Monday, July 11, 2011

More Hilo and Cruising Plans

Volcano National Park is completely worth getting up at 0345 (wasn't even early enough) to call the Radio Bay escort, meet a reserved taxi, and catch a 0520 bus (free, apparently meant for VNP workers, though we were the only ones on it that rainy morning). We were inside the park by 0630 giving us a truly full day to explore the park on foot. It was raining, but we kept positive attitudes- at least it wasn’t raining quite as hard as the last time we were here and hiked through the Kilauea Iki Crater. We hiked all morning through many different ecological habitats in the misting rain, captivated by the flora dominated by huge unfurling forest ferns and even caught sight of some Kalij pheasant foraging near the trail. A geological highlight was definitely walking underground through the lighted and improved and then the pitch black and wet unimproved Na’Huku lava tubes.

Because the Halema'uma'u Crater is off-gassing, the western portion of the rim trail around the entire Kileauea Caldera has been closed for safety. So we looped back via the Desolation trail and a wonderful view of the off-gassing vent. We even dropped down into the eastern edge of the caldera and saw Pele’s hair (very thin long pieces of volcanic glass) sparkling in the sun strewn about everywhere in the lavascape. Back on the rim, the Art Gallery had been highly recommended to us and did not let us down- with amazing works in all mediums focused around life in VNP and on Hawaii. The afternoon had cleared to a blazing sunny day, so we enjoyed a nice picnic lunch and then hiked along the steaming bluff of the caldera the rest of the way to the Jaggar Museum for Chris to fill his geology mind with yet more information. It was more hiking than we’ve done in ages (can’t move around so much aboard a tiny sailboat) and we fortuitously bumped into Amanda and her son Mykah at the museum and rode back to Hilo with them, pleasantly worn out after an awe-inspiring day.

Early the next day we met Amanda and her son Jayden for a hike to a surprise destination. The trailhead started near the town of Waimea and after hiking through pastureland, stands of bamboo, and following along a flume of water, we ended up with stunning views of steep volcanic waterfalls at the head of Wai’pio Valley. Chris found another cave to explore and Shawn couldn’t stop snapping pictures even though the magnitude and magnificence of the place could not be captured. Back in town we joined the Amanda for a poke sushi roll dinner (she gave us great tips on rolling) and a soak in their backyard hot tub as the night jasmine wafted to us and the cooling rain fell.

During the following week, we spent 2 days and a night at the north end of the island in Kohala with Chris’ family friends and sailors Toni and Tye (Toni went to high school with Chris’ father). Having extensively cruised the South Pacific, we enjoyed hearing their stories while at their old sugar cane plantation home with fruit, flower, and nut trees flourishing around the yard. They also drove us to see ‘Upolo Valley on the NE tip of the island where we saw an ‘Io (Hawaiian Hawk) floating oh so close. And the next day to Nashimura Bay (which will likely be our first stop after leaving Hilo Bay) with marvelous views across the channel to Maui, on the NW tip of the island.

The Homemade Icecream/Hilo Tropical Gardens Hostel just up the road from the port rented us cruiser bikes for 3-days ($5/day each and free wifi a welcome added bonus!). We used them well to get around town at our leisure even did an entire shop at the local KTA market (quite a feat for Shawn, though Chris loves riding like a pack mule). Most exciting, though, we spent a day snorkeling at Richardson Park (just a bit south of Radio Bay). We spent an astounding hour on a coast littered with huge rounded lava rocks watching the waves breaking on shore with 10 or so large turtles feeding on the rocks below the breaking waves. We first noticed their round heads poking above the water between the breakers. Once closer, as the waves jacked up and the sun shone through them, we were able to see their full bodies swimming through the waves (more graceful than any surfer) to keep off the rocks. It was magical.

We have continued to take several sunny day opportunities to sail Fatty out of Radio Bay into the larger Hilo Bay to explore the river mouths, moored boats, Coconut Island and the Hilo Bayfront. With 4th of July came USCG vessel Kiska home to its dock here in Radio Bay- which meant that we had to move in from our tie on the end of the wall to make space for them to dock. That night fireworks were shot from Coconut Island just outside of Radio Bay. There was a large warehouse and the pier with cargo being loaded on a barge in the way so we rowed Fatty out past them to enjoy the show- only in the few moments it took us to row there, the quick show was already over. Back at Tao we celebrated appropriately anyway with yummy grilled burgers.

We are stalling here a bit awaