Sunday, August 19, 2012

Leaving It On The Field

Day 14 (Thursday): Our last full day we reserved for doing nothing, which is super wise, as we are wiped out from playing. We have left it all on the field, coach.

I set my own goal for today: not to remove my swim suit all day. I make it to happy hour before I consent to put on a skirt and my formal flip-flops for a trip to our favorite BBQ joint for dinner.

We agree that a full two weeks is the best amount of vacation. Ten days is just enough to make you cry when it is time to come home. Three weeks just messes up your real life. Two weeks is just right. We have booked our exit row seats for tomorrow. See you in Vancouver.

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Na Pali Paparazzi

Day 13 (Wednesday): Today was our boat tour day. We spent the afternoon on a double hulled power boat tooling down the Na Pali Coast, taking photos like a pack of paparazzi, ducking into caves in the cliffs and attempting to snorkel in 30-knot winds. Coming back against the wind was almost as fun, as it was like an hour-long log flume ride with lots of sea spray soakings. The waves were whipped up so high by the wind that the trip back was like riding a bucking bronco, if the bronco could buck ten feet in the air.

Tired from riding the bucking bronco now and going to bed. Tomorrow is our last full day on the island.

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Recovery Through Food And Forced Slow Marches

Day 12 (Tuesday): Today is a designated recovery day. We started recovering by eating too much at the Kountry Kitchen, a local favorite breakfast place. And when in Rome, eat the Loco Moco. Loco Moco is a Hawaiian standard: a hamburger patty on a bed of rice, topped with two eggs, topped with gravy. I ate that. Deal with it.

Our recovery afternoon consisted of an expensive tour through a fancy garden. The fancy garden in question is the Allerton Garden, run by The National Tropical Botanical Gardens, a nonprofit tropical plant research group. However, there is no life saving research being done at the Allerton Gardens. It was gifted to them, so they use it mainly as a source of income because if you take the tour, you can see and photograph the cool dinosaur-egg-discovery trees used in Jurassic Park.

The remainder of the gardens were designed and planted by Robert Allerton and his partner who had a less distinctive name and a less rich father, who were into leafy beauty big time.

We should have been more fascinated, but tours with a bunch of random people make both of us concentrate on the unusual family dynamics and weird peccadillos of the other tourists so much, it's hard to concentrate. We end up spending all our time whispering to each other.

However, it did slow us down more than anything else so far. Tours are great at making you move only as fast as the slowest tourist.

We completed our recovery day at Duke's Canoe Club at the Marriott in downtown Lihu'e. Lovely setting. Pretty good food. Sorry. That's two food reports in one day. You have to admit that I have been pretty careful since that whole crepe episode.

Recovery beverages

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Waimea Canyon FTW (Spoiler Alert: Waimea Canyon Wins)

Day 11 (Monday): We get a later start on Waimea Canyon because we had to wait for 9:00 to take the rental bikes back. Vacation hassles are the worst kind, as you so want every expensive moment to count.

Traffic around Kapa'a and Lihu'e is a problem. They try to help by borrowing a lane into Lihu'e during the morning commute and taking it back going the other way in the evening, but I'm not sure that it does anything more than employ orange cone movers and confuse the tourists. Nevertheless, we make it through the rough spots in the late morning with little delay and head toward the east side of the island.

Waimea Canyon is very similar to the Grand Canyon in depth (if not length or size) and general eroded-away look, but with a much larger palette of colors in use.

One of the many views of Waimea Canyon.
With our little blue island guide book to, um, guide us, we have chosen the Canyon Trail, which takes us out to Waipo'o Falls and back.

On the way down on our hike. Yes, we have to hike DOWN from here.
We have not consulted with anyone who had hiked it recently, who might have told us that it is a four mile round trip hike, mostly straight up or straight down, which ends at the top of the falls of a VERY small stream which is VERY anticlimactic.

The "waterfall"
There were great viewpoints, though, and the satisfaction of a hike well and bravely done.

The view from the top of the "waterfall" at the completion of our hike.
It was probably more strenuous than my doctor would have liked me to take on, but hey, it was more strenuous than I would have liked to take on. I just didn't know it until I was at the end, dreading the climb back up.

I know I am barely, not quite, four weeks from major abdominal surgery, which was award winning in its amount of tumor removal, but it is still frustrating to realize so graphically how much stamina I have lost, either through the surgery or through the preceding (and very slowly improving) anemia. This hike would not have been such an ordeal before. I am impatient to regain what I've lost.

After making it back to the car (thank you Jesus), we complete the drive, first to the Koke'e Lodge for lunch (thank you Jesus for conveniently located mediocre food), then to the end of the road for some jaw-dropping views of the green Na Pali coast valleys.

From the Pu'u o Kila Lookout

Now it is happy hour on the lanai. Aloha.

