Save the best ’til last

It was the last day of our holiday- oh no! When we woke up it was a very dull looking day. We discussed possible plans with Gwen and Christian over breakfast and considered going to visit some of the beaches north of Kaanapali. Christian warned that because of the weather it may not be too great up there for snorkelling. We Face-timed Mum to say ‘Hello’ and by this time it was really starting to rain and so we decided to go into town instead. It was still very early and we found a place to park on Front Street for free – much better than the $18 per 2 hour car park!

We put our emergency, festival yellow rain ponchos to good use- keeping ourselves dry and attracting some sympathetic looks. We enjoyed visiting the retail emporiums of Lahaina buying last minute gifts and postcards. The Hula Festival under the famous big Banyan tree was called to a halt due to the rain and none of the big fishing boats were doing much trade today. We visited some of the galleries- one in particular where the artist specialised in painting the light in the surf- something we’d been trying to capture all holiday on the camera. One of these could be ours for just $24,000. Whilst we made a decision…..

We popped into Fleetwood’s Restaurant and bar to get a coffee. This place is owned by Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac and downstairs we were distracted by the Morrison’s Hotel Gallery where they were displaying prints of photos of famous rock stars. It was a really impressive display indeed including great photos of Freddie Mercury and my favourite one of Keith Richards- holding a bottle of Jack Daniels, alongside David Bowie and Tina Turner slurping from a bottle of champagne. Jane got chatty with the owner- Robert and I think he thought he was going to get a sale- a snip at $500 for a postcard sized print. Whilst we made a decision…..

We went upstairs into Fleetwood’s itself and sat at the bar- it was now lunchtime after all. I decided to try a pineapple cider which was really excellent. Do they sell these in Waitrose Dave?

We got chatting to the guy sitting next to me – Don. He was from LA,  retired and twice divorced. He was a portly chap with a moustache and big sideburns and he was sporting a Panama Hat and Hawaiian shirt. He seemed to epitomise the Hawaiian island escape – making friends as he travelled and not sure when he would go back home.

Fleetwood’s is a nice bar with great views of the sea from its front windows and lovely, relaxed music from a live band. Through the window I could see that the weather was clearing up and we decided it was time to get out of town. By now it was 2pm and we wanted to make the most of the sunshine and not drive too far exploring. We decided just to drive back to ‘Wipeout Beach’ and sit in our decky’s to chill.

It looked really different today – lovely blue skies , white fluffy clouds, palm trees( well they weren’t new obv.) – just perfect. The sea also seemed a lot calmer- although we didn’t intend to swim but had bought our stuff – just in case…..

So, I’d read about 2 lines of my book when I decided I couldn’t sit still- I needed to go in and see what was happening on the reef. Jane stayed reading her book. It was still a bit of a pavlova getting into the water but I was soon floating on top of the reef and gawping at the fish through the now very clear water. This reef went all along the beach with deep channels and tunnels- really great for hiding interesting fish. I saw some new ones including the marvellous yellow Long Nosed Butterfly fish- but by now I was secretly desperate to find a turtle to swim with. I swam about a lot but no joy- perhaps they don’t like the clear water?

I gave up, got spat out on the beach again and went back to see Jane. I said she should really give it a last go but if she wasn’t that bothered then not to worry. I sat back down to dry off but then 4 girls came out of the sea to settle back down just in front of us. I heard one say ‘Well , that was a nice snorkel and two turtles- one huge one- that was good’.

Well! That was it . I was up again and making friends , checking what they’d said. They were really quite casual about it all and said – yes- they’d seen turtles and one was right there (pointing right in front of me). Off I went again- Jane still not keen to come in after our previous experience of ‘wipeout’ here.

Pretty much as soon as I got to the spot where the girls had pointed I found a turtle! It was a big one and it was just swimming up and down going with the flow along with me. It was beautiful and I just stayed with it for a while. I took some photos and tried to take some video but my camera batteries were too short on power so not sure if I’d got any. No-one else seemed to be aware that the turtle was there – even though every now and then she popped her head up above the surface.

Obviously, I now needed to go and tell Jane and get her to come in! When I got out of the water I was breathing really heavily and was quite over-come. I thanked the girls on my way past with a huge smile on my face and then told Jane.

She was still unsure about going in but I told her that she HAD to come in. She agreed and down the beach we trotted. I gave Jane some tuition on how to get into the water and over the break safely. She was very brave and in we went….I held Jane’s hand until she was comfortable and then lead her over to where I’d seen the turtle. Within 2 minutes I had spotted her again and nudged Jane and pointed to the turtle- right in front of us. I was really pleased and after one big footed- booby stopped trying to chase her, we had the big beauty all to ourselves- gently bobbing about with her as she grazed. Jane says the turtle looked straight at her at one point as it got really close!

We headed out of the water – Jane making a more graceful exit than me. Now Jane looked like I did earlier – hyperventilating and quite emotional. The nice family on the beach in front of us looked worried and asked me ‘Is she ok?’. I explained that we’d just had our first swimming with turtles experience. The Mom laughed and said ‘Oh good, I was wondering if she needed CPR!’

