Sunday, April 27, 2008

Hawaii Highlights (ETA Snorkeling & Dolphin Pics)

Where King Kamehameha's body was prepared for burial:

Of course the platform is the only original part of the structure. The grass roof is a recreation.

I realized after downloading that I have several hundred pictures from Hawaii. And my husband has some more I want to share. I like reading picture-heavy posts but that would be a bit much even for me. I've pared it down so there's a chance you'll actually make it through the whole thing.

Resort Randomness

The resort had a number of fish ponds, one of which had the world's friendliest Koi. Or maybe they were just hungry - in other case, as soon as you'd approach, they'd come begging:

While we were there we also took a hike out to see some petroglyphs:

You have to click to enlarge and then look carefully in the middle of the shot above to see the petroglyphs. This was a large field, just full of drawings carved into the surface.

Lava Land. And Some Other Stuff.

Sunday afternoon we drove to Hilo over the Saddle Road. It's the less-popular, more hazardous route that crosses the interior of the island rather than following the coast. We were hoping to catch some beautiful views but unfortunately once we hit the interesting part of the drive, so did the rain; we could barely see the road much less the scenery!

We got to the hotel, which is your typical 'bargain' getaway; as expected it looks nice on line, but a bit raggedy around the edges in real life. It was quite clean though, which is what mattered to us. The attached restaurant was not expected; it was a bit cheesy looking but surprisingly good! We had a huge lunch and then headed out to Chain of Craters Road to see the drama of lava entering the ocean. Brian had been there about 10 years ago, and from what we found on line we expected to see some lava up close and personal (scroll down in the link for pics).

Not so much.

That shot makes the steam appear a lot closer than it actually is. It had to be a half- mile away and we weren't allowed to go any closer. Oh well.

The next morning we had an absolutely enormous breakfast - or rather were served an enormous breakfast. Apparently on the Big Island, 3 eggs, a ton of meat and 2 scoops of rice is standard for the morning meal. I couldn't even eat half of it. But it was going to be an active day, so I did my best and we headed out for a day at the volcano (Kilauea).

The park had been evacuated and closed earlier in the month due to increased levels of Sulphur Dioxide. It had reopened however, and there was some interesting activity going on at the Halema 'uma'u vent.

The trails to that area were closed off (fumes) but there were plenty of other options to other locations so we chose our route and headed out. Three times. Either the directions weren't clear or we were seriously trail-map challenged but we had a heck of a time finding the trail head we wanted. Each time we headed down what we thought was the right trail we'd run into this:

And this:

But the benefit of getting a little bit lost was the opportunity to see some pretty sights.

The lump you see is a cinder cone. From this vantage point you can't see the ginormous crater in front of it, but you will.

This is a steam vent. These are all over the place. Cool to look at but don't fall in.

Just a purty view.
And a flower.

Up close:

We eventually found the right trail head and headed down to the crater at the edge of the aforementioned cinder cone.

Here's the end of the trail just before you hit lava land:

Lots o' lava:

Some plants find a way to grow anywhere:

We hiked nearly all the way across the crater. Hot and dry. At first it was pretty smooth going, but it later transitioned into another kind of lava, one that's broken up, bumpy and sharp. Here's a shot of the base of the cinder cone:

Once we climbed back out, we stopped to catch a few of the vent from the other side:

And then headed down to Chain of Craters road to see if we could get a better view of the lava/ocean from the other side. We couldn't, but here's where a mid-90's lava flow kind of slowed traffic down on a permanent basis:

This picture does nothing to show the magnitude of this flow. An entire community was covered, in some places up to 75' deep, though the occasional house was spared.

The lava is fairly shallow in some spots:

Road closed. Ya think?

View from the coast of the cloud coming out of the vent around sunset:

Before heading back to the hotel, we went for one last view of the vent; at night it's a lot more dramatic, even though my camera doesn't do it justice.

What a day; including the false starts, we hiked about 10 miles. We were beat! And though we were sad not to see molten lava up close, it turned out we were pretty lucky; the park was evacuated and closed due to Sulphur Dioxide fumes the next day. I'm so glad we got to see it!

