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Maui Blowhole, Cattle and Geckos

When you are on vacation or retired (or both) you suddenly discover that you have time to look at things a little more closely or a little differently than before.  Today, I’d like to share a few curiosities that I found interesting and perhaps you will too.

Curiosity #1: In a locale such as Hawai‘i which has been transformed by volcanic action, there exist some artifacts that you just don’t find anywhere else.  An example is a blowhole, one of which I encountered on a leisurely drive along the north shore of Maui.  What, you may ask, is a “blowhole”?  It is a lava rock formation created by lava flowing through a channel.  Where the lava comes in contact with the air, it cools a bit and forms a cap or dome over the channel — forming a tube.  The cap insulates the lava flowing through the tube and allows it to maintain a sufficient temperature to remain molten as it flows to the ocean.  Once the volcanic eruption ends, the lava flows downhill to and out the end of the tube, often at the ocean.  Where these lava tubes exist near the ocean, they may be situated so that the waves can flow into the tube.  If part of the cap is missing the combination of wave action and trapped air will cause geyser-like gushes of water and spray into the air.  It is fascinating to stand and watch the waves, trying to guess which one will cause the best geyser.  It is also fun to watch some people who seem to require a close-up look and are often rewarded with a proper soaking as they get a bit too close.

Curiosity #2:  It is not surprising that you might encounter cattle being raised in Hawai‘i — locals and tourists alike seem to enjoy eating beef.  However, I was surprised to see cattle on that same leisurely drive because the landscape looks so wild and undeveloped.  At first they seemed out of place and I thought that if I took a picture and sent it out, someone might think I’m really in Texas.  Nope, I’m really on Maui which is why those cattle are such a curiosity to me.

In fact, there were a lot of cattle ranches in Hawai‘i after the Europeans and Americans settled in — the cattle being herded by paniolos (as Hawai‘ian cowboys were known).  Cattle ranching still exists today as evidenced by our friends at the left.  

One of the curious remnants of raising cattle is the name of a particular beach on Maui, “Slaughterhouse Beach”.  The name makes one think of violent waves tearing up surfers of all sorts.  Actually the beach is located where there was once a slaughterhouse for cattle.  It was convenient to have it situated near the ocean since, at the time, most commerce moved by boat.

Curiosity #3: Hawai‘i, like many tropical areas, has a large population of small lizards called “geckos”. They are considered desirable to allow in the house because they eat bugs — something else that Hawai‘i has a large population of. The reason I have listed them as a curiosity is that they are the source of the bird-like chirping that you hear at night — often sounding like they are in the same room — which makes ultimate sense since they are in the same room. But when you first hear them, you wonder what bird is making that chirping sound. If you listen carefully to locate where the sound is coming from, you will note this little tiny gecko, making a loud sound out of all proportion to its size.

If you’ll indulge me, I have two favorite stories about geckos. The first involves a friend who was born, raised and lived all of her life on Maui — so she obviously came in contact with geckos frequently. However, she was deathly afraid of the little buggers. One day, in her office, one lost its grip on the ceiling and fell right on her, landing in her hair. She screamed and the whole office thought she was mortally wounded — but then settled down when they found that it was only a gecko. After that, before sitting at her desk, she would always examine the ceiling — to make sure that there were no geckos about to pounce on her.

The second story revolves around a couple that went into a travel agency on Maui and said that they wanted to book a different hotel. It seems that they had found a lizard in the wife’s shoe and they could not possibly stay in such a filthy place — one that was crawling with lizards. The travel agent explained that it was probably just a gecko, that they are beneficial and they even the nicest, cleanest hotels and condominiums would have them. They didn’t care — they had already checked out of their hotel and wanted to stay someplace else. Well, it turns out that it was a busy time of year on Maui and the travel agent could not find them another place to stay on Maui. I don’t know if they went home early or camped out on the beach — all because of a little gecko.

Life is good.

B. David

P. S., All photos and text © B. David Cathell Photography, Inc. — www.bdavidcathell.com