Friday, February 24, 2012

Hawaii-Journey to the Big Island-Part 6 Waipi’o Valley

On the north end of the Big Island sits a community that has maintained itself for more generations than anyone can count. Waipi’o sits in a lush green valley several hundred feet down a steep one-lane road (with pull outs).

Most persons venture down on foot. We took the easy way. By accident we pulled into a tour office/café. JoAnne wanted a restroom and saw a sign. After using the facility, we struck up a conversation with the proprietor. We had just missed a shuttle tour, and the next one he could assign us to meant a four hour wait. Seeing our unwillingness to waste that much time, he made a call to one of the younger guides.

Douglas is a tall lanky, muscular native of the area. His grandmother had lived in the valley and his 90 year-old uncle still farmed there. As we descended, slowly and in high 4-wheel drive, the scene unfolded- the river fed by countless streams, springs and a high waterfall that brings water from the Waimea water shed swelled and quickened its pace, ultimately to the ocean. On its path the river supplies water for the farms and their major crop, taro, that is used for making the Hawaiian starch, Poi.

Douglas provided insight to the farming of taro and the fact that the entire plant is used, including the stem that is planted for the next yield. Many taro plants have a history as long as the valley, itself, providing crop after crop from one stem. Our guide didn't stop with enlightening us on taro. There is a kikui nut tree that is used for making candles because of the high concentration of oil. He showed us the oil by smashing one of the nuts that lay on the ground. Natives also polish the nut and string them for a necklace. I saw at least one of these necklaces on a guide at the University, but didn't know its source at that time.

We enjoyed taking pictures and walking near the river and a stream. On the return trip I felt sorry for the hikers who had a steep climb back to the top in high humidity. Before leaving, we surveyed the area that we had just explored from an observation point high above the valley.

Whether you hike it or wimp out, this is a highlight you should not miss.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Hawaii-Journey to the Big Island-Part 5-The Hilton

On the way to Waimea we decided to stop at the Hilton At Waikoloa Village. We had read about the art collection, sea turtles and dolphins so we just had to stop. Also we would have been too early for our B and B in Waimea (Aaah the Views).

There is plenty of visitor parking, and the maximum charge is $15 that can be offset by purchases made at the hotel (keep your receipts).

In the lobby two large parrots were squawking. Prominent is a train that circles the Hotel's park. We rode it noting each stop and where would like to get off and explore.

The Convention stop offered restrooms and a chance to visit an exquisite display of oriental art including a hall of large vases.

Walking the perimeter of a inlet we crossed a bridge and immediately saw the green turtles that reside and reproduce in that beach area. The garden is well kept and displays many varieties of floral plants and philodendron.

We knew nothing of the parking lot offset, but decided to have lunch at one of the outdoor restaurants. Service was what you'd expect from such a hotel. After lunch we watched as people played with the dolphins (or should I say, the dolphins played with the people). They are such graceful swimmers and can propel themselselves more than a body length into the air and jump through hoops.

After a couple of hours in HiltonLand, we drove around the village. The shops are for tourists, but upscale. We departed for Waimea, our next stop.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Hawaii-Journey to the Big Island Part 4-Kona

We’ve been using the belt highway, and this day was no exception. The road passes the southern most point on the island as well as in the U.S. The bakery, advertised as the southernmost bakery in the U.S. enticed us with aroma of fresh bread baking. I had to get two items, an éclair and a Bismarck (chocolate and lots of it).

The road turns northward parallel to the ocean with plenty of glimpses of what is known as Blue Hawaii, for good reason.

We turned off the road on a hunch that the Beach Park shown on the map might be unusual. It was. Milolii has a sandy beach, but most impressive is that the local library is here. We wandered a bit. JoAnne pulled out her pastels and began to sketch the ocean, sky and rocks. I roamed looking for sea turtles. After the pause, we proceeded to our rest stop for the next three nights, the Areca Palms B&B in Captain Cook.

Our host and hostess were Steve and Janice Glass. We arrived at the end of the third quarter of the Super Bowl and had the luxury of viewing the final, exciting quarter. There was little TV for us. Maybe I’ve weaned myself from the obnoxious news programs I have the habit of viewing and falling asleep.

