Location: Honolulu Airport, USA
We're at Qantas Club at Honolulu Airport. We board in about an hour.
Mum & Dad: we'll call when we get to Sydney. We land at around 5.30pm on Thursday afternoon, so I guess we'll call from Qantas Club around 6.30pm. We land in Canberra around 9.30pm, but we'll update you with those details from Sydney.
Look after the dogs if we crash in a great ball of flames into the Pacific Ocean between Honolulu and Sydney. Do what you want with the cats! ha ha
Location: Honolulu, USA
Our last full day in Hawaii today. We went for a pre-breakfast swim (our last) at Waikiki beach (so our board shorts would dry in time to pack them into our suitcases!). The tide was out so we couldd touch the rocky bottom - not a good thing - and being early in the morning, the water was cooler than we were used to. Also, there aren't ass many buff boys at the beach so early, so, it was just a quick dip for us, then back to the hotel room to shower. We found out about a shop in Honolulu that has Obama merchandise, so, being our last day, we obviously jumped on the bus and headed for the shop where, $150 later, Josh left with a huge bag full of Obama t-shirts, tote bags, pins, magnets, pens, etc etc etc. OBAMA 08!!! The rest of the day was spent shopping - jewellry shopping, clothes shopping, etc, until we started to worry we wouldn't fit everything into our suitcases, so we went back to the room so Craig could pack, to see if it all fitted. Every overseas trip we've made we've had to buy another suitcase to fit everything in, and I didn't relish the thought of having to do the same again, after only 11 days in Hawaii. Thankfully, it all fit. We suited up for a final night of fine dining at Hy's restaurant, and after some yummy steak and seafood (and a nice bottle of Napa Valley Cabernet!), and, opf course, strawberry flambe made right there by the waiter at our table, we were full and sleepy, ready for our early morning start to the airport tomorrow.
Location: The Big Island, USA
Up at 4am today (much to Craig's delight!! Aren't we on holiday? Who gets up at 4am on a holiday?) in time to shower and start our tour of Hawaii's Big Island. We decided to do an organised tour rather than our own thing, as we did on Maui, and see how that goes. Our bus met us right at the hotel at 4.30am (not before some street urchin had time to accost us for money because, she said, "my car ran out of gas" - tell it walking lady. We were both still too alseep at that hour to respond!) and took us to the airport. We flew with Island Air on a SMALL Dash 8 (the older, smaller ersion of the Dash 8's Qantas uses between Canberra and Sydney!). Stopover in Maui to let people off and pick up new passengers, then on to the Big Island! Inflight service was....water. The first hop was 27 mins (Honolulu to Maui), the second hop was 30 mins (Maui to Big Island). Not much time for anything elaborate. As we took off from Honolulu it was very bumpy and suddenly it occured to us that we hadn't told our families we were catching a flight today. Redundant now, of course, since I'm writing this back in the hotel room the following morning. The turn around in Maui was quick. Those departing got off and the rest of us stayed on the plane. The new lot boarded and pretty quickly we were back in the air again.
The Big Island is, as the name implies, big. It is a beautiful, green island and as we came in to land following the coast, Craig and I had a spectacular view out the right side window of the lush coastline and the many waterfalls leading into the ocean. It was just after sunrise and although we didn't take any photos of it, it is an image we won't forget quickly (until the Alzheimer's kicks in, anyway!). After landing we were met by another bus and the rest of our tour group (indicated by the pretty pink stickers we all wore on our shorts identifying our tour). We were on our way. Vulcanoes, here we come! Our bis driver/tour guide was hilareous. A native Hawaiin, he probably weighed something close to 200 kilograms, and when he spoke, he used strange sentence structures and his voice sounded just like Dr Evil from Austin Powers, which, predictably, Craig and I and another English couple we sat behind took every opportunity to make fun of. For example, in the voice of Dr Evil, he would say, "And now on our right there is our Japanese restaurant. That's where they serve the Japanese food." No evil laugh, regrettably, but i did leave us wondering about the excitement of the town of Hilo's Japansese restaurant. And so progressed the rest of the day. He pointed our trees and schools and you name it. But, in a way, it was also endearing and we grew to like him and his quirky sense of humour (for example, suggesting we were going to eat freshly cooked road kill for lunch). First stop was a waterfall. Ok, it's water, it flows of a cliff and lands in another body of water. If you've ever been to Niagra Falls or Victoria Falls or somwehere spectacular like that, this might have seemed more like a leaking tap than a waterfall, but, we were getting into the spirit of it, so Craig, once again in charge of the camera, dutifully took any photos of it. Our guide/Dr Evil told us to visit the store across the road from the parking lot, so, not ones not to do as we're told, we did. And we bought biscuits. As it turns out, they were evil biscuits, too, because they tasted devine and contained about 3000 calories per biscuit.
