A Travellerspoint blog

The Big Island (Hawaii) Part 1

This stretch of flash back will will take in one foul swoop (Sheryl? Spelling?).

Lets start with the flight over. We didn't have one. We arrived at the airport and discovered that there is no such thing as standby flights. With no wifi in sight, and my mom not able to pick up her cell, we called Joe's mom. Calls to Canada are not possible on my phone, so we used Joe's cell. When we asked if she could buy us tickets to the Big Island using my credit card, she said no. "No?" "No." She would buy us plane tickets to the Big Island and back for Christmas. She ended up getting us a plane the next day, and then our return flight on January 23rd (the same day Corey, John, Susan and Ruth's family would arrive)!

The next morning we boarded our plane, and flew over Maui, then 40 min. later we see the hugest mountain with little observatories on top! We had some really great shots of this... well, not any more, but we'll get to that in a bit. Landing in Hilo we had no idea where to go. The bus system here is pretty bad, and so we tried to get directions of how to get the bus and take it to some place meaningful, when through all the mess and confusion Joe found a phone that was linked directly to the Hilo Backpackers Hostel. He called. "Free Shuttle" was all he needed to hear, and he did.

At the hostel the taxi overcharged us by a few bucks, so we were only reinsured $14 rather than $19, but a $5 taxi from the airport is still a deal. Charles, the owner of the hostel, had a Jamaican/ British accent and short black dreads that made him look much younger than he really was. He said he'd charge us $58 for the two of us to stay in an 8 person dorm, and $60 for a single room, so we chose the single room. He was a little upset (he gets that way a lot) that Joe told him we had stayed in hostels on the phone, but when he asked in person, he admitted to the truth. "It just makes things easier when people know what to expect you see?" We explained to him that we knew what a hostel was and how it worked, and that we wouldn't be a problem, and so he showed us to our room. But before that, Naioki walked in the room, and he introduced him to us as his newest worker who recently came over from Japan. Then he forced the poor kid to introduce himself to us, even though he had just told us everything about him and it was obvious that his English failed under pressure. I wished I had spoken up in Japanese to help him out... but I was intimidated by Charles too, and Naoki's English was better than my Japanese.

The room was lovely. One giant (queen maybe?) bed with a beautiful red comforter and all sorts of red and golden pillows tossed decoratively over it. Long wooden beams curved at the top and bottom of the bead giving the bed a very royal feel. We crashed on the spa like bed that felt like something out of the Kalahari Resort with the long African mask on the wall across from us. We actually woke up to knocking on the door several hours later. It was Charles. We didn't have the cash to pay for the room, so he said we could get situated and then hit up an ATM. He, being the owner of a hostel, felt that we had squated for long enough without paying for the 2 nights we promised to stay in order to get the “free” shuttle. We followed Charles outside to the living room probably about 2 or 3 times the size of a normal house's living room. Then downstairs there was another living room about 4 or 5 times the size of that with a fridge, small table with chairs, 3 sofa's and a huge flat screen tv. I paid half (one nights stay) before we headed out for groceries and money. He also told us that some of the other people staying at the hostel were planning a drive up to the Volcano National Park. “We would love to come with!” was what we told him as we left the hostel.

By the time we made it back to the hostel the answer was “Sure... I have a credit card with a high enough limit to rent a car...” seeing as the 3 others planning the trip to the volcano had apparently maxed theirs out. Andre from South America (? Was that his name? And was that where he was from?) was on the phone and computer arranging a free shuttle to pick me up (again, was it really?) and take me to the Enterprise rent-a-car place, and Kamilla (I swear thats how she spelled it... damn British people making me look bad) was apparently coming too, but we had yet to see her, and her fellow compatriot Pete, otherwise known as Didgeridoo Pete, or Crazy Pete, or “Don't trust that guy, he's something else” was attempting to convince us otherwise. The shuttle picked me up, and me and the shuttle driver had a surprisingly insightful and cooperative sparing match, he and I against the Hawaiian government. When we made it to Enterprise they were surprisingly helpful and reassuring. They gave me a car for 24 hours and it only cost me $40 plus $16 to insure. This was highway robbery compared to the prices the rent-a-cars were asking at the airport (go figure), but luckily those were all sold out due to the cruse ship that just arrived this morning. I had a little trouble driving back, but driving is kinda like riding a really fast bike.

