Saturday, November 28, 2009

Hawai`i -Short visit to San Francisco

Due to the airplane schedules, we had to spend one full day in San Francisco, and so we went to see the city. We walked around, went to the city centre and Chinatown. We climbed up and down in the Telegraph hills and the Russian hills: the streets were just as steep as they seem in the movies: No wonder why the need the cable cars!!!
We reached the bay and walked to the Golden Gate. In our way back to the airport we stopped for our last American meal (of course I had a huge hamburger!).

Despite the delay of the flights, we arrived home and thought about all the adventures we had lived during the last days: volcanoes, lava, turtles, fishes, corals, manta rays, black sand beaches, waterfalls, rainforests….. No doubt this has been an unforgettable experience.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Hawai'i- Our last days in Kona

We spent the last three days of our trip in Kona, since eventually Mihai had to attend the conference(the original reason for the trip).

While he was busy with the talks, I took the car and went to Kaloko-Honokohau Historical National Park. It was a nice and calm beach with some archaeological remains from the time of the ancient Hawaiians. But actually, that was not the main attraction of the site: Turtles were!!! There were dozens of them feeding in the tidal pools next to the beach, swimming in the bay… and they were so cute!!! It was amazing!!!!

After having lunch with Mihai, I moved to Kahaluu Beach. It was a small bay in the middle of Kona, and so I was not expecting anything special. I was totally wrong! This small beach, full of snorquellers, was also full of corals, coloured fishes and turtles. Who would have imagined such a nice sea bottom in a “city beach”???

Next day Mihai skipped the conference and we went to Kealakokua beach. There we rented a Kayak and bowed to a bay were the Capitain Cook Monument was. This area can only be reached by kayak, boat or 1.5 hour walk.
We arrived there expecting the promised great snorkelling: fishes, dolphins, corals. Instead we found hundreds of tourist snorquelling, hardly any fish and no dolphins at all… Well, which animal would like to be among hundreds of clumsy swimming tourists???

We came back to Kona for lunch and some shopping while we waited for the moment of the day: the night manta ray swim!!! We joined an organized night boat trip that took us to a floating platform full of lights that attracted plankton. Manta rays that came to feed swam just beneath us!!! They are huge alien-like animals that eventually would come so close that was impressive! It was a lifetime experience.

In the last day in Kona, Mihai had his presentation at the conference. The weather was not very nice so I went for a while to the beach and later I did some extra-shopping. I had lunch at Bubba Gump Shrimp Restaurant (No joking!!!) and I ate as many shrimps as I could!!!!

In the evening we went to the airport. Our trip had almost finished, but we still had one more stop to do.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Hawai`i - day 7 - beaches, turtles and manta rays

This morning we woke up and had a real American breakfast: a three eggs omelet with cheese, pork and mushrooms and fried potatoes, all with a huge mug of coffee. Of course we shared it otherwise I would have drown in the beach. We went to one of the top ten beaches in the island: Mauna Loa. It was nice, although not as good as others which we have been the last days. We snorkeled there for a while and met a couple of green turtles that were grazing some algae next to us. It was great to have them so close! Later in the morning we moved to another beach, Waialea, were we not only saw turtles but also Manta Ray. Mihai arrived first to the place where they were swimming and “accidentally” touched one of them. Obviously, the manta got scared and run away, so by the time I arrived (one minute later maybe??) they had gone. I am not letting him go first anymore!!!
In the afternoon we came to register to the hotel and discovered that our room was not a room but a small apartment with leaving room, kitchen and balcony with view to the sea: great!!!
We finally went to the Sheraton Hotel, where the conference is held, to attend a Luau: that is a dinner buffet with typical Hawaiian food and a dancing spectacle. The food was good although this “FIRENESIA” spectacle was not so much. It could have been better if they had stacked to traditional music and histories. But instead they mixed it with kind of Eurovision pop style music that was sometimes ridiculous. Anyway, in general, the luau was nice.

Hawai`i - day 6 - Waipi`o

Today was our last day of truly “adventures” in Hawaii, since tomorrow we will have to go to Kona and Mihai will start attending the conferences while I lay on the beach and snorkel. We went to Waipi’o valley. It was narrow and deep, so you needed a 4WD car to go down, otherwise you had to walk down (and later up) a really steep trail. Down at the valley we decided to hike to the Hilawe fall, the tallest in the States (more than 400m tall!!!). In our first attempt we made half of the way but we lost the track and we decided to go back. Luckily we run into some people who knew the way and decided to join them and try to get to the fall. After a while walking trough slippery rocks and swimming across the river several times (with our passports, money and flight tickets on the backpack!!!) we arrived to the fall and it was INCREDIBLE!!! The water was sliding along the green walls and falling into a little pool where you could swim. The pressure of the water was not much so we could even swim across the waterfall. It was an amazing experience, one of the best of this trip.
Back to the beach we swam a little and then hiked up to the next hill, from where we got a great view of the Waipi’o Valley. We finished the day as real Americans and went to KFC for dinner:).