We calmed down, packed up and drove back to our Air BNB. We told Gwen and Christian all about it (and anyone else who would listen!). They were really excited for us and joined us for a celebratory cocktail. Christian even brought out his prized bottle of Kula Rum which we sipped like Raki. We found out that Gwen had visited the UK the previous Summer- including Burford in the Cotswolds and Skomer Island to photograph puffins. They were now our new best friends and we’ve invited them to come and stay when they come to the UK again.

As it was our last night we’d booked a table down by the ocean back at Honu (‘turtle’ remember?!) which seemed an entirely perfect end to our grand Hawaiian adventure.

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The Road to Hana (you only need to do it once).

This sounds like a film title but it’s actually the name of one of the World’s most scenic drives and definitely on most peoples’ bucket lists of things to do when visiting Hawaii (Maui). The trip involves a 40 mile trip from Paia to Hana along a narrow road which has 600 hairpin bends and crosses 50 single lane bridges. It’s considered a ‘must do’ but our friend Joe, who visits Maui often remember, had said we might not want to bother. He’d done it once, it makes you feel car sick and he didn’t need to do it again!

But we decided to go with the majority and just do it. It was another early start for us and on the road by 7am. First stop at 8-30am was the surfer/hippy town of Paia – not too far from the airport where we’d flown in. The shops weren’t yet open and the only people seemed to be the homeless or confused looking tourists wondering why everyone told you to set off early on this trip. We’d stopped here to go to ‘Charley’s’ Saloon for a proper American breakfast including a biscuit (no gravy- thanks). Charley’s turned out to be a popular music venue where Willie Nelson regularly performs- in fact was that him sitting at the bar ordering a Mai Tai this early?

Now we were on Hana Highway proper and sure enough it is quite a drive. The drive itself takes about 3 hours because the speed limit averages say 15mph but there are also vast stretches where you need to stop at every bend to give way to oncoming traffic. So you are required to treat other drivers with a good deal of Aloha! and give them the ‘hang loose’ sign (make a fist, stick out your thumb and little finger and waggle hand) to say ‘thanks’.

Along the way we passed North Maui Coastal scenery- including the incredibly beautiful Hookipa Beach and, a bit further on, the site of ‘Jaws’ – the Worlds biggest wave break at 70 feet (not today). We then entered more tropical environments including bamboo forests and stands of Rainbow Eucalyptus trees. We watched people disappear into the mosquito infested bamboo apparently to seek out a waterfall but we didn’t do that. We did stop at mile marker 6.5 and trespass briefly on some private land to get the photos of  the Eucalyptus

We also stopped at Twin Falls where people swim in the pools at the base of the waterfalls and jump in from the rocks. Not for us this daredevil activity although it looked fun. We did enjoy looking at the tropical flowers and the fresh pineapple lolly as it was very hot and humid here.

As time went on the weather went off and became hot and rainy – well after all we were in a tropical rainforest. The trees are huge and there are lots of enormous creepers- just like you’d expect in the jungle.

Our next stop was probably my favourite- it was a little off the main drive down a bumpy track. It was the home of a cabin selling Aunty Sandy’s fresh Banana bread and so we stopped and bought some along with a can of juice. Nearby to here there was a beach and the waves were really crashing against the black lava rocks which was great to watch.

It took us much longer than I’d expected to make progress and I was concerned that I really didn’t want to be driving back in the dark. By the time we reached Waianapanapa Bay I was getting a bit uptight and we kind of rushed the stop here at the ‘iconic black sand beach’. We did enjoy walking into the lava tube – basically a cave through the lava that goes through to the lovely cobalt coloured sea. The pebbles in here shined like polished black jewels.

Now we were just 20mins from Hana and it was REALLY raining hard. It was fine though as the windy roads had calmed down a bit. Apparently, most people spend on average 10mins in the town of Hana before they turn around and go back. The drive is all about the journey- not about the destination. Good job really as there is nothing much here at all. There is one exception to this and that is the Hasegawa General Stores. It was like something out of Little House on the Prairie- in a big old barn and sold everything- including rifles and machetes alongside your Lays crisps, t shirts and banana bread. Jane chose the t shirt celebrating 100 years (in 2010) of this famous store.

I now needed to make a decision about how we would get home. Most people had been advising me to carry on on the same road which does a circle back up and would be different scenery. But I could see on my not very detailed map that there is a part of this road described as ‘off road’. Gwen had said it would be fine but I’ve noticed the locals can be a bit blasé about this sort of thing. I went into the store and spoke to Frida Kahlo who was serving behind the counter. I asked about the road- waving my map at her- and she looked at me with her big brown eyes and said …’You ain’t seen nothin yet- b-b-b baby…..’ No sorry , of course she didn’t- what she actually said was ‘Oh…that road is closed, closed until 4-30pm’. It was only 3pm. She did also confirm that the off road bit was not ‘off road’ it was just a dirt road! Well, let me tell you, me and my Nissan Qashqai back home consider a dirt road quite off road enough thanks and I wasn’t about to hang about for a couple of hours to do it in my compact rental car. For goodness sake.