So the 5 of us took a half hour drive to the Volcano National Park where our National Park pass actually worked! (It seriously doubted that Hawaii counted since places like Rushmore did not.) Steam vents lined the road as we drove though the surprisingly forest like trees (not rain forest, just the regular kind). Then everyone was pushing me to speed on, but I said that we should stop b/c were there is a big crowd of people, there is something probably pretty cool on the other side of the throng. (There was).


(Thats Pete)


We could see the volcano venting “VOG” from inside a giant crater, and there were steam vents leading all the way up to the crater. I stuck my head over a vent to see what I could see, and what I saw was a big poof of sulfur right in my face (did I mention that I'm still really tired at this point?) Then Didgeridoo Pete gets inspired by Joe doing some improv fire and earth shingyee, and he shows us how he got his name.

Then we decided that if they were going to get to see any lava (they were only staying for 3 days, and this was their last night) that we'd better book it to the other side of the National Park to see where the lava hits the ocean. The drive to the viewing area in the park was all closed because of a change in where the steam vents were spewing, so we had to drive almost half way back to Hilo before taking another road that went south east towards the coast.


It was getting dark, and the road was for two way traffic, but only one lane, and dirt if you could call it that (mostly lava and rock actually). There were houses built on the lava that we passed (dangerously) as we headed for the viewing area. When we finally made it there it was almost dark, and we barley saw the sign that read “No Lava Flow!” WTF? This thing had been flowing since the year I was born (literally), and now theres no flow? I guess it goes on and off, sometimes for as much as 6 days, but never more than that. Good for Joe and I, but bad for the Brits and Andre (?) since they were all flying back to Oahu tomorrow to catch their flight to LA (all not planned together, but not too coincidental since I guess they were fallowing the typical European rout to travel the world quickly and efficiently). So we didn't make the 15 min. hike to not see the lava, and we booked it to the nearby black sand beach so they could see black sand before they left.


By the time we got there it was almost pitch black night, so many of us ran across the rugged lava rock to the shore. The sand may have been black, or it just could have been dark outside. Luckily

1.) Susan went there later and took these photos (we could see this when we went there, but not enough light for our cameras to capture it at the time.


(recognize that last one? Kinda look like our last pic, but maybe a bit brighter? Told you it was the same place.)

and 2.) There was a tour group there with flashlights, so we saw the black sand, and we also had a way to hike back to the car, because black lava rock at night is well... dark. But listening to the lava rock at the shore was magical itself. Just like listening to a really big rain stick the waves crashed into the sand, and then as they pulled back out to sea, they spun the lava rocks out with their tides causing them to crash into each other in a wave of their own. And about all of those palm trees, the tour guide said that after the volcano erupted it sent lava out to this beach which used to stretch for over a mile and was a big spot for locals to hang out. But the lava took their village and their beach, and so he along with many other locals got together and started planting these palm trees to keep what black sand they had left from blowing away in hopes that maybe not in their lifetime, but in their children's life time that the beach they loved so much would return.

The next morning Kamilla wasn't feeling well, and Andre seemed to be too busy making his life more complicated than it needed to be, so Joe, Pete, and I hopped in the car and raced to Mauna Kea ourselves. The day was one of those perfect, crisp days where you feel like the world is just one big beautiful cucumber! (Doesn't anyone else ever feel like that?) I almost wet myself as I tried to make my own trail off the side of the road as I saw the little white spheres on the tip-top of the Mauna Kea mountain. Someone at the hostel said that rent-a-cars say that only 4 wheel drive vehicles could go up the mountain, but since nobody ever specifically told me that, I didn't feel it applied to someone like me, a Mauna Kea junky. My senior year of high school I spent most of my free periods programming the planetarium's computer to automatically change the lighting, rotate the star ball, show slides on the dome, etc. for a show about Hawaii's 2 mountains Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, where on Mauna Kea some of the worlds best observatories are located including Japan's Subaru (the special high tec observatory that American's aren't even allowed to drive up to). Needless to say, as I drove up the rocky slope, getting higher and higher, I was “giddy as a schoolboy.” Unfortunately Pete's camera was low on batteries, so he was relying on us to take most of the pictures, and now his are all we have left (but we'll get to that later).


