|Hawaii!||(Entered May 08, 2008)
I don't know why anyone living in Hawaii would want to travel anywhere else in the world. Do Hawaiian people travel? Maybe they don't. There's no need. Hawaii has it all: weather, food, culture, music, lifestyle, shopping, beaches, mountains, forests, even snow and ice for those of you (weirdos) that find warm, sunny days boring.
The hotel was located on the North side of Hapuna beach, which has won the 'Best Beach in the USA' award many, many times. This is the view from our hotel room. Being hotel guests, we had our own beach chair and parasol waiting for us when it came time to chill out. Paradise.
Our room was massive, had a super massive bathroom, and had an awesome balcony for more relaxation should it be necessary. It was necessary.
Just blue water and white sand.
Like I said, breakfast was amazing. There was this huge buffet (sorry forgot to take any pics, too busy eating I guess) full of every conceivable kind of breakfast thing you could want. I ate fresh tropical fruit, pastries, bacon, eggs, coffee, etc. every morning. While you ate, birds would flit around hoping for handouts. Some of them would fly right up to your table. Being a bird lover I was happy to oblige them.
For our first full day in Hawaii we decided to go driving around the island a bit. Our main destination was Greenwell Farms. Hawaiian Kona coffee is world famous, and is perhaps second only to Blue Mountain coffee from Jamaica. Our hotel served it every morning and being something of a coffee lover and connoisseur, I have to say, it was pretty impressive. There are coffee plantations all over the Kona belt on the big island, but Greenwell was supposedly one of the better ones. They give a nice (free!) tour that takes you around some of the coffee trees and equipment, and explain (and answer questions) all about how coffee is made. They also offer as much free coffee as you can drink as well as free samples of chocolate covered coffee beans. Woohoo! Here's the little gift shop where I bought a few bags of coffee to take home for my drinking pleasure.
Most of the beans on the trees now are still green.
Greenwell also had orange and avocado trees here and there. One of them had a chameleon hanging around in it. Our guide plucked him out for us to see. I'm not really a fan of disturbing wild animals in their natural environment, but I took a picture anyway.
A gecko scuttles between two bags of coffee beans. Maybe the smell keeps him awake?
On the second day we decided to go stargazing. Unknown to most, the tallest mountain in the world is in Hawaii. Yes I know, Mt. Everest is known as the world's tallest, but when you measure Mauna Kea from it's base, which is 19,000 feet below the ocean, then it is the definite record holder. It's still no puny mountain at 14,000 feet above sea level, and definitely the highest point on Earth I have ever been to in my life so far. So high in fact that I had trouble breathing properly. Apparently the oxygen level here is 40% less than at sea level.
It was friggin' freezing up here! They warn you how cold it's going to be, but being in Hawaii, you somehow don't really believe it, until you get to the top of the mountain of course. One bonus of being on a tour, they provide parkas and gloves. There were some fools who came in their own cars, wandering (well running actually) around in long sleeve shirts only. I was cold even with a sweater, parka and gloves. The temperature was well below zero, probably about -10 degrees celcius. Take me back to the beach!! Although our guide was very knowledgeable and a nice guy, stargazing itself was extremely minimal and unimpressive, also it was colder than hell which brought the enjoyment down as well. This tour was fairly disapointing overall, not worth the money we paid.
Once the sun went down it was pitch black up here, so pictures ended with the sunset, which was quite beautiful to watch. You feel like you're in an airplane, only you're outside.
The next day we woke up early and spent the whole day doing the volcano tour. I was still sick so all I wanted to do was stay in bed, but I made myself wake up and go. Good thing I did as this was the best tour we went on.
The next stop was the smoking crater of Halema'uma'u. I was a bit disapointed that no lava was flowing or spewing out, nor would we be able to see any during the rest of the tour. Volcano lava is apparently very fickle, and it's just luck of the draw if lava happens to be visible on the day you go or not. While we were in Hawaii, lava was flowing at only one spot, directly into the ocean, and the only road going there had been destroyed. As it was, we were lucky to even get this far. This park/viewing point had been closed until yesterday due to winds that were blowing the poisonous volcanic gas inland (toward the viewing point), instead of out to the ocean.
