March 26, 2013

Northern Big Island to End the Vacation

Filed under: General — mmrobins @ 2:11 pm

From Hilo we headed north along the Hamakua coast. We didn’t stop a ton of places like the big waterfalls since we had been there on our last trip, and while they were nice, we didn’t really feel the need to stop again so that we could see parts of the island we hadn’t before. We did see a new waterfall with a ropeswing at the base at Kolekole Beach Park, where we at lunch and swam.

We spent a few nights camping at Kalopa Park, which is higher in elevation and in a forest, so similar feel to parts of Volcano Park and cold at night. The campground is small with only 3 sites, one of which had a family with kids Geneveve played with the first night. The trails around the area are a bit overgrown with forest and the info on them seems really outdated, but they’re nice to walk around. The staff all seemed really excited to be outside while we were there because they said it had been raining for most of a month straight, so we lucked out with sunny weather.

From the campground base we made a day trip to the Waipio valley. We had been here to the overlook on our last trip, but we didn’t descend into the valley. The road down requires 4WD, not because it’s poorly paved or anything, but apparently because it’s so steep you need low gearing. We walked down, and it really is quite steep, even if it is only a mile. At the bottom we went to the beach, which is pretty nice, but I’m not sure it lives up to the hype. One of the things about the Waipio valley is that it’s supposed to be somewhat isolated due to it’s relative inaccessibility, but there were a lot of people there, more so than at some other little beaches we found. I’m guessing farther back in the valley is quieter and pretty, but the roads back there are supposedly private. I think if you really want an isolated valley experience you’ll have to do the overnight hike to the next valley over.

We drove through Waimea on the way to our next campground, but really didn’t see much worth stopping for. It’s strange in that the area seems to be a giant cattle ranch with grassy and brushy open fields, not what I would expect in Hawaii.

Spencer Beach Park was our next stop, and the campground on the island we had heard the most good things about. I’d say it lived up to it’s reputation. It’s got a lovely little beach, decent open camp space, and a nice pavilion. At this point in the trip we were pretty much ready to just setup camp and lay on the beach – which is what we did. Geneveve lucked out in that the family camping next to us had a 2 year old boy and a 6 year old girl who was great at playing with her. We setup the hammock, and proceeded to mostly lay there or on the beach with an occasional swim or meal. At night we chased little crabs on the beach with flashlights, and Geneveve was even brave enough to catch them herself by the end.

After a few days camping, we checked into a bed and breakfast near Puako to get cleaned up and pack for our flight home. We took a day trip to Hawi, and hiked down to the Pololu valley. I would recommend doing this over going to the Waipio Valley any day. Hawi is a cuter town than Honokaa with some really good restaurants, and the Pololu valley doesn’t have a road to it. The hike down is easier and shorter than to Waipio. The downside is the beach isn’t as nice – really rocky and not for swimming. But if you just want a pleasant valley hike, this is great.

We saw a bunch of whales during our time near this part of the island. We even saw them jumping out of the water, albeit quite a ways off shore. At one point we just pulled off the highway to watch them swim, surface and spout for 20 or so minutes.

We also hiked to Kiholo bay one evening around sunset. There’s a cool lava tube you can swim in called Queen’s Bath, and the bay has a ton of turtles. It’s a weird hike as there’s a bunch of super fancy houses along the way. We parked up near the highway since around 6pm they close the gate to the little dirt road that goes down near the ocean, and we wanted to stay to watch one of the better sunsets we had on our trip.

And now we’re back home. I think we were all ready to go home after a month away. Spring is in full swing here in Portland with flowers in bloom everywhere, so I think we got back just in time to miss the end of winter. We’ll be carless for a month before we go to visit my parents where our car is, but I imagine that will be pretty easy.

March 20, 2013

Pahoa to Hilo

Filed under: General — mmrobins @ 12:12 pm

My week of work around Pahoa was pretty mellow. Unfortunately, the wifi access where we were staying was too flaky and slow for it to be useable for me for work. It’s just an internet connection over cell phone that the owner has attached a router to, which is fine for occasional email, but *not* for downloading even a couple megabyte file or video meetings. So I had to go to town to work. There’s only one little coffee shop in town, and they’re so small that they have a 30 minute limit on sitting in there, so it wasn’t a good place to work. I ended up working out of various restaurants and eating breakfast at those places, and then from a bar in the afternoon.