(I threw in some of Susan's pictures there to give this blog some... well... visuals)

When we made it to our first stop (the visitor center) we were told to hang out there for about 15 min. to get used to the altitude before heading up the rest of the way. Then when they saw what we were driving, they advised us not to go up the rest of the way (yeah right!) I bought some space ice cream (a must) and went in the coolest bathrooms (red lighting for when people use the rest rooms at night so as to not impair their night vision). Then I got a souvenir for my astronomy inspiration who got me working in the planetarium in the first place, and the woman at the register thought I was British so she set up a sun viewing telescope for Pete and I since we came all the way from England (I don't know why, but when I hang out with people, I pick up their accents). Then, we headed to the top!

Slowly over the next half hour we prayed that our little hatchback could get up the steep grade and not spin out in reverse to our deaths! Okay, we weren't that scared, worst case scenario it just wouldn't go up anymore and we would have to reverse it to the next switchback (which there were many). I learned how to climb with a car as I drifted back and forth up the hills, and then just when I though that we had made it as far as we could push the car (petal to the metal and only hitting about 5 or 10mph), we see the observatories.

They were only 3 switchbacks away, and I was not willingly turning around anymore. The first observatory we came to we jumped out just to take some pictures and immediately changed into warmer cloths (the temperature had dropped to about 35 degrees F). Then just as we were leaving a guy was came down out of the observatory! He talked to us about his work for the past 30 years and how he wasn't an Astronomer, but a tec. who didn't matter, but I told him otherwise and Joe took a pic of us together. I think I may have liked him so much because he reminded me of my junior high and high school history teacher Mr. Mack (who rocked). Then he pointed us to the Keck telescopes (as if I didn't know what they looked like... well, I only knew 3 of all the telescopes at the top, and those just happened to be 2 of them), and said that people were allowed inside Keck 1 until 4pm. Slowly, again, we inched our way closer to the top.


Inside the Keck was a room with 4 doors. 2 of them were restrooms, 1 said authorized personnel only, and the last one we entered was probably the coolest of the three. It took us right into the room with the observatory mirror inside the dome! 2 technicians were moving around huge tanks of something (probably liquid nitrogen, science people can't get enough of that junk. Most of the time we don't really need it, but come on, if you have the ability to write an order to get a few tanks of it, why wouldn't you?) The mirror was one big hexagon made up of many tiny hexagons. Why? I could make some guesses about strength, flexibility, and the like, or one of the technicians could come in the the tiny glass room we were allowed to view the mirror from, and tell us for 10 minutes all we could have ever wanted to know about the observatories (and Joe got it all on tape! Well, he had it all on tape. Is that getting tiresome yet? Joe thinks so.) Anyhow, he told us about what boxes attached to the mirror analyzed and how the lasers could use equations to calculate distances and locations of objects; and how another machine was called the planet finder, and the main mirror could take pictures with more precision than the Hubble, and things like that. He had a wonderful plethora of knowledge that just tipped on the other side of my long term memory with words I once knew the meaning of and concepts that I remembered and understood at the time, but can not repeat back to you if I tried. He also had some great stories about working late nights while Astronomers would be at the helm, and that one night a woman took the only existing picture of a star having a solar flare swallowed into a black hole! And somehow someway she owns the rights to it, and won't release it to the public! I don't even own the rights to my snot rag at Lockheed Martin (they incinerate our trash), but somehow she owns the rights to a picture she took with the Keck observatory on top of Mauna Kea!

