Ronnie and I flew out of Kansas City. As we approached Salt Lake City to land, we flew over the huge open pit copper mine and the Great Salt Lake -- both spectacular views. We arrived at L.A. at 12:15. My brother, Stephen, was there to meet us. We went to a restaurant in an observation tower right there at the airport. The dťcor was an outer space theme -- pretty neat. It was a good lunch, but the "vegetable of the day" was asparagus! Even with that, it was nice to see Stephen again.
When we arrived in Honolulu, two representatives from the tour company met us and gave each of us a fragrant lei. We rode the shuttle to the Miramar Hotel two blocks from Waikiki Beach. After we checked into the room, we strolled the International Market Place, adjacent to the hotel. We bought two beach towels from a vendor there since we hadnít brought any with us. We went back to the hotel at 8:30 p.m., very tired. It was 1:30 a.m. at home!
We went to the breakfast offered by our tour company. The meal was very good. We met people from Denmark, Los Angles, and Seattle sitting at our table. From the MC, I learned that the Hawaiian language has only 12 letters: the usual five vowels and consonants h, k, l, m, n, p, w. One should pronounce each vowel (i.e. muu muu is moo-oo moo-oo).
We went to Waikiki Beach to see about surfing lessons. Oka was a patient instructor, but Iím not a very quick student about athletic things. After he gave us tips and had us practice on the beach, he took us out into the water. We were out quite a way from shore, but the water was only shoulder-deep. He coached Ronnie & I one at a time as to when to paddle, and stand on the surfboard as the waves came by to catch us. I got to where I could stand, but wasnít too good at directing the board by shifting my weight. Paddling the surfboard back out to where Oka waited for us in the water was very tiring -- lying down on the board and using both arms to paddle takes a lot of upper body strength. Ronnie did alright with that, but Iím not very strong. When I got tired, I got more sensitive to the waves and started to get seasick, so I went in to shore. I tried to watch for Ronnie so I could take a picture of him surfing, but I couldnít tell which one he was. He came in to shore about a half hour after I did. We stayed and sunned on the beach for a while as I got over my seasickness.
When we got back to the hotel room, we called the kids back home (about 10 p.m. there, but only 5 p.m. here). They said it had rained, so Ronnie was happy. We cleaned up and ate supper at Perryís Smorgy Restaurant about a block from the hotel. They served a super smorgasbord in a marvelous setting -- outdoor tables beside waterfalls and water gardens. I highly recommend Perryís! After supper, we shopped in the International Market Place again. We took pictures of the city lights from the elevator on the outside of our hotel building and walked to the beach to see it in the dark.
We ate breakfast at the hotelís restaurant -- a very good and large buffet with both American and Japanese food. It seems like the number of Japanese tourists equals or surpasses the number of American (mainland) tourists. Thatís reflected in the menu of the buffets, the signs posted everywhere, and in the clerks who are bi-lingual. Even the fellow who operated the booth where we signed up for surfing lessons spoke both languages!
After breakfast, we walked back to Waikiki Beach to lay in the sun and wade in the water for before returning to the hotel to clean up and pack. We walked around a bit more of Waikiki and ate at an outdoor plaza with tables and benches. It was relaxing and pleasant. There are a lot of dove-like and pigeon-like birds all over Waikiki. We couldnít help but feed a few crumbs to them. After lunch we walked through the shop kiosks on Dukeís Lane. Theyíre like those at the International Market Place. Wherever there is a wide alley here, there are little shops for tourists.
After getting off our plane in Hilo, Ronnie noted that "it should be illegal to have a window seat on the plane and sleep through the flight." (grin) Thatís what the guy had done in the window seat next to Ronnie who wanted to look out the window! It was easy to find the Hilo Hawaiian hotel -- a little over a mile from the airport entrance. We got everything carried into the room. We drove the a shopping center food court (a mile on the other side of the airport entrance) for supper. We shopped a bit after supper at the Wal-Mart. Feels like home. (grin, again)
We drove to Volcano National Park and stopped at the ranger station where we watched a video, bought a book, and then headed around Crater Rim Road in a counter clockwise direction (as the guidebook had advised). The crater is actually a huge cauldron with many craters inside (and outside) of it. There are a lot of interesting sites along the way. Our first stop was to see the sulfur gas vents -- there are many! We stopped at other "look outs" on our way downhill around the cauldron, then to the Halemaumau Crater overlook where we walked a couple of tenths of a mile passed gasses coming up through many cracks -- smelled strongly of sulfur -- to a vantage of the crater. People had left leis and bouquets near the crater and gas vents, presumably offerings for the goddess of the volcano, Pele.
