Thursday, August 14, 2014

Kaua'i - The Garden Island

My beautiful pareo painted by a lady from the Tuomatus
Inspired by Gauguin

Rainbow eucalyptus bark
Color inspiration for Gauguin?

We are fortunate to have seen three Hawaiian Islands before ‘almost hurricanes’ Iselle and Julio passed by.  Thankfully they tendered little damage but it would have severely tampered with what we could have seen and where we went.  Kaua’i is the last place we visited before heading back to the US and we mean to savor each and every one of these last days. 

View from Sleeping Giant

As its name indicates, it is a stunning but very expensive garden.  While the big island’s museums and gardens can be visited for $8-$15/person, these prices go up to $40 in Kaua’i…  After visiting expensive French Polynesia however the sticker shock wasn’t what it would’ve been after visiting cheap Mexico.
Called the meat or steak plant.  Flower the
color and shape of a steak, attractive to flies
who help pollinate

Annatto - producer of orange food coloring
Diana's garden
Three pools reflecting one tree
Kaua’i is extremely touristic compared to the Big Island so we wouldn’t consider it as a place to live but for a short visit it has many things to offer.  Once again, we cannot meet true islanders with stories of their lives, legends, customs, etc.  It makes us appreciate ever more what we experienced in Mexico and what we had in French Polynesia.  We will appreciate it yet more when we get back to traveling and know that not everywhere offers such connections with the people and their ways of living.
Buddha in bamboo forest
Corrugated theme with pulsing water
Symmetry of Thanksgiving Garden

Three large trees used in the filming of Jurassic Park

Our guide Juan sitting amongst the buttress roots
At only 74 years old - they are massive
(the trees, not Mike)

Very massive

As in the previous post, we will let the pictures do the talking.  We have been nearly everywhere on the island except for hiking the complete Napali Coast – for that would have required camping gear we didn’t have.  This is one of the few places I think flying over would have been a great addition to viewing the many canyons, waterfalls, fluted ridges, hidden beaches the island has to offer with in mind that it is one of the wettest place on earth and a clear, cloudless view, is hard to find… or a dry path impossible to come across.


Beautiful Waimea Canyon
Considered the 'Grand Canyon' of Kau'i
Waimea Canyon with waterfall
Miles of fantastic views
Water cascading over red rocks
Similar to Arizona
Red crested cardinal on the beach
Kilauea Lighthouse
Home to thousands of nesting birds

Lighthouse is now a preserve area
for nesting birds
Hanalei River Valley - home to taro fields
Limahuli Garden and Preserve
Surrounded by amazing fluted ridges
'Swiss Cheese" plant - corn-like pod can be eaten
Coffee plant in bloom
Mahogany forest (10-15 year trees)
The largest mahogany plantation
in the world
They like their buddha and bamboo around the islands
Red wet clay trail
Both are covered to the knees with it
Napali Coast

View legends are made of

Very seldom getting clear view
One of the wettest areas in the world

But if you persist, the clouds will eventually open-up

Another muddy path - did I mention how wet
this place is?

Hanakapi'ai waterfall
Hanakapi'ai waterfall - closer up
Closer yet - nice refreshing water
The wind is so strong it moves the whole waterfall
to the side at times
End of the Napali hike

US and Hawaiian flags

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Hawaii's Big Island

Blue flowers on a vine
Entrance of Hawaii
Tropical Botanical Garden
A must see
Our favorite of the three Hawaiian islands: folks thinking and living outside the box and uncertainty due to active volcanoes…
The very nature of having active volcanoes at your doorstep gives the Big Island a completely different feel.  The uncertainty that it brings to everyday life means people live more in the moment, enjoying what is there right now for it may not be there tomorrow.  We visited a small town that lost many of its homes and the world’s longest black sand beach to hot lava around 1990-1992.  We were able to speak with the ‘survivors’ who stated it was the slowest natural disaster.  They were able to walk alongside the hot red lava engulfing everything giving you time to think how bad it will be once it’s over unlike a rapid tornado. 

