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Signs: Arrow World

Recently, the highway department carried out some improvements on Kohala Mountain Road. The road is narrow and winding, though very scenic, and there are often accidents. The latest improvements added more guard rails and more yellow and black arrow signs to let drivers know they’re approaching a corner. I had a couple of observations about the work.

The guard rails are probably not a bad idea since anyone running wide at these places would be looking at diving into a gully or plunging down a steep hill. On the other hand, there’s virtually no shoulder where the new rails are and, in some places, none at all. So now, a moment’s inattention is likely to send a vehicle banging into the rail and bouncing back into oncoming traffic. We’ll see how that shakes out.

What made the biggest impression on me though were the new corner signs. They’re bigger than the old ones – all the better to see them then. But as I mentioned, it’s a winding road, so for about three miles there’s now a never ending sequence of these signs, pointing one way, then the other, then back again. While this is visually striking during the day, at night the effect is dramatic. The signs are, of course, reflective and impressively so, especially as they’re new. Driving along as the large signs flash up and past is like a carnival ride and I’m starting to hear calliope music as I pass. I just hope it’s not of those sinister rides where you wonder whether you’ll make it to the end alive.


Rainbow and tsunami siren

A rainbow arches into the sky just beyond the tsunami siren above Kapa’a Beach Park. The scrubby, dry ground reflects the lack of rainfall on this part of the coast, less than 20 inches a year.

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s bat plant

Bat plant is the common name for Tacca nivea, a tropical evergreen from Malaysia. The name comes from its appearance. Large white petals stand above dark flowers and long bracts and together these make it look like a bat face.

In this photo the two petals are not standing up, but are lying on top of the flowers so the look is different, but still striking. I’ll have to go back again at a different time to catch it with standing petals.

This one was at Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden. For more information about Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, go to

Sugar cane

North Kohala was a significant center for Hawaii’s sugar industry through the boom years in the 1800s until its decline in the first half of the 20th century. Now, sugar cane is being put to a new use in the area – rum production.

The photos show sugar cane being grown in the fields below Hawi wind farm. This isn’t just any kind of sugar cane. These are heirloom varieties, derived from canoe plants – plants brought to Hawaii by the original Polynesian settlers. Now they’re being used in the production of rum agricole.

Rum agricole hails from the Caribbean, particularly the island of Martinique. Regular rum is made from molasses, but rum agricole uses fresh sugarcane juice. The people behind Kuleana Rum have begun producing the Caribbean-style rum here on the Big Island. They have a distillery in Kawaihae, about 17 miles down the coast, and have opened Kuleana Rum Shack, a bar and restaurant in Waikoloa.

For more information about Kuleana Rum, go to Posted in response to this week’s Sunday Stills challenge on the theme of ‘Spirit.’ See more offerings here.

Japanese white-eye on Japanese aloe

This week’s Friendly Friday challenge theme is ‘Mood.’ See more responses here. For me, mood elevation often comes in the form of interactions with nature. Anything from bugs to birds, fish to flowers, can leave me in a better mood.

I had been watching Japanese white-eyes visiting Japanese aloe flowers on a daily basis. But I was really happy to capture one, perching on a stem, with purple bougainvilleas in the background.

Greater amberjack

A greater amberjack swims by

Nearing the end of a long swim, I noticed these two fish swimming towards me. At first I thought they might be bluefin trevallies, but I could see the coloration was wrong. The other thing I noticed is that the two fish never deviated in their course, which took them right by me. Most fish, when they see someone coming their way, will zip away or at least cautiously ease around the interloper. Because they passed so close to me, I was caught by surprise and only managed to get these two shots before they were gone.

The fish are greater amberjacks, which spend most of their time in deeper waters, but occasionally venture in shallower waters as these two did. The fish are easily identified by the dark diagonal bar through the eye and the yellow stripe along the sides, though that isn’t always visible.

A greater amberjack swims by

Medivac plane at Upolu

One quirk of living in Hawaii is that it’s not unusual for people to have to fly for medical treatment. There aren’t a lot of specialists on the Big Island. Typically, they’ll visit once or twice a month. But the bigger issue is that expensive pieces of medical equipment are mostly on Oahu. Need an MRI? You might have to go to Honolulu.

For scheduled appointments, people generally take commercial flights, but some conditions, and most medical emergencies, require a medivac flight.

Upolu Airport, which is basically a runway with few facilities, is used by these medivac aircraft on a regular, if not frequent basis. These photos are of one such plane awaiting a patient, then heading down the runway and into the air, bound for Honolulu.

Shade seeking cattle

This group of cattle was crowded together beneath a small shrub on the side of Pu’u Wa’awa’a. They were making the most of the scant shade on offer and weren’t about to give it up because of my presence.