So, thanks to Frida- decision made and we turned around and started back along the Hana Highway in the other direction. I felt very comfortable with this now – rather than continuing on the road less travelled and getting stuck in the dark. Phew.

It still took a long time to get back and so we decided to stop for retail therapy in Paia where the lovely shops were now open and we had dinner at the Flatbread Pizza restaurant, a Maui institution, which Joe had recommended and was great. Here we met ‘Bronze’ (real name Franz but I misheard him) who was our lovely young waiter. Paia is a real surfer town and I was keen to know more about this surfer lifestyle. Bronze told me that he wasn’t actually a surfer but he’d visited Paia previously and fallen in love with the rainforest. He’d then moved here after looking after his terminally ill Dad and then having sold his online business, house and two cars. He now just wanted to live in his cabin in the jungle. It had been a long day and I’d fallen just tiny bit in love with Bronze.

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All the gear- no idea.


Today we had to be up at 5-45 for an exciting pre-booked trip. This was our day to go snorkelling in the Molokini Crater. The remains of this extinct volcano have been flooded by the sea and the crater wall has formed a protected reef. The water here is about 100 feet deep and absolutely crystal clear.

I’d been really excited about this trip and as lots of different companies offer it, I’d spent hours making sure I chose the right trip for us. Should we go on a smart yacht with just a few other people or should we chose a smaller vessel [rib?] which was able to get there faster and visit both sides of the crater wall? Or should I opt for a trip which also promised to spend time in Turtle Town? In the end I opted for a company called Four Winds which got very good write ups on trip advisor and which seemed to offer a family friendly catamaran trip for about 100 people. This trip seemed to offer the maximum time snorkelling at Molokini itself and stayed away from places where there could be strong currents.

We arrived at Maalaea Harbour at 7am and were soon boarding the tidy boat. The trip did not disappoint and yes- there were some very loud people on board but it was not overly crowded and the captain gave an informative commentary as we cruised along. the staff were also very friendly.

When we arrived at the crater there were already about 10 other boats there. As Jane and I had all our own gear we were straight in the water off the back of the boat- easy access down some steps. As soon as I put my head in the water it took my breath away- it was SO deep and blue and clear. Man- was it deep! Jane the ‘not very confident swimmer’ was also in and off- which never fails to amaze me. Brave girl!

We swam over closer to the wall where the reef was nearer the surface and its here that the greatest variety of fish were hanging out. The boat trip catered for everyone – there were boards with windows for the kids to use, there was something called ‘snuba’ which you could try and which allows you to go underwater and breath attached to a tube without all the gas tanks associated with scuba. There was also a slide off the boat and others which looked fun -but not for ladies of a certain age methinks! They also provided a good lunch and once you’d finished snorkelling, you could enjoy the free bar!

Jane and I did two snorkel sessions- one one each side of the boat. The after lunch session was on the right hand side the coral was beautiful and the variety of fish even better. In total we had about two hours here, which was much more than any of the other boats, and Jane and I made the most of it. We then enjoyed the sunshine, beer and reggae music on the return journey. They even arranged to amuse us with two dolphins swimming alongside us at the bow of the boat.

By the time we got back to our place it was only about 1-30 still and didn’t want to just waste the afternoon lazing about! So we got back in the car and drove up to a beach called Kahekili in the middle of the resort metropolis of Kanapaali. Again this is an area right in amongst the big hotels- specifically here the Westin but this being Hawaii- they have to offer beach access- hurrah! My guide book gave this beach 3 stars and said it had ‘everything’.

By now Jane and I were feeling like pro-snorkelers so we cooly walked down the beach put on our flippers and masks and got ready to dive in. What we hadn’t noticed was quite how forceful the pull and push of the wave break here is. I immediately got dragged out and then knocked off my feet. This was fine but then the next wave pushed me right up the sand sideways and I couldn’t move my legs (and flippers) fast enough to stop them hitting Jane and totally wiping her out too. It must have looked hilarious but it was highly embarrassing to be tossed about in the shallows in this way (not to mention a tiny bit scary) and so we got out asap and walked coyly back to the grassy area and hid in our deck chairs.

Jane read her book and I did a sketch of what we had now nicknamed ‘Wipeout Beach’ with some dark threatening clouds heading our way. But it wasn’t long before I heard a little boy shout ‘At last, I’ve seen a turtle’ very excitedly and a little girl going back down the beach telling her Mom she was ‘going to see the turtles again’. What?! Oh—right now I decided to brave it again. This time I chose my entry point more carefully- it was amazing – as soon as I got over the wave break I was then pulled about 10 metres out- along with all the fish. It does then push you back in again so you just need to get used to the flow. However, because of the swell the water here was a bit murky and I didn’t see anything new and certainly not any turtles. Boo.

Now all I needed to do was get out again. This involved picking a sandy channel through the reef and then just waiting for the swell to spit me out onto the beach whilst trying to look vaguely dignified. I was able to tell Jane she hadn’t missed anything.

Despite this experience at ‘Wipeout beach’ it had been a fabulous day and we celebrated with cocktails and brownies at the Air BNB before going out to dinner at the Aloha Mixed Plate. The added bonus of this restaurant is that you get to listen to the music from the Lu’au next door. Think Hula Girls and beating drums. Lovely.

