Brit writer: Snakes infest Big Island
A READER alerted me to a curious article in London Daily Telegraph
in which Hawaii is accused of trying to keep visitors away from the Big Island monument marking the place where Capt. James Cook was killed in 1779.
Big Island residents apparently are having a good hoot over the inadvertently humorous article by writer Francis Harris, in which he says "it is virtually impossible to reach the white obelisk" marking Cook's death spot, but then suggests that the spot can be reached by a three-hour journey "down a snake-infested hill."
It would be funny if the Daily Telegraph weren't a respected newspaper with more than 2 million readers and if Harris were some hack instead of a contributor of major international stories from Washington, D.C. I can only guess that Harris dashed off the bizarre Capt. Cook story while in Hawaii on vacation and apparently in a grumpy mood. (To see the actual article online, Google "Francis Harris Kealakekua Bay")
I can't imagine how he came to the conclusion that Hawaii -- which everyone else in the world knows has no snakes at all -- is suddenly "infested" with the creatures. I doubt I'd ever describe the United Kingdom as "raccoon-infested," but if I did, I'd first find out if the UK has any raccoons at all. Any child of 5 on the Big Island could have told the intrepid Harris that there are no snakes in Hawaii, had he asked.
BUT THAT'S a minor annoyance compared to his claim that it is "virtually impossible" to get to the monument and that Hawaii "locals" like it that way. Not only is it possible to get there, it is quite easy. Harris says it takes a three-hour walk down the snake-infested hill, but it actually is only a 45-minute stroll, according to Mary Dahlager, who with her husband, Bob, owns Hale Ho'ola, a bed and breakfast in Captain Cook.
Dahlager howled as I read Harris' indictment: "There is some corner of a foreign field that is forever England, but the locals would rather you didn't go there."
Dahlager urges her guests to visit the Capt. Cook monument by various means.
"People go there all the time," she said, laughing. Sure, there isn't a highway leading to the remote site at Kealakekua Bay. But aside from walking there, you can also paddle a rented kayak. The mile-long paddle takes about 20 minutes through some of the most beautiful coral and marine life imaginable.
But Harris contends the only place to rent a kayak is from a "beer-drinking Hawaiian with a green bandana sitting in the back of a truck." Not only is that wrong, but it's fairly insulting to all the beer-drinking, green bandana-wearing Hawaiians in the vicinity.
"There is no boat service to the obelisk," Harris points out, wrongly. The Fair Wind II, a lovely charter catamaran, will take you to the place where Cook was killed and you can swim, snorkel and take photos of the obelisk, just like the photo of the obelisk that appears on the Fair Wind II's not-so-secret Web site (fair-wind.com). On the Fair Wind II you enter the bay much the way Capt. Cook saw it when he first stumbled into, I mean, "discovered" Hawaii. While approaching the monument, Fair Wind II passengers are given a detailed account of Cook's voyages and how his interaction with native Hawaiians came to such a dramatic end. Curious that tour directors would spill all that info when Hawaii clearly doesn't want tourists to know about Capt. Cook, as Harris suggests.
SO FAR we have learned that the virtually impossible feat of reaching Capt. Cook's monument is possible by boat, kayak and on foot. But it's also possible by horse.
Sally "Mom" Inkster and her husband, Bones, run Kona Cowboys, a business that takes tourists by horseback to the monument every day.
You can hike down faster than the horses, she says, but the horses are more fun.
Harris complains that when he asked "the Hawaiian governor's office" why the state discourages people from visiting Cook's last stand, he was directed to a public relations firm in California. He could have just done what I did and called the Big Island Visitors' Bureau ( (808) 961-5797) and talked to Jessica Ferracane. I guess Ferracane didn't get the memo not to tell anyone how to get to the monument, because she told me all kinds of ways to get there.
She found the Daily Telegraph report "remarkable" and considered demanding a correction, but once she heard I was on the case, demurred to my sensitive way of exposing such silliness.
The small patch of land on which Cook's monument sits is actually a piece of England, having been sold to the British for $1. But it's not true that Hawaii in general, and Hawaiians especially, do not want visitors to go to that "foreign field." You just have to be willing to get out of your rented car for awhile, which Harris apparently was unwilling to do. And, oh yeah, watch out for the snakes.
(Attempts to reach Mr. Harris or obtain a statement from the London Daily Telegraph were unsuccessful.)
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