Thursday, December 22, 2011

Aloha IV & Mele Kalikimaka

We continued to explore the Big Island and collected a couple more National Park Service stamps in our passport book. We visited more of the windward, rainy, side of the island and literally stood on top of the highest mountain in the world and saw more stars than we have ever seen.

The Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park (top) shows how the Hawaiians built fish traps and pens to hold them so they were available as they needed them. There were also raised planters where they grew crops of gourds, taro and sweet potatoes on the lava flats. (Bottom) Pu'ukohola Heiau National Historical Site on the Hill of the Whale is where King Kamehameha I built a heiau, temple, that was the last sacred structure built before outside influences altered traditional life. The rocks for the temple where brought from 20 miles away by a human chain passing each one hand to hand. When the heiau was complete Kamehamaha invited his cousin and rival Keoua Kuahu'ula for the dedication. His cousin and most of his followers were killed giving Kamehameha control of all the Hawaiian islands as the first king.

Bottom is one of many lava tubes that can be found here. Top is an example of Hawaiian graffiti. It is not painted, it is white coral on the black lava. This graffiti started in the 1980's when people did the first ones as encouragement for participants of the Ironman Triathlon that takes place here each October.
A few of the many birds we saw. There were many more but they were too quick for us to capture a picture. The colors and variety were fantastic.

Another must do on our list was to go to the top of 13,796 foot Mauna Kea. We were disappointed on Monday when we got a call that the tour was cancelled because of a winter storm at the summit. On our trip around the island the clouds cleared and we got to see why the trip had to be rescheduled for Wednesday. Click on the picture and look closely, you can see the road and a couple of the observatories.

The tour departed Kailua-Kona at sea level at 1PM. The first one hour stop was at the visitors center at 9000 feet to give everyone a chance to adjust to the elevation change and have dinner. This telescope was looking at the sun. On the way back down, our tour took us off the road for a chance to see the stars and planets through their 11 inch scopes. We got fantastic looks at binary stars, Jupiter and its moons, Venus and the Orion Nebula as well as several shooting stars.


What Hawaiians have to do if they want a white Christmas. We saw a couple of people taking truck loads of s**w off the mountain.

In case I have not mentioned it before, the weather in Hawaii is the absolute best we have ever experienced. This was the only day we had to wear long pants during our two week stay. The tour included winter parkas as it was very windy and in the 30's at the top. I guess they have the reflective strips so they can find you if the clouds roll in. You can see four of the 13 observatories from several countries that are at the summit. The Big Island has the nations strictest light pollution laws to keep the night skies clear for the astronomers.

One thing the tour promotes is the sunset at the top. Ours was just OK as there was one big cloud that blocked the sun from the top of the clouds we were looking down on. It was still great being on top of the highest mountain on Earth as measured from its base on the ocean floor and raising over 32,000 feet.

I am hanging loose at the highest spot in Polynesia. It is Hawaii so it is always t-shirt weather. You can see in the background how much of the s**w had already melted. When the s**w accumulates you can ski down the mountain about 2 1/2 miles.

Beautiful 442 foot Akaka Falls, one of many on the windward, rainy, side of the island. There was a neat little path through the rain forest to get to the falls.

Just a few of the many beautiful flowers we saw along the path to the falls. I don't know what they are but I still loved seeing such a great variety in such a small area.

One of the most unusual was the flower on the banana tree. All the fruit we had was wonderful. It was all the sweetest we have ever eaten.

A small falls at the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, another windward side attraction that is a great place to see native flora. The garden is in a steep, stream carved valley that runs down to the ocean. The water level was high with all the rain they have been getting.

WOW what a giant leaf. Many of the green plants were the peace lilies, zebra plants, philodendron and many others that we had as house plants in our stix and brix. The impatiens grown on the island like weeds.

A really high point was the orchid garden. The variety of colors in these beautiful flowers was unbelievable. The botanical garden should be on your must do list when you get to the Big Island.

People often ask what we are going to do when we stop full timing and so far we have always said we do not have an exit plan. That may have changed with this trip. If weather is a big part of our decision on what we will do, then Hawaii would be a great place to settle down some time in the future.

Finally, to all our family and friends a big Hawaiian

Mele Kalikimaka!!!!!