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Exploring South Maui

We woke up early…I’m not sure why I even bother writing that now -but whilst my itinerary planned to have us take it easy around Lahaina today, we were eager to go abit further afield. We’d had some advice from our friend Joe, who comes regularly to Maui, that his favourite spot on island is right down on the south west coast at a place called Ahihi. specifically, there is a small offshore nature reserve called Kanahena that’s great for snorkelling…like swimming in an aquarium.

So after our lovely breakfast we headed off down the scenic coast side road. As you drive out of Lahaina there are great stretches of beach where, even this early, the dudes were out either paddle boarding or surfing, depending on the wave break. In places the waves even splash onto the road itself.

We took the road through Wailea, which is a golfing resort area with top of the range hotels. The golf courses looked lovely but the hotel’s all looked rather bland (at least from the outside). I must say I’ve been v pleased that we chose to go with Air BNBs.

Our first stopping point was a tip from our host Christian, called Makena Landing. This was a lovely spot – a little sandy cove, surrounded by lava rock, trees and with a grassy area to sit on. But first we needed to go to the end of the car park, find the fence and go round to the left of the fence. Here Christian told us to look down into the pebbly cove as often there would be turtles. So we did and OMG there were two HUGE turtles just resting up. But as we watched two more turtles swam up out of the water to join them. These turtles were all nearly two feet across! You are supposed to stay 20 feet away from turtles to respect their space but I’m afraid some dozy tourists had gone down on the beach here to take their selfies with them.

We kept our distance and then found a spot on the grass to put up our beach chairs (clever Air BNB provided these along with your choice of body/surf or paddleboards! ). We sat  relaxing and watching the scene. We were surrounded here by wild chickens and roosters so we nicknamed the spot ‘Chicken Beach’. The weather was going off now abit and the waves in the cove were quite forceful but I couldn’t resist the opportunity to get in the water with my snorkel and mask and see if I could find any turtles swimming about. Jane was very sensible and decided to see how I got on first.

Well I got in ok but the water was very murky and the swell was pushing me around a lot so I didn’t stay in more than 5 mins. We’d been talking over breakfast about the rare (very) shark attacks here..which tend to happen when the water is murky with rain run off and the shark mistakes a human for a tuna fish.

I told Jane this was not the snorkelling place for us and whilst it was a lovely picturesque place for a sketch, we decided to keep moving on south. Next stop was Big Beach or Makena Beach which is as it sounds , a massive two mile stretch of beautiful sand and wild waves with a huge break onto the beach. Lifeguards here were pretty much telling people to stay out of the water but it was beautiful to stand ashore and look at the turquoise colour of the waves in the sunlight.

Now we decided to get a shift on and drive to Joe’s spot but unfortunately the weather was turning a bit wild with ominous dark clouds. The road down here is single lane as it winds through some lovely scenery in the volcanic rock. There are some lovely looking big houses down here behind closed walls too.

By the time we got to Joe’s spot it was pouring but we walked out over the trail to the black rocky beach. It’s not too bad walking about in the warm rain but the bedraggled few people coming back from this secret spot said that although the snorkelling was good , it was better to do it in the sunshine. The sea was very choppy and we decided that this wasn’t for us today. We were a little disappointed which felt wrong really after seeing four turtles, as we drove all the way back to Lahaina.

On the way back we stopped at the large Safeways just around the corner from us. This is the Waitrose of the supermarket world over here and you could tell this by the walk in, temperature controlled wine store! And the Deli was something to behold in terms of choice but all we wanted was a sandwich, Maui Potato chips and some Firerock beer (what no Lava Man? ) This was for our late lunch and to stock up our fridge.

We chilled out on the balcony with the other guests from Ohio enjoying the sunset with cocktails from Gwen and Christians Tiki Bar! Fresh home made cookies were on the menu also, what a treat.

Oops, now it was time to go out to dinner! We got ready and as we went to leave we realised that there had been and still was a massive downpour. We ended up driving down to Mala Wharf again and eating at Frida’s , the Mexican . It was very good especially the deep fried cactus.

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Moving on to Maui




Next day it was time to move on again. We had another late afternoon flight to the next island- Maui and we had the whole day to fill. We’d pretty much done everything I wanted to in Volcano so we had a slightly more leisurely wake up. Mind you it was this night that the rain had hammered down on the roof. Jane cooked up Janis’ chicken eggs and we said goodbye to Lil Blue.

We returned our video to the Upper store and the popped up the road to visit the Volcano Winery. They were offering tastings of their award winning wines here but it was only 9-30 and we felt it was a little early.

Next on our agenda was to nip back to the Volcanoes National Park to collect some emergency lava from the 1974 flow. You lucky people!! Then it was time to get on the road again and we drove the 45 mins straight road down to Hilo. Here we took a swing around Walmart which is always essential on a visit to the US. It’s a vast retail emporium where you’re not allowed to take your backpack in and they check your shopping against your receipt before you are allowed to leave the store. It’s full of all sorts of people and cheap tat and I soon felt the need to leave.