Next stop, The Nut House, as our guide/Dr Evil called it. In fact, it was a macadamia factory. The property had about 200,000 macadamia trees (that's a lot of macadamias) and processed them into many different macadamia products. Josh's favourite, predictably, being the chocolate coated macadamias (of which he predictably took advantage of the free samples). Craig even bought some chocolate coated macadamias for the bus trip, but they really didn't last much of the trip!
Next stop was an active vulcano, complete with poisonous gases and all spectacularly plumming into the sky and no doubt in 15 years coming back to haunt us all! There was a time when this crater wasfull of lava (as recorded by Mark Twain on his visit to the sae crater) but it was a lava-free zone during our visit and it's been that way for many years. Still, the sight of thick plumes of deadly gases shooting into the air was spectalar enough, and, had that been all we'd seen of vulcanoes all day, we'd still have been happy.
Lunch (the road kill - a mongoose, our guide/Dr Evil informed us later) was at a restaurant that had a spectacular view across the crater. A buffet lunch on the edge of an active vulcano spewing toxic fumes into the air was just what the Dr (Dr Evil?) ordered. After an hour, we were back on the road again (and singing, "On the road again...can't wait to get back on the road again!").
Next stop after lunch was a farm dedicated to orchids. I'm not sure why this was an important stop on the tour, but, dutifully, we all piled off the bus, took 100 photos of various orchids on display, bought a fridge magnet that looked like an orchid, and piled back on the bus. For 4 minutes it even rained, which was a nice change. It rarely rains more than a few minutes at a time in Hawaii. They say there are 8 different seasons to be had ad Hawaii gets 6 of them. I think some days it gets all 6 on the same day. Still, the rain, albeit only brief, was a welcome relief from the searing heat and humidity of Hawaii.
Next stop after the orchid farm - by this time it was around 3pm - was the spectacular finish to the tour. We went to get up close and personally with anactive volcano and a lava stream running from atop the volcano mountain down to the Pacific Ocean. In the 90s this whole area was flattened by lava (as far as the eye could see in all directions, there was think black solid lava, a remnan of the 90s explosion). It flattened around 190 houses and killed people as well. Some people, as you will see in today's photos, even (strangely!) chose to rebuild their houses, right on top of the lava itself. Tour buses aren't allowed to drive in through the lava itself, so we were shuttled in using smaller vans. It's difficult to explain the scene and the walk over lava to get to the ocean, so take a look at the photos. The black lava, many years ago, cooled into some amazing colours and patterns. Again, see the photos. It took about 10 mins to walk across the lava down to the ocean, where we could see the toxic fumes shooting into the air as a result of the lava flowing into the ocean. Unfortunately, we couldn't actually see the lava flow itself, just the resulting gas plume. Still, it looked spectacular and it as amazing to be able to walk on top of lava. Then, suddenly and completely unexpectedly, thick, red lava, looking like blood, shot volently into the air. It continued like this, blood-red lava slying wildly into the air, for a few minutes, before it settled down again and we couldn't see the lava anymore. Words really can't do justice to what we saw. It was amazing - easily the most amazing thing we saw on this trip - and even emotional. It was violent, yet beautiful. Take a look at today's photos.
After the lava show we headed to the airport for our return flight to Honolulu, via Maui. By the time we got back to the hotel it was almost 10pm. We were dog-tired and really needed sleep, but we'd had a satisfying day.
Tomorrow is our last full day in Hawaii. We plan to swim and shop, and, at some point, pack our bags for the return flight. We leave Honolulu at 10.50am Wednesday morning, so we need to head to the airport early to check-in.
Mum and Dad: I'll update this again with Tuesday's activities, and then update again from the Qantas Club at Honolulu airport with our flight details (but you should have them, already!)
After the last couple of days of early starts and full days today we took things a little easier. After sleeping in we caught a quick bus over to central Honolulu for a buzz through Chinatown. This was not the most pleasant place as it was market day and there were lots of people out doing their shopping for food etc. After escaping the crowds and the smell of the fish mongers and butchers shops, we meandered down to the Aloha Tower - which was the site of our only photo of the day, much to the camera's (and Josh's relief). Some shopping later, we caught the bus to the Ala Moana Centre - which is a very large shopping centre. So, more shopping later we headed bac to our hotel and went from there to the beach for a swim. The water is just so warm but yet so refreshing.