Janice loves to bake. One night when we returned I could almost eat the air it was so rich. Her breakfast preparations had panache. The emphasis was on fresh fruit, breads and yogurt. Both she and Steve provided excellent guidance for our stay. The first was the recommendation for dinner at Mi’s. Morgan (the M) had been a cook for a Four Seasons Resort of the Island. The
meal was gourmet.

On our first day in South Kona we visited the “Painted Church.” The walls and ceiling depict various Biblical scenes. The second stop was further down the hill on highway 160 to what is billed as a coffee farm tour. There was no one to take us on the tour, but we received a lesson in Kona Coffee and why the pure bean is so expensive. I bought three varieties to test if I could tell the difference.

We proceeded to the base of the highway and the “Place of Refuge (Pu’uhonua o Honaunau). This is a Natural Historic Park under the Park Service. There is a trail called ‘1871’ that is a short hike through time. The ruins of old villages and an overview of the ocean slamming into the lava rock that has displaced it.

On returning, Steve provided us with another recommendation for dinner. He didn’t steer us wrong on this one. The Keei Café sits above the road in a cluster of shops. I had a broiled
swordfish with seasoning that was just perfect. It was served in a salad with strips of sliced green papaya. It makes my mouth water just thinking about it.

On the third day we drove into Kona. The recommendation was to visit the park near the old airport. Kona is the second largest city on Hawaii and we found a Target where we could stock up
on snacks and get two beach chairs so we could sit with back support.

Driving in the vicinity we spotted a community swimming pool. I truly wanted that exercise and what we discovered is that there was no charge for the facility. It is separated into a 25-yard section with about 8 lanes and a 25-meter section that also has 8 lanes. It was not busy so I had a lane to myself.

We used our chairs (for the first and last time) on the beach. At the end of our stay, we walked around a 0.7-mile course for runners and walkers. Half of the area is planted and maintained by various community groups. The place has at least one resident mongoose.

In the distance I spotted smoke. A fire had erupted on the main highway. As we left to return to Areca Palms, the traffic was backed up forever. There was no alternative. Cars from the main highway had been diverted to this smaller tributary and was bumber to bumper.

After breakfast we bid good bye to our hosts as we moved on to Waimea (next blog).

Hawaii-Journey to the Big Island Part 3- Volcano 2

The glowing crater at sunset is spectacular, but there is far more to see and do in Volcano National Park. The Chain of Craters Road is 11 miles long ending at sea level. Various stops along the way provide a chance to see the flora that eventually returns after eruptions. At one stop we encountered a pheasant looking for crumbs in the parking lot. While they are supposed to be rare, we saw at least six pairs of Nenes, the National Bird of Hawaii. They also could care less about our presence, except when they cross the road. These birds are closely related to Canada Geese, their ancestors probably blown off course several hundred years ago.

The drive arrives at vistas of the Pacific from various heights ultimately at sea level.

The drive is not a spectacular one and it is long. Signs of the devastation wrought by various eruptions can be seen along the road at pullouts. There is also a trail (Devastation) that provides a close up of nature's fury.

But you should not miss the lava tube. Avoid crowds by going early in the morning.

Not in the main part of the park, but off of #11 across from the Jaggar Museum is a short hike where the main attractions are the birds. Here you'll encounter wild chickens, roosters, an occasional pheasant and many small birds. The circular hike is about a mile and worth it.

On to Kona!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Hawaii-Journey to the Big Island-Part 2 Volcano

Our Hola Hola began with the short journey to the north to the tropical garden mentioned in Part 1. Distances on the Big Island are not vast like they are in the West. You need not drive more than an hour to see different vistas or explore new frontiers.

