Saturday, November 22, 2008

Day 8: Beating the Wolverines and saying goodbye to the Big Island

Alarm went off at 6:30 AM so we were sure not to miss the stomping of the Michigan Wolverines. We were up, organized, and popcorn popped by 7 AM - game time in Hawaii! The early game was a defensive struggle, but then noted Wolverine nemesis Beanie Wells asserted himself to the tune of 50-some yards and a score. Not long afterward, a play action pass netted another 50+ yard score. The rodents snuck by us once to produce a 14-7 halftime score. But they came to recognize their superiors as OSU slapped them silly with 28 second half points for a final of 42-7. It was the third largest win by OSU in the rivalry's history. With that pleasant memory firmly placed, we lugged our stuff to the car and said goodbye to Hawaii lodging. We had planned to eat lunch at a stop beloved by locals but it was still closed (it was only 10:30 yet). So we headed to our more important pre-flight appointment, the Kailua Candy Co, for some award-winning chocolates and cheesecake. Next door, we were able to procure some non-dessert food at a non-descript Hawaiian joint called Rainbow Cafe. After lunch and dessert it was off to the Kona Airport. The day was more cloudy and ominous than any day we'd been there, with heavy dark clouds and rain falling on us. I guess it was as good a departure day as we could have had! We jumped on the plane and 5 hours later were in San Francisco. Those 5 hours were not blissful as we sat through a couple of hours of turbulance and near a loud crying 14-month-old kid. I heard that one airline thought about offering baby-free seats but changed their mind. I vote they bring that idea back! Once again, we had an airport dinner and then flew on to San Diego. After getting luggage, car, and driving home, it was after midnight. But we still had to revel a bit longer by watching the college football highlights before heading off to sleep at almost 2. Before sleep we decided to not quite let it end - Sunday was officially part of vacation even though we were home. And so it was -- eating out and resting were at the top of the agenda before we went back to work on Monday. Thus ends our vacation report. I hope you all were able to escape with us to the wonderful and varied beauty of the Big Island. Aloha!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Day 7: Kayak & Snorkel

After a solid rest, we headed out to Island Lava Java again. This time it was carrot cake for Todd: Photobucket and coffee and Eggwich for me: Photobucket The cake did not have cream cheese icing so it was a bit disappointing. The weather was cloudy so we were relieved that we were unable to purchase snorkel tour tickets for Friday morning. (They were all sold out.) So we decided to check out parts of the south part of the island we had not yet seen. The first beach was called Kahalu'u Beach and it was smallish with coarse sand and some snorkeling. Photobucket Photobucket Because of the continuing cloudy weather, we passed on entering the water. So we headed south to Kealakekua Bay. The road there, Napo'opo'o Rd was very windy and descended probably 1000'. At the end of the road, Derek the aggressive salesman convinced us to rent a kayak and snorkel gear which we were leaning towards anyway since the sun was coming out. The spot across the bay was recognized as the best spot around the island for snorkeling. It cost $60, with snorkel gear even, which was much cheaper than the $250 we would have spent on the tour. We did have to kayak one mile across the bay though, from Napo'opo'o Wharf to the Captain Cook Monument. It took about 30 minutes, we were a bit amateurish in our steering and Todd got blisters quickly. We beached our boat on some black rocks not far from the Captain Cook Monument (where he was killed by the native Hawaians!). That spot is actually British soil. Photobucket Photobucket The couple who landed next to us argued incessantly. "Put your shoe on first." "Bring the camera here." "Move to that side." "Enter the water over here." It was ridiculous and we tired of them quickly. I wonder what they are like when they're not vacationing in paradise. The snorkel spots: Photobucket Photobucket Here's where I wish I would have bought the Olympus waterproof and shockproof camera before we came to Hawaii. I would have had many more kayaking and snorkeling photos than this! We had to pack our regular Canon SD850 into the "dry bag" on the kayak so it didn't get wet or fall into the ocean. So most of the photos are from a 27 exposure Fuji disposable waterproof camera. I overcame some initial reluctance and decided to go in the water. Good decision. The water was very clear and warm and the sun stayed mostly out which made for the best views we've ever seen underwater. The fish were everywhere amongst the coral. Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket We also swam over to the monument and snapped a picture of Todd's wet head in front of it. Photobucket Somehow I got a huge cloud of steam/haze on the photo. I already spent a lot of time trying to fix it in Photoshop, so this is as good as it gets. Photobucket After about an hour, we swam back to the kayak and launched back towards Napo'opo'o Wharf. Our steering had not improved as we zig-zagged our way back. I got so frustrated with our lack of direction that I was beating the water at different times during the return. But a tail wind helped us get back faster than we came. The kayaking exercised our arms, and the snorkeling exercised our legs. Because the rental place only took cash, we had to head up to the main road, visit an ATM and return. It was an extra 30 minutes. It was already 1:45 and no lunch yet. So Todd grabbed a coke and cheetos at the gas station, along with the cash. I was super-excited to see Todd come out of the gas station with Cheetos. What a flash of brilliance! That hit the spot and we decided to skip lunch. Back to the hotel for clean up. Then we headed back to Kona Brewing Co. for a pizza repeat. Why wouldn't we when it was so delicious the first time: :p Photobucket I skipped the beer this time though. We decided not to stop the calorie over-achievement and got some Hawaiian shaved ice. Photobucket Todd had blueberry/green apple with ice cream on the bottom: Photobucket Photobucket and I had lychee/coconut (with ice cream too): Photobucket Photobucket We gassed up the car and headed back to the condo to relax and pack our bags. We were wistful that our Hawaiian adventure had winded down and is coming to an end.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Day 6: Lava Hikes & the famed Kilauea Volcano

