale us endlessly (and I mean endlessly) with local colour.

One of the quirkiest places which I have visited is Dis 'n' Dat, it's a plantation house literally full to the rafters of knick-knacks, pineapple themed jewellery and the obligatory 'slippah' pendants. But if that wasn't enough there are countless wind chimes suspended from the ceiling and dozens of fans to not only to give a pleasant breeze as you browse but to ensure every wind chime is tinkling furiously. It's truly an experience!

Next we head off for the improbably Martian-like landscape of Garden of the Gods or Keahikawelo. It could be considered Hawaii’s ultimate "rock garden" that's shrouded in mystery as to its creation.

Geology says that these dramatic red boulder formations are the result of thousands of years of erosion that carved out this canyon area but the local stories say there are others explanations.

One Island legend tells us that the rocks and boulders were dropped from the sky by the gods tending their gardens. Another ancient tale explains that the rocks house the spirits of ancient Hawaiian warriors.

And still another legend says that the artistic gods enjoyed creating sculptures and they summoned powerful winds to literally sculpt each rock formation (perhaps explaining why there is no vegetation in the Garden of the Gods). I can vouch for the windiness, my photography trip in a sun dress was perhaps ill-advised!

Turtle spotting on the beach leaves my camera roll full of near misses. I have smooth sea with a merest protuberance of turtle but not enough to distinguish it from a coconut or some such flotsam or perhaps just the ripples leaving a shadow of where a genuine turtle was - but emphasis on 'was'.

I give up and just capture the golden beach, the turquoise sea and Maui beyond. Clearly the gods don't want me to snap turtles today, but at least I got to shoot their garden.

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Monday, 11 October 2010

Flower power

The flowers here are making me come over all macro and I'm finding myself stalking the ornamental gardens with my camera and tripod searching out the most photogenic blooms.

The hot pink hibiscus have been teasing me with their heady scent outside my room so they are my first quarry.

Inspired by a photograph of Plumeria or Frangipani in a local gallery I harvest some of the blooms from the tree overlooking my private terrace and arrange them on the black satin lining of my skirt. Not worth the $500 of the original but a striking image nonetheless.

Galvanized by the beautiful flowers I'm encouraged to sign up for a private lei making session in the next day or two, it seems a skill I should learn whilst in Hawaii and make some use of all these perfect blooms at my feet.

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Sunday, 10 October 2010

Another day in paradise

I fling open the French windows onto my little private terrace to admire this glorious view. The well tended lawn leading down to the azure sea, flanked by plumeria trees. How tough is that?

Twilight descended very quickly last night so I intend to explore the sumptuous grounds and particularly try and capture some of the vibrant flowers and lively koi I spotted around and in the ornamental ponds on the perfumed walk from the pool to my room.

The place is awash with ornamental pineapples (the final legacy of the world's once largest producers of pineapples), the official state flower hibiscus and the trees heavy with exotic plumeria flowers much loved by lei makers.

I'm almost spoilt for choice, the koi carp seemed delighted to pose for me and around each corner seems a new example of vibrant local flora.

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I can't remember much about the original TV series Hawaii Five-0 apart from the music! And I don't mean gently strumming ukuleles to accompany hula dancing but the programmes theme tune. 
It was so iconic and something we had all grown up with we added it to our school band's repertoire (and frankly totally butchered it). I hasten to add that being the oboe player, which can be a beautifully evocative instrument in talented hands, realised quickly that music I wanted to play didn't match my skills nor my instrument. I still sport a rare oboe playing scar on my face, not from an ill-advised brush with a gangster but a tussle with a saxophonist over a music stand.  Who knew being in the band could be so dangerous!
M was the avid follower of Hawaii Five-0, I seem to recall a mild crush on Steve McGarrett and the bluest of skies and M's ever-favourite palm tress. I don't remember anything else but I know that the strong desire of hers to eventually visit Hawaii was borne from watching their weekly escapades in Honolulu and around those islands.    
Sadly M never achieved her wish to take that trip to Hawaii, and I would love to know what she thought when I got to live her dream instead. I was doubly fortunate, much to my extraordinary surprise I won a work incentive for a fabulous trip away and secondly it turned out to be in Hawaii. I then discovered a couple of things very quickly i) Hawaii is really long way away, pretty much from anywhere and ii) the week before the Hawaii trip I was in New York for work and the weeks after I had booked a fortnight in the Loire Valley on a photographic workshop. That meant I would be away for five weeks and as heavenly as that sounds it also sounded a bit of a logistical nightmare making a multitude of connections. And yes, a comedy of travelling errors ensued - extreme jet lag, misread timetables, errant Eurostar tickets, missed trains, domestic US flights (the total antithesis of travelling in style!), strikes in France meaning no fuel for trains and taxis and the most inappropriately packed suitcase ever.
But banishing all thoughts of the convoluted journey aside, the final leg of my travels was the island hopper over to Lana'i and the Manele Bay hotel. I quickly realised that my Hawaiian adventure was all I could have dreamt of. The impossibly blue skies, the sapphire sea, the wafting palm trees, the lush greenery and exotic flowers. What paradise for a budding photographer, thankfully I have packed several memory cards.