Leaving My Home to the Home of the Merrie Monarch Part I

I estimate that it has been about five years since I left Oahu. The thought of going through all the hoops, ex-rays and security has left me empty with the thought of going anywhere again. Air travel certainly has changed.

It was my son’s invitation to join him and his girlfriend to see the Merrie Monarch Festival. The Hula competition of Hula competitions was the only thing that would make me drop my knitting needles and head for the airport.

Getting a flight reservation was almost a miss. I booked in November and just barely got a seat into Hilo, Hawaii for April. The only reason we even had tickets for the competition was because Maria, my son Josephs girlfriend, danced for the halau that was competing at the Monarch. There were 9,000 requests for 2,500 seats. So you can see why it was hard to get a flight and hotel. Indeed I could not pass this up.


In my seat flying over to the Merrie Monarch you can see Mauna Kea where all the world come to build their telescopes. In the winter that mountain is covered with snow. In the back is the infamous Mauna Loa, the volcano that is still very much alive unlike Mauna Kea which is considered a dormant volcano.

Even though many of Hawaii’s volcano’s are called dormant they can never be called dead. A volcano can become active at any point no matter how long it has been since it have erupted.


Since I don’t know much of anything about the geology of volcanoes, I can only say,  I think these are vents or cinder cones from the volcanoes.

In 1881 The Hawaiian Princess, Ruth, was sent for by the citizens of Hilo as the  volcano, Mauna Loa, was erupting and getting deadly close to the little town. The Christian missionaries of that time were saying all their prayers in hopes that god would intercede and stop the flow. But the people felt that the Princess was the only one who could help.

From the island of Oahu Princess Ruth, who was said to be around 400 pounds, was loaded onto a barge with a cattle sling, (yes, just as depicted in the movie “Hawaii.”) and sailed to the Big Island of Hawaii. There she was greeted by her people and a large carriage and a horse to pull her up to the lava flow.

The horse was unable to do the job so prisoners from the Hilo prison were selected to pull her up the hills. It was a slow and arduous  trip for the men pulling her but she was finely brought to the flow where she was set up for the night.

She made offerings and said prayers to the goddess Pele. She then laid down for the night right at the head of the flow. The next morning the flow had stopped. There is much to this story and very interesting but I shall leave it for another time.


The Big Island is also known for its large Koa Trees. Elsewhere these trees are known as Acacia.  Koa trees grow on all the islands but not as big as they grow  on Hawaii.  I have read  a theory that King Kamehameha, who lived on the big island, had an advantage when he went to war against  all the other  islands.

As he had such huge Koa trees he was able to build the largest canoes. They were able to carry many, many  warriors and also they were able to take the weight of the cannons that Kamehameha took with him to fight.

The above photo shows a piece of Koa in the process of being shaped into a container that is used to pound poi.


Here are some of the finished bowls along with the handmade adze used to shape them. Koa which at one time was abundant has dwindled down to scarcity and now the prized wood when cut down is put into a lottery for bidding.

We had left Oahu at 4:30 and arrived in Hilo about an hour later. We then went to our hotel to drop everything off. I had been lugging my camera with me and my computer and was glad to be able to put everything down for a few minutes. Then we were off again. I with my DSLR and my son with his point and shoot that I had given him.

First before anything though I wanted to take photos of the views from our hotel room as it was such a wonderful scene.


The view right out my window from the Hilo Bay Hotel. The island is unbelievably green. There is much more and still retains much of its ancient feel. You are not driving in  mind-boggling traffic as you are on Oahu and there remains many of the old buildings from the early 1900’s.


One of the halaus (hula troop) at our hotel was still practicing before their competition down at the pool.


The view from the hotel  coffee shop


In the elevator this man was holding the orchids to be delivered to one of the halaus for their head dressing.

I had taken my photos and running to catch up to my son and Maria we got into the car and we were off to the first of the two nights of competition. This first night will be the Kahiko (sorry I put auana first time around) . This is the traditional ancient hula. In Part two I will post the photos from this first night.


12 comments on “Leaving My Home to the Home of the Merrie Monarch Part I

  1. I’ve been reading all of these back to front, am so glad that you put down your knitting needles 🙂


  2. megtraveling says:

    This sounds like quite an adventure Karen! Great pictures and it was interesting to hear about Princess Ruth – she must have been brave 🙂


    • Princess Ruth did not like the Christians and there was some animosity between her and the then ruling Queen who was one. The princess strongly believed in her gods and felt that if she did what was expected of her then all would be well. And it was. I find her to be a very fascinating woman to read about.


      • Puffin says:

        Enjoy your Blog. Brings me back to my loved Hawaii when we had our condo there.
        Much of the history I enjoyed and still do. Miss the sunsets….


        • The Big Island is so full of history. I wished I could spend a couple of weeks there. I’m like you. When ever I go to my home town of San Francisco and look up into those gray and foreboding skies I want to immediately hop a flight back to the islands. I love the fuchsia colored sunrises the autumn colored sunsets and the white puffy clouds that float through the baby blue sky. And all around me are those emerald green mountains.
          Where do you live now? Do you still come back to the islands?


          • Puffin says:

            Have not been able to return for a visit in about five years. I would love to see if anything has changed in the international market …when we left the Royal Hawaiian Mall was under renovation and I’m always wondering what it looks like now.


            • I don’t go to Waikiki very often but the last time I went through the mall it looked the same to me. Perhaps I will walk through with my friend who lives down there and she might be able to point out the changes. I’ll try to photograph them.


  3. Velta Maes says:

    I am sure you guys had a wonderful time. What a blessing to get the tickets. Love the pictures, especially the view from your hotel window. That is a postcard if I ever saw one. Love you.


    • Thank you Aunt Velta. It’s always nice to have a cheer leader in the family. That island is my favorite. One may not think so but I always find there is so much to see even though it is not as populated as Oahu.


  4. So much interesting to learn. I am glad you took the trip. Waiting for the next chapter. (Be careful for the volcanos)! 😉


    • Thank you. I would love to see the volcanoes when they are erupting. But the best way to do that is by helicopter and I’ve read about too many crashes over there for me to want to ride one


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