Here is a rough draft of things we would like to do on Oahu and Hawaii. We will arrive late on the 18th of May, 2009 in Honolulu Airport. What we actually did is below.

Another journal for ideas:

  • Hotel
  • May 18th
    • arrive late in the day. Visit Costco for groceries and some cheaper souvenirs?
  • May 19th
    • Pearl Harbor- Arizona Memorial ( spend 4 hours)
    • then hit Turtle Beach and Northshore.
  • May 20th
    • coffee plantation
    • Dole Plantation few hours
    • Turtle Beach (spend the 20th in this area)
    • Waimea Falls
    • Shark's Cove
  • May 21st
    • Polynesian Cultural Center
    • Mac Nut Farm at Kane'ohe Bay
  • May 22nd
    • Hanauma Bay/ hike to Makapuia Light House
    • (eat at Haleiwa Joe's on one of these days)
  • May 23rd
Big Island:
  • Hotel
  • May 24th
    • Farmers market
    • tidepools heated from lava
    • Volcano National Park/lava flow at night
    • Black/green sand beaches
  • May 25th
    • Volcano National Park
  • May 26th
    • Hike rainforest to Pu'u 'O' vent
    • Mauna Kea star gazing 6-10pm
  • May 27th
  • Other options

Journal of Trip

Monday, May 18th, 2009

We started the day early by getting up a 5:20 AM Texas time. We had the car loaded and headed to the airport on time. Our flight to DFW was uneventful. Once we got to DFW we wound up having a 5 1/2 hour layover while waiting for our flight to Honolulu, HI. During our layover, we walked the airport and rode the Skylink two different times all the way around the airport (and once from our arrival gate to our departure gate). Everyone was eager for the time to pass and finally arrive. Once we left, the flight to Honolulu was about 8 1/2 hours. The flight was long and boring. Phillip, Joseph, and Hannah-Joy watched lots of movies on their Zens/iPod Touch. Loretta got some time to read. Rick worked on his homework for an iPhone/iPod Touch programming class. We all got to nap some but not very long.

As we were arriving, Joseph spotted some mountain tops of Hawaii poking through the solid cloud layer. Rick saw Loretta and Joseph pushing (gently) for position for another glance. Phillip was excited to see the ocean and is looking forward to swimming, picking up shells, and going to the beach. After we arrived, we heard several comments about how beautiful everything was and how green all the plants are. While we were waiting for our luggage to arrive. A man came up and asked Loretta if this was her 1st time in Hawaii and asked if Hannah-Joy was her daughter. At this point he said he would let Hannah-Joy represent the family and gave her a lea and a welcome kiss. The man was a grandfather who was meeting his grandson from Syracuse college. The grandfather was with many family members who had come to meet him. We saw his grandson already had lots of leas on his neck and am guessing he decided to share instead of giving him another. It was a unexpected and wonderful experience that made us feel welcome.

On the drive home we noticed a number of trees in full bloom and color along the side of the road, all very beautiful. We stopped at Zippys for dinner. This place was recommended as a place where all the locals eat. It appears to be a Hawaiian mini chain (or maybe just O'ahu chain). They are a combo sit down and fast food place with a large variety of dishes. It seem like it is a blend of American, Japanese, Hawaiian, Korean, etc. Overall it was a mixed bag. Some of the items were good and others were just so so. We finally arrived at our house at around 8:15p Hawaiian time. It is nice and has a good amount of space. There are two bedrooms, a large living area, and a large kitchen/dining area. We are enjoying the full tropical experience as the place has no A/C. The evening was very pleasant and the temperatures got a little cool toward morning. I think we were all in a daze by the time we got there. It was a LONG day of travelling and due to the time change mean it was 1:15a in Austin.

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

We woke early and walked a few blocks to a Foodland and bought food items. We came back and scrambled eggs and fixed biscuits. We were all suprised at how much all the groceries cost. Many items were double the cost in Austin.

After breakfast, we got in the car and looked for Shark's Cove. We stopped at a beach area and spoke to a couple of life gaurds. They said Shark's Cove was almost directly across from Foodland. We had looked at it earlier and just didn't realize it was what we were looking for. They also said the waves were too high to swim and suggested going down the road to Turtle Bay Resort and snorkel in a cove. The waves were very high 4+ feet and really pounding the beach. The lifeguard noted that there is an occasional larger one that could hit and was us all in even near the surf but out of the water.

We drove to Turtle Bay Resort and paid a public parking fee of $5. We set up on the beach with borrowed items from the condo owner. We used an umbrella, mats, sand toys, snorkels, and masks. The kids spent most of their time playing in the sand building moats, castles, and other things. Loretta snorkeled around while Rick watched the kids. She saw sea urchins, an angel fish, sea coral, and many other fish she couldn't identify. Rick spent some time taking pictures of the cove and from the large rocks surrounding the cove. The kids swam a little, but mainly played on the beach. It was again at this location where we saw a number of blue stop signs. We had seen them the previous day when we stopped for dinner. Rick speculated that they were ones on private land and not official stop signs. The lady at the parking booth confirmed that was the reason.

We ate sandwiches and then headed back to the house. Before we arrived home, we stopped at a fruit and vegetable stand along the road. We bought a coconut and drank the juice with a straw from the coconut. We also bought tomatoes, a papaya, small apple bananas, and fried bananas. We really enjoyed the apple bananas. They tasted very tropical with additional flavors and quite different than the ones at home. The lady at the fruit stand pointed out an area where some kids were coming out of the trees. She said this is one of the locations where they filmed the Lost TV show. It was on part of the property owned by Turtle Bay Resort.