Straight from the water we had dinner at another Japanese restaurant which served okonomiyaki - one of our favourite foods from Japan...some more shopping later and weare back ready for an early night as tomorrow we get up very early at 4.00am to be picked up for our trip to the big island to hopefully see lava and live volcano's. So, for today that's all.
Saturday we bused out to the Polynesian Cultural Centre to get a dose of - well - polynesian culture. This place was set up a a tourist attraction but with the aim that it brings young people from the polynesian islands to work in the centre but they attend the university next door to study and gain an eduaction. So the centre pays for their education. It's a novel concept which the young people seem to have embraced.
The centre is made up of a number of islands representing polynesian nations. These are Hawaii, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Tahiti, Aotearoa (New Zealand) and exhibits on the Marquesas and Rapa Nui (Easter Island). Each has displays on the history and culture of the islands and interactive displays of various aspects. One such was a hilarious drumming display at Tonga where three volunteers had to follow the drum master - with varying comedic results.
We had a BBQ lunch and followed our guide around for the afternoon with a canoe pagent occuring on the waterways. This was quite spectacular as they were dancing national dances on board these canoes - and they were really going for it too! The only one to fall in though was the oarsmen on one canoe who couldn't stand the rocking of the boat.
Another funny performing was from Samoa - who delighted the audience by starting fire by rubbing sticks - it was much better and funnier to watch...it was ended with a fast paced ascent of a coconut tree by a strapping young man. It might be worthwhile saying at this point that all the staff were young, VERY good looking and VERY fit - and the men were all not wearing shirts - so the muscles were ... I think it's best not to continue ....
After a luau dinner it was off to the night show - which involved over 100 performers and was a visual spectacular of cultural dancing and singing. The highlight was the fire dancing and fire stick twirling which was damn impressive. The performer even threw the buring stick at least 20 m to another and they somehow caught it.
All in all it was actually a really enjoyable day - there is more than you can see in just one day but it was a great insight in polynesian culture.
Location: Maui, USA
We were up at 4.45am today in order to leave our hotel at 5.15am to get a taxi for the 20 minute ride across town to the port to catch the Hawaii Superferry. There's a secrity point to pass through and then we were on board - Premium lounge and all! The trip from Honolulu to the island of Maui takes 3 hours, and some of it is across choppy waters, causing "some" people to get seasick (i.e. Craig). But the water was a beautiful blue and some of the islands we passed before getting to Maui were amazing. We really had no idea what there was to do in Maui, so we were winging it a little bit. When we arrived we wandered over the road from the terminal to a shopping complex in the hope of finding something interesting. We didn't. So we walked back to the terminal where eventually we were able to catch a shuttle bus to hire a rental car. With our cute little red car all ready to go, we decided to head down the coast road - the Hana Highway - to the town of Hana. We were only a few miles into the drive when the road turned into a narrow (and dangerous) never-ending serious of twists and hair-pin turns. Some corners barely had room from one car, let alone two. And, typically, a number of hoons were racing and overtaking on blind corners and hair-pins. Craig began to feel sick from all the turns, so, without really knowing how much further we had to go, we decided to turn back and come up with a new plan for the day. There is a large volcano called Haleakala on Maui, so we decided to drive up to the top and see if there was anything worthwhile to see. The road was only marginally better than the coast road we'd just left, but the scenery on the drive up was just beautiful. Lushious greenery and views down valleys and to the Pacific Ocean. When we reached the top, we weren't diappointed. It was cold and very windy, and, at 10,020-ish feet, a little harder to breath the thinner air, but the view more than compensated. See today's photos. We spent a long time at the summit taking in the view and taking photos. It was definately worth the cost of the Superferry to Maui and the rental car.
We had to be back at the Superferry by 6.30pm, so we decided on a couple of shorter sidetrips not as far from the port before returning the car and catching the shuttle back to the port. The Superferry left at 8pm for the 3 hour journey back. As it was entirely in the dark, Craig slept most of the way back and Josh watched the Olympics. By the time we got back to the hotel it was almost midnight and we were dog tired after a very long day. I didn't have the enery to update this blog - straight to bed.
Tomorrow we're off to the Polynesian Cultural Centre - on the other side of the island - on an organised bus trip. Thankfully we don't have to be out the door until 10.15am. A sleep in will be welcome.