Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Great Outdoors

For better or worse, we just bought a pop up camper and now it seems the suitcase will be packed more often. It’s not that I have lots of leisure time on my hands. In fact, it’s just the opposite. The camper is meant to save money when we travel some distance from our house to do shows. For instance, this weekend is the two day event in Meredith, NH. Instead of spending more than $100 each night to be near the venue, we spent a fraction of that in a campground. That’s the plus side of our new purchase. The down side is extra prep work before we leave, extra setup and tear down time during the event and we have to make sure the canvas is dry when we pack up for the trip home. Oh, there’s one more plus side to sleeping out of doors. It’s listening to the rain tapping on the canvas above our heads.

Friday, August 10, 2007


While waiting in Honolulu for our plane to Dallas, which was delayed ( go figure ), I happened to notice that it was getting dark outside. I glanced out the window “mauka” which means towards the mountains and noticed a double rainbow. Sadly, I couldn’t get outside to take what would have been a gorgeous photo and had to settle for trying to take the photo through the dirty waiting area windows. Still, it gives you the idea.

The Peace Of A Garden

Travel day. Everything is in the car and we have hours to kill before arriving at the airport so we head down Banyan Drive which is aptly named and made famous because famous people have been coming to this part of Hawaii for more than one hundred years to plant these trees. We drove this road because at the very end of the road is a beautiful park named after Queen Liliokialani. Everywhere is evidence of strong Oriental influence with gazebos shaped like pagodas, graceful winding streams with stone arched bridges and topiary shrubs. Even the palm trees have been shaped to resemble bonsai. It is an exquisite place to loose ones self in contemplation or just to have a picnic. We spent more than an hour waiting for this one bridge to be clear of people. Everyone, including me, wanted a photo here. But, unlike me, those people wanted a photo of themselves on the bridge. I just liked the bridge.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Vacation Nearly Done

The Big Island, also named Hawaii, has many botanical gardens and they all boast of being the most beautiful or having the most numerous specimens. Some even claim the largest number of acres under horticultural care but there is one that is unique. The World Botanical Gardens are fairly new and could use a few more staff members to keep the more invasive plants in line but the mesmerizing beauty of the triple falls know as Uma Uma make up for what the cultivated beds may lack. Theses delicate veils of white gently cascade over time worn lava and gather into shallow pools before continuing the journey oceanward. Carl and I observed the lighting change as the sun played hide and seek with the inevitable cloud cover that gathers over the interior of the island each day. This play of light changes the mood of the pools along with the surrounding cliff side vegetation. There are several carp in the more distant pools and from our perch, high above the valley floor, we could see just one meander along the surface of the lowest of these basins. How he ( or she ) got there is uncertain. It is possible that when the water was high, this Oriental symbol of fortune was washed away from his brethren. Without intervention, this unfortunate one is destined to spend the remainder of its’ days alone. If you get a chance to visit the World Botanical Gardens, you should know there is an admission fee for the self guided tour and viewing of these beautiful falls. I can’t say if it’s worth the price of admission but I can tell you that after meandering through the rest of the gardens we went back to photograph the falls a second time. Enough said!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

End Of The Earth

About ten years ago, Carl and I spent a week in Kailua-Kona. Both of us are scuba divers and the area boasted a type of night dive unlike any other, a chance to observe manta rays feeding up close and personal. Our dive boat took us a short distance from the harbor and we anchored just off shore from this beautiful resort, the Kona Reef, where they shine huge spot lights into the water. The light attracts plankton and the plankton attracts the manta rays which in turn attract divers. It was an incredible experience, one not easily forgotten, to watch these massive but graceful creatures glide through the water in a sort of ballet while their gaping mouths gather the tiniest of sea creatures as their meal. We can only try to be that agile in their world. The ironic part- the hotel we stayed at last evening was that same hotel of ten years earlier. The name and ownership had been changed but each evening the light still shines in the harbor, the boats still anchor, the divers still watch in awe from the murky bottom and the rays still gather to do their dance. Our trip back to Volcano should have been quick, with only a planned stop or two for the occasional photo opportunity. It was nothing of the sort because along the way there were numerous reasons to stop, lunch, free samples of coffee and mac nuts and a detour to the southern most point in the United States. What’s that? You say we’re in Hawaii and not the Florida Keys. You’re right. The geographical southern most point in the whole United States is South Point, Hawaii and it is a rugged windswept cliff that is constantly pounded by waves. It also happens to be some of the best fishing on the island according to the locals.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Rest And Relaxation