We then returned the rental car and went into the aiport looking for a Tiki bar. The airport was tiny and empty and we were three hours too early for our flight. There was no Tiki bar or free airport wifi so we settled into Uncle Billies bar for the duration enjoying their free wifi, snacks and of course Lava Man. We whiled away the hours and then joined our Hawaiian airlines flight to Kahului on Maui.

We landed in the dark, picked up our rental car and then drove about an hour over to Lahaina. It was quite a tense journey and I realise now that I really don’t like arriving in new places in the dark. Again, we were staying in an Air BNB, the Moana Lani, which is on Front Street. This is the main drag in Lahaina which has been described as ‘cute’. However, as we drove through it was heaving with tourists and didn’t look nice at all. We kept driving along looking for number 1440 but we’d gone about 2 miles out of town by now and over a bridge. I started thinking we’d gone wrong until finally we saw the light, and the light (above the church) said ‘Jesus is coming’ and sure enough around the next bend we found our lovely new home.

The Moana Lani is a lovely old style plantation house with big balconies upstairs and downstairs. They only have four rooms and its run by a couple, Gwen and Christian , who took over in August. The place is a traditional B and B serving lovely fresh breakfast and we had the most comfortable room here of our whole trip, with lovely lovely air conditioning.

After quick introductions we decided to go out nearby to find dinner. We walked down to Mala Wharf smelling the beautiful fragrance of flowers in the air. We went into a restaurant called ‘Honu’ (which means turtle) and when we opened the doors and walked in we were hit by what a cool and hip, friendly place we’d found. The place was covered in art and had a real buzz. After a drink at the bar we were shown to our table by the ocean where we ate, listening to the sound of the gentle surf and watching the boats bob under the moonlight. I think we are going to like it here!

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Go with the Lava Flow

Anyway……there was a very exciting reason why we were choosing to stay off grid in a town called Volcano. Can you guess what it is yet?

Yes, indeed it is the home to Kilaeua, the most active of Hawaii’s Big Island Volcanoes. As a geographer, I was always excited at the prospect of visiting this place but when it all kicked off in May this year, it was perhaps just a bit too exciting. In fact at one point , I wrote to the owners of our off grid Air BNB and asked whether we should be considering an alternative on the coast. But the owner said no , it would all be fine so we didn’t change our plans! In fact, when I asked Jane how she felt about staying where there was a currently active volcanoe she said ‘excited’ – so that was two of us. Hurrah.

Kilaeua has in fact been erupting since 1983 but on May 3rd 2018 it had its latest eruption when two dozen lava vents started to spew down rift of the the summit. On May 4th there was also a powerful earthquake of 6.9 which broke the nice man in the quilting shops windows. Nearly 2000 residents had to be evacuated from their homes in Leilani Estates (about 25km downslope from Volcano) and then on May 17th the volcano explosively erupted at the Halemaumau Crater sending volcanic ash 30,000 feet into the air and some of it landing on the town of Volcano. Lava entered the ocean in three different places and destroyed 700 homes in total (but not in Volcano, Mum! )

The summit dramatically changed as a result of all this as there were 10s of thousands of earthquakes triggered by 62 massive collapse explosions. These quakes caused building damage, rock falls, deep cracks in the roads and trails and broke water and sewage supplies to the park.

Not your average description of a holiday destination then is it? The Volcanoes National Park , where all this was happening, had been closed since May. But I’d been keeping an eye on things and so was delighted to see that the park had partially re-opened on 22nd September , just in time for our visit.

It did feel like an amazing privilege to be allowed into the park so soon after all of this and it’s hard to describe the feeling I had. On our day doing volcanoes we drove to the visitor centre early and I chatted to one of the Rangers about our options. He was very helpful and showed me which areas were open and which were still closed. After this we took the walk which went past the Sulphur Banks (steaming sulphurous rock banks) and steam vents (line up for your facials here) and then onto the Crater Rim Road where were able to look out into the Crater itself. This was incredible. To be honest it looked like a large quarry but to know that this was where all the recent crater collapse had happened and where the crater had doubled in size more or less overnight was awe inspiring.

The map I was given gave some sensible advice about being in such a highly active volcanic area such as:

  1. Stay on open trails and roads
  2. Stay away from cracks and sinkholes
  3. Rockfalls are unpredictable
  4. Wear sturdy shoes and long pants
  5. Do not hike after dark

I thought four of these were fairly obvious but wasn’t sure about the length of my pants or quite why it was important.

Of course, what we all want to see when we go to visit a volcano is some nice hot, molten lava but there were big signs outside the visitor centre telling us that there was no molten lava in the park or anywhere on the island and currently there was also no ‘glow’ from the lava lake which had been part of the crater landscape up until May.

After our hike along Crater Rim we had a quick visit to the Volcanoes House, where previously you’d been able to have fine dining whilst over-looking the Crater and seeing the ‘glow’ at night. Here we enjoyed the views with a Lava Man beer which seemed entirely appropriate. The place was damaged by all the earthquakes so all their kitchen catering equipment was sitting in the main lounge area. We picked up an emergency cheese and ham sandwich from the shop and very fine dining it was too.