After arriving back home and showering, we decided to drive to Waimea Botanical Valley. We noticed that we all got sunburned even though we applied suntan lotion. It wasn't very bad and it didn't stop us from getting out the following days. The ownership of the garden has changed since Rick was there. They no longer have cliff diving or Hawaiian dance shows but the do have certain demonstrations. We did get there too late to see the one on Hawaiian games but we saw where it was and played with a few of the items they left out. However seeing the large variety of plants with plaques that described them was really nice. The falls were pretty as well. They now let you swim up and under the falls as long as the flow is not too great. One of the interesting trees we saw was a cannonball tree. It had seed pods/fruit on them that were the size of a cannonball and pretty heavy as well. We saw a Macadamia tree, taro plants, bromeliads, canas, and too many other plants to name. Ordinary house plants that we have in Austin are four times as big and grow in the wild here. We saw the shrimp plant here. Instead of the blooms drooping over they stand vertical and are on bushes quite large. We've seen ivy and rubber trees growing along the road side at least five times as big as those in Austin.

After the gardens, we drove back along the coast looking at some of the beaches and we stopped at at Turtle beach. There were four huge turtles laying out in the sand. They were roped off so you could only get about 4 or 5 feet from them. These are endangered sea turtles and they have been coming here for a long time. There were a number of people coming up to look at them and take pictures but the turtles just laid there and ignored you as people walked around.

At this point our peanut butter sandwiches were wearing off and we headed to Helowali Joe's for dinner. We went in the wrong direction because Rick was reading a hand drawn map upside down. After driving for about 20 minutes we realized it was about 10 minutes in the opposite direction from where we started. At this point we gave up and headed back to our house which was only 5 or 10 minutes away. We picked up some food at Shark's Cove Grill. This is a place that is like many we have seen. It is basically a trailer with an ordering window and a kitchen in it. The food was very good. We had some skewers (chicken, shrimp, steak), salad, burgers, and some vegetable curry. At that point we called it an evening. We are still trying to cope with the 5 hour time change. We noticed that we are all getting tired (and a little grumpy) in the evenings. We will probably be good and used to the time change when we need to switch back to Texas time. smile

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

Rick made eggs and biscuits for breakfast. (Eggs, biscuits, and fruit was a common theme through the trip for breakfast with some cereal mixed in.) We packed up and drove to Pearl Harbor. We got 9:30 AM tickets to the U.S. Arizona which were free. We had 45 minutes before the Pearl Harbor movie and the start of the Arizon memorial tour so we went aboard the U.S.S. Bowfin submarine. Each of us had an audio tour player that helped guide us through the different parts of the sub. We all enjoyed this but it sure was cramped when you think about how many sailor were on board. I think Phillip enjoyed this the most of our entire Pearl Harbor visit.

After the submarine, we walked over to watch a short film on the Pearl Harbor attack and then loaded onto a ferry that took you over to the memorial with about 100 other people. The memorial was graceful and has more interesting architecture that you don't notice from the distance. Everyone present kept very quiet as they observed the sunken ship beneath. We read the names of the victims from the attack. The area is in an area with an opening that represents the tree of life from the garden of Eden. We all tossed flowers on the water in honor of those that sacrified their lives. While the ship leaks only about 2 quarts of oil a day, you could see the rainbow of colors on the water cause from the leaking oil. We also saw that the ship has become the basis for a reef. We could see corel beging to grow on it and a number of fish swiming amoung the corel. We stayed about 20 minutes or so then headed back.

After the boat ride back, we walked around the launch area with our audio tour looking at the Arizona museum and listening to Ernest Borgnine narrate information about the battle and items in the museum. One thing Rick learned was that the attack on Pearl Harbor was really not the only place that was attacked and not the first. The attack was at bases and airfields all over O'ahu and not just the base at Pearl Harbor.

We went back to the car and ate our peanut butter sandwiches, fruit, and trail mix for lunch. The last thing we did on this property was take a shuttle to the Aviation Museum. It was a small museum, but informative. While there were only a few airplains and mock up, we had a docent that explained alot of the details and the reasons for what we saw. It really made a difference and brought some of the events of the battle to life.

We needed to get a large floppy hat for Phillip to prevent more sunburn on his ears since they aren't protected by the baseball cap he brought. Loretta asked a museum employee about shops nearby and was encouraged to go to the Aloha Stadium to attend what locals call a "Swap Meet". Various vendors set up booths surrounding the entire stadium the parking lot. Yes, a continuous loop around the entire football stadium where the booths are packed so close that there is no space between them. Wow, there is no way you can see it all even though we walked the entire loop during our visit. The vendors sell brand new products at least 25% off retail cost and sometime much more. For example we bought some necklesses there for a $1 or $2 but saw like products in the $4 - $8 range at certain stands. It closed at 3pm, so we hurried over and through it since we only had an hour before closing. We found t-shirts 8 for $20 (though we didn't buy any), a hat for Phillip, and various other souvenirs for sale. This Swap Meet takes place every Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday. It was a fun experience and everyone wanted to come back on Saturday on our way to the airport.

Loretta and the kids wanted to go to Costco which was close by, so we headed in that direction. The kids ate supper there (hot dogs and pizza). Surprisingly, the hot dog and drink was the same price as in Austin ($1.50) as well as the other food court items. We picked up a few grocery items much cheaper than in the grocery stores. We looked around at some of the grocery items we normally buy. Most of the prices were higher than Austin but only 10 - 20% higher and not the doubling of most of the items in the grocery store.

After this shopping spree, we drove back to North Shore, where we are staying, by way of the windward side. Previously we had been going through more of the middle of the Island that gets less rain. Everyone was taken by the lush plants all along the drive as especially as we approached and went through the tunnels in the mountains. It was a gorgeous drive where we saw lush plants, flowers, hugh tree, etc. The land was much more lush and greener than the leeward side that is almost seemed like a different place even though they are only a few miles apart. We stopped at a Macadamia farm for a bit and a small supermarket. We then stopped briefly at the Polynesian Center where Loretta went in for more information about the luau they offer. We found out they charge kids under 16 at the lower rate. We thought we had to pay the adult price for Joseph which means the ticket is about $20 cheaper. We also learned that they will allow you to attend the park's exhibits for three days in a row for the one price. Of course the luau and the fire show are only good for one time. That would have been useful but we had too many things to do in our few days we decided to only go there one day.