Kim and Geneveve spent a lot of the week swimming at the local Alahanui warm pools. It’s definitely nicest to go at high tide so you can swim around. Geneveve made a lot of progress learning to swim here since with the warm water she can stay in without getting cold for a long time. She still can’t swim on her own and is hesitant to put her face underwater, but she practiced swimming a few feet between us and is completely independent floating around on her tube now. We also visited the tide pools very briefly because it’s really rocky and was cloudy and cold, not a good recipe for a happy toddler. The Champagne pond was nice and kind of like the Alahanui pools in that it’s warmer, but it’s harder to access since to get there you need to go over a lava road that’s only 4 wheel drive accessible – we walked.

Besides swimming we went to a lot of local farmers’ markets and events, which seem to be happening frequently. There’s definitely a lot of interesting people in the area (not more than Portland, but that’s a hard competition to win), and we ran into a lot of them repeatedly. I think the most amusing person for me was the tall skinny white guy who wore nothing but a little loincloth like setup and smashed poi on a rock.

Toward the end of the week we left for Hilo to stay with our friends who had recently moved from Portland to Hilo. They have a girl a few months older than Geneveve, which was fun by the end of our stay, but initially she was not excited to share anything with Geneveve which resulted in a lot of screaming on both sides. I worked a day in Hilo at a coffee shop, and then we had a few to hang out.

We went to local zoo which isn’t a big, impressive zoo, but is free and great fun for little kids as it includes a nice playground. We attended a rally against Monsanto’s GMO practices on the island, which was a fun way to interact with some of the locals. We browsed the shops, went to the beach one day, ate at the local restaurants and generally just hung out for a not so touristy feeling couple of days. It was sunny for a few days, and cloudy for a few.

The last night was eventful since Geneveve woke up around 11pm throwing up. Not sure what prompted it, and she was fine the next day, so it was a thankfully short bout of sickness. We left Wednesday morning to continue seeing the north part of the island.

March 9, 2013

Hawaii Vacation: Coast to Volcanos to Coast

Filed under: travel — mmrobins @ 9:54 pm

With my week of working from Kona ended, we got our rental car and struck out counterclockwise around the island. Our first stop was Ho’okena Beach Park south of Kona for some camping on the beach. As we descended the single lane paved road down to the beach, we realized we had camped here 7ish years ago on our honeymoon. This time we camped two nights instead of just one, and had a great time. It’s definitely a bit crowded camping by Pacific Northwest campground standards with your neighbors only a couple feet away, but everyone was nice and there weren’t any loud, wild parties late into the night. Geneveve loved the beach, mostly rolling around and getting sand everywhere, and even braved the waves a little bit. The snorkeling here was actually the best we’ve found so far despite what the guidebooks say about other places being better. I swam around with a turtle for a while, and there was nobody else in the water.

We wanted to go kayak across Kealakekua Bay to the captain cook monument, but they aren’t allowing kayaks on it now to help preserve it. We didn’t see any dolphins there either, and the snorkeling was only so so. We wanted to do more in this bay last time we were here in 2006 too, but then it was closed because an earthquake had just happened. The guide books rave about this bay, but sadly so far we’re 0 for 2 on having it impress us.

Next destination was Volcanoes National Park. On the way we stopped at the black sand turtle beach on the south side of the island. You’re pretty much guaranteed to see turtles in the rocks here, so there’s a *lot* of other people here in giant tour buses too. I tried snorkeling around, but there was an oily film in the water that made visibility pretty bad and left me feeling gross afterwards. Not sure why it was so oily in the water. It seemed like someone dumped a bunch of sunscreen all over. Hopefully it’s not normally like that.

Once we got to Volcano we setup our tent at the Kulanaokuaiki campground, which is primitive with no water and a little bit of a drive down a one lane road. We pretty much had the whole campsite to ourselves except for a single strange tent that we couldn’t figure out since there was never a car around to go with it. Maybe they hiked out there to camp, but I can’t imagine why anyone do that since it’s in the middle of a bunch of mostly open, treeless landscape. From our site at night you could see the stars amazingly well with no light pollution around for miles except for a faint red glow coming from the crater a few miles away. It gets pretty chilly at night, so I was glad a couple at Ho’okena gave us a blanket they said they didn’t need anymore.