Next we drove the 19 mile Chain of Craters Road which is a truely scenic drive as it descends 3700 feet right down to the coast. I’ve never experienced anything like it as the road made its way down through a variety of different and vast lava flows. First we came across the 1974 Lava flow (very brittle messy lava flow) then next the 1979 lava flow. This one consisted of more massive boulders of volcanic wasteland. But my particular favourite was much further towards the coast (I forget which year) where the smooth, almost liquid looking lava flow resembled chocolate brownie!

Along the way we stopped to take photos (often), collect souvenir lava and to admire the views. Finally, we reached the coast where it was rainy and windy and we walked across to look at the stormy sea arch and ate a lovely pineapple lolly.

It was late by now, so time to turn around.  There’s nowhere else to go here because the 2003? Lava flow had cut off the road.

It had been another great day and I’d not felt in danger at anytime (except at one point where the path was just a bit too open to the massive drop into the boiling hot crater). But you did just wander around thinking ‘I wonder how much they really know about when the volcano is going to erupt again?’

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Living off Grid in Volcano.

Sorry, I’ve gone a bit quiet but we’ve been living ‘off grid’ in Volcano for a few days. Yes, our Air BNB advertised itself this way and I must admit I was a little surprised when Jane gave this place her seal of approval as I know she doesn’t normally like to be too far from civilisation.

We arrived in Volcano after our very long journey and by the time we got there it was pouring with rain but not dark! Having stocked up at the store ,the nice young man there ( think ‘Deliverance’) pointed us in the right direction. We drove across Highway 11 and then turned down Pearl Street and then all the way down to 9th. At this point it sounds like any normal US City doesn’t it? But when we turned into our drive we could see our tiny little house in perfect isolation surrounded by giant ferns! It was like walking back into Jurassic Park.

I got out of the car and started skipping about, generally relieved that Jane wasn’t uttering the words ‘I can’t stay here’. When we went inside the place was decorated really tastefully with lots of Hawaian antiques and cool stuff such as surfboards and paddles.

There was a tiny kitchen with lots of free stuff- wine, eggs from Janis’ girls, homemade cookies, pancake mix etc. The owners had really thought of everything.

Living off grid basically meant that the electricity comes from solar panels, so you just need to remember to hit the rocker (off) switch when you go out. It also means that the water supply comes from the rainwater (no shortage there then), it’s fine but you just can’t drink it as they haven’t got the full filter system yet. In many ways it’s like camping but with a proper toilet!

But of course here’s the really tricky bit, there was no Wifi, no phone reception and no TV!!!! I loved it….Jane…not so much! But we got by, using free wifi at the cafe and watching DVDs, one of which we hired from the Upper Store (The Greatest Showman) and the other provided by the owners (Moana).

A couple of other things about our experience. The tiny bedroom is up some tiny narrow stairs which do not have a bannister or rail. At the top you cannot stand up so you kind of have to crawl up on your hands and knees and come down on your bottom. This is not ideal in the middle of the night. Or any other time really.

The house also came with quite an extensive decking area which had a top of the range BBQ and Firepit thing. It was half protected from the rain by a sheet of corrugated plastic but unfortunately the noise of the rain thundering down on here on our 2nd night kept us awake for hours.

In fact it rained so much whilst we were here that the overall word I would use to describe the experience is ‘damp’. We got wet going to the car, the shop, the restaurant and we never really dried off. I even felt damp in bed…most unpleasant.

But the locals love it. They call themselves ‘mountain people’ . Hm. They are in fact a very artistic bunch as we saw when we visited their gallery at the National Park visitor centre but oh my goodness , there are a lot of wild women of Wongo, who look like they could do with a decent hairdressing salon in town! And the men? Well I only saw them whilst they were out walking their Rottweilers and there were lots of references to hunting pigs. Say no more.

Finally to give you a flavour of local life I’ll tell you about a conversation I had in the Volcano Quilting shop. No, I’m not into quilting but it promised other art materials so in I went. It was a lovely shop and the nice lady serving was having a conversation with an old boy about the weather. So I asked ‘ was the rain last night typical of round here?’. She said ‘No, it’s not, This storm just blew in and we didnt know where it came from. It wasn’t forecast and ever since the last storm turned into a hurricane I’m worried.’ To which the old boy replied ‘Yes and it was lucky that I’d just got my windows repaired after the last earthquake broke them.’ This is how life goes in Volcano!

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Getting back on track

The next day we woke up in Kailua-Kona and the previous night now seemed like a surreal nightmare. The sun was shining and we enjoyed the hotels continental breakfast by the pool. We watched as many fit people were either running or cycling through town , preparing for the Ironman Competition. I suggested to Jane that we should go for a jog…no, no sorry of course I didn’t. Instead Jane and I did our version of the triathlon: shopping for tat, driving in the car along the coast road and finding a spot to snorkel!

We stopped at Kahaluu Beach Park which promised good snorkelling and shallow beach access to the water. It was similar in a way to Sharks Cover in Oahu except that here we had to scramble a bit across lava rock. We were soon in and heads down looking at the reef. The water was incredibly clear in parts and the fish, once again beautiful, in fact we’d go as far as to say that this was our favourite snorkelling spot so far. We saw lots of new fish and several shoals of large fish. Favourite new fish was the Rock Mover who was a very strange looking creature with false eyelashes!