We drove down the Chain of Craters Road, once part of highway 137, now blocked by lava. We stopped at the turn-offs. The first one led to a hike. At the beginning you could see a lava flow over the old Chain of Craters Road. Along the hiking trail, we could see where the lava had piled up behind and around tree trunks, cooled a bit to keep its shape, then still burned the tree up.
Back on the Chain of Craters Road, we headed down hill from 3500 feet elevation and ultimately got to a steep slope, a hairpin curve, another steep slope, a gradual turn to a plateau of old lava near sea level. Eventually this road ended where a 1996 lava flow covered it. We walked about ľ mile along a trail over the hardened lava marked with reflective orange cones. When the cones stop, youíre supposed to stop hiking, but we (and many others) went on a little farther. The lava near the ocean (which was right there!) is unstable because it sits on lava rubble underneath the water that can give way at any time. Six miles from the trail, new lava is flowing into the ocean and a plume of steam is visible rising over a cliff.† Itís hard to hike on the old lava. Its uneven surface is cracked open and sometimes the jagged, cracked edges thrust upward. We planned then to come back at night to see if we could see hot colors reflected in the plume.
On our way back up Chain of Craters Road, we stopped at another look-out where we could see an arch the lava made as it flowed into the ocean. The waves hit against the lava cliff hard. There was a lot of sea mist in the air.
At the top of Chain of Craters Road, we re-joined the Crater Rim Road. The next stop was at a huge empty lava tube, which is cave-like and damp inside. The first part was lighted, then an exit was made, but if one were properly equipped (i.e. flashlight, etc.) one could continue to explore the lava tube for another 334 meters. We climbed another trail to an overlook of the cauldron above the Kilauea Iki crater. Back at the ranger station, we bought a video set.
Back at Hilo we bought souvenirs and a flashlight at Wal-Mart, rested at the hotel for a bit, ordered a pizza, picked it up, and drove back to Volcano National Park and down to the end of Chain of Craters Road. We hiked to a "good" vantage point and ate our pizza as we waited for dark. The plume never showed any color that night, though Ronnie pointed out a spot of orange color on the hillside -- possibly a small lava flow. The stars were brilliant, however. About twice as many were visible there as on our farm at home. It was certainly necessary to have the flashlight as we walked back to the road across that broken old lava.
We started the day with a stroll along Banyan Drive in front of our hotel. Many famous people planted these banyan trees in the 1930ís. There are signs at each tree that tell by whom (i.e. King George V, Babe Ruth, Sen. Richard Nixon, etc) and when the tree was planted. The trees are huge! These trees send down shoots from the high branches. When the shoots touch the ground they root and grow to become an additional trunk for the tree. After that we walked around behind the hotel to Coconut Island in Hilo Bay.
We drove to Pahoa and beyond to where the 1996 lava covered highway 137 (the east side of what was Chain of Craters Road). At the end of the road is a new "road" to the plume. The road is a gravel trail up over the lava flow, back on the blacktop, up onto the lava, etc., and is only one lane wide most of the way. We passed a the top 12 inches of a cattle fence sticking out of old lava. I was surprised at all the color in the lava. It is not open for driving yet (plans are to open this coming Friday) but we were able to walk (2 Ĺ miles) to the end of the road. From there, there is a trail over the rough lava flow marked with yellow reflectors for another Ĺ mile. It ends at the coast (the lava cliff) only ľ mile from where the new lava is flowing into the ocean.
The view of the plume was great! It billowed large, then larger! Every once in a while, black instantly-cooled lava spewed into the air, thrown there by the rough waves. Steam rose from water a ways out into the ocean, too, where the lava underneath must have still been hot. Sulfur fumes were visible along the hillside for a distance, too. Was the lava flowing there, or just the fumes coming through the cracks? Iím sure this would be beautiful at night, but itís a long walk for after dark! Too bad the 2Ĺ mile road canít be driven on yet. It was a nice way to spend a Sunday morning -- watching God create new land! We sat there for over an hour and got a little "pink" in the process.