As we approached Volcano we spotted a sign for a glass maker. You're not permitted to place signage except on your own property. The glass factory backs to the main highway(#11), but we guessed as to how to get there. Making the next turn and driving a road that parallels #11 we came to the end and the glass factory. Inside a converted garage we were treated to a demonstration of glass blowing. Temperature of the furnace was 2400F.
A showroom adjoins the work space where casual and extremely intricate art glass was displayed. Another couple, serious collectors of glass, were discussing the purchase of one of the pieces. We were looking and came across of bud vase that was beautifully done, but must be categorized as 'casual.' We bought it. Having made two sales-one significant, the couple decided to close early and celebrate.

Our stay was set for the Lokahi Lodge. The office was separate from the residence units in the Volcano Village. The unit was spacious and we also had access to a large lodge room where we could work at a table and use our computers.

There were a few places to have a meal all of which were excellent. After dinner we drove back to the Park (we had been there earlier to ask questions at the Visitor Center). The featured attraction of the evening was visiting the area near the Jaggar Museum and watching the plume from the active hole. As darkness fell, the plume gave brighter and more intense color (see pictures). It reminded me of the Bessemer furnaces in the steel mills of Pittsburgh.

Along the drive to the Museum, many vent hole could be seen spewing steam-the picture of Hades.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Hawaii-Journey to the Big Island Part 1-Hilo

We decided to circle the Big Island (natives refer to it as a Holo-holo). We began our trip in Hilo, one of the larger cities in the State and the largest on the Big Island (Hawaii).

We landed at 9PM local time which was really midnight our time in Santa Fe (or 2AM in New York). The humidity was the first thing that greeted us. The open-air area of baggage claim reminded us of times when we landed in Central America. Claiming our rental car (it took nearly a half hour since there was only one person at the Hertz counter and he was having problems with a couple who did not have reservations.Our hotel was listed as the Castle Hilo Hawaiian. We drove on Banyon Drive, but found no such hotel. The hotel at the address given was the Hilo Hawaiian-Oh well. The reception was fine and all was in order. We got to our lovely room, unpacked some things and went to bed.

We gambled for breakfast and found a fantastic place, Ken’s Pancake House. (IHOP should come and take note. This place is superior in so many respects.) The menu features pancake variations we had never seen or imagined. I ordered the Macadamia Nut Pancakes and JoAnne ordered the Coconut ones. We were both very satisfied. After eating we drove to a Farmer’s Market. It was colorful and full of native food and wares. JoAnne had a lively talk with artist Eide Hansamut who was selling prints of her fun paintings. We bought a bag of raw Macadamia Nuts that lasted the next six days.

The University’s Imiloa Center for Culture and Astronomy had received glowing reports from others and we decided to make it our next stop. They are developing a garden of native plants, but it is rather eager at this time. A charge of $17.50 per person, $15.50 for seniors, includes the exhibits (make sure to get a guide, no charge) and one show presented on an hourly basis. We chose the National Geographic presentation on weather in the solar system. That show and the accompanying display of the Hawaiian sky were impressive. I was mainly fascinated by the science exhibits while JoAnne focused more on the cultural ones.

Back to the hotel, I was tired from walking and standing. JoAnne ventured to an adjacent Japanese Garden (Lili-ukalani) and sketched for over an hour. Upon returning and reciting its splendors, I took my camera and shot many scenes of the Garden. On returning to the hotel, I noticed that each Banyon tree had a plaque of a prominent person, such as Cecil B. DeMille, Senator Richard M. Nixon, for cabinet personalities like James Farley and many others. I wondered whether they were there when the trees were planted.

The Hilo Bay Café was our destination for dinner located in a shopping center near an Office Max and Wal Mart. The setting is an unlikely place for the quality of the food and service. The recommendations it has received on Trip Advisory were deserved and we enjoyed a yummy dinner.

The next morning we checked out of the hotel, had breakfast again at Ken’s, and drove north to the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden. The drive, itself, is worth the journey. While the entrance fee of $15 is pricey, the area is loaded with native and non native plants including many varieties of orchids. One descends on a short steep path, eventually reaching the orchid garden. A golf cart can be hired ($5?) to take one to the base of the trail or up to the start if one is not up to the steep decline. We spent two hours exploring and snapping pictures of the varieties of flora.

Finishing our time in Hilo, we set off for Volcano (next Blog).