We had lunch on the edge of these windy, but picturesque cliffs. Way down near the edge of the shot is where the lava is flowing into the ocean. Occasionally we'd see a big puff of steam rising.
The old road. Had you left your car parked here back during the eruption, it would've been fine. Of course you never would've gotten it out again, unless it had four-wheel drive.
In some areas where the trees are wet, the lava won't burn them. Instead they'll last long enough for the lava to harden around them before disintegrating, leaving holes dotting the lava landscape.
There are two main types of lava. The smooth, ropy kind is known as pahoehoe (seen above and below), and the other kind is called a'a. A'a lava looks like crushed, broken up cement. Both have the same chemical composition, but differ in that pahoehoe contains more gas, and is hotter. So ends your geology lesson for today.
We stopped by an area with signs explicitly telling us to keep out, but Garry wasn't concerned and took us in anyway. Apparently in this spot, so the story goes, there was a horse trail that cowboys used to use. Off to one side of the trail there was a small hole in the ground which, while noticed, never caused much comment. Then one day they rode in and discovered that the hole had grown somewhat.... Seems the ground just caved in one day. The hole was too deep to fit in both the rim and the bottom (about 300 feet deep) into one picture.
Then we were put to work. Garry took us to a section of the forest where wild, inedible ginger was displacing the native plants. We were told to pull the ginger out by the roots. This wasn't really part of the tour, but Garry did it just to help out the rangers. Anyway it only took about 10 minutes. One lady complained a lot about doing this, saying stuff like 'I came here to have a vacation, not to work', etc. I felt like saying 'Just chill lady'. Here I am having beaten and subdued an evil ginger plant.
Part 2 - Oahu
We hiked up Diamond Head on the second day. Here we are overlooking Honolulu and the ocean. We saw one old guy running up the hiking trail and overheard someone else ask him how he was doing He replied that he had already run up and down 7 times today, and was doing one more before stopping. Way to go old guy. Although seemingly hard, to be honest the hike up was dead easy.
On the way up we walked past a hatch-like entrance set into the mountain. I was reminded of my favourite TV show 'Lost' which is filmed on Oahu.
In the evening we went to a Luau, which is a traditional Hawaiian dinner with dancing, etc. Below are a couple of guys pulling the roast pig out of a traditional underground oven. Looked kind of gruesome actually.
Then we ate and drank while watching Hawaiian hula, etc. To be honest, the food was only so-so, and while the dancing was good, there was way too much audience participation stuff which Kumi and I both found annoying. More than half of the time they kept getting people to come up and make fools of themselves on stage while the MC tore into them, making them look even sillier. Kind of funny but I paid to see real hula, not this amateur stuff. Still, we got leid (the state joke, get it?) and three cocktails were included with dinner.
On our last day, we took a boat out to a secluded spot, and spent a wonderful time snorkeling around the coral reefs. At least that was what was supposed to happen. After a late start, we spent a good hour on the boat heading to a secluded spot around the island. Once there, the captain announced that we couldn't stop here because the ocean was too murky and they couldn't drop anchor, so back we went. Another 40 minutes and we were almost back where we started. Some poor lady spent most of the return trip in the washroom throwing up. Once there, no less than 3 other boats also joined us and our so called secluded snorkeling spot was now a feeding frenzy of hundreds of people all swimming around the same area. Needless to say, I kicked, and got kicked in return many a time by other people's flippers. It was the snorkeling equivilant of riding the rush hour train in Tokyo.
You can't post about Hawaii without talking about food. Most Hawaiians are big, and the Americans visiting there are bigger still. It's simply impossible to get a 'snack' when going to any restaurant in Hawaii. Living in Japan all this time, my stomach really has shrunk (which is probably a good thing) and most of my time in Hawaii was spent being full. Near the end of our trip I gave up even trying to finish everything put before me.
And then it was time to leave again, but I definitely wasn't ready. Despite most of the tours we went on being mediocre and generally way too expensive, Hawaii is still a paradise and just being there was enough to satisfy me. I guess the only thing to do now is move there. I'll be back! Aloha Hawaii and Mahalo.
If You Build It, They Will Leave...