We drove along highway 137 to the east, a road along the coast. We stopped a few places to enjoy the view of the waves crashing into the volcanic cliffs. Later along the road, we came to a "beach." It was crowded. Apparently a "beach" to these people is just a shorter cliff with smaller rocks at the bottom. There were also some "pools" along the road where seawater had splashed up into natural depressions in the lava coastline. They were full of people, too. We passed some people picking guava fruit from the trees along the road.
We wound our way around until we picked up the highway back to Pahoa and Hilo. After we cleaned up we looked around for a buffet nearby for supper. We ended up at the restaurant in our hotel. They had a buffet -- lots of fruit on the salad bar, several kinds of pork & beef and lots of seafood. The dessert table was piled high with desserts in little pastry papers.
The Rainbow Falls at Hilo are supposed to be the prettiest in the morning, but it was cloudy so we drove north along the coast to the Tropical Botanical Garden. Itís a stop on a four-mile scenic bypass off highway 19. We started along the trail that descends to the garden and hadnít gone very far until I was met by a tribe of hungry mosquitoes. We hurried to the top of the trail where the ticket-taker had some Off spray that he applied to both of us in generous doses, and we once again descended the trail. The mosquitoes were still there, but they were no longer interested in us, thankfully!
The garden had been a dumping site along the coast before the present owners bought it and cleaned it up. They brought in thousands of exotic tropical plants from all over the world. One sign said they spent over $200,000 on improvements the first year. It is beautiful now. There were huge lobster claw plants (Heliconia) -- on some the claws hung down on long stems from the tops of the trees. Other plants I recall are: catís whiskers, ginger, a huge variety of orchids, water lilies, impatiens (which I'd never thought of as a tropical plant before), variegated greenery, and a variety of palm trees. They had two colorful macaws in the garden, too. One place along the ocean the trail had caved in from the weight of an ironwood tree. There were also four graves of native villagers along the 1Ĺ mile trail. Back at the top, the ticket-taker offered us some small "apple-bananas" grown there in the garden. They were very good!, a little more tart than a "normal" banana.
From there we continued north to Akaka Falls State Park. There is a Ĺ mile circle trail to see two falls: Kahuna and Akaka. Places along the trail were steep here, too. We certainly got some exercise again today. After leaving the falls, we stopped in Honomu village at a bakery where Ronnie got some barbeque pork baked inside a roll and a huge cinnamon roll and a macadamia nut / raisin bear claw. They were very good! We drove back to Hilo, and found Rainbow Falls. The falls do send up a lot of mist at the bottom, but there was no rainbow in it without the sun shining.
We drove north along highway 19 again and stopped along the bridges (between mile marker 16-19 as the guidebook said) to view the waterfalls and the rivers flowing into the ocean. The sun was out here and the ocean had a gorgeous deep blue color. On the way back to Hilo, we stopped at the bakery in Honomu again for another cinnamon roll, a big cookie, some sweat bread, and a cherry turnover. We ate them at Liliuokalani Gardens, the Japanese Park beside our hotel in Hilo and rested there before going back to the airport. We arrived at Maui after dark. The road to Lahaina is easy to follow and we found the Royal Lahaina resort at Kaanapali.
We ate breakfast at another big buffet (included with our room) in one of the hotel restaurants, then we sunned in the yard by the beach. We left the beach and booked two tickets for tonightís luau at the hotel, then drove to Old Lahaina town. They have restored the old village along two miles of beachfront; the wooden buildings are occupied by various shops and art galleries.
At one of the shops, Ronnie booked a Parasail ride for the afternoon. We ate at a little cafť there and came back to the hotel so Ronnie could get his swimming gear on. We found the parasail place easily at nearby Whalerís Village -- another collection of shops. The boating part of the parasail ride took longer than normal because of the wind; they had to go farther from this beach. Ronnie went up 400 feet for about 10 minutes and took pictures with our camera. He "took off" and "landed" on the boat. The sailing tether was attached to a big reel with a sling for the rider on the other end. After he got back to shore, we hurried back to the hotel, took showers, and got in line for the luau.
