Sunday, May 20, 2012

HAWAII PART III: The drive to Kona

The next morning Steve and I got massages at the local school and then we all packed up the big-ass car and headed across the island on the southern route. First stop--black sand beach and sea turtles!
This is our version of the girlfriends out on the town Facebook shoe shot.
Next onto the Southernmost point in the U.S.! Yes, we took our picture next to the Southernmost point of the 48 in Key West, so we had to take our picture here. No marker unfortunately.
There were petroglyphs, though. (Sperm?)
and awesome, but dangerous, tide pooling opportunities
Ah! There's some proof. I guess. I'm pretty sure we voided our rental contract prohibiting off-road use, but fortunately we didn't do any substantial damage besides leaving behind a whole mess of Stone Cookie crumbs.
Of course we made it to the hotel in time for happy hour. We have our priorities after all.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

HAWAII PART II: LAVA

On Monday we hired a Kalapana resident to guide us out to the active lava flow. We drove out to his house ridiculously early. It was located on top of the 1980s-90s lava flow that covered up the subdivision that used to be there. A handful of independent spirits have rebuilt houses on top of the lava and are living pretty much off the grid, but not uncomfortably.
Hiking out over the lava field was fascinating but really difficult. The slow moving pahoehoe lava flow hardens in such interesting patterns and shapes that are a real pain in the ass to walk over.
Sure, we were smiling at first. But blood was drawn, the sun was merciless, and about half-way there I had one of those "I'm not as young as I used to be" moments. We soldiered on nonetheless.
When we got there, I felt the heat before I saw the flow. Our guide took us across some very recently cooled lava and you could still feel heat emanating up from the ground. It was a little unnerving, but awesome.
We all regressed to childhood and wanted to poke the lava with sticks and throw rocks into it. Watching it was mesmerizing. Although it moves slowly it just keeps coming and we had to retreat several times as the lava overtook our viewing area.
We sacrificed a banana to Pele.
It was mesmerizing to watch. Maybe it was part heat-stoke and/or post-work-out euphoria, but seeing new land being formed before my eyes was both awe-inspiring and humbling.
The hike back happened. No one got injured and we all made it. We rewarded ourselves with cold beer and margaritas at a Mexican restaurant in Pahoa (which also had excellent, though non-traditional, fish tacos). We had to complete the volcano circuit, so we visited Volcanoes National Park and got a look at the caldera before we called it a day.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

HAWAII PART I: HILO

Here is my first post from our Hawaii vacation of 2 months ago! We had the pleasure of taking this trip with our good friends John and Chari. It was my first time to Hawaii and I was apprehensive that it would be some seriously cheesy American tourist vacation. Maybe it would have been had we stayed on Waikiki, but the Big Island was sparse, friendly, and amazing! Arriving at Kona on March 31 was awesome--the airport is totally open air and the weather was fantastic. It was not nearly as humid or hot as I anticipated it might be; it was just temperate and beautiful. We immediately picked up our enormous rental vehicle and drove across the island to Hilo.
Our first stop was in Waimea at a local diner for our first shot at some loco moco! Here is Steve and I eagerly anticipating the artery-clogging goodness. Actually, I had a local concoction of kalua port hash accompanied by the ubiquitous fried rice.
John and Chari were not nearly as impressed with the greasy brunch as I was, but smiled happily anyway. Or at least Chari did :) We hopped back in the car and motored on to Hilo to check into the Dolphin Bay Hotel. It was friendly but utilitarian--see our review on Trip Advisor if you want the full scoop (username: MullyDad). We headed out to the farmer's market, got some provisions for the room, and ate at an interesting sushi place for dinner. The fruit on the island is amazing. The little apple bananas don't look like much, but are super-tasty. They also have a bunch of different varieties of mango and pineapple that I'd never seen before (that were all different types of delicious!) and a lot of papaya with which I was a little less endeared. Later in the evening, we found the kava bar.
I had listened to the book "Getting Stoned with Savages" on CD last year and was anxious to try some kava, though I knew it wouldn't be the same experience that the kava on Vanuatu provides. The taste was of earth and it looked like dirty dishwater. It was tolerable, though, and after a couple shells, you pretty much ignore the taste anyway. It produced a nice tingling sensation on the lips and tongue. We had been drinking already that night, so it's hard to say what overall effect it had, but it was not unpleasant by any means.
Day 2: We headed to the local waterfalls and botanical gardens, which were all gorgeous! The rain came and went all day every day we were in Hilo and we seemed to be the only folks bothered by it enough to even pull out an umbrella. This is Rainbow Falls, which was pretty nice, but there were more impressive waterfalls yet to come.
This is Chari on the walkway through the botanical gardens. Steve and I brought our leftover DEET from our Cambodia vacation and although there was little need for it on the rest of our vacation, we stopped and happily slathered up about here. The gardens were beautiful, but all those plants made it humid and the mosquito bite situation could have been much worse than it ended up being!
Gorgeous flowers everywhere, and of course I can't remember the names. Help from the horticulture student (Chari)? :) *UPDATE: Steve has informed me they commonly known as "Cat's Whiskers"?
Now I know this one is ginger, though I couldn't tell you what type, because we saw about 50 varieties of ginger from all over the globe. *Update* Looked at it again and am positive this is not ginger! You an tell I've never taken botany and have NO memory for any plant names whatsoever.
The gardens went all the way down to the coast, which was amazing. It's a cliche to say the earth meets ocean in a violent manner on the Big Island, but it doesn't make it less true.
Akaka Falls was next, which was truly breathtaking. It's not really a record-breaker, but it is one of the highest falls I've ever seen. The mist and sound make this a very romantic spot. I love how waterfalls seem to create their own weather systems!
We finished the day with a trip up to the visitor's center on Mauna Kea where the scenery becomes distinctively martian. We didn't go see the telescopes, but the view from above the clouds was worth the trip.
Stay tuned for: a hike out to the live lava flow! Coming soon...

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Thanksgiving 2011

Last year we decided to take a little vacation for Thanksgiving. We packed up the dog and took a dog-friendly trip to the coast. Yes, it was cold, but the coast is really gorgeous in the winter. We started out at the Moss Beach distillery.
It was cold and Mully was not happy we put his coat on him.
By the way, you really pay for the nice view and dog-friendliness here. I think we spent $70 on 2 appetizers and 2 drinks. And everything was served in plastic because we were on the dog patio.
Even though it was Thanksgiving day there were plenty of people there, and most of them had dogs. Mulligan was not impressed.
We stayed the night in Pacifica at a hotel right on the beach. It was a monumental California day when we arrived. A storm blew in that night and we fell asleep to waves crashing just outside our window.
The next day we took Mulligan to Fort Funston, which is the best dog beach I've ever seen. I would be here all the time if it wasn't an hour plus drive from where we live. Mully, like most dogs, loves the beach. He's a frenchie--you weren't expecting him to be effusive about it, were you?
This is Mulligan on Halloween 2011. We could only keep the costume on him for about 15 minutes, and he looked miserable the whole time. I just loaded these pictures off of my camera and had completely forgotten. He still looks cute (as always).