The drive along O'ahu's east coast took a bit over two hours. We stopped at the famous Ted's Bakery and picked up 3 different slices of pie. This place has high ratings for its lunches and desserts. Rick and Loretta had ceviche (from Costco) with crackers for supper once we got home. The shrimp was really tasty. Loretta did a load of laundry. The owners allow guests to do two loads of laundry free of charge. That was nice in that we didn't have to pack as many things. This allowed us to only have one checked bag in addition to our carry on luggage.

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

We were up early as usual. Phillip came in a 4:00 and Rick sent him back to bed. He came back at 4:30 saying "I can't sleep any more." We cooked our usual and headed off to Hanamaua Bay. It took us almost two hours to get there. We arrived between after 9 and got tickets for the 9:30 show. Every time you come, you have to see a video about how to protect the marine life (or once a year if you come multiple times).

At the bay, the water and beach looked gorgeous. We started off snorkeling for a while. You could see a large number of fish swimming in the corel and the water was fairly clear. Phillip never quite got the hang of how to do it and was a little scared of the many fish around him. Joseph also wanted to quit because he was cold. However, both he and Hannah-Joy did it long enough to see a lot of fish. The three of them then started playing in the sand building sand castles. All three of them had a blast building on various castles. I think they built on it for several hours. Loretta and Rick took turns doing some snorkeling runs. The water got more cloudy the longer we stayed. This was because more people arrived through the day and they stirring up the bottom. At the end Rick and Loretta did doing one last snorkel before we packed up and left. We went to the far left end of the bay near where the surf is bigger and there were fewer people. The water was much clearer here and some of the areas were teeming with fish. During Loretta's final swim, she saw and swam with some giant endangered sea turtles.

We got packed up and back to the car and couldn't find the keys. Rick had put them in the backpack but they weren't there. He looked around and found them in his swimming suit pocket. He had gone back to the car to bring down lunch and put them there. He had been snorkeling with them in his pocket as well. The pocket didn't have a zipper or velcro so we were all thankful that they didn't fall out while swimming. Amazingly, the remote for the doors still works as well after being in the salt water. That would have been a real pain if they had fallen out into the bay.

We did a more leisurely drive back with some stops along the way. We saw some pretty waves as they crashed on the rock walls. One of the locals volunteed to take our picture while we were overlooking the ocean. We stopped at a blow hole and saw the waves shooting the water through it and into the air. At one stop we saw some people para gliding. We got out and they were launching off the side of the hill where we stopped. We watched them do that for awhile. One of the guys did a complete flip (loop) while he was coming down and before he landed. After that, we headed on toward the Pali Lookout. On the way, we saw a really cool sunbeam coming through the clouds. It was completely overcast except for a single small hole in the clouds that formed a bright beam you could see from the clouds all the way to the ground.

The Pali Lookout was a great view over the island but we were disappointed that the wind was almost calm. Rick has memories about throwing coins out from the lookout and the wind blowing them back to you. The kids were all excited to give that a try but is was barely any breeze. On our way back to the car, Phillip did see a trail that went steeply up a hill and said let's go. He and Rick climbed a steep hill and saw the traditional place where you see a photo taken of the lookout.

We continued back home along the windward side of the coast. We stopped at a McDonald's for Phillip's and Hannah-Joy's dinner. This one was right next to the Polynesian cultural center had a very interesting architecture inside and out. It was definitely not your typical McDonald's. Also when Phillip was ordering and couldn't decide, the man behind the counter jokingly said how about a salad? Phillip said that sounded good and order a Caesar salad. At this point, the main asked if he wanted crispy or grilled chicken noting the grilled was more healthy. Phillip said he would take the grilled chicken. Loretta, Rick, and Joseph had dinner at Ted's. Joseph was a bit adventuresome trying some chicken with a Hawaiian sauce that no one had tried before. That food from Ted's was very tasty, especially the garlic shrimp dish. We don't remember but Phillip did try shimp on our trip to Hawaii and decided he likes shrimp. Previously he said he didn't but that was only because Joseph and Hannah-Joy said they didn't like it.

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

Today we tried to sleep in later since we were planning on going to the Polynesian Cultural Center. We were planning on going to the luau and the show which isn't over until 9PM. That worked for everyone except Phillip and Rick. Rick went out to the car in the morning and opened all the windows to air out the smell due to our water shoes we forgot in the car. He left the key on when he rolled down the windows and it ran the battery down. There was a neighbor leaving at the same time we were and they came in and gave us a jump.

We went over to a beach near our house and the kids built sand castles. They build and giggle and try to keep it built as the surf comes and washes some of it away. I think being out on the beach and playing in the sand was one of the most enjoyable things they did on the trip. The waves were still very large and sometime the wave would come way up on the beach. The sand was soft from all the water ponding on it and it was very porous. The water from a wave would often sink into the sand instead of running back into the ocean. Loretta and Rick took turns standing on some rocks at the edge of the surf and took some pictures of each other as the waves splashed up around them. After we were on the beach for a little over an hour we came back in to get ready for the cultural center and have lunch.

At the Cultural center we saw presentations on the Samoan, Fuji, Tonkan, New Zeland, and other cultures. We enjoyed the Samoan warrior who showed the audience how to take the outer covering off a coconut and then crack open the nut with a rock. (Rick tried this technique on a cocount using the back of a meat cleaver once we got home. It really worked on cracking open the coconut.) He also demoed shredding the coconut and making cocunut milk. In their culture the men do all the cooking and they have created techniques that allow for much faster cooking of entire animals than the other polynesian cultures. He showed everyone how to start a fire by rubbing a stick on a piece of soft wood. Rick and the kids all tried to start a fire afterwards and each got smoke to appear.

We experienced a luau at the Polynesian center. They had a lei greeting and then had a show with music and dancing. The also showed removing a roasted pig from the pit where it was being cooked while covered by large banana leaves. Most of the food was good but noone liked Poi. However, we all enjoyed the bread made out of taro.