Anyhow, it was great! I loved every minute of it, and was sad to have to head back down, but we did still want to hit up a waterfall and return the car by 2pm. Also, it was freezing up there,

Insert pic. from Susan:


And we didn't exactly pack for snow (which there were pockets of on top of the mountain). So we headed back to the visitors center to wait a few minutes to keep from altitude sickness (which I did get a little, either that, or I was just that excited that I made myself high and inserted butterflies in my tummy). 4th gear all the way down to keep the breaks from... breaking, and I still had to break.


Then we took off layers we headed over to the visitors center for some hot chocolate. Then after a quick drink we raced over to Rainbow Falls. But first! Pete had to stop at this "sexy tree" he saw on the way up. "Da ya sea tha? How seaxy tha tree ova there looks all blown in the wind like tha?" Everything pic. worthy was "sexy" to Pete, but some how it never felt creepy, which people who use terms like that usually do.


He couldn't find the tree he saw on the way up, so this tree he said would have to do. And the whole time I was thinking... we've come all this way to see a mountain, and you taking pictures of trees.

At the Rainbow Falls... the trees there were the best part. The waterfall was cool, a small little spout that had a huge arc over into a nicely sized pond of water, but as far as waterfalls went, I wasn't all that impressed.


Looking into it on the internet... I guess this is what it is supposed to look like:


But, because Hilo is going though something of a drought (good for us b/c now we don't have to travel to the Kona side to see some sunlight), but bad for the generally wet ecology of the Hilo side of the island. But the trees were still great.


Big orange bundles of flowers graced their tops, and bright green bananas grew just at eye level. We actually lost Pete in the jungles near the falls as he hurried around to see it all. Then I dropped them off at the hostel and headed back to Enterprise with the car that looked like it had been driven through a dust storm.

(This is the view from the street our hostel was on:)


As I drove I remembered that we wrote in the dust “Mauna Kea or Bust!” on the side of the car. Crap, as if it wasn't already a dead give away as to where we drove the car, now I had an advertisement on the side of the car to prove it. At the gas station I tried to dust it off as inconspicuously as possible so as to erase the writing, but not give direct contrast with how dirty the rest of the car was. Surprisingly (do I use that word too much? So many things on this trip have taken me for a loop, I think I might need to invest in Jenna's thesaurus... sorry Jenna if you read that, and if you didn't, no harm no foul I say.) the guy just opened the car and made sure the inside looked good, and didn't charge me a cent extra! Then they took me back to the hostel for free! I highly recommend Hilo Enterprise to anyone who needs a car.

When I got back to the hostel Joe was already to make some dinner, and we met Luna from Germany.
She was staying with a friend of a friend in a few days, but for now she just dropped her off a tent since Luna couldn't afford to stay at the hostel for the week. So we invited her to come with us the next day to get camping permanents and stay with us for the next two days until the weekend when a tecno music festival was being held 2 streets over at the Palace Theater. Her friend's friend was helping organize it, so she really wanted to go, and Joe and I decided that it also sounded like a good time.

The next day Joe and Luna went out to get permits for camping and they had to pay $10 a night (rip off!) And on top of that, I pulled out the camp booklet Joe had and I looked at the checklist for what camp sites have what... and ours has no drinking water which also mean no bathrooms either... not the best pic. The lady getting them the permits I guess was irritated that they didn't know which camp site they wanted to go to, so she stuck the poor bastereds with the crappiest one she could find. Oh well, at least it will be in Hawaii right? No complaints there. Then Luna and I walked to the Palace Theater to buy tickets for the event, and then we bought some groceries for the next few days. Joe wasn't happy with how much I got (not enough), but he said that we would survive. Then we were finally ready to head out, so we hopped on the bus that passed near the Akakka Falls (we saw a sign that pointed, but didn't give any distance) and then got off near the Kolekole Beach Park.


