Monday, July 6, 2015

Happy 4th!

We've been having lazier and lazier mornings on this trip. The jetlag has worn off and now we're back on a normal schedule, which does not include waking up at 6am. Friday morning we drove to the northern part of the island and ran on the Pololu Valley Trail. There were a surprising number of other people there as well, and parking was a bit crowded. Another scorcher today, though more of this trail was in the shade. We had heard that part of the trail past the beach had been wiped out in an earthquake, but people had put up ropes to help you up and down. We met a friendly group coming back who told us how to find them and how easy they were to use, so we also went down the ropes as well (Despite my initial misgivings before seeing them). Fortunately it was not the landslide rubble that I thought it would be, but rather a very steep trail that was mostly washed out. It was a fun adventure going up and down the ropes, and my arms were sore the next day.
View from the top of Pololu

On the beach on the way back from the run. Only one more hill!

I think all that running in the sun earns a fun drink

And sushi platters.
Following this we explored the town of Hawi, which had good (and unique) sushi and cute gift shops. Then we drove down the northwest coast searching for good snorkeling spots. We found a good spot with clear water and a lot of fish at Kapa'a Beach Park - but nothing terribly exciting. Still it was fun to explore for a bit and we did see a trumpet fish for the first time.

The second beach, Mauna Kea Beach, ended up being too sandy and therefore too murky to snorkel, so we just enjoyed the waves for a bit before heading back home for dinner.

The 4th of July on Big Island started off with a rodeo at Parker Ranch! Ross and I don't think we have been to a rodeo before, although I do remember watching something when we used to camp at Lake George in Colorado. We enjoyed Team Mugging and the Junior and Senior Mugging. It was adorable watching the 7 year olds get close enough to tag the steers (who were also pretty adorable).

Then off to another beach! We went to 'Anaeho'omalu Bay (also known as A Bay). The reef here was really nice and the underwater relief was unusual and fun to look at. Unfortunately that was mostly all I could see since again the sand was tossed up making the water murky. There were fish, but often I couldn't even tell what kind they were. The major highlight was when we were coming back in and were about 6 feet from the shore. Ross suddenly stopped and grabbed my arm. The visibility was so bad that he hadn't noticed until he was about an arm length away from the head of a sea turtle. He had reached out toward it thinking it was a rock and then it looked at him. We watched him floating for a bit, but then he moved too far away to see (which was basically any distance over an arm's length) so we let him be. Fun to see one so unexpectedly and so close to shore!

Later that night we took our sushi and Race for the Galaxy to Spencer Beach Park to watch the sunset and fireworks. Happy 4th!

And now today, which was our most action packed day. After intervals across the street on quiet Mud Lane we headed back to the east side for some ziplining! We've never been before and going over the river and small waterfalls was beautiful. Once they told us we could go upsidedown we did most of the lines like that.

That was followed by driving to our new place on the south-west coast, just up the street from Pebble Beach. After checking in we headed to our next adventure, which was snorkeling with manta rays. I do not even have the words this evening to describe how incredible this was. Sure, there is some waiting around but when they appear they are inches from your face. I'll leave you with some short video snippets that Ross shot below.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Washing Machine!

Here is an update from the last couple of days on Hawaii. On Wednesday we packed up our things and left Volcano Village and headed down to Hilo once more to check out the beaches there. I was very excited to go snorkeling, because we now have a waterproof phone case that we can take with us underwater. The first beach was just wonderful for undersea adventures and we saw a lot of fish and even a turtle. The pictures weren't always great because the screen on the phone is hard to focus with.

There were lots of fishes! And I love TURTLES!

We hopped out of the water there and drove a short ways along the coast to yet another beautiful beach where we sat and had lunch in the shade. The beaches in Hilo were really stunningly gorgeous and different from the ones we've seen elsewhere on this trip.

We don't have these signs in Sweden.

Beautiful lagoons to swim and snorkel in
Our next stop was a farmer's market/ craft fair. We walked around and picked up a few souvenirs and some giant avocados, tahitian limes and fresh corn to make dinner with later. The heat and the sun started to get to us so we made a quick stop to pick up mochi from a store that sells only mochi(!) before making a break for the air conditioning in our rental car.
$2 for a bag of 6 papaya!

