Kilauea by night

Here are some photos James took of the volcano by night – captured rather better than on my little camera.

Hawaii Day 13: From Big Island to Waikiki

So we headed down the mountain at the beginning of our trek home. We decided to go and see Rainbow Falls once we’d got to Hilo, especially once the boys claimed they had never seen a proper waterfall. It was pretty but somehow underwhelming. Sebastian noted “it is just water falling off a cliff.” Indeed.

We then had lunch back at Cafe Pesto in Hilo. I was intrigued by the purple potato salad that accompanied my lunch. Something Hawaiian. Yummy though.

We the headed to the airport and flew back to Honolulu, and proceeded to get caught in rush hour traffic. The traffic in Honolulu is shocking for a city/entire island population of that size. Anyway, eventually we got to the hotel where we were staying in Waikiki.

We had two rooms on opposite ends of the passage way, so Jude and Sebastian got their own room. Given that we had to get them up at 5am the next morning, I thought this was a pretty safe option for the night. Showed them both how to call us on the room-to-room phones.

But before bed it was a time to find dinner and finally see Waikiki Beach.

We caught the end of the sunset which was beautiful, wandered down the beach and at least felt we’d seen it!

We had a nice wander around Waikiki before and after dinner at a seafood restaurant. It is fun to be amongst such busy vibrancy at night – even if all terribly commercially driven. While our general verdict of Oahu had been that there was nothing wrong with it that half a million fewer people wouldn’t fix, I guess this would be the part which would suffer if there was a smaller population and fewer tourists. So I guess it is always a trade-off. Anyway, we said goodbye to Hawai’i and wandered home for bed to prepare ourselves for the trek home.

I’m not sure that I would say that Hawai’i would be our first holiday destination in the future – I think there are many places that do tropical island better. But it was fun and Big Island was fascinating. I imagine we’ll be back one day though.

Hawaii Day 11: Turtles, black sand and Mr Coconut

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A day away from mountains today – we headed down the other side of Kilauea to Punalu’u Black Sand Beach. Where the sand was black.

Big grainy, glassy black sand.

And almost immediately we spotted one of the things we had come to see – a green sea turtle!

There were in fact two turtles on the beach at the time, just lying about resting. They were both really big – probably twenty or more years old, and most seemed unperturbed about the attention they were receiving. The beach wasn’t that busy, but there was a reasonably constant flow of visitors back and forth.¬† The turtles were great to watch – I saw one slowly turn itself around and head back off into the surf when it had had enough.

So we watched turtles, and did all the other regular beach things – checking rock pools, building in the sand and swimming. Swimming was a little challenging as the blackness of the sand made it hard to see under the waves, despite the fact that the water was completely clear. And in addition to the black sand formed by vulcanism, there was volcano ejecta in the form of rocks of uneven sizes all over the bottom. The water was pleasant though, and I just wished we'[d brought a snorkel.

The boys, meanwhile, built dams and canals in the rock pools.

We also found a coconut.

Zachary quickly became very fond of the coconut, christening him Mr Coconut.

Mr Coconut ended up coming back to Volcano with us.

I swam near turtles which was great, and then one ventured into the rock pools to hang out.

It was a lovely day in a strange and magical place. It is a pity that, despite signs exhorting them not to, so people think that it is fine for them to go and touch the turtles or take bags full of the sand home with them. It would be such a pity if these kinds of visitors and their lack of respect meant that places like this become less magical as the years go by.

A year in the life day 11: lunch


Final meal on Big Island at Cafe Pesto in Hilo

A year in the life…day 9: self portrait on a black beach

I appear to be somewhat incognito.

Hawaii Day 9: View from above the clouds

We woke up surrounded by rainforest and no roosters, and after a big breakfast of pancakes and bacon the boys went off to explore the garden and make discoveries. They then catalogued them in their diaries.

This holiday has once again affirmed the fact I like the staying-in-houses approach when holidaying with the boys. It lets you cook for yourselves and take it easy and have a space so you can relax and unwind. I am a fan of the leisurely holiday with small people – no point trying to rush around and do a million things as it just ends up with everyone cranky. It may mean that you don’t see quite as many things as you might, but it also means that you enjoy those things you do do.

In this vein, we pottered around for the morning, and then headed into Hilo in the early afternoon.

We spotted this pair of rather strange birds which we later discovered are nene – a variety of geese only found on Big Island which apparently evolved from a single pair of snow geese which we blown of course from Canada many thousands of years ago. Evolution, ain’t it grand!