It was beautiful! Luna and I lost Joe as he ran down through the rain forest brush with his machete to the road below. She and I continued along our road, but then went too far. We started heading up hill instead of turning down (we are just too ambitious). Once we saw the big open clearing below we decided that that was the beach park, and we turned around. We did get to see some cool waterfalls (a bunch of water from every cliff just rinsing down the sides and draining somewhere under the road since the road stayed dry. When Luna and I made it to our sites we knew where the water was flowing too, as there was a huge waterfall emptying into the river that flowed through the rain forest and into the sea, and then the see would crash waves into the river, and it all mixed right at the base of the falls!

.... damn, I have videos from China already uploaded to the site, but I don't have any from this day. I guess I forgot that I never watched any of them. Wow. I've been kinda putting that off for longer than I thought. Ok, I'll post a video once I look through them. These are the last videos on the camera before all of our stuff was stolen. Because of my diligence, we lost more than we had to. My video camera can act as an external 40GB hard drive, and yet I erase it usually every few days after uploading them to my VAIO. So thats why the videos from Mauna Kea I only took the day before are gone forever, but the videos from this day we still have.

Okay, here's a good one:

There were are group of people body boarding on the waves near the shore, but it looked really dangerous b/c the bridge just above the shore had pylons right where they were body boarding and the shore was all rocks, no beach. One guy did flip into the rocks and then crashed into the pylon, but he seemed okay once he hobbled onto dry land. His friends thought it was a riot, so I guess it was okay. Luna and I collected dried wood that the ocean had washed up onto the rocks, and Joe manned the fire. That night we cooked celery, tofu, carrots, and cliff bars on the huge fire we got going and we told stories about how each of us broke bones, our parents, what our travels had been like so far. Joe and I talked about the southwest, and Luna told us about northwest Canada (and camping by herself in its wilderness!) and visiting friends of her family in Mexico.

Then after several hours of taking by the fire, we curled up to go to sleep. We gave Luna our sleeping bag because it was a cool night, and her sleeping bag was about the warmth of a light windbreaker. Joe emits heat like its his job, so that night we made it his job. Still, I didn't get much sleep that night. Not because of the cold, but because of all the cars that were pulling into the parking lot at all hours of the night. They would pull in and leave their lights on sometimes, and they had them pointed straight at our tent. My heart rate soared. We heard their voices, but Joe wouldn't tell me what they were saying. I could hardly hear them, so that meant that he probably could make out what they were saying, and the fact that he wouldn't tell me, told me what it was. “Just go to sleep Rain” he kept saying to me, and occasionally I did. I noticed that his knife was out and ready to be reached, and I noticed that the machete was not far out of reach either. He was as ready as someone sleeping in a tent with no gun could be. He was as ready as we were prepared to be. I trusted him. I had no reason not to. I hoped that tonight wouldn't give me cause to not trust him to keep Luna and I safe. I hoped that didn't have to rely on Joe to protect me. I hoped that if someone came to our tent and started beating on it, that I would come slicing through its nylon with a sharp bladed weapon just the same as he would. I hoped that I would come out swinging and not have to run and hide while Joe took on the groups of people coming in and out of the park. We would fight together. They were drug dealers at the worst, people looking for easy money. They weren't looking for a fight. At the best, they were some dumb teenagers who have no where better to go at night then to a park to do what their parent's don't know or at least pretend not to. And on those thoughts of pimply faced teens with cigarettes and their parent's vodka, I fell asleep.

Posted by - Rain 20:42

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i've only read the first sentence, but I love it. The phrase is actually "one fell swooop," but in light of what has happened to you guys, I think "one foul swoop" is more appropriate - it was intentional,right?

by georgi r

Vanessa, you know I love your puns, whether intentional or not. I looked up the phrase and found that most people attribute its first appearance in writing to Shakespeare (in Macbeth, when Macduff says that all his family has been killed "at one fell swoop." But one source reported that people (yes, even in print) often change it as you did. Here's the site: http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-fel1.htm. But do keep the puns coming (ie, don't worry about your spelling)! It's all entertaining.

by Sheryl S

yay! You're updating again! I was wondering if we'd ever hear about these missing gaps in your trip. loved the giddy as a schoolboy. miss you! and am emailing after I read these.

by Laurr

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