Up The Coast

The next day we hung around 'Old' Hilo which is a neat town (the outer part is nothing special - car dealerships and industrial - don't let that fool you). Before our trip I'd read online something like "If you have to go to Hilo, stay at x hotel". Hilo isn't a place you'd have to go, it's a place you'd want to go. It's got quite the history, and what i think I like most is that it's a place where real people live, and it's not being taken over by giant houses owned by mainlanders who visit 3 weeks a year. If you're on the Big Island, make a point to check it out. It's worth it.

That afternoon we headed out to see Akaka Falls on the way to our next destination. It's a pretty small spot and half the trail was blocked off for maintenance, but damn. It was gorgeous.

We spent the next few days with some friends (Hi Paul, Charlene, Toddy and Christine!) which was wonderful. It was a great opportunity to not only spend time with them, but to see a bit of non-tourist life in Hawaii.

The Grand Finale

Our last day was something special. We wanted to rent kayaks and opted for a 6-hour private tour complete with a guide. Simply amazing. We bought a camera to use underwater but Brian doesn't have those pictures back yet, so I'll post those later.

We went to the shop to pick up our snorkeling equipment then met our guide at the launch on Kealakekua Bay. This is the bay where Captain Cook landed, and was ultimately killed in the late 1700's. Bones of important chiefs are buried in the cliff walls and no one knows exactly where they are as the people who dropped down on ropes to place and bury the bones, would then cut the ropes and fall to their death, ensuring that the location would always remain a secret. Crazy.

Anyway, we got into our kayak and off we went across the bay. This is actually a view of the bay from where we landed, looking across to where we started off.

We paddled for a little while, looking for Spinner Dolphins. And did we find them. You're not supposed to approach any closer than 150 feet from them, but if they approach you, well it's another story. We first spotted them about half-way across the bay, surrounded by snorkelers and other kayakers.

We hung back (rule-followers, we) and they must have liked that because after a while, they came swimming up and gave us quite a show. At one point, a huge male surged out of the water and did a flip about 20' away from us (blurry shot of that below), and a couple more did their spinning thing in mid-air close to us as well (see the link above and cursor down to get a picture of what that looks like). The last big show we saw was 2 fish flying/skimming above the water. One was in hot pursuit of the other, clearly looking for a meal, and they were moving fast. Until they crashed into the dolphins and at least one of them turned into dolphin breakfast.

We eventually left the dolphins (they followed us for a while) and headed for the other side of the bay toward Captain Cook's Monument. We pulled the kayaks into an ancient canoe landing, and there I got to try snorkeling for the first time. It was a little hard coordinating everything but I finally got it down, and we swam out over the coral reef which was just amazing.

We took a break from snorkeling to visit the Queen's Bath and the Muscovy duck who has decided to take residence there:

This is a very calm, spring-fed brackish pool where only the queen and her children (and now apparently, the duck) were permitted to bathe. Actually it's ok to wade around in it and sit in her seat - the cut out part on the edge - if you want to.

More duck.

After lunch we followed the shoreline away from the bay where it was a bit rougher:

Before we left we went for another dip, and paddled back across the bay. We saw more dolphins but as it was afternoon, they were in nap mode and only resurfaced for the occasional breath, so they only came by to say Hi, not to give us another show.

Altogether it was an amazing day with a lot of firsts for me. I'd never kayaked, snorkeled or seen dolphins outside of an aquarium before, and I got all three within hours of each other. So cool!

Saying Goodbye

Our flights home fortunately were on time and uneventful. And sorry as we were to end our vacation, it was nice to be home.

And somebody was happy to see us too.


Kathy in San Jose said...

Looks like you had a fantabulous time! Loved the "road closed" sign.

tiggerr said...

43 great pictures!

Looks like you had fun!

Anonymous said...

So amazing! I love how nature finds a way to grow anywhere.

SpinalCat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SpinalCat said...

The koi at our hotel in Kauai were crazy.

We've got video of their feeding frenzy somewhere, but I don't think it's online.
I think I see a humuhumunukunukuapua'a in your 3rd snorkeling picture. Awesome!!

Celia said...

Nice vacation. This is one trip I'd like to take. Someday when my son is not living abroad. It will have something for both of us: Mr. Celia loves golf, and I love the petroglyphs and volcanic wonderment. I was sorry to read that your Gisela sweater did not work out. It would have been perfect if only it had fit!

AlisonH said...