The luau began about 6:00. The mistress of ceremonies sang a couple of songs then had the dancers model a "one-size-fits-all" Hawaiian garment / cloth. Each exhibited a different way to wear / tie it. She then explained the meal and led in a prayer of thanks. There were five meats, several salads, and fresh fruits. It was very good. The hula show following the meal was good, too. The MC explained the different dances and the history of the Polynesian peopleí migration from Tahiti to French Polynesia, to Hawaii and Samoa. The famous (and popular to watch) fire dance is Samoan. It was a nice luau for us. I was glad, though, when the kids were along six years ago we went to Paradise Cove on Oahu whre they had native games, etc.
We ate the breakfast buffet at the hotel again. There is seating both inside and outside. Outside is nice; itís by the ocean and pools. Little sparrow-like birds hop all around and quite a few are daring enough to land on the table where one is eating! We went to the beach to sun after breakfast. Ronnie got bored so he rented snorkel gear from the hotel water activities booth.
When Ronnie finished snorkeling, we waded along the shore about waist deep for a little ways. The beach is steeper than in Waikiki, so the waves donít break until just before shore. The waves churn up a lot of sand, but the water is so clear, that the sand glistens like gold flakes in the sun as it settles to the bottom. I got stung by something in the water (a jellyfish?). It burned like a wasp sting for most of the day. We treated it with some calamine lotion mixed with alum that Ronnie brought along for his poison ivy.
We packed up and checked out of the Royal Lahaina hotel and moved our suitcases to the Hyatt Regency (about a mile south) where we checked into a room we could not occupy until 3:00 p.m. The bellmen happily kept our luggage for us while we drove to Old Lahaina town and strolled around some more. We rested on a bench beneath a huge banyan tree planted in 1873 in front of the courthouse. It now takes up the whole block!
Upon returning to the Hyatt Regency, we moved into our room. This is a much nicer Hyatt Regency than the one in Atlanta (where I was a victim of overbooking at a math teachersí conference, which resulted in my receipt of a certificate for one free night in ANY Hyatt Regency in the United States -- thatís why weíre here!). There are three swimming pools of "swirly" design with bridges and waterfalls. Of course, it is also along the ocean beach. There are gardens of tropical flowers and elegant birds: the macaws, two African penguins, and an African crested crane! Beautiful!
We walked to Whalerís Village, half way between the Royal Lahaina and the Hyatt Regency. Whalerís Village is where Ronnie got his parasail ride yesterday, but we didnít have time then to explore the multitude of shops, so did a little today -- just enough to notice they were all too exclusive (i.e. expensive) for us! We walked through the Whalerís Museum there. The museum exhibited a graphic history of the whaling industry of the late 1800ís. It explained the economy of whale oil, showed the tools they used, described the catching and harvesting of the whale, then told of "life" aboard the whaling ship -- crowded, smelly, boring between rare catches, and total subjection to the captain. They even washef their clothes in urine! Most of the "men" in the crews were teenagers! The whaling trip would last between 3 and 5 years. At the end, the crew got to split a third of the profits. For the young crewmen, 3 to 5 years of dangerous, smelly labor sometimes wasnít even worth enough money to cover the $70 charged for the trunk of supplies they were assigned upon enlisting for the trip!
After we walked back to the Hyatt, we drove north to Kahana where we ate at an Outback Steakhouse. The food was good, and the complementary bread was superb! When we got back to the hotel, we swam in one of the three pools -- warm water and underwater lights -- so nice!
We walked in the water along the beach for Ĺ mile or so, then back again. No stings this morning (we were only about ankle deep) then we sat beside the pool. After checking out of the hotel, we drove to Lahaina in search of breakfast for Ronnie (none included at this hotel).
From there we headed east on highway 30 to the Maui Tropical Plantation. We saw macadamia nut trees up close; they must be eight years old before they bear. Coconut trees are ten years old before bearing, but then bear 40-80 coconuts each year for 100 years after that. The papaya begin bearing at 18 months. The "ti" plant comes in two varieties: red and green. The red leaves were used for die for the tapa cloth. The green leaves are used for hula skirts. The plants are thought to bring good luck and are often planted beside the doors of Hawaiian houses. Back in the inevitable gift shop, we bought a box of pineapple to take home with us on the plane.