After the luau, we hurred over to the last IMAX show and got in about 15 minutes late. It was about how the reefs all over the world are in danger from climate change and local human influences. Like all IMAX films it had some incredible movies especially of some of the underwater creatures. They also went on an extremely deep dive that resulted in them discovering new kinds of fish and sea creatures.

After the IMAX we went over to the evening show. It was well done and worth seeing. They had a variety of dancers from each of the cultures. Phillip was really looking forward to seeing the dancing with fire. We were all really tired during the show and we think each of us slept a little (some only during intermission). When it came time for the fire dancers, Phillip was sound asleep. Rick shook him and talked to him for several minutes but he wouldn't wake up. We agree it was all good but that the fire dancing at the end was an impressive part and why they left it to last. They twirled fire batons, threw flaming spears to each other, did some fire eating, walked on and over it, etc. There was also a part where the three male dancers sat on fire in their hula skirts. Phillip did get to see some pictures of that part the next day that Rick took during the show.

Saturday, May 23rd, 2009

We packed up to get ready for our flight in the afternoon to the Big Island. Rick was feeling sad we were leaving and we were all amazed at how fast the time seemed to go. It almost felt like we were leaving even though we we just going to another island. We got off mid morning and stopped at the Dole Pinapple Plantation. They have a hugh store with all kinds of Pinapple product with very inflated prices. For example, we bought a Dole pineapple at Costco for $2. They were selling them in a 4 pack for $25 or $30. Rick and the kids did the largest maze in the world. You had to find 8 markers throughout the maze and color in a shape from each on your ticket to complete the maze. They did provide a map to the maze that you could use to plan your paths. The top five times of the maze range from 8 minutes to 13 minutes. It took the three of them about 45 minutes to complete the maze (though they didn't run and lost some time while waiting in line at the marker to get their turn coloring in the shape). During that time, Loretta took a garden tour and train ride. We ate some pinapple soft serve ice cream topped wiht fresh pinapple that was good and refreshing as the day was getting warm. As we were leaving, we had the first incident with the camera. Joseph picked up the camera bag from the back seat which was unzipped. As he lifted it, the 85mm lens fell out on the pavement. It appears to still work fine but just has a couple of scratches on it. That was a relief as it was about a 4 foot fall.

Before we went to the airport, we made one last stop at the Swap Meet. Loretta and the kids were "dying" to have a ukelele. We picked up one with a case for $33 here. When Loretta was going through the security check point at the airport, she left a bag outside of the X-ray. None of us was aware of the missing bag until an airport worker approached us at the gate with the bag and asked if we were the Machs. We thanked him profusely. This bag had all the kids electonics like the Nintendo DSs as well as lot of books in it. At this point we started checking two bags for the plan due to items they don't let you carry on board. Surprisingly, Hawaiian Airelines didn't charge us a baggage handling fee like American did even though they said they had one on their website.

Arriving in Hilo, Loretta asked a Budget Rental Car worker for suggestions on a local eatery. She recommended Cafe 100 down the road. It was a local place where you ordered and picked up at the counter and ate at on a covered patio around the outside. It was very inexpensive with most dishes less than $6. For example you could get a burger for about $2. All of us ordered normal food except Rick. He ordered a popular Hawaiin dish called a Moco Loco. Moco Locos are served with a variety of different meats (including Spam which seems big here). The meat is stacked atop a bed of rice and covered with gravy. Finally it is topped off with a fried egg cooked to your liking. Rick's had brown rice and got Mahi Mahi as the meat. It tasted really good.

After dinner, we headed over to a grocery store called PackNSave. It was even more expensive than O'ahu. (So much for the "Save" part.) Milk was $5 a gallon, Craklen Oat Bran was $7.75 a box, and the cheapest bread was $2.25 a loaf with other $3 or more. One thing we saw here Post Select Blueberry Morning cereal. This is a cereal Joseph loved for years but now is no longer available in the stores in Austin. We bought some for him. After eating it, Joseph said it didn't taste as good as he remembered. He likes a new Costco brand one we have bought better.

We arrived at our home after dark. The cottage we stayed at was gorgous. It appears very new and furning with lots of items in the kitchen, bathroom, and refridgerator. It had a nice front loading washing machine. As we went to bed, we heard LOUD sounds from lots of frogs. The frogs make a weird whistling sound that doesn't sound like a frog. Rick had read how loud they are in the Helo area and they weren't joking. Despite the noise, we were all able to get to sleep quickly and sleep well.

Sunday, May 24th, 2009

On Sunday we had a devotion as a family and did some praise singing. (Actually we had one every day but just had a longer one today since it was Sunday and we weren't going to church.) We had some of our standard breakfast. After that we went to the local farmers market in the city of Pahoa?.

At the market, they had a larger number of vendors with crafts, local produce, freshly cooked food, and some used items. After we looked around awhile we decided to have a 2nd breakfast/early lunch. We tried a local speciality called Lau Lau. This is a piece of meat that is wrapped in some type of leaf (sorry we can't remember) and slow cooked over a pit. The meat was very tender, moist and flavoriful. It was the best meat we had the whole trip. The leaves were also slightly bitter which gave an interesting contrast to the flavors and spices of the meat. Loretta found a booth where they were making fresh crepes. One of the people we talked with said they come every Sunday and buy a crepe from "the crepe lady". We order a garlic shrimp one. It was fresh and very tasty as well. They also had lots of good looking produce. We bought lychee ($4/lbs), apple bananas ($2 for about 8-10), a bag of strawberry papaya ($2 for 6), and tomatoes ($2 for a bag). Phillip also had a piece of pizza. We spoke with some of the locals to find out some things to do in the area. These is supposedly a great beach where you can often swim near some dolphins in the water. However it is clothing optional beach so we decided to pass and try some other things they suggested.