The northern route around the Big Island covers a great distance and encompasses scenery which ranges from beautiful black coastlines with white waves crashing against them to a barren dried up wasteland along the flanks of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea. Originally, our route was to take us up to the Waipi’o Valley and then to continue through the Parker Ranch and returning to Hilo by way of the Saddle Road, a windy narrow twisty path hastily installed in the shadow of the two great volcanoes by the military as a means of getting from one side of the island to the other quickly. We’ve driven this road before and there’s nothing quick about it. It’s a test of man and machine, of nerves and mechanics, and at the last minute Carl decided once was enough. So the route was re figured to take us to Kailua-Kona instead. By the way, Kona is the place made more or less famous by the Iron Man Triathlon, and is exactly opposite Hilo with more than one hundred miles between them. The long and pretty much straight road takes you through miles of nothing but lava and just when you think you’ve seen it all, there is more. Off in the distance, large fancy hotel complexes began to spring up, fancy to the tune of $400-$1,000 per night. We drove past these palaces and headed for the other side of town where the rents were a bit more reasonable. Carl had been driving for eight hours and we decided the Sheraton Keahou Resort was just fine. A light supper and an adult beverage was followed by observing a beautiful sunset from just beyond the pool and then we retired for the night. Only sunrises are possible from Hilo and up in Volcano, altitude 3,500 feet, there is usually clouds and evening rain.

Monday, August 6, 2007


The word, “freebies”, has a cheap sort of connotation. We didn’t think of it quite that way. Rather it was more like experiencing a taste of what the area had to offer. We started of the day with a very informative guided walk through the Rain Forest. For just over an hour, our guide, J J was a pleasant mixture of gabby and chatty and seemed to know a lot about more than just the native flora. The Nialahue Center continues to reclaim several acres from the onslaught of invasive species being introduced and in turn gives visitors a glimpse of what Paradise was like before we began introducing our “ornamentals”. Every third Thursday a group of volunteers wanders through their little parcel of heaven to rip out what doesn’t belong. Then it was off to the Volcano Winery to sample six of the local varieties which included a Macadamia Honey wine which was tasty enough to convince us that we just had to have a couple bottles along with a couple more of their Symphony Mele ( which means Merry in Hawaiian). The sampling gave us quite a buzz on an empty stomach so the next stop was to the Hilo Coffee Mill where they treated us to samples of three different roasts along with a very informative narration about the growth, harvest and care of the “cherries” from tree to the grind. We watched as a freshly roasted batch of beans came out of the oven into the cooling pan. What an aroma filled the place. Our hostess felt the smell was similar to a burnt batch of cookies and I could almost understand why. The beans are at just over 400 degrees when they are dumped onto a room temperature stainless steel tray and stirred ( not shaken ) for five minutes. The snap and crackle could be heard way across the room. Having learned much about our morning brew, we then headed off to the Pana’ewa Rain Forest Zoo. Sadly, the zoo and it’s exhibits had seen better days so we didn’t stay long. I’m glad we didn’t pay to be this disappointed. The bright spot of the place was a mature Peacock which we spotted as we were leaving.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

At The End Of The Rainbow

Yesterday was many hours and few miles with lots of stops for photos. Today was just the opposite, long miles and fewer hours. We drove to several more black sand beaches and worked our way back up the coast towards Chain of Craters Road in Volcano National Park. Kilauea sits on the side of Mauna Loa and has been the source of most of the eruptions over the past two hundred years. The Chain of Craters Road is shorter now by eight miles thanks to the Pu’U O’o vent that has been erupting in some manor since January of 1983, making it the longest continuous volcanic event in history. It had been active just a few weeks before we arrived. There’s a beautiful rock formation created by the pounding waves called the Holei Sea Arch which also happens to signal the current end of the road. We walked the last ¾ mile under warning signs placed by the park to assure people they were about to put themselves in harm’s way. There’s no end to the dangers in this area. Earthquakes can occur and open gaping chasms in the cooled lava, vents could erupt at your feet spewing noxious fumes, tephra or even lava into the air, a sudden belch of ash would turn day into night and there is even danger in the hike itself. People going that extra distance are warned to have proper footwear, plenty of water, long pants and even flash lights. No one paid any attention to those warnings, including us. At the end of the trail, we saw only the destruction that had gone before, no sign of oozing lava or even steam as it entered the ocean. It was, however, worth the trip to walk over newly formed ground and look out over the newest parts of Hawaii. As we began to drive back out of the area, it began to mist and we were treated to a 270 degree rainbow.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

A Land In Distress

We chose this day to stay in and around Hilo, an easy day I thought. So, we visited and hiked into three of the local waterfalls; Rainbow, Wai’ale and Pe’e Pe’e . It was 11 in the morning and already the temperature climbing out over the black pahoehoe lava was incredible. I had misjudged the amount of energy I was putting out as well. Eventually after pushing a lot of water and having an early lunch, I felt refreshed enough to continue to the area called Puna where there are lava trees, gigantic monkey pod trees and miles on single lane roads that twist and turn their way through a variety of scenery. Along the coastline there are naturally heated pools where superheated water from the earth’s crust has mingled with the ocean sea water. The water temperature ranges from 91-95 degrees depending on the tide. Since Carl does all the driving, we took a few minutes to let him soak his tired muscles. The road finally ended, cut off by a lava flow from the eruption of 1990. We walked a ¼ mile, across a vast area of pahoehoe, silvery, black, glasslike lava that flows similar to a thick cake batter, to find a new black sand beach called Kaimu. Locals have been bringing cocoanut trees to repair and rebuild the area into some semblance of what it used to be. The old beach, Kahena, and the town of Kalapana now sit under anywhere from 8 to 75 feet of solid volcanic rock. In the distance we could see a green metal roof now at ground level. Back at the parking area we noticed the Hawaiian state flag fluttering in the stiff wind, upside down. This is apparently someone’s attempt at humor as if to say the state is in need of help. Madame Pele takes what she wants.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

General Update

It was just as crazy as I thought it would be. Our bags had arrived in Lihue, as they should have, on Friday evening. We arrived Saturday morning to find out there was no one in the American Airlines Baggage Area and they wouldn’t be until sometime that night. We picked up our rental car, grabbed some groceries and headed to the Lawaii Beach Resort which was to be our home for the next week. It’s a beautiful resort across from an equally beautiful sandy beach. It’s a favorite of the snorkel crowd as well as a hangout for local surfers. From our lanai we get to watch all of the action only a couple hundred feet away. After waiting all day Saturday and Sunday, we realized no one was going to bring us those bags so we headed back to the airport only to find there had been some minor damage to the bags. AA says they’re not responsible even though the bags were in there care the entire time. It’s the job of Hawaiian Airlines to compensate us for the damage even though we only flew with them from Honolulu to Lihue and they never handled our bags. So remember, when traveling with two or more airlines, it’s always your arrival carrier that is responsible. This is an FAA regulation which isn’t fair but what can I do. After two days of waiting for the bags, I was able to do laundry and we had two more days of waiting until the package arrived with my new camera. We charged up the battery and then drove up the street to the Botanical Garden to practice. The photo is of the fragrant plumeria also known as frangiapani which is used in traditional Hawaiian lei making.