Volcanic rock arch

Sheer volcanic coastline
Another thing of interest in such a disaster is that home insurance covers the structure but not the access to the structure.  This means if your house is intact but you have lava surrounding it, you will not get a penny from the insurance company yet you no longer have access to your home or land…  Since it can take several decades for lava to cool off you are left with nothing.  Best would be to burn the structure down before calling the insurance adjusters.  You still own the land that can now be located 75-100 feet below where it used to be but the Hawaiian government owns all NEW land created by the volcano near the coastline. 

The youngest of the islands at a mere 800,000 years it is not only the largest of the Hawaiian Islands, it is the largest island in the US.  It is nearly twice as large as all other Hawaiian Islands combined.  Although it is 7 times larger than Oahu, Oahu has 5 times the population!  So large in fact that all growing zones are found in the many microclimates created here.  On the west side you’ll barely get 5 inches of rain while the east side can receive over 130.
Gigantic (see cars to left) monkeypod tree

Day gecko - brightly colored

Playing hide and seek

Rose of Siam from the ginger family

Bat Plant - very unusual flower

Hanging lobster claws


More orchids

Orange beauty

Dreaded snails that eat your gardens/flowers, etc

Another beautiful banyan tree

Mini-mini pineapples

Gorgeous colors...

... and designs

Onomea waterfalls - part of botanical garden

Cannonball tree
Closer one in bloom, flowers on trunk!
Farther one covered with cannonballs
the size of grapefruits

This island is built from five separate volcanoes (oldest to youngest): Kohala (extinct), Mauna Kea (dormant), Hualāli (active), Mauna Loa (active) and Kilauea (active and has been erupting continuously since 1983).  Since some volcanoes are still active, the Big Island is getting bigger every year.  About 22 miles SE lies an undersea volcano called Loihi.  Erupting regularly and still over 3,000 feet below sea level, the Big Island will have a sister island popping over the watery horizon sometime in the next 10,000 to 100,000 years. 

Mauna Kea is the tallest sea mountain in the world, with a summit that stands 13,796 feet above sea level, and rises over 32,000 feet from its base on the ocean floor, making it taller than Mt Everest.  It is the most massive mountain in the world, covering half the island.  The Big Island is home to the southernmost point in the US (Ka Lae) as well as the southernmost bar in the US.

Akaka falls 442 feet

Rock 'egg' coming out of red clay
along road

These signs are seen in many locations
Another reminder of life on the 'edge'

From a distance, Kilauea Caldera
Halema'uma'u Crater - smoke - can only see red
colors at dark

So moonscape like Kilauea Iki Crater
Smoke puff in center

In the crater

Ohi'a Lehua tree prevails in Hawaii's volcanic soil

Close up of flowers - all stages at once (bloom, bud, etc)

In the plant kingdom
Ferns are first to come back

Thurston lava tube - nowhere as exciting as Tahiti's
To the east side of the island one will find nearly the cleanest air in the world for there is nothing in front of it for over 2,000 miles and the wind mostly comes from that direction.  Breathe in and take pleasure in it.

Although our dream was to see lava flowing into the sea we didn’t have the opportunity.  The lava hasn’t reached the ocean for about 10 months now.  Things are always in flux with active volcanoes and right now the lava is following a different, non-reachable, path.

The Big Island is also home to one of the largest ranches (Parker Ranch at 175,000 acres or 11% of the island) in the US.  Today the ranch is a Foundation Trust committed to the betterment of the community of Waimea (Hawaiian cowboy town) as well as providing perpetual support for beneficiaries engaged in healthcare, education and charitable support.
Pu'uloa Petroglyphs, a few of the 23,000!

Road Closed - what's your first clue?

Inevitable migration over the road to the ocean

Mike in the midst of lava swirls, ocean waves, sky clouds

They have not reopened the road since
and probably not anytime soon

Lava 'mushrooms' created by lava flowing
around tree trunks

Same phenomenon in the woods
Macadamia nuts and coffee are the agricultural fares that bring the most money to the island along with the regular tropical and temperate fruits, flowers and vegetables.