We drove down to where the lava is flowing into the ocean but it was closed until 5pm. However, we could see two very large steam plumes from the lava boiling the ocean water. At this point we went down closer to the ocean where there was a fairly new lava flow that had covered the land. You could walk over the lava and see how shrubs and trees are starting to establish themselves in the black rock. After about a 15 minute walk, you came out on the ocean where there is a brand new black sand beach that is forming out of the fresh lava. The beach is pretty but maybe only 75 yards in length. The surf was pretty as the waves crashed on the rocks and beach but it was pounding so hard that it was not safe to enter. At this beach we saw a large number of coconuts thrown on the ground in the area behind the beach. Most of them were sprouting and starting to grow into new coconut trees. It was amazing how well they seemed to be establishing themselves on this rocky and sandy terrain. Near the place we parked, there was a man set up with a bunch of lava photos he had taken from the current active flow. He took these by going near the lava in his boat. Some of the photos are amazing with firework like shows and even faces or shapes in the lava. He said one time he caught his boat on fire from the lava. We bought a few 4x6 photos from him (6 for $5).

After that we drove to a beach near Lava Tree State Park near the south eastern tip of the island. There were lots of locals out surfing. The kids were hoping for a sandy beach to play in but there really was only rock. There was a boat launch ramp that had a levy that blocked the large waves. The kids joined a large number of local kids that were swimming in that calm area and jumping into the water from the dock. At the farmers market on of the locals said that this beach had a lava heated pool. We walked along the beach and found it. It was a pool of salt water back from the beach by about 15 or 20 yards. It was circular and about 10 - 15 feet in diameter and about 4 feet deep. The water felt nice and warm like a warm bath. This pool was really beautiful in that it was covered by coconut trees so it was very shady. Away from the beach side of the ppol was a rocky hill that went up and was covered with a variety of vegetation. We commented how this area looked like something out of a movie set.

After the beach, we went back to Lava Tree State Park. Lava trees are large towers of hardened lava that formed when the lava flowed through this area. The water in the trees caused the lava go cool and leave a tower in the shape of the trunk. The center this tower is hollow after the trunk burned up in the heat. We walked a loop around the park and saw some red birds. One thing that was amazing is the Monkey Pod trees at the entrance of the park. The canopy of the tree was up about 2 1/2 to 3 stories. My description can't do it justice but it had a mesmorizing feel as you looked up through the trees. Another thing that was amazing in and around the park area is the ivy growing wild. This looks like the ivy Rick has growing in his office at work. However it was going all up trees and the leave were 1 - 1 1/2 feet across.

We stopped at a grocery store on the way home and picked up a roasted chicken for dinner. We had that with some bread and the various fresh fruits we bought at the market. After dinner we drove back to the area where the lava was flowing into the ocean. We got to the parking lot about sunset and hiked about 20 minutes to the viewing area. You could see the red of the lava reflecting off the steam clouds. The closest you could get was about a mile away. At this point all the lava is flowing underground as it gets to the ocean so you don't see any red coming down the hill. However, you could see some fireworks every so often when boiling sea water would explode and shoot hot rock up into the air. We had borrowed a flashlight from out house and I forgot my other light. After dark on the way back (it was twilight when we walked out) the light seemed very weak espicially with all the black lava around. It was really not enought for one much less five. Phillip and I set out following a couple with a bright light. Loretta and the other two kids continued more slowly with the flashlight. One of the park guides saw them and loaned them another flashlight. After we got back to the house it started to rain really hard. Fortunantely we were back before it happened. We believe it rained most of the night.

Monday, May 25th, 2009

The next morning we headed toward Volcano National Park. On the way, we stopped at the Hilo Coffee Mill. A lady at the swap meet on O'ahu told us to check them out. One of the owners came out and explained the process of growing coffee and processing the beans. A couple of interesting things about the process was that from the time of blooming to the time of ripened fruit takes about 9 months. Also in Hawaii, it continually blooms so you have blooms, green fruit, and ripe fruit all on the same bush. We also learned that a single coffee bush will produce about 10 lbs of fruit per year. This amount of fruit yields only one pound of finished coffee. During the explanation, she showed us some pictures of the process from the picking, the fermenting, the drying, and finally the roasting. We also looked at various unroasted beans. One interestig thing is that water decafinated beans are all shrivelled up. However, they plump back up like normal beans as part of the roasting process.

After the tour, we headed on to Volcano National Park. The vent that is on the western end of the main crater is spewing large amounts of volcanic gas. Thus, the road around the back side of the crater is closed because of poor air quality. The first thing we did was to watch a couple of movies at the visitor center that told about the park, volcanoes, and showed lots of details regarding the erruption of 1959 in which the Kilua Iki crate was full of lava and there were huge fountains of lava up to a 1000 feet high.

After the film, we hurried over to a ranger led tour along Devestation trail which much of the vegetation was killed during the 1959 erruption. The tour took an hour or so and it was really good. The guide showed us some of the native plants and explained things about the plants and how they tie in to Hawaiian culture and mythology. It was also interesting seeing the different speeds at which some of the land is recovering. Some areas are almost fully recovered. This is because the type of lava that fell on this area is able to hold mosture. Other areas along the trail have very little vegetation but are slowly starting to recover. What they found is this type of lava does not hold moisture. What appears to be happening is that a certain weed can get established in this area. The weed will grow and live for about 10 years after which it dies out. As the week grew, it builds up a type of compost in this area that will retain some moisture. In the remains of the weeds, other plants and trees are then starting to grow. Thus, the weed is key in the recovery with this type of lava. He also showed how the native Nene birds eat some of the seed and spread them over the area in their excriment. This also helps speed the undergrowth in the recovering areas. The guild told a story about a flowering tree and the how Pele turned a man (handsome surfer dude) into a tree when he wouldn't be with Pele. His girlfriend was very sad and Pele offered her the ability to be with him forever. So Pele turned his girlfriend into the flowers on the tree. This tree grows there on the volcano. If you pick the flowers, it is supposed to start raining as the rain is her tears. The guide picked Hannah-Joy to feel some plants and describe how it feels to everyone on the tour. One of the plants she touched was a type of furn that only grows out in the sun. It has a rough hair on it similar to pig's fur. There is a story about Pele turning one of the pig gods from another island into this furn. We also looked at another one that grows in the shade. The hair on this one is fine and similar to cotten. He also told a story about a particular plant. The berries of it are identical to another type of plant. If it has many seeds inside the berry, it is safe to eat. If it has only one seed, then the fruit is poisonous. One of the things we talked about after the guide was that the stories are really interesting however we wonder how many people really still follow these supersitions. He never really said if he did but one of his stories made it sound like his grandmother did. Related to this, we saw a lady at the market selling special crystals that have power to change your life. We also saw along various places around the volcano things that appear to be offerings to Pele. Som of the things we saw were flowers, incince, fruit, leis, and a bottle of gin. Seeing these things made us stop and pray that they might find the hope and light that Christ brings.