Had to get up at 6 AM to go on our Kilauea Volcano Adventure with Hawaii Forest & Trails. John and Greg were on this tour too. The tour guide's name was Gary. Gary has degrees in culinary arts and geology. He used to be the sous chef at Merriman's in Waimea, one of the best restaurants on Big Island. We hopped in the van and went north to the Hilton to pick up Gavin & Zanda, a honeymooning couple from London. Then we started heading towards the Saddle Road again. We were disappointed to learn that breakfast was about an hour into the tour...hungry! But eventually at 6000' elevation we had fruit, guava, taro and banana breads, tea and hot chocolate. There also included a restroom stop. Then we continued east towards Hilo. After Hilo we explored the Kaumana lava tube cave. Photobucket The entrance, or "skylight" to the cave. Photobucket Photobucket It was dark and downright wet in there. Water drops were constantly falling on us. It was also rather slippery and uneven, and rocks had fallen in places which made access difficult. Without our flashlights, it was completely dark in there. It was definitely not for the timid or claustrophobic. Photobucket At one point, at Gary's instruction, we all shut off our flashlights and stayed silent for 30 seconds. It was super-eerie! Then we all shouted as hard as we could, and there were no echos. Gary asked us why, and I gave the right answer: the cave made of volcanic rock was too porous for sound to come back. :: Proud look :: I felt so smart! We learned that only blind albino bats, spiders and crickets live in there. And people used to use them for refrigeration, burial, and to hide in during storms. I was glad to make it out of the caves! Photobucket Next up, we drove back up the hill to Volcanoes National Park. We went by the Volcano House and the main visitor center, and stopped to feel a steam vent, with hot sulfer dioxide steam coming out. Our next stop in there was the Kilauea Caldera. Photobucket Inside the caldera was a smaller (1/4 mile) crater called the Halemaumau Crater and a vent which spewed acidic gas. Photobucket Photobucket This vent only started in March 2008. Before that, Gary said he was able to drive all the way down to the rim of the crater. At different times in the past, the crater and caldera were filled with lava. One day in the 1920's it simply drained away. After a look inside the observation center and a restroom break, we traveled to the Kilauea Iki Crater, stopping at a ledge overlooking a black-lava covered crater. This is lava from a November 1959 flow. To give you some perspective, those little tiny dots that I circled are people! Photobucket Photobucket Gary dished out the hiking supplies to everyone: backpacks, lunches, water, binoculars, rain ponchos, and walking sticks. We hiked through a rain forest first, stopping for a lunch of sandwiches, chips, and cookies in the middle of the trail. Photobucket Another view of the vent inside Halemaumau crater: Photobucket Then we had a steep descent into the lava rocks. Then we crossed the lava and Gary told us more volcano facts. He has a degree in geology and seemed to know something about everything. Photobucket Amongst the lava, inside the Kilauea Iki Crater, Todd got a call from his parents on his cell phone. Talk about great reception! Photobucket Some more lava hiking photos: Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket It was so neat to see tree and foliage growing right out of the lava rocks: Photobucket A lava rock with volcanic glass embedded in it: Photobucket Lava flows as tall as our heads: Photobucket Photobucket Gary explaining the volcano history: Photobucket Finally, we came to the end of the crater and climbed back up the hill, which were steep switchbacks. The hike was about 3 miles and it took 3.5 hours including lunch. A brief restroom break later (by the Thurston Tunnel), we were back in the van and on our way. Then we headed down the Chain of Craters Road. We stopped at one flow which had consumed the trees in the area. But molds of the tree trunks remained since the lava cooled before the trees completely burned. Photobucket Photobucket In this area there were lava flows from 1974, 1972, and 1969. Next we stopped at a vista point where we could see the southern edge of the island which is also the southern most point in the US, Ka Lae. Photobucket From there we could also see the ocean entry of lava, the Pu'u O'o. A nice view: Photobucket After that we left the park, drove through Hilo, where Gary told us stories of the tsunamis hitting Hilo. We drove through downtown Hilo. Then we went around the top of the island, through Waimea, and finally back to the tour office. It was 7 PM at this point, 12 hours after we left. We went back home, changed clothes and dinner plans and drove to Orchid Thai. It was outstanding! We ate Fresh Vegetable Summer Rolls: Photobucket Pepper Garlic Chicken: Photobucket and Chili Basil with Ground Chicken: Photobucket Photobucket The veggies were crisp and fresh, the flavors were great and the meals not too saucy. After that we went back to the condo and we were asleep by 10:30 PM. What a day!

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