The big Island of Hawaii was great.
We docked in Hilo early in the morning and were out the gangway by 8 AM. We rented a car and since
Don knows I am such a control freak, he let me drive, and we drove up to Mauna Kea mountain where there are 14 observatories.
One was operated by the Smithsonian Institute, another by University of Hawaii, another by CalTech, the Keck Observatory,
and the list goes on. They also have observatories that are run by different countries, like France and Japan. We couldn’t
go in any of them, but they looked very cool from the outside. The elevation of Mauna Kea is 13796 feet high! It had patches
of snow on the ground and it was cold. Who would have known that there was snow in Hawaii? Not me! My face was freezing cold
and the wind went right through my hiking pants. There was a mountain peak that was close by that we hiked too. The air was
pretty thin but we didn’t have that far to go. We just knew that it had to be the highest peak so
we really wanted to “bag” it. This mountain was the highest that I had ever been on by foot. At
the top of the mountain was a spiritual rock formation with some palm fronds and flowers. We didn’t know this at the
time, but it is considered sacred to the Hawaiians. We had read not to add or take off any stones from the mountain so we
didn’t touch it.
One cool thing about the Big Island is not that populated or unspoiled. I loved it.
As we were leaving the port, I watched as the waves were rolling
over the breakwater with just like the Hawaiian waves that people surf. Wonder what those waves look like
on a stormy day! The captain warned us that we would be experiencing some large waves as we left the island and he was right.
What would Hawaii surf be like if it didn’t have any large waves? It just wouldn’t be Hawaii
think this was one of our favorite days of doing something we both enjoyed.
Californians love to go to Hawaii for vacation and because EVERYONE
goes there, I did not. Well, I need to change that opinion! I am so glad that I have been able to visit this wonderful state
of Hawaii! Kauai is called the Garden Island and it really is beautiful. It is so green with trees and lush tropical plants.
This island is covered in mountains that are very dramatic. The cliffs of Na Pali are truly magnificent and the fields and
beaches on the leeward side were so lush as well. We saw the “little Grand Canyon” that Mark
Twain wrote about on the west side of this island. How could we have seen all that in just one short day’s stay? Because
we took a 55 minute helicopter ride that covered about 80 percent of the island. We saw the Waimea Canyon, saw where they
filmed Jurassic Park (we did not see any dinosaurs though), the dramatic Na Pali cliffs and the crater of Mt. Waialeale, the
wettest place on earth, and more that I can not name. We also saw several hump back whales spouting off so we buzzed around
them a couple of times. It was an amazing flight, the views and experience were top of the list of
our favorite experiences. (Even if my hands were clammy and cold all 55 minutes of the ride!
We are starting to feel our trip coming to an
end and we really wanted to do a WOW! in Hawaii. The helicopter ride was definitely a WOW! Experience.
Whale watching! I didn’t even want to go. But Don begged me to go with
him so I did, half heartedly. Once we spotted the first whale, I was so glad I went! I might have missed the highlight of
the trip. We were on a fairly large boat that looked like an old ferry for about 150 people and we went out to the middle
of the bay, not more than 2 miles from shore and we started seeing whales. It is mating and calving season so they were having
fun! These whales are humpback whales from Alaska. They were breaching (their bodies out of the water), pectoral slapping
or were showing us their huge tails as they dived into the deep water. We saw them at least 40 times and at least 10 times
they were completely out of the water. It was so exciting. Two whales were playing near our boat and came
within 20 meters. They are huge when they swim nearby. Amazing creatures. What a treat! And the staff were
as excited to see them so close as we were. They said that rarely happens and this is the best viewing day that they have
had this season. I am SOOOOOOO glad that I went whale watching today in Maui!
The town that we visited on Maui is called Lahaina and it is the art town of the island. I walked
through several art galleries, missing mine back home. I collected as many business cards as I could so that I can go home
and look them up on line. It was wonderful seeing so much art. We bought three tiles and I bought a bracelet that was called
World Traveler Bracelet. I love it. The quote on the bracelet is “ We are heroes of our own stories.”