After the tour, we started around the northern edge of the road and stopped off at the steaming hills. It was intersting as large amount of steam are coming out of holes in the ground and along the edge of the cliffs that ring the crater. The steam is from rain water that soaks down to rocks that are still hot and boil the water into steam. We hiked across the road on another trail over to the sulfer hills. In this area, Loretta and the kids stopped before they went all the way due to the air quality being poorer. You could feel it in your chest as a tightness. Rick walked all the way and took some pictures of the sulpher hills. In this area, there is steam that is coming out of the ground. Where it exits, it is leaving deposits of sulpher on the ground. You can see significant accumulations of yellow on the rocks.

We continued around toward the vent and stopped at the end of the road at the volcano observatory. Here they have a museum and it is currently the best view you have of the vent. While the wind was blowing the gas from the vent away from the observatory, you could still feel the volcanic gasses as a tightness in your chest. They seemed to bother Joseph more than the rest of us. It even bothered him inside where they had equipment to purify the air. Some of the amazing things we saw in the museum was the outer clothes/suit of one of the scientists who fell through into molen lava while checking on the eruption. The legs of his protective gear were all burned up. However, he survived and went on to run in marathons having a full recovery. We also saw some sysmographs. You could see where one which was near where we were had lots of small earthquakes through the day. All of these were small enough so we never felt any while we were there. Phillip put some money into one of the telecopes to get a closer look at the vent. All you can see is hugh plumes of steam and volcanic gas coming out of the crater. It is hard to estimate how much it was venting but the amount looks very large as it goes way up into the sky and creates a haze in the entire area.

We began our trek back toward the park entrance and stopped at least once to look over the huge crater. It is hard to image how this was once all filled with hot lava. It really must have been an incredible sight. We stopped at the Thurston lava tube. The area of the park where this tube is located in in a rain forest. The plant life, ferns, etc. in the are are dense and very dense and jungle like. This lava tube is in the ground where the lava flowed and cooled on the outside to form a type of pipe that allowed lava to flow through it. When the flow stopped, the hot lava flowed out leaving the empty tube. Some tubes have large amounts of stalagtites hanging from the ceiling where the lava cooled as it dripped. In this tube there are really none or only some tiny ones that are less than 1" long. The first part of the tube is improved with lighting and a nice trail. You do get water dripping from the roof from the rains above. At the end of the improved part is a gate with a sign that envites you go to on through an unimproved part of the tube. We started a bit and it is very dark. We were more prepaired this time. We had the same dim flashlight from the other night but with better batteries in it, my keychain LED flashlight, a small flourescent lantern, and two iPod Touches with the flashlight application on them. This proved to be enough light to navigate the tube once our eyes got used to the darkness. It is amazing how little light these seem to give. It is partly because all the walls and ceiling are black lava and just absorb most of the light. We made it all the way to then end of the tube. It was probably only 100 - 150 yards but it seemed like it was further when we were going. Phillip was the most scared and the most reluctant to go. At one point we tried turning off all our flashlights while standing in a circle holding hands. Phillip really didn't like this and kept turning his light back on. He finally did it when we told him we would all count to 30 with the lights off and then turn them back on. In there with the lights turned off is the blackest black you have ever seen.

At this point it was getting late and we were all tired and hungry. We went into the small town of Volcano and ate at a Thai restaurant that was recommended in the guide book. I think it was the most expensive dinner we had the trip but the prices were not too bad ($13 - 16 per dish and 4 were enough for our family). The food was very good and it was also one of the best meals we had.

After dinner, we went back to the park and the place where we could see the vent. Aparently some nights, you can see the glow of lava in the vent off the gases that are being released. When we got there, no one was around and all the lights were off. You couldn't see any glow of the lava. I guess the lava was too low or the gases were just too dense. We drove back home and finally stopped at a 7-11 that they kids have been wanting to find for several days. They earned a stamp at the Polynesian Cultural center that allowed them to get a free slush. One thing I will note, the entire day was very cloudy. It looked like it could have rained all day but it never did. It made the weather nice and cool for the hiking about we did.

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

Today is the last full day we have left on our trip. We asked the kids what they wanted to do and one thing they wanted most was to go back to the beach and build sand castles. We started off toward the black sand beach that is about 30 minutes past Volcano National Park. The day was cloudy and there was rain in the area most of the day. It rained on us several times in the day but it was mostly light and only while driving. It did rain a bit on us as the beach but only a shower for a few minutes.