The island is known for its astronomy and numerous telescopes are operated on the summit of Mauna Kea, where atmospheric clarity is excellent and there is little light pollution.  They even make you go down the hill 30 minutes before sundown so your car headlights don’t mess with their telescopes.
Although tourism is a great source of income, they focus more on sustainable tourism here than on the other islands.

Twenty percent of its electricity comes from the clean heat emerging from mother earth below.  Some people are fighting the expansion of such projects opting rather for not so clean diesel consuming generators…  Not sure that one makes sense in an environment like this beautiful island. 
Some banyan trees lining Banyan Tree Road near the ocean’s east side were planted by people like Richard and Pat Nixon, Amelia Earhart, Babe Ruth, and Franklin Roosevelt.

Tough to grow in black sand
Replanting near black sand beach

This church had to be moved twice to stay away
from the encroaching lava - it was saved!
Quaint inside

The very nice Lyman Museum’s Missionary House was also visited by a known person, namely Mark Twain.  This house is the oldest standing wood structure on the island and was just about demolished when a new road was going to be built where it was standing.  The owner had the house cut in ½, rotated 90 degrees and moved away from the road for safekeeping. 

Visiting the various stores around town looking for locally made items we see a store that sells hats, rugs, and hats that look very much like what they make in Rurutu.  We check it out and it turns out that they do – what is amazing however is that the lady who owns the store sells these items for 10 times the price you would buy them in Rurutu.  She says she’s helping them keep their art alive – I say she’s helping her wallet a lot…
Kapoho tide-pools - great for snorkeling
Japanese-like gardens in Hilo


Much like in French Polynesia, there used to be a lot of sandalwood on the islands and there is a movement to bring it back.  It is very time consuming for all saplings have to be protected from the wild goats, pigs, moles, rats, and sheep around the island.  Each plant needs a companion plant to grow well so much trial and error is part of this lengthy process.  One of the things that may help keep sandalwood trees from being cut down are the nuts they produces.  They are supposedly delicious tasting like a combination of coconut and macadamia nut.  If they could get money for the nuts while the tree reach maturity to be cut for wood they probably could make a go of it.

Another important tree to that region is the Koa tree and very few remain.  Seeds are eaten by non-native species of animals (in this case mostly cattle) and birds making it nearly impossible to germinate on their own, needing the intervention of man…  It is similar in strength to walnut but it is also a tone wood meaning it sounds very good when turned into a string instrument like a ukulele or a guitar.

Kaumana tunnel - yep the ground is that red

View of Mauna Loa from Mauna Kea
One of the many smaller craters along the way

Offering on top of a hill overlooking Mauna Loa

Wild sheep crossing lava field
Nearly 200 of them

Tiny blue and white church by ocean

We have toured the whole island and want you to enjoy the pictures that best show what we saw.

Pu'uhonua o Honaunau Park (Place of Refuge)

Place of Refuge 'totems'

Place of Refuge wood sculptures

Ranger helping with fishing the old way
A long line braided with pandanu leaves to float ahead
of people forming a circle to push the fish and
some turtles to beach

Probably 400 feet of line cast off

Line is all in the water

Closing in on the fish

Bringing it back to land

In the ever diminishing circle yellow tinged water

Final product - all caught were safely returned to the ocean
Pu'ukohola Heiau National Historic Site
Double-canoe pirogue to take people on tour of bay
Exact replica of ones used by natives in the past

Pu'ukohola Park - Mailekini Heiau Temple
Said that rocks were hand-carried from 30
miles away in 1790

Same park - offerings over the ocean
Lapakahi State Historical Park
Golden wheat to black volcanic rocks to blue ocean

Reconstruction of original dwelling

Well preserved for being nearly 100 years old
View from our room in Puna
We stayed at an intentional community
The ocean is 4.3 miles away!