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...

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