After a pleasant late lunch-early dinner at Cafe Pesto in Hilo, a lovely cafe in a fabulous old building, we headed up the mountains to Mauna Kea.

High up on Mauna Kea is the Visitor Information Station aligned with the various observatories which are on the summit. On Saturday nights they host a talk on an astronomy-related subject, followed by the chance to observe the sky through some of telescopes.

When we arrived they had a telescope set up which was trained on a sun spot, so we had a chance to have a look at that first. We then watched the moon rise over the mountain and the sun begin to set.

The talk that night was about the discoveries of 2011 and things that were likely to be considered further in 2012. It was very good and the boys were really engaged. It again reminded me about why I wanted to be an astronomer when I was 10-13…. Actually, the most interesting thing about the talk was the reminder of how little we actually know about the universe, and how many discoveries were made in the last year which disproved things we thought we knew, and how science takes it in its stride and keeps on going. The boys were excited by the idea that there was further evidence of water on Mars. It was fabulous to see them so engrossed in a talk pitched at adults, and so keen to ask questions and find out more. And they thought it was fantastic.

We then got to look in the big telescopes – saw Venus and then Jupiter in enough detail to see its bands, red spots and a number of its moons. Ultra cool. And some close up detail of the moon. And the sky was just beautiful up there above the clouds. However, it was very cold, so after we had looked in most of the telescopes twice, we headed back to our nice house and our warm beds (via a couple of episodes of Game of Thrones for James and me).

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A year in the life….day 8: Call me old fashioned

Trying to ensure that the practice of postcard-sending does not die entirely.

Hawai’i Day 8: To Big Island!

Woken early by the roosters, I heard Jasmin and Rachel head off to their new adventures at 6am and then as roosters prevented further sleep, went and watched the sun rise over Ewa Beach for the last time.

Today was the day we were changing islands. We had to drop the rental car off by 10am, and our flight wasn’t til the early afternoon, so we had some hours to kill at Honolulu airport. We established our base camp at Starbucks, and then divided time between reading, writing/drawing diaries, making sorties to the shops or the garden, and playing various electronic games we had available. The boys were remarkably well behaved, and the time actually passed quite pleasantly.

And then it was off to Big Island on a Hawaiian Airlines plane. A short flight later and we arrived in Hilo. Immediately it has a very different feel from Honolulu – it isn’t a big city, it is a smaller beachside community, albeit with a Walmart, Safeway, and every fast food chain you could name. We picked up our rental car, stopped at Safeway for supplies and then headed up to Volcano. The village of Volcano is high on Kilauea, only a mile or two from the crater, so I feared winding and terrible roads. But it was a straight easy drive from Hilo and we were there sooner than I expected.

It is a great house with a fireplace and surrounded by rainforest – completely quiet and feels like we are alone in the middle of nowhere. And yet – high speed broadband and cable, including HBO On Demand – James and I are entertaining ourselves rewatching Game of Thrones. The boys declared it perfect.

A year in the life….day 7: Moon rise over Mauna Kea

2000+ metres up, the moon rises as the sun sets. Beautiful.

Hawai’i Day 7: Battle stations

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Today we got to the parts of Pearl Harbor we didn’t have time for when we went to the Arizona. We started with the USS Missouri.

It was very cool to visit the site of the Japanese surrender at the end of World War II, and even more exciting, where Cher did that whole thing with the guns. Well, maybe not the second part. But here are the Missouri guns anyway.

We wandered all over and under – Sebastian find it somewhat disconcerting to be below decks, especially with the heavy hatch doors. I am not sure any of them are enthusiastic about the idea of signing up to those living conditions.

Here is the spot where the Japanese surrender was signed.

I guess there is quite deliberate symbolism in having the place of the Japanese surrender and thus the end of US involvement in World War II at Pearl Harbor, the place where the US involvement in World War II began.

After the Missouri, it was time for a quick all-American lunch of hotdogs before getting on the bus back to the USS Bowfin.

The USS Bowfin is, as our tour guide attached to the GPS repeatedly told us, is a fully restored World War II submarine. Gave small boys a good idea of what it might be like to be a submariner.

After that we headed back to the house, where we had to address the problem created by me having made a fundamental miscalculation of funds available. Let me just say, in these situations, it doesn’t matter how long you have been a loyal customer, your financial institutions won’t help you. Interestingly, David Jones American Express attempted to be the most helpful. In these situations, you realise that ultimately,it is brilliant to have family you can rely on.

Meanwhile the boys played in the garden, and, of course, gathered round the iPad. Sometimes small people have a sense when it is good just to get on with it and behave.