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!