Hawai`i - day 5 - lava boat and Mauna Kea

This morning we woke up at 3.00, but we did it for a good reason: we were going to see the LAVA FLOW!!! We were meeting with the group and the captain of the boat at 3.45 in a village called Pahoa. From there they were taking us to the area were the lava from the Pu’u o vent enters the sea. Just one mile before the entrance of the village, Mihai, bored of driving after a car pulling a boat, decided to pass it “ignoring” the double line painted on the road. Well, the police car that was driving behind us (and that we had obviously not noticed) chased us and gave us the sign to stop: another unbelievable experience in the States, just like in the movies!!!! After all the police officer gave us a fine of 90$… ONLY 90$!!!! That was even more unbelievable!
We finally made it to the lava boat trip. We went in the night along the coast, everything was dark and suddenly, we saw it, a red bright glitter descending from the land and entering into the sea. We came closer and closer… so much that we were into the cloud of steam and felt the heat of the lava. It was amazing!!!! Definitively it worth the money.
When we went back to the harbor it was 7.30 and so we still had a long day to enjoy. We drove to Mauna Kea, the highest mountain in the Big Island and then we move north to the region of Kohala. We stopped for lunch at the Bamboo Restaurant in Hawi were we ate really good and then continued to Polulu Beach. Despite it was cloudy we liked it a lot because of its smooth black sand, fresh water river and many palm trees.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Hawai`i - day 4 - around Hilo

Today it was our forth day in the big island. It was still raining when we woke up, so the expectations for the day were not high. We first went to see a series of waterfalls – Rainbow fall, Pe’epe’e fall- but after seeing Iguazu falls last year, these were a joke. The only worthy one was the Akaka fall, with its 80 meters. For lunch we stopped at a very funny restaurant called “Back to the 50s”, full of pictures of Elvis and Marilyn. We had the typical meal at this side of the island: the “moco loco”, a plate of rice with some meat and a fried egg on top, everything covered with brawn sauce. It was good actually, although a little heavy!
In the afternoon we went to visit the Lyman museum, where we freely used their phone to arrange out boat trip to see the lava flow entering the sea tomorrow at 5 am!!!! After more than half an our at the phone, we finally visited the museum, and we did it half price!!! Very nice people.

by Aponte

Hawai`i - day 3 - volcano park Napau trail

The third day was a little bit disappointing. We planned a long hike Mauna Ulu – Napau – Kealakomo (~18 km) to the closest point (currently open to public) allowing a view of the smoking Pu`u `O`o crater. The hike was nice at the beginning but soon the rain started and didn’t stop during the whole hike. On the way we have seen some old craters (Pu’u Huluhulu and Makaoouhi) and hike through the lava flows …and Cris was using her head to open the path through the rain forest. However, once at Napau we couldn’t see anything because of the low clouds and rain. Although forbidden, we could have hiked a little bit more towards Pu`u `O`o but the weather did not look to improve so we decided to go back. We finished the whole hike in 4 hours and then we hitchhike back to our car. By the way Napau campsite is a joke: 3-4 small clearings in the middle of the wet fern forest and a pit toilet. Don`t plan to use it except for an emergency.
In the afternoon we went to the coast and had a warm swim at Ahalanui in the volcano heated tide ponds and stopped also at Kapoho tide pools (not too impressive). Since it was raining a lot we decided to spend the night in Hilo rather than in the camping as planned.

Hawai`i - day 2 - volcano park

The second day started with a "turtle" swim (at 6.30 AM) .... we were complaining not seeing anyone and suddenly one appeared 2 meters away swimming along :))) was cooooollll. Then we have seen a second one feeding in the small tide pond in front of our tent. After a quick breakfast we packed and went to visit the Kiluaea volcano park. We drove along the Crater Rim to see the sulphur banks (earth cracks from which gases from the magama chamber rise to the surface), the steam vents (rain water going down earth is heated and evaporates trough the cracks) and a general overlook on Kiluaea crater and its smoking Halema`uma`u vent. The views were nice and impressive for my first volcano experience. Kiluaea Iki hike was also nice providing the experience of walking on the crater floor and trough the lush forest.
We drove the Chain of crater road to see old craters some of which were already cover by the luxuriant rain forest and we finished at the sea level viewing the distant smoke of lava entering the sea.
In the evening we went to Kalapana to see the lava flow entering the sea. Although we were quite far away the experience was unique…. the binocular helped a lot . It was a peak point of a very good day.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Hawai`i Big Island - day 1

After 26 hours traveling we finally arrived on the big island and went directly to sleep. The first day begun with some snorkeling at Two Steps beach. Lots of fishes feeding around the corals. Can`t really compare with Mediterranean which in comparison seems like a desert. Then we visited Honahau National Historical Park and learned some things about the Hawaiian history.
The second part of the day turned to be a complete fiasco. We took the so called "Road to the sea" which is quite hard even for a 4x4 and it takes a lot of time to see a quite usual beach (except the sand which was a mixture of green and black). The second beach (located 1 mile further) was better (bigger and with some vegetation) but the road was very bad and it damaged our 4x4 which now makes some strange noises each time we turn right. The end of the first day we spent it in South point which has nothing special except being the southernmost point of ht island. Finally we went to camp in Punalu beach park. A very nice black sand beach with palm trees and a small lagoon next o the sea.