We spent about an hour here before it was time to move on as we still needed to drive all along the south road to Volcano and I was determined that we would not be doing this in the dark today.

To start with the road was very windy and there were numerous different warning signs along the way…fault zones, tsunami evacuation routes, high risk of fire etc and I needed to concentrate hard as we drove through lush tropical landscape. We then started to rise up the slopes of Mauna Loa and at times were driving through ancient (probably) lava flows. Eventually we found ourselves dropping down again to sea level and as it did we hit start with sunshine and showers and then a massive downpour. We decided to stop at the Punaluu Bake House. This was an incredible place in the middle of nowhere (Naalehu) but it was packed with folk from a Roberts Hawaii tour bus, sheltering from the rain. It soon became obvious why this place was so popular….freshly baked donuts in a massive variety of flavours. I went for a vanilla cream whilst Jane opted for dirty Bread pudding. I call it dirty but it turned out that it was actually remarkably tasty!

Whilst we were here they had an information board with pictures of turtles on it. It was only 7 miles to the turtle turn off and whilst I was on a bit of a mission to just get us to Volcano this stop was not to be missed, as it promised we would see the turtles sunbathing on the beach. On we went and then walked along to Punaluu Black Sand Beach. It’s quite different to all the white sand beaches we’ve been visiting and it makes the sea a different colour too. Quite stunning.

But the best bit was that we did indeed see turtles both swimming in the sea and grazing on the rocks, and one lying, having swum in, having a rest on the beach. Hurrah!

Now it really was time to cover some miles as we still had about another 40 of the total 99 miles to go! Progress is slow because of the very low speed limits. Now we started to rise back up the slopes of the mountain. It started to pour with rain again but the road by now was dead straight up and so we just gradually made our way up 1000ft by 1000ft. Eventually, we entered Volcanoes National Park, much to my excitement. But for now we ignored the Visitor Centre and made our way into the town of Volcano. I think this is at an altitude of 5000ft above sea level.

I say ‘town’ ….but there’s not much here. However, the Volcano stored served up our essential supplies and we booked into the Oleho Cafe for dinner later as apparently it was getting booked up. I think I saw 3 names on the reservation list!

Then it was time to make our way to our Air BnB ‘Lil Blu’ but more of that later!

However, we did come back in the pouring rain for a lovely meal here at the cafe.

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Elvis vs Dinocroc

Well thankyou to our guest blogger yesterday. You’re now back in the hands of moi. Today, we needed to be up v early (again) but there would be no time for turtles this morning. We were off on our movie tour of Kauai with Roberts of Hawaii. Jane and I like a good movie tour and generally the quirkier the better.

We were picked up by our shuttle bus at 7-15am and transported to our main bus at Lihue. I say ‘main’ bus but actually it was exactly the same as the other one except that this one had a TV screen at the front and Andy the tour guide to greet us with an Aloha!

We were handed an ancient photocopy of a map with various filming locations listed and also a list of 100 films that had been filmed in Kauai. Andy assured us that there would not be a test at the end of the day but swat that I am , I proceeded to take copious notes for the rest of the day just in case. I think my Mastermind speciality subject could now be ‘Film and other trivia relating to the island of Kauai’.

The little tour bus was filled with a quirky bunch of folk as you’d expect -from the two large and quite immobile American ladies who failed to get out of the bus at most stops, to a Japanese lady with her 103 year old Mum and weird looking American boyfriend. Then there was a family with a little girl , Ava, who was a whiney little thing all day long. There was apparently only one real film enthusiast, the man with a Jurrasic a Park t-shirt on.

Well off we went and Andy , to be fair, was a good tour guide. Very knowledgeable and witty and during the day we stopped at about 8 film locations and learned what had been filmed there. We watched old (mostly) black and white video clips so we could compare film with reality. There were some really lovely locations such as Wailua Falls (Castaway Cowboy, Firefly), Moloaa Bay (Pirates of the Caribbean, Gilligan’s Island), Hanamaula Bay (Voodoo Island, Donovan’s Reef)and of course Opaekaa Falls (Seven Women from Hell). So, yes I think you will generally get the picture here! Not all the films are recent and they’re certainly not all good!

The particular highlight of this tour is that you get to visit the Coco Palms Hotel which was the first major resort style hotel in Hawaii back in the day. It’s the only bus tour that allows this. It was also where Elvis Presley filmed Blue Hawaii. I have always loved this film since I was about 13 and all its exotiqueness. But the hotel itself was totally destroyed during the 1992 Hurricane Inniki and whilst there are plans to redevelop it, it hadn’t happened yet. We had to sign a waiver here to be let out of the bus as it is basically a building site. Some of our fellow guests would not sign the waiver so they had to stay on the bus and watch a clip of the film Dinocroc v SuperGator where a giant alligator sneaked up, and ate a Movie tour bus and its occupantsat Coco Palms hotel!