From there, we drove to Iao Valley. "Iao" means clouds -- this area is cloudy and rainy much of the time, as it was when we were there. The valley is steep-walled and rugged, yet lush green. It is a volcanic crater into which the streams of water have worn deep groves where the lava was cracked or weak. We walked most of the trails: along a small river and up to a look out point where we had a close view of the Iao Needle, a sharp rock sticking up away from the sides of the valley which was a look-out point for warriors during the battle when Kamehameha I conquered all the island chiefs and united the Hawaiian islands under himself as king (1790?). At the garden area of thevalley, I learned that what I call "elephantís ear" is the "taro" plant, the source of "poi" (from the pounded root).
We ate lunch at Stillwellís Bakery and Cafť at the west edge of Kahului -- good sandwiches and a super banana-banana cake (banana pudding between three Ĺ-inch thick layers of banana bread all covered with whipped cream). Then we headed east on the famed Road to Hana. We stopped at Hookipa Beach Park to watch the surfers (nice to see they fell sometimes like we did, but most looked young -- theyíll be good soon), and the wind surfers. We parked under a shade tree and watched the wind surfers longer.
We continued along the coastal road. At one point, there was a sign announcing 2.8 acres for sale for "only" $695,000 -- thatís $248,214.30 per acre! I guess weíre not interested. (grin) We noticed a lot of agriculture on this island. We saw huge fields of pineapple (all planted and harvested by hand) and sugar cane.
The road soon got windy with 15 mph curves followed by signs that read, "road narrows, reduce speed ahead." It really is no prettier as the highway 19 north of Hilo, so we turned around and went back to the Hookipa beach. There were more wind surfers out than earlier so we found another parking spot under a tree and watched. They would leap in the air boosted by the waves and sometimes even turn complete flips -- board, sail, man and all -- and land on their "feet" again. It made for impressive, free entertainment. We left the beach and filled the rental car with "cheap" $2.14/gallon gasoline.
We returned the rental car, cleared the agricultural inspection, got our luggage checked and boarding passes without trouble. The flight was smooth to Los Angles, but we slept through the meal. (I know because I woke for a bit and noticed the man next to me had one.) We arrived on time (5:30 a.m. L.A. time) and found our next gate. The plane for Salt Lake City was to leave at 7:30. When they had not yet started to board at 7:20, Ronnie looked around and noticed there was no plane at the gate and there was a long line at the counter. They never announced it, but the flight had been cancelled! Apparently there was a mechanical failure of some kind. It is best to find those things while the plane is on the ground!
After standing in that line a while, an airline clerk took us to another line at the entrance ticket counter. The agent found us seats on a Northwest Airline plane to Memphis then to Kansas City. She gave us a voucher good at any food place in the airport so we could get some breakfast. At the Northwest terminal, we stood in line (again) to get our boarding passes. On the way to the gate, we passed a place to get sweat rolls, & juice. We used our voucher there and proceeded to the gate. When we got there, the plane was already boarding so we took our rolls & juice onboard with us.
We arrived at Memphis on time; while we waited to get off the plane, I watched them unload baggage out of the plane. Our box of pineapple was there. We got off the plane before I could see our suitcase. We found our next gate and I called Jessieís cell phone. She and Robert were on their way to meet us, so I told them of the change in airline.
We arrived at Kansas City a few minutes early. We got to the baggage claim area, and our box of pineapples was one of the first parcels up the carousel. We waited, and waited. The carousel turned off and our suitcase didnít arrive. The baggage claim clerk took a description and directions and said she would be in contact with us. We left for home. After stopping for supper and gas, we arrived home about 11:00 p.m. There was a message on the answering machine from the baggage claim clerk in Kansas City; our bag was there. I called back and a man said that a courier had already picked up the bag and would probably call us in the morning. Lo, and behold, however, the next morning when I got up, the suitcase was setting at our front door! Thatís pretty good service!
It was a nice celebration of our 25th Wedding Anniversary, but I donít think either of us got terribly used to the time change. We enjoyed the spectacular varied scenery, the brilliant sunshine, and the relaxed pace on Hawaii (the Big Island). But, it is good to be home with friends and family again, and to share our pineapple with them.