Hmmmm, not sure what to make of that quote.
We spent the day
at the Pearl Harbor War Memorial. It is quite the thing to see. We saw a movie with all the details about the bombing of Pearl
Harbor then we went out to the Arizona Memorial. The film was so moving that no one spoke at the end of it but walked out
of the theater quietly. We also went into the Bowpin submarine and that was a very cool tour. I remember going in a submarine
when I was just 7 years old when we lived in Ketchikan, Alaska and that left such an impression on me. This one seemed larger
than the one I remember from my childhood but it was still amazing how 80 men would volunteer to go into one of these contraptions
for months on end. Took some special guys!
We love Hawaii and the people here. It is one of the most laid back states we have been to. Any state
and city that can put up with so many tourists, yet still be so nice and happy, they are people you want to know. The weather
is great, the beaches wonderful, and it is still America. What can be better?
We have been on Oahu for four days now. It is so weird to be “home”, in the US. I didn’t
know that I would feel this way when we got here but we have suddenly realized how much we want to go home and see family
and get back to a normal life! Wandering is OK for a certain amount of time, but there does come a time when I want to have
more direction. True, we were seeing the world, but being an observer without time for participating, makes me feel a bit
“unuseful”. (Now if I wrote a book about our travels, that might make a difference!) Don and I both talked and
agreed that going home now, visiting our family members on our way to Idyllwild would be FABULOUS!! We
had planned to go to Central America to see the Mayan ruins, but that can wait for another trip. It is time to go home, see
family and get on with life as we have known it for the last 30 some years. So, tonight at 11 PM, we board the flight to Seattle
and start our journey down the coast of America, the greatest place on earth!
Tahiti and Moorea
I have got to start
writing these things down as I see them so I don’t forget all the cool things about these beautiful green islands.
We visited Moorea on the ship and plan to visit it once again on our way to Hawaii. It is only a ferry ride over there from
Tahiti so it is close enough if we wanted to visit before then. A very dramatic port with mountains, up to 2900 feet, all
the way around us in the little harbor. It really was beautiful. But we are staying
in a very nice resort, probably a little on the pricey side but there isn’t much that isn’t pricey here. It is
a French territory and it has French prices and pretty much the French atmosphere. The hotel brags the largest fresh water
man-made lagoon swimming pool in the south Pacific. It is wonderful and it is open 24 hours 7 days a week.
I love it! It is only 3 feet deep at its deepest and that is the majority of the pool. It is sand made from coral that
is poured over plastic sheeting so it is like being out in the ocean but no salt to burn the eyes. I want one in Idyllwild.
However, the coral can be vicious on the feet. I have been nursing a shard imbedded in the heel of my foot for a week and
I think it is finally out but it took a lot of coaxing!
We have an egret that comes and eats fish out of the pond below our hotel window. We are above the
hotel dining room whose roof is filled with pond water and swimming koi and some other very small fish. The egret stands quietly
in a group of lilies and waits for the poor innocent fish to swim by him and then it quickly grabs it before
it knows what happened. This morning there was another white bird that looked more like a duck, standing
on the edge of the pond. I love this hotel. We see the ocean, the sun sets, the huge lagoon pool and this lovely pond, all
from our balcony.
There are several
kinds of birds here in Tahiti that I have noticed. A little delicate dove; a small brown,
yellow, with dark/brown markings, chickadee looking bird that is so cute; another bird that is the same size but it looks
like someone but red eye liner, lipstick; a shiny gunmetal gray large bird; pigeons;
and a smaller brown/gray bird that has a patch of bright red feathers under its tail that likes to sit on our balcony. I know
that there are others, but these are a daily sight around our hotel. I must be getting old……I am finding that
birds are fun to watch.