It was rather sad wandering around looking at the canal where the canoes delivered Elvis on his wedding day. Such a shame , let’s hope someone can restore it to its former glory.

As we were leaving we were entertained by Larry Rivero who had actually played music alongside Elvis in the film. He then went on to be the resident entertainment at the Coco Palms for the next 10 years. He is now 88 years old and still plays and sings in the bars near here 4 nights a week. He played his ukulele and made us join in singing his gentle songs. Larry handed out his business card which described him as Kauai Living Legend of Music. If you ask Larry ‘Did you know Elvis ? ‘ he replies ‘Elvis knew me!’ It was all a bit scary as he had an array of CDs ready for us to buy but we escaped leaving Jurrasic Park boy to do the honours!

Talking of which, another ‘highlight’ was seeing the fields where Jurrasic Park was filmed and we watched the movie , listening to the music as we drove past the fields where Sam Neill and Laura Dern first see the dinosaurs.

I also learned a lot of trivia about the island of Kauai. I won’t bore you with that now but please do just ask if there is anything you’d like to know. Oh one thing though…they don’t like Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook fame much. He bought a $100million plot of land and built a lava stone wall all around it and just one house. They don’t like this…as it was originally thought that it could be two whole neighbourhoods.

Along the way we had a very pleasant lunch at a resort and chatted to a couple from South Carolina. Our final stop was the lighthouse at Kilauea (Lilo and Stich) before we made our way back to our sunny side of the island whilst watching Blue Hawaii.

By the time we got back we were both tired and a bit crotchety. All this having a lovely time is exhausting you know. But we did manage to drag ourselves out to the Beach House restaurant for a tasty meal watching the sun go down.

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Julie’s Tours are the Best!

Hello everyone, this is Jane, I’m your guest blogger for today.  I offered to do this task today because I’ve had such an amazing day that it felt like I needed to share it with you all.

So, I woke up really early like before 6 o’clock and was wondering when we could get going. I knew I only had less than 20 minutes until sunrise and then all the parakeets  would be leaving our palm trees and making the most horrendous noise that not even Julie could sleep through.

Yes, that worked so we were both awake very early then we decided that the best thing to do when you’re both awake at that time in the morning, is go snorkelling!

We packed up all our snorkelling gear in anticipation of being able to put our heads in the water. However, the waves were going to thwart us. Too big.  We decided it may be too dangerous to go snorkelling with such big waves so alternatively, Julie had researched that there was a possibility that we might see turtles on one of the beaches near Poipu.  Obviously, I was all in favour of that option.

When we arrived at red knickers beach, oops that should be “Brennickes beach” but Siri did not recognise my Brummie accent. It was  very wild, this is because there is another hurricane skirting the island and the waves were really big and crashing.   Great for photography but not for snorkelling and little chance of seeing turtles. So my attention turned to chickens. Yes, chickens there are lots of them here in Kauai, they are feral chickens and they are everywhere.

So, I’m taking a picture of chicken and baby chickens minding my own business when Julie taps me on the shoulder and says “Jane look over there”.  Julie said she had spotted quite a little group of people all taking photographs of something on the beach, early in the morning, which didn’t seem right until she realised what they were taking photographs of. Green sea turtles. Oh yes, two of them on the beach-happy days. We spent the next 10 minutes watching them, because that was all it took, for both of the turtles to push themselves from the sandy-shore into the water. I took photo’s and Julie videod the event and we were both near to tears. This was for the first time today. You will see that this is a common theme, throughout this blog.

After breakfast, the next part of our day was heading off to the Waimea Canyon via the Spouting Horn.  The Spouting horn is a blowhole in between rocks where the waves crash in and then all the pressure pushes the water up like a geyser.  Had my camera set to sports for this event.

The canyon was a  40 mile round trip. You go up 20 miles and then back down the same track 20 miles. You are treated to some of the most fantastic scenery and views that can be seen on the whole island, if not in the whole of the Pacific.  It’s always a sign of whether or not something has caught my imagination as to how many photographs I actually take of the event. Let’s say that when you get to see the chosen photos today, we have had to be very very selective!!

On the way up we passed several lookout points which were all amazing. What was more surprising to us both, was that near the top, we got a view of the Napali coast. And at the final stop 5700 m above sea level, we arrived at the scenic view point that had an edge. This was an edge that  Julie decided she didn’t need to look over.  However, there were a couple who were having their pre-wedding photographs taken on the edge by a professional photographer.

“Okay, hold hands, look into each others eyes, take a step back, NO, not that far”!!

The breathtaking scenery was the second time today that Julie and I might of turned on the water works.

Now we arrive at the last part of the day, this included food and drink, my favourite.   We went back to the Garden Island Grille to see our new friend Sofia. Sofia is only 19 still at college, but a bundle of fun and a really nice girl who waited on us the first time we came into the bar. We turned up this time in time for the live music and it was Hawaiian night hurrah.   The singer was really quite good, he played lots of songs that got us both either singing along, or over-emotional.  Yes, you might of picked up on the theme but that was the third time we’ve been in tears today. This is called being overtired.  Both had a lovely meal and cold white wine which was a perfect end to it absolutely perfect day.





Categories: Hawaii | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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