This beach turned out to be a highlight for the kids though not as they expected. They did think it was neat to see all the black sand. However, as they built the sandcastles, they really didn't hold together very well due to the texture of the sand. One thing they did like was that the beach had a number of springs running out of the sand into the ocean. They used these to make waterfalls and other items. The springs made the water very cold when you went into the ocean. As you moved out and got deeper, the water got warmer. Loretta and Hannah-Joy were really the only ones to venture out much. While we were there, we saw a number of turtles swimming out in the water. These were a different kind of giant turtules than the ones we saw before. These had more of a greenish yellow color in the shells. While Hannah-Joy was walking in the ocean, she went to step on a rock in the water. After she stepped on the rock, it started swimming away. It was really one of the backs of the turtles. At the time we were there, the tide was low. This really aiding our ability to look at the creatures in the shallow water. There were a number of clams in the area. However, they were all mostly black to blend in with the black rocks and sand. The crabs in the area were all black as well. One guy there caught a bigger crab in the ocean that was more normal colored and showed it to the kids. He also caught one of the turtles by the shell but was called down as you are supposed to leave them alone. Even though Phillip had been worried and scared about crabs before our trip, he loved looking through the rocks and seeing them. He talked about this beach for several days after our trip and it was definitely a highlight for him. Other things we saw were a number of sea aonemoes living among the rocks. We also found several pieces of dead coral that the waves had washed up. The kids also found a couple of pieces of volcanic glass that was clear to translucent in color. It was polished smooth by the ocean. They also found some red rocks that seemed to stand out against the black sand. However, when you picked them up, the rocks were more of a duller brown color. Put them back on the sand and they looked red. It was an interesting behavior and was caused the the color contrast of the black sand.

On the way back, we stopped at a little stand on the side of the road that had a sign up the said coffee. The lady in the stand has retired from the park service and is doing what she wanted. She and her husband now have their own coffee farm and roast and sell their own beans mainly through the Internet. She was brewing some of her coffee and gave us a couple of cups. We bought a bag of her coffee. The bad part is that somehow we didn't make it home with the bag. That is too bad as all the Hawaiian coffee is very expensive. I think we paid $35 for the pound we bought. Some of the other interesting things in this area was a macadamia nut tree. She said they are ripe when the nuts fall off the tree. She let us go and pick some and eat them. She had a cracker that is meant to work on the nuts. They were very tasty but I think they taste even better after roasting. We also walked over to some of the coffee bushes. They had just finished picking and said we were welcome to pick any of the red ones we found. We picked a few and got to try the fruit. As we learned in our earlier tour, the fruit is a very thin white layer that is between the skin and the bean. It has a higher consentration of caffeen than the beans do. The fruit is only 1/8" think or maybe less. You can scrape it and suck it off the bean. It really has no flavor but is slightly sweet. Everyone tried some of the fruit they picked. She also had a grove of apple bananas growing though none were ripe. We have all greatly enjoyed those bananas as they are more tasty than the ones we buy. She also had sugar cane and a avocado tree growing. She did note it took a long time to get the avocado tree to grow and it was very small. I guess there is one thing that doesn't grow well in Hawaii.

We continued our way back and stopped in Volcano National Park again. Loretta wanted to hike through the rain forest toward the current place lava is venting. This hike is multiple hours but she wanted to try it at least for a bit. We read about this hike in the guide book but is just outside the park. As a warm up, we were going to high along one of the trails in the park that is in the rain forest. We walked along it a bit and it was very pretty jungle on one side and the crater of the volcano on the other. One cool thing that Hannah-Joy found was a spider web. On the spider web were dew drops. The water drops on the web formed a shape that looked like a giant spider on the spider web.

After walking a while, Phillip kept asking if we could do the lava tube again, especially the dark part. I guess he got over his fears from the previous day. Rick really wanted to hike down on the floor of the Kilua Iki crate and hike a trail across to the other side. We decided to split with Loretta and the kids going to the lava tube and Rick hiking down to the floor since the trail head and the lava tube were at the same spot.

Loretta and the kids went on through the tube. They all wanted to go through the unlit part again. All the kids were rushing ahead of Loretta in the dark. Joseph wanted to turn off all the lights again but Phillip was scared and screamed. Joseph was also trying to tell scary stories but Loretta had him stop.

While everyone else did the tube, Rick started down the cliff to the crater. It was a 400 foot verticle drop from the top to the bottom of the crater. He hiked down in about 15 minutes. During the walk, especially at the start, some of the ferns and jungle were amazing. In the crater, it was mostly barren with plants growing in a few places. There was steam coming out of the ground in various points all along the crater floor. He sat up his camera and took several pictures of the rocks, plants, and steam coming out of the ground. He moved his tripod and was standing next to it surveying the sights and thinking about what to photograph. At this point, the head of the tripod must have loosened and the camera quickly rotated down. When it hit the stopping while pointing down, the quick release came off and the camera and flash flew down to the ground and bounded around on the hard lava. The camera was scratched, the shutter would not fire correctly, the lens hood scratched up, and the foot of the flash broken. He was really upset and beat himself up about the how he must have not fully tightened the head. He got to work off some of that frustration in the strenough hike back up. While down there he got a cell phone call from Loretta that said they were done and to come back and meet them at the car. This hike was much more tiring up the 40 story cliff carrying all his camera gear on his back.

We started left the park and found the road that led to this supposedly spectacular rain forest hike. We drove down toward the trail head. At one part, the road changed to unpaved, and had a large hill. At the bottom of the hill was a very large puddle of water and mud. We had no idea how muddy it was and our mini SUV didn't have 4 wheel drive. Even though we did want to see the trail, we didn't want to risk getting stuck on a empty back road. We decided to turn around rather than risk getting stuck.

We grabbed a quck dinner at McDonalds that we ate on the road as we drove up to the Mona Kea Observatory. We had packed some jackets, pants, long underware, and long sleeve shirts as it can be very cold up on the mountain. The drive took about an hour or so from our house after we got a winter gear. The drive to the observatory passes through about 5 different climate zones. At the coast near Hilo, it is very jungle like. We went through various zone until the top which was grasslands with cattle and then finally very desert like.

We stopped at the visitor center just before sunset. We didn't drive all the way to the top which is over 13,000 feet. You really wouldn't have seen much up there except the domes of the observatory and the clouds. They also recommended a 4 wheel drive and said it could be dangerous for children due to the extremely low humidity and thin air. We thought we might get some great sunset pictures from up there but it turned out the sun set behind one of the peaks and we were already in the shadow at the visitor center.