I must talk about the reef. We went snorkeling in Bora Bora and the reef was fascinating. In Tahiti, the hotel provided unlimited
kayaking and snorkeling. I love rowing so we kayaked every day. I loved to row out until I was on top of a coral and then
stop to quietly watch. Suddenly the ocean comes alive with fish. One day I counted 30 different types of fish. It was wonderful.
I am sure that I saw more than 30 because I counted all the black fish as 1 type of fish, since they were hard to distinguish
them apart. My favorite were the bright blue fish and the bright teal colored fish. They were only about
2 inches long but they were so bright it was like they were fireflies of the sea. They would be in schools of several hundred
so you can only imagine how beautiful the coral appeared with all these bright blue fish dancing around it.
It has rained every
day here so far. It is hot and humid then by afternoon the clouds roll over the mountains behind us and dumps a few gallons
of rain and it cools off. Around midnight last night we say the flashes of lightning that lasted until
we fell asleep. This morning it rained first thing so I am hoping it will be a cooler day.
We have befriended a couple from MA in their 30s who are also traveling
around the world who were on the Ocean Princess with us and are staying at the same hotel as we are. We taught them Canasta,
pretty much because we couldn’t remember the rules to any other card game and it has been fun having some company. On
Thursday we decided to rent a car and do a spin around the island. It is a very small island and including stopping at all
the sights, we were back to the hotel in 6 hours. We visited the caves that have fresh water in them. You
can swim but it doesn’t go very far back. The we went to the blow hole that is crazy. The road used to go between the
blow hole and the ocean and it has been re-routed, thank goodness. When it blows, it is loud and it would frighten the most
seasoned driver as they came around the corner and was met with a puff of steam. We saw the beach that is famous for surfing
and the black sand. That was very cool. Then we visited the Paul Gauguin Museum and got bit by a zillion mosquitoes. I had
12 mosquito bites behind my right knee! Grrr! We went on around island to a light house that Robert Lewis Stevenson’s
father built in the mid 1800s. I love history and how it comes around full circle. No wonder RL Stevenson thought about coming
to the south Pacific to live.
Girls, this is where you want
to go on your honeymoon. It is amazing! The volcanic mountain that formed this island
is very dramatic with its cliffs and great shapes. The island is surrounded by a reef that creates a beautiful
teal green playground of coral, fish, sting rays, clams and sharks. And we were in the middle of it all! It was beautiful!
We had bought tickets to go on a tour with the
ship for snorkeling with the sting rays and sharks as well as doing some reef snorkeling. We were happy because Callie, our
gym instructor was also going. She was as nervous as I was! We climbed into a catamaran bottomed boat that
carried about 40 of us to a section of the reef where they knew we would find sting rays. Sure enough, everyone but a few
of us got into the water that was only chest high and they soon showed up. I, being the cautious one, watched for a while
just to make sure I really had the nerve to get in and stay in. I snapped a bunch of photos of Don watching the sting rays
and soon sharks showed up. They were black tip sharks, the kind that don’t hurt humans and are actually pretty shy and
will avoid you. They were actually really beautiful. I couldn’t help but feeling a little scared.
However, I determined that I would be safe in the water so I climbed down the ladder into the water. It was cooler than I
thought it would be. The ocean was much warmer in Cairns. Anyway, I walked in the water
and watched for sting rays. They did come by and one brushed by me and it was very silky and they just touch you ever so lightly.
Those sting rays are so unearthly! They remind me of space ships of the future. I tried feeding one by
shoving the fish into their nostrils that are behind their eyes but I just couldn’t do it. It was too weird and I didn’t
watch long enough to get up the nerve. We were told by the guides that you could get your finger sucked if you tried to put
it into their mouth so that is why they recommend it through the nostrils. In fact, they told us to only touch the sting ray
on their top surface and avoid the tail. I figured if they touch me I am good with that. I didn’t want to end up like
Crocodile Dundee with a tail in my heart! Today’s experience swimming (I was standing very still but it was called swimming)
with the tip sharks and the sting rays is definitely a highlight of our trip to French Polynisia!