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A Big Island Adventure - A Punalu’u Encounter

On a road trip adventure on highway 11, I was travelling around the south coast of Big Island. Just south of Pahala on the way to Na'alehu I caught a glimpse of the ocean. The road meandered down the hill. 3000ft quickly turned into 1000ft.

I was cruising along a ridge at the foothills of Mauna Loa, and the giant 13 677 foot volcano was hidden under a massive cloud of mist and vog.  I thought 'Is this mountain ever visible?  It seems that it is always elusive.'  It was strange to feel the energy of a giant volcano looming overhead but not be able to see it.

Before long the road curved towards the ocean and I'd reached the turn-off to Punalu'u.  A local had recommended stopping in there.  I had no idea what to expect and was pleasantly surprised to arrive at a black sand beach.  It was an ideal location for a relaxed lunch.  Wind-blown coconut palms lined the bay and I kicked off my shoes and stepped onto the ink black warm sand.  'Crunch crunch'.  I had experienced squeaky white sand, and sand as soft as powder, but never before had I experienced such crunchy sand.  It felt wonderful under my bare feet - a foot massage with a difference! Tiny shiny black pebbles by the water's edge pressed into my soles and provided a free reflexology treatment.  The finer, drier sand gave a more soothing, loofa-style experience.

The black sand beaches of Big Island, made entirely of basalt, were created by lava flowing into the ocean and exploding as it reached the ocean and then cooled.  I was fascinated by this unique other-worldly beach - a phenomenon that is unheard of in the part of the world I am from.  I took a moment to sink my feet into the sand and enjoy the feeling of warm sand and the cool water washing over my skin.  My feet seemed to glow white against the ink black shore.  I wondered what it might feel like to bury my whole body in the sand and be enveloped by the warm, comforting pulverised lava rock. 

I sat on the obsidian-coloured earth and watched the waves roll in as I breathed the fresh sea air into my lungs.  Completely absorbed by the moment, I failed to notice that I had company.  The sound of shuffling sand caused me to look up.  Less than three feet away was a green sea turtle! His olive-green/black shell glistened and specks of gold on his back caught the afternoon sunlight.  He was almost camouflaged against the black sand.  He looked at me with his big old eyes as he shuffled up the beach to take a rest from life in the ocean.  I was totally mesmerised by the experience.

In Native American and some other traditions, a totem animal serves as a symbol that relates to a person's ancestry or mythical past.  In more non-traditional spiritual groups a certain animal may have a special meaning to an individual and be referred to as a totem.  Also in Native American culture the turtle represents mother earth and symbolises good health and long life.  The hard shell of the turtle represents perseverance and protection.   In my own personal spiritual journey of Hawaii, I had discovered that Turtle is an animal that has a significant meaning to me which reflects all of those things and more.  I had experienced close encounters with this animal in various locations numerous times since my arrival on the islands.  Here was another of these wondrous creatures sharing a moment in time with me on the black sand beach.

Once again Hawaii and the Big Island had worked its wonderful magic on me.  The simple yet profound experience of connecting with a black sand beach and a turtle left a lasting impression on me.

Excited and refreshed after my lunch break at the beach, I journeyed on and wondered what adventures may lay in store for me on the road ahead.

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