We did pretty much all the major hikes this time that we didn’t do last time including the steam vents, Pu?u Huluhulu to overlook Mauna Ulu, the petroglyphs, and a bunch more. We saw the major coastal hike we did last time from a viewpoint and reminisced about when we could backback overnight. Geneveve is definitely getting to be a better hiker, but overnight backpacking with her is still a ways away. We also saw the Halema’uma’u crater from Jaggar museum, which is a new thing since we were there last. Basically a lava lake opened up in 2008 that you can see the glow from pretty much every night even if you don’t see actual lava. We still haven’t gotten close to flowing lava since the Pu’u O’o flow isn’t in a place that’s convenient to hike to with a toddler.

After 4 nights of camping in beaches and on volcanoes, we headed to near Pahoa to sleep in a bed at an off the grid meditation center we heard about from a friend. All the power is solar and all the water is catchment. We’ve been here a few days and done a lot of swimming at the nearby warm pools and tidal pools. Today we went to the local farmers market, a event with a lot of colorful characters, and to see where the lava flows end and the smoke from the lava going in to the ocean from a distance. The whole area has a very hippie vibe to it. I think it’s in large part because the whole area could be wiped out by lava flows at any time (and portions of it have been in the last 30 years), so land is cheaper and you get a less permanent kind of people.

After tomorrow I have another week of work before my next week of vacation. I’ve never done this split work and vacation thing before, so we’ll see how I like mixing it up.

March 2, 2013

Hawaii – The Big Island

Filed under: travel — mmrobins @ 11:12 pm

Wow, I’ve totally forgotten about blogging for a long time. Well, I’m in Hawaii, so that’s blogworthy. In fact, I actually ended rereading my old blog post on the Big Island to try to remember some stuff we had done, and it was really interesting. This may be the first big vacation we’ve done where we revisit someplace we’ve already been instead of checking out some exotic new destination. Now I remember, I don’t blog for other people, I do it for myself because it’s really cool to remember the awesome things I’ve done, and I always thought it would come in handy in case I decide to do them again. I may have to go back and fill in some blog posts for our Alaska vacation this last summer.

So to begin the awesomeness, we’re here for a month, two weeks of which I’m working. This first week we’ve spent in Kona, and I worked remotely, which is something I could really get used to – sitting in 75 degree weather on a deck overlooking the ocean while coding. I actually had a very productive week despite the temptation of just going to the beach instead. We’re staying at a shared house we found on airbnb because it’s like $65 a night, which is way cheaper than most of anything else we found in walking distance to the beach, and there’s a 6 year old girl who lives here, and Geneveve loves her. It’s nice talking to people living here, getting tips about local beaches, sharing dinner, and more.

During the week I’ve been working from the house while Kim and Geneveve take the local public transportation trolley around the area to see shops and play at the beach. I’ve been meeting them for lunch at local little cafes, and then after work we’ve been going to the beach to swim with sea turtles, or a couple times to Kona Brewing for the best beer that I know of being brewed in Hawaii. One of the other nice things about the shared housing is that they let us borrow their bikes, including a crazy two person with a backseat bike that we took all the way downtown and is fun, but really not that efficient. We’ve been on a 6:30am to about 8:30pm schedule, which is great for catching all the daylight and is pretty much the same as our schedule at home since Hawaii is 2 hours behind Pacific time.

Last night we went to see a local production of the Wizard of Oz because the 6 year old from the house was in it as a munchkin, and Geneveve was so excited when she came on stage she stood up and shouted “That’s my friend dancing!”. It was fun to see the play, but Geneveve stayed awake for the whole thing and was up until 11pm, so she’s got a sleep deficit since she wakes up here at 6:30 – 7am regardless of what time we go to bed.

Today we went with the lady who organizes the house rental and her 6 year old daughter to Mauna Kea to play in the snow. It was a longer drive than I remember, partly because with a 2 year old and a 6 year old in the car, it really does take longer with bathroom stops and emotional drama. Kim was feeling the altitude at the visitors center at 7,000 feet, so she stayed there, and the rest of us went up to the summit at about 14,000 feet. Geneveve didn’t last long, and cried when an errant snowball got her a little bit, then fell asleep in my arms totally exhausted and stayed that way for most of the drive home. So I just sat in the truck and held her while I watched the clouds below me. So it was a much different trip for me than last time where I got to go in some of the observatories and ran around.

We’ve been carless all week, which has been fine for me working and us chilling out, but tomorrow we get our rental car and begin a week of all play. We’ll be headed counter clockwise-ish around the island, so will be hitting up Kealakekua Bay, the beach on the south end of the island with all the sea turtles, and camping in Volcano National Park for a while.