The magic in the air in Hawai’i is known as Mana and you know it better when you miss it.
Though I am on an other island now, my thoughts keep going back to the Big Island, Hilo-side, down Pahoa-way, just off the volcano’s flow at Hale Moana, a comfy bed and breakfast tucked into the grid of streets housing five acre ‘estates’. It’s not flash, the air is heavy with humidity but startlingly soothing since it comes from the evaporation from plants, mosses, lichens, ferns and grasses. This piece of lava with a hole in the middle is actualy the remains of a tree that was encircled by lava and evaporated, cooling the hot rock enough to create a hard crust from which the magma cooled.
It’s the bit of Mana that greets you when you enter this haven and then encounter the proprietress, Petra Wiesenbauer, a German mother of two who wraps her kids in love as much as she cocoons her guests. The rambling house is wood-framed and nondescript, the rooms simple and not filled with tchotchkes or baubles and the tropical heat is not bad as it’s buffered by breezes and fans. No air con.
What does amaze you though are the gardens, filled with arching orchids of riotous colors coming from every corner and cranny. Bromeliads explode from the earth in prickly bunches with lurid stems and flowers. Palms sway in a hula rhythm in the background. There is no music in the air, but there is magic.
There are bizarre fruits hanging from branches. I got to bite into my first Mountain Apple there and it was as sweet and luscious as its name implied. Guavas, pineapples, papayas and mangos abound and their sweet scent fills the air. Walking on the lawns that wend their way through the acreage is like stepping onto a cushion, only to be halted by the fresh crackling of tiny lava stones as you step onto the pathways.
It’s easy to get lost in your mind as you are transfixed by this little slice of heaven. Curves of small walls lead you to new vistas of succulents and trees. It’s a bit hypnotic as you wander in this ordered extension of the jungly growth that surrounds the property. At dawn, the aromas energise you more than a strong cup of Kona coffee and narcotize you at the same time. Flowers upon flowers overwhelm youo and then… the ringing of plates being laid out with cutlery calls you to breakfast, a mini-feaat of the fruit you wandered through and more Teutonic preparations of eggs and meats that will carry you through the day.
Hale Moana is a subtle, homey place to decompress with a hostess for whom nothing is too much care. I like that. And miss it already.