Mochi flavors from Two Ladies Kitchen (they quit their old day jobs and now just make mochi!)
A scenic coastline drive north from Hilo landed us at the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden with just about an hour left to explore before closing time. We tried to stick to a quick tempo, but there were so many amazing plants to photograph that it was pretty difficult. One hour would not have been enough for some of the botany enthusiasts in our life to make this tour, many of the plants looked very poisonous as well. Sam used her Ollo clip iphone lens to get a lot of close up shots around the garden.
Multi-coloed bamboo plant thingy

Beautiful hanging flower balls

Colorful pinecone like plant with flowers growing out of it (yeah, we got very scientific with names)

Leaves were bigger than me
We ended our day up in Waimea at our next place. This one is up in Cowboy Country, and we can confirm that there were a lot of cattle grazing along the road as we drove to get here. The house is very nice and we were really eager to use the washing machine here. We did a load of laundry that was basically every article of clothing that we packed with us on this trip (well neither of us has used our running tights yet).

We had dinner and caught up on a little internet. Ross found a jigsaw puzzle of a Hawaiin reef (does that count as snorkeling?) and worked on that until bedtime. Being out in the sun can be fairly exhausting.

This morning we got an early start so that we could try to beat the heat. Our goal was to go running in the Waipio valley, a remote area along the north coast. The road that heads into the valley is so steep that only 4WD cars are allowed to attempt the trip, and so we parked at the top and started our run from there. Despite the early start it was already scorching and heat was rolling in waves off the pavement. Our guidebook claims that Lance Armstrong biked up the road from the valley in 9 minutes on a bet, so we were happy to make the careful descent in about 10 minutes. Then it was a long stretch along a quiet beach, crossing a fast flowing river in the middle, and then up the other canyon wall. Rosses are not designed for mid 80's weather and direct sun, so the pace slackened noticeable at this point. We switchbacked our way up to the ridge, taking in the views along the way, and then promptly turned around and ran back. Our last segment, the road run back to the parking lot was run almost as a workout. Sam made it up in just over 12 minutes, though it might have taken a bit longer on a bike ;)

We made it down, across the beach and to the top of the far cliff before turning back.

Hydrating as we near the top. Too hot.

We showered and headed to Merriman's restaurant for lunch. The server told us about the soup of the day, and did such a great job describing it that we both ordered soup. It was delicious but neither of us can remember what it was made with. The run and the food made us sleepy so we took a nap at a  beach on the west coast before going snorkeling. The late afternoon was perfect for beach hopping so we tried to visit another beach for some snorkeling but the parking was full and we weren't allowed in, so we ended up at third beach which was great for swimming.

Thanks for the tip, Katie!
Despite our beach time nap, the pace of the past weeks has really tired us out, so it's early bedtime for us tonight!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Big Island: Volcanoes!

Some busy days and lack of internet for a night means we fell behind on logging. Let's catch up.

Sunday was a travel day. We flew from Kauai to Big Island and then drove south along the Kona coast on the way to Volcano, where we are staying for three nights. We stopped to get coffee and chocolate, but since it took two hours to get the rental car, things were closing as we came through. We did make one longer stop to snorkel at Punalu'u Black Sand Beach, which not only has cool black sand but also TURTLES! We only saw one turtle, actually, but it was still wonderful. Also, there is cold freshwater that bubbles up from just offshore and floats on the top. This is cool, but it creates a haze when trying to see anything while snorkeling.
Real black sand - a finite resource
As we were driving toward Volcano we could see a red haze in the distance and knew that it was the vent within Halema'uma'u Crater. We of course immediately went there and gazed at the red glow with everyone else, waiting for something more exciting to happen.

The next morning we headed back to Volcano National Park and ran on most of the trails near the top. The best was running through the Kilauea Iki crater. I thought we got a late start, but we were the only people in the crater for most of it. Steam was rising from small cracks in the lava floor.

Steam Vents
 Then we drove the Chain of Craters road and stopped at all the things one should stop at - craters, sea arch, lava flows and petroglyphs.

Of course, the day ended with cheap and awesome sushi in Hilo, just as it always should.

So now today. Another slow morning, because sitting here and eating breakfast is just too beautiful. 

Today's run was by Mauna Lau, which erupted between 1969-1974. We continued onwards to the Napau Crater, which is the closest you can get to the current eruption on Pu'u 'O'o. It was an awesome run over the lava flow and then through dense tree fern rain forest. The lava running was great. I could do that all day. 

But the ferns were not so fun. The trail towards the end isn't well maintained and my legs were being scratched to pieces by dead ferns. Unfortunately, after we struggled down the trail (with many conversations about how we really should have a machete) we arrive at the crater and it's covered with vog (our new favorite word). We knew this would probably be the case, as we could smell the tell-tale lit match scent that comes from vog. Vog is mostly harmful because of the sulfur dioxide, which I'm hoping does not have any lasting effects as we breathed it in for about 2 miles. 