The visitor center is at a little over 9,000 feet. Went inside started by watching a film about the observatory and the work that goes on there. They had a number of volunteers on hand to show off the night sky, tell about the observatory, and answer questions. While they have housing on the mountain, no one lives there permanently. They only stay there while they are on their shift working. All the astronimers there have to submit proposals on how to utilize the telecopes which are a very limited resource. The proposals are reviewed and if yours is picked you get assigned a time slot. If you get a cloudy day or there is an equipment failure during your time, you are out of luck and have to resubmit. They said it can be very stressful during each of the shifts as they are frantically trying to get all there observations done in their small time slot. We also saw information about a new telescope they were building with special compensation to account for the fluctuations in the atomosphere. They expect the images from the new telescope to be better, sharper, and looking deeper than can be done with the Hubble space telescope.

After it got dark, they set up 4 or 5 telescopes they would point at different objects. They also had a number of other telescopes without automatic earth rotation compensation out for anyone to point and use as they like. They pointed one at the moon. I have never seen the clarity and details in the craters like you could see with this one. We looked at Saturn and could clearly see its rings. We looked at a globular cluster, a spiral galaxy, and other things. Phillip got tired after looking at a few objects and went back to the car and fell asleep while we continued to look. We left to head back around 9pm. One thing I should have noted was that it definitely got cool up there after dark. I was glad I had some layers and a warm hat on. I don't think it was freezing but I do think it was in the upper 30s.

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

On our final day, we packed up and were getting ready to leave the house about 9:30. At this point we had yet to see the lady we rented the cottage from. As we were making our final rounds and loading up the car Linda came walking up. She said she is never out early and we were gone every other morning she came by. She said she got up early to see us the last day. She was still in her gown and robe. She offered to give us a tour of her garden. She has about 3 acres of land and has cleared it and is creating her own miniture botanical garden. She showed us many different plants and flowers that she has planted. Rick took a bunch of flower pictures. She also showed us a number of orchids growing in trees. They way she gets them there is that she just breaks off part of one of the orchids, grabs a piece of moss and ties it all up on a limb of a tree. In addition to all kinds of flowers there were also a number of trees. She showed us a lemon tree where the lemons were the size of grapefruits. We also saw oranges, grapefruit, and lychee. She also had an allspice tree. The leaves smelled wonderful. I think it took about an hour to see it all. One thing that Phillip really liked and kept talking about was the flowers on this one bush. You could pick and eat the small flowers. The flowers tasted like a sour tart candy. She even had a Miracle Fruit tree. This is the tree that the fruit cause sour thing to taste sweet. The only problem with the tour was that there wer lots of mosquitoes. This was really the only time we had a problem with them on our entire trip. Loretta had commented how neat the allspice tree was. As we were leaving, Linda came up and gave us a small one that she was rooting. She had cleaned all the dirt off and packed it for travel. She thought we would be able to take it back on our flight with us. This was a great place to stay and we highly recommend it to anyone wanting to stay in this area.

After the tour, we had only a few hours before our flight. We drove along the coast to the north of Hilo. It was bright and sunny today. The ocean was extremely blue and the coast was very beautiful. We drove up to Akaka falls park which is about 20 minutes or so past Hilo. We hiked down to the falls. The water is falling so far it almost looks like it is in slow motion. The falls are about 400 feet high. Phillip and Rick also walked to the smaller falls at the park while the others waited. You could barely see the other falls due to the growth of plants blocking the view from the overlook. They also have a longer hiking path but it was closed due to trail improvements.

On the drive back into Hilo, we took a 4 mile scenic drive that is closer to the coast than the main road. It was a very pretty drive through homes along the beach and then very jungle like. There is a botanical garden on this road we were going to stop at and walk through. It is supposed to be incredible. By the time we got to the garden, it was only about 45 minutes before we needed to head to the airport. We decided we didn't have enough time to do it especially considering we would have had to pay $60+ in enterance fees. We did stop just past the garden and walked along a path that goes down to the coast. We stood there for a while looking at the ocean and the waves crashing into the rocky beach.

On the way back to the airport, we stopped at the farmers market to get lunch and our last fix of Hawaiian fruit. Phillip had a hotdog. Loretta, Joseph, and Hannah-Joy had some Pad Thai. Rick bought some flat bread with olives, cheese, sundried tomatoes, and spices on it. We also bought several sticks of a rice/coconut ball. It is made from rice flour, coconut, and sugar and then fried. It is much denser than a donut. We all liked them alot and bough some more after we tried them. This is an Asian dish they were selling. We also bought some apple bananas and lychee.

At the airport, we went through the agriculture inspection with the allspice tree. They said because we were going back to Texas it would be prohibited. The rules vary by state and Texas requires all plants come from a certified nursery. One of the ladies working at the counter at Hawaiian airlines asked about it and was interested in the tree. After we found out we couldn't get it back, we gave it to that lady.

The trip back was overall very uneventful. After the takeoff from Hilo, we got to see the top of the Mona Kea mountain and the domes of the observatory on the top once we got over the clouds. We had a short layover in Honalulu and finished all our Hawaiian fruit before going through the inspaction and had dinner. Even through our way back had more flights it was actually much quicker than the way out. It also helped that we all slept a significant portion of the flight from Honalulu to Dallas. It helped that it got dark about an hour after takeoff and stayed dark until we were approaching Dallas for our landing. We landed around 6AM in Dallas and ate breakfast even though it was really 1 AM Hawaii time to try to get back on Central time. We ate again at McDonald's. This was probably the 3rd or 4th time we got something from them in the past 5 days. This is more than we have eaten at McDonald's in the past year or more. After we got back Rick mentioned a couple of times to the kids about going to McDonald's and their reaction is no way. smile One intersting thing we did try at McDonald's was Taro pie that is like their fried apple pie. It was probably the most tasty Taro we had. Definitely better than Poi. The extra sugar and fat help it out. smile Overall it was a great trip, we saw lots of things, had a good time, and can't believe how quickly it was over.

-- RickMach - 13 Apr 2009
Topic revision: r27 - 2009/07/17, RickMach
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