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Good Beach Hunting

Day 10 (Sunday): We want to get in the water, but we want to get in the RIGHT water. With so many beaches to decide on (tough problem), we wind up at Lydgate Beach just south of the resort. It's got a great little swimming area protected by boulders from the surf. It's perfect. We swim out to the boulder jetty and feel the surf crash up on the other side and sea foam plops on our heads.

Lydgate Beach Park swimming area
In the afternoon, we take a drive up north to Princeville, exploring Secret Beach (remember as you play in the surf to leave enough energy for the strenuous hike back up to the car), 'Anini Beach (very snorkely, calm, and shallow with easy access and a lot of room to spread out), and Hanalei Bay.

Secret Beach
Hanalei Beach Park at the pier is jumping this Sunday with locals backing their pickups and makeshift sunshades up to the sand and tourists with their striped hotel towels. The bay is unusually calm and glassy.

Tomorrow: Waimea Canyon hike.

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Saturday, August 18, 2012

Wearing a Lei and Riding a Bike: Super Hawaiian

Day 9 (Saturday): The only breakfast restaurant within walking distance of our resort is as good as you would expect from a restaurant with a captive clientele. In fact, they are so secure in their place that they employ tiny adorable 7 or 8 year old hula dancing girls to cadge an extra five bucks out of their customers for leis that I'm pretty sure they make from flowers from the resort plants. It's all okay with me. I have a lei, And I'm feeling Super Hawaiian.

We start downtown on foot and make it as far as the cycling shop where we rent bikes and spend the rest of the day on two wheels (each, that is). There is a bike/walking path that runs five miles along the beach here in Kapa'a. Beautiful views and excellent beaches along the way. Compared to the Big Island, the sand here is soft. It reminds me of the difference between skiing on snow and skiing on powder. This is powder sand. We stop at Scotty's and have a late lunch (+Mai Tais).

Back to the room for happy hour and treats. The view from our room is blue waves and the sound, roaring surf. My favorite kind of hotel room.

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Kaua'i: The Screamening

Day 8 (Friday): Double screaming baby flight from the Honolulu hub to Kauai but I have waved my hands around my head and magically wiped it from my memory, so I won't burden you with it here. The rental car place didn't have a "standard" car ready for us, so we (Drew) chose to upgrade us to a Mustang. We returned it four hours later due to the fact that I couldn't see out of the windows because it is built for enormous Americans and I am only one of those two things. Did our laundry, did some shopping, and tomorrow we start the final leg of our super vacation. There's a bar at the swimming pool here, so there's that.

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Friday, August 17, 2012

Strange Fishes

Day 7 (Thursday): We have declared this a rest day. We begin our resting at poolside, watching kids splash while parents look on (sort of).

Resting by the pool for a day lasted about two hours.

We took off for some snorkeling in the bay by our hotel. Drew snorkeled, I used a boogie board with a window in it for fish ogling. Drew might have seen more fishies but I got to keep my prescription sunglasses on and kick around without actually working at swimming. I also got a hot pink sunburn on my ass. No matter how much sunblock I apply, the sun always finds that spot I missed, and it's usually in a weird pattern on an out-of-way spot. This time, in a nice crescent, from where I thought my swimsuit would cover to where it actually stopped covering.

Looking toward the snorkeling bay from our lanai
By the time we had ogled a proper number of fishes and showered the salt water off, it was happy hour. Drinky-snorkeling ensued.

Turtles out our window, getting a little sun
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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Kaloko-Honokohau, Kohala, and Kings View

Day 6 (Wednesday): We explore the road north of Kona to the northiest tip of the island. We stop at Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park to check out ancient fish traps and fish ponds and discover a gem of a beach with even more sea turtles as close as a yard or two away. They also boast petroglyphs but they are pretty bush league after those we saw under the volcano.

Most of the land between Kona and Hawi seems to be covered in sharp, craggy a'a lava. There are a few beaches, but it takes time and effort to get to them.

The resort area at Kohala seems to have been forcibly bulldozed and sodded out of the surrounding lava - a strange man-made oasis of golf courses hemmed in on three sides by lava and on the remaining side by the sea. It manages to feel claustrophobic and segregated at the same time. Although the area contained a few of the hotels that we were considering while booking our trip, I am thrilled not to have chosen any of them.

We also visited the most massive of heiaus: Pu'ukohola Heiau - the one Kamehameha I built in order to get the war god Ku on his side so he could kick everyone's ass on Maui and take over. It was properly massive (and worked like a charm, war-wise), but we were not allowed to climb all over it - a trait all of these heiaus have that I just cannot get behind. What's a great big pile of lava rocks if you can't crawl all over it?

Pu'ukohola Heiau - Kamehameha's favorite great big pile of lava rocks
FYI: the best pizza, pretty much of all time, is at Kings View Cafe (named after the statue of King Kamehameha across the street) at pretty much the northiest point in Hawaii.

Happy hour shall be spent in the room tonight. Too tired and dirty to go downstairs. Wine, Olympics, sunset, and snoozing.

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Kona, Kamehameha, and Some Turtles

Day 5 (Tuesday): We explore Kona. Kona is a typical beach town with t-shirt shops and seafood restaurants with the exception of a temple built by King Kamehameha I and a royal residence now made into a museum. Touring and shopping ensued. We met the wife of one of the captains of a double-hulled traditional Hawaiian style sailboat-slash-oarboat who, along with his crew of maybe eight, set off to circumnavigate all of the islands as we watched from the beach. Good luck.

We came home to do some of that resting I promised myself I would do. After an hour of that, we headed down for happy hour and more drinky-snorkeling.

A little Olympics and off to bed.

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Monday, August 13, 2012

Black Sand, Turtles and Happy Hour

Day 4 (Monday): After a long night of plopping rain on the metal roof of our jungle garden room, we packed up the car and headed off the mountain. First stop: Punalu'u black sand beach. The sand was black. There was a sea turtle. The ocean was pounding against the lava. It was warm and muggy. It was great.

Next stop: Pu'uhonua o Honaunau, the place of refuge where Hawaiians who had broken kapu (taboos with deadly penalties) or warriors on the losing side of a battle could run and hide until the priests gave them tasks to perform (probably lava rock stacking - there's a lot of neatly stacked lava) and call it even.

More cute turtles in this bay, and awesome thick, thick lava walls. As interesting as all this was, the heat and humidity really pooped me out here. So tired, hot and weak. Maybe my overdoing it at Kilauea-Iki cost me today. Time to head for the hotel.

The hotel is as advertised. Our room juts out over the shallow lava-protected bay where sea turtles swim about. The sea sounds awesome. The sun sets outside our window.

The bar staff is friendly and helpful. I don't know if we can beat this place. I take a nap. I'm feeling the effects of the volcano hiking I've been doing. I resolve to act more like a post-surgery patient tomorrow. For now, it's happy hour downstairs. The bar is directly below our room, which means the little protected bay is yards away, and we can identify tropical fish as if we were snorkeling. Except we are drinking. I dub this drinky-snorkeling. The best of all possible worlds.

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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Craters, Crepes, and Canyons

Day 3 (Sunday): We hit the Kilauea-Iki trail first thing this morning because it was really popular yesterday, especially in the afternoon. Drew was a little wary of it, as it descends to the crater floor, crosses the crater, then ascends back up at a crazy-steep angle. About four miles in all. But now, back in the room, sweaty and hot, he has declared it his favorite hike ever.

The trail goes to the bottom of this crater and back out and up the other side.

We walked across a volcano crater! A steaming volcano crater! It was awesome and due to our incredibly wise early-morning start, we practically had the place to ourselves.

This is the best lava! Wait! THIS is the best lava!

I have to refrain myself from photographing every interesting piece of lava I come across. I'm starting to imagine trying to show them to friends. "Hey, where are you going? This one is different! It's all wiggly the way it flowed! Wait, look at this one! It's got a fern growing out of it! Life finds a way! Wait for the one with a tree hole in the middle!"

Life finds a way!

The crater is still steaming in spots. Like this one.
We finished in good time, and we are back on the road, this time to Hilo and points north.

According to our guidebook, the best bets for lunch in Hilo were Ken's, a local favorite pancake joint, a pizza spot on a street we couldn't identify, or, of all things, a creperie. We tried Ken's first but the parking lot was jammed, so we decided that crepes sounded better than whatever a harried overworked wait staff at a pancake joint could offer, and we were super right. HUGE crepes full of chicken or shrimp and cheese and veggies. Crepes in Hawaii. Who knew? I'll try to keep food reports to a minimum, but terrific crepes in Hilo? Worth reporting.

We spent the afternoon chasing sights on the east coast north of Hilo. After finding and viewing Rainbow Falls, our zeal to chase other east coast waterfalls was dampened as we realized that as Pacific Northwesterners, you can't really impress us with waterfalls. With those off the must-see menu, it simplified the sight-seeing list to coastal jungle roads and beaches.

Rainbow Falls outside of Hilo
We turned around at Waipi'o Valley, the wild, deep, nearly vertical-walled canyon that once hosted chiefs and taro plantations until a tsunami scoured it all out and left it for decades until the survivalist hippies moved in. Now it's not a good idea to enter without an invitation. It's still pretty from above. We took pictures and headed for Hilo.

Waipi'o Valley from a safe distance

At Hilo, we bought cake and wine for dinner and headed for our jungle home. (Kids, don't try this diet at home.)

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