After running and a quick shower we went back to Hilo to see the sites. This meant three waterfalls and a lave tube. The Kaumana lava tube was by far the coolest thing I have done in a long time. There is just a sign saying don't die at the top, and then you're spelunking. We hiked both directions, stopping when we came to a junction because I didn't want to get lost forever down there. I only hit my head two times - I now see why they wear helmets. 
Flip-flops worked, but were not ideal.

Don't be fooled - the light is only from our headlamps.
Then the waterfalls. My favorite was Rainbow Falls, but not for the falls. I loved the mango trees dropping mangos on the ground and the giant banyan trees. It felt other worldly.

Moving north tomorrow!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Living Dinosaurs (A Real Gem)

Sam's guidebook includes a little entry for nearly every bit of Kaua'i, and for the exceptionally nice trips and beaches there is a parenthetical (A Real Gem) added to the title to indicate that such and such beach should not be missed.

The plan for today was a run along the Nā Pali coast (A Real Gem), a trip which is one of the most popular because of the great views. We got an early start, knowing that parking would be tight, and we arrived in the lot at 7:15 and found a place though the remaining spots filled up really quickly. The trail along the coast is rather rugged and although we were only going about 13 miles round trip, we planned to take 4-5 hours for the adventure. We made sure to stop and take many photos of lush jungle, sharp cliffs and staggeringly blue ocean. The turn around point for our run was Hanakoa falls, where we sat eating granola bars and watching some circling birds that looked like pterodactyls. Everything on this part of the island looks like Jurassic Park.

Cairns stacked along the beach. We beat the crowds here

Still early in the run, because my shirt isn't soaked yet

Every turn on the trail gives a nicer view

A tree, or a hammock?
Location, location, location
It's nice when there is a breeze

The parking for our run along the coast was directly adjacent to Ke'e beach (A Real Gem) and despite being a bit tired from the morning, we gamely plunged in and paddled around over the reef looking at fish. The conditions were such that we were in very shallow water most of the time and therefore the fish were all very close. The beach was very pretty and after snorkeling we just lay in the shade feeling drowsy.

On the way back to our place, we stopped in Hanalei to grab some things to make dinner and to try a Puka Dog. A Puka Dog is a polish sausage which is inserted into a hole drilled into a hot dog bun. The sausage is coated in hot sauce and fruit relish, and was pretty good recovery food after a long day in the sun.

In truth, we found the sun to be pretty overwhelming and so decided to wait until later in the evening before venturing out again. So at 6pm, we packed our picnic dinner and our mask and fins and walked over to Sealodge Beach (A Real Gem) to see some fish and watch the sunset. The beach was almost deserted and saw a lot of fish, although we did not venture outside the reef into the rougher water where there apparently are often turtles.

Dinner was lovely, and we had a couple of very cute and curious beagles come over to investigate whether we were interested in sharing our teriyaki chicken thighs with eggplant, green onions and hoisin sauce flavored udon. The sunset was worth the wait, and moon was bright enough that we almost didn't need our headlamp to make it back to the house.

Doesn't get any better than this
Tomorrow we head to the airport and fly over to continue our honeymoon adventures on the Big Island.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Snorkeling with Turtles

We have only been in Princeville one night, but we've already started making friends. In fact, we had breakfast with one of the neighborhood regulars that just appeared on the lanai in the morning. Lanai, I learned this trip, is the Hawaiian word for a veranda or patio with a roof.
breakfast buddy was all tuckered out
The big event for me in the morning was getting a surfing lesson. Sam was hesitant to go surfing because she isn't as comfortable in conditions with big waves. After all of the beaches we visited on the south shore, where the surf is pretty high in the summer time, she thought that surfing wouldn't be very much fun. For me, on the other hand, surfing has always had a great appeal, and so at 9:30 I checked in for my first lesson. I was grouped together with a nice couple about my age and we got a fun and friendly instructor Cody to show us the ropes.
surfboard squats
We spent a fair amount of time on the beach at first, learning about the boards and proper positioning and safety considerations. But it wasn't too long before we were in the water paddling about. Cody spent a big portion of the time propelling us forward so that we could catch the little waves close to the beach and we all popped up and rode the waves to shore. He could tell we wanted a bit more independence so then he allowed us to spend the rest of the lesson trying to catch our own waves. I always thought that finding the proper balance would be the hardest part of surfing, but for me it was paddling fast enough to catch the little waves that was the stopping point. I succeeded a couple of times, and the time just flew by.
hanging out on their surfboards

Ross surfing!
While I was surfing Sam snapped a few photos, swam and read on the beach. We are thinking to invest in some stronger sun block because even after frequent applications we are still picking up bits and pieces of sun burns. (Note for the future Sam - bathing suit rides up about an inch while snorkeling, put sunscreen there. And on your shoulders. And lower back. And front. And feet. Frequently. I have the look of wearing a bikini, even when I'm not.)

The surf school was just down the road from a recommended sushi restaurant, Dolphin Sushi (there is a theme to our dining out) and we had an excellent lunch before heading down the coast to Tunnels beach, which is one of the places that Eric and Emily liked best on their honeymoon. The beach was beautiful and not too crowded because there is very limited parking, and we set up our towels in the shade at the edge of the beach. Then we went snorkeling all afternoon. We are really regretting not having a waterproof camera option, because we can't show pictures of all the amazing fish we saw. The absolute highlight was watching a trio of sea turtles (turtles!!!) grazing just inches away from us, but we also saw big schools of fish, a long needle fish, pastel palette colored fish, unicorn fish that look like Sam the Eagle from the muppets. We don't know their real names yet, sadly. Also, the snorkeling area is huge and because of limited parking (which we scored) and maybe just so many other beaches, there were at most 10 people snorkeling at any given time. Which means it felt like you had the whole reef to yourself. Just awesome.
At Tunnels.

This is a small Shave Ice.
Next we took a quick peek inside the dry cave, which was a very deep dry cave under a gigantic cliff along the beach. In the deepest recesses it was darker than our iPhone flashlight app could light ;) Then we drove back to base, stopping along the way to grab some materials for cooking dinner and another Shave Ice (Emily said that we should have one for her).

(Sam takeover, Ross is washing dishes) After that we headed home with the plan to start marinating the Ahi tuna and go for a sunset run to Hideaway beach. One of the great things about staying in Princeville is that many of the nice beaches on the north side are right here and the parking lots are small - but we can run or walk to them! However, I feel asleep and Ross tried twice unsuccessfully to convince me to get out of bed. On the third try he succeeded and we ran to Hideaway beach to catch the end of sunset. Too cloudy tonight to see the sun set into the ocean, but it was beautiful nevertheless. Dinner, coconut lager and dragon fruit and now it's time for bed. Up early tomorrow to run along the Na Pali Coast ahead of the crowds!

Hiking down to Hideaway Beach.
Sunset at Hideaway.
Sunset at Hideaway

And yes, more sunset. The iphone couldn't capture the orange color of the sky.

Friday, June 26, 2015

That's aggressive

Alright, I will admit that I selected the name for this blog post pretty early on in the day. Sam and I had gotten an early start and headed back over to the canyon to get one more trail run on the south side of the island. We parked at the trail head and said hello to the very friendly chickens that came over to inspect our car. They were adorable but we refused to capitulate to their cuteness, and they remained unfed as we headed down the Canyon Trail to Waipoo falls.

Must. Not. Give. Gu Chomps.

Running downhill is tough going with sore legs, so our descending speed was definitely throttled down a bit. We had the trail pretty much to ourselves on the way out, and we stopped several times along the trail for stunning views of the Waimea Canyon (and a constant stream of helicopter tours sweeping through).
Small Sam, Big Canyon

We made it to the falls, and continued on just a bit farther to get a bit more distance. The guidebook was oddly quiet about the route that continued past the waterfall, maybe because the trail was really gnarly and overgrown and not appropriate for the faint of heart, so we pleasantly surprised at the awesome views that we came across.

This is as close as Sam wants to be to the edge of the falls

The whole canyon all to ourselves

We had to check out of our place at noon, so we turned around and headed for home and discovered that many more hikers were up and about by this time. As we ran back to the parking lot one friendly woman commented "That's aggressive" in a complimentary sort of way as we approached. Another said that she knew I was a runner because of how how short my shorts were. Sam and I are both really enjoying how friendly and outgoing Americans can be!

For the afternoon activity we headed back to Poipu beach to do some snorkling. The ocean is amazing here and pretty much any place you hop into the water you can find lots of colorful fish. We spent a pleasant hour chasing them around, and then later in the day discovered that we didn't put enough sunscreen on our lower backs.

We picked up some more sushi from the same place we visited on the food tour, and drove over to the East coast where we found a lovely beach to have a late lunch, before continuing on to Princeville, where we are staying for the rest of our time on Kaua'i. We dropped off our things and grabbed a couple of towels to visit the number one attraction for Princeville a cool place called the Queen's Bath. This is a section along the coast where there are a couple deep rock pools that fill with water and form these amazing calm secluded bathing spots. On the way out across the rocks we saw some giant sea turtles swimming nearby in the ocean, getting buffeted about by the waves. We keep on getting lucky with our timing, and we managed to have a pool all to ourselves, unless you count all the beautiful fish and scuttling crabs that really lived there. We're already thinking to return on another evening with our snorkling gear to get a better view of the aquatic life and maybe stick
around for the sunset.
Bigger than our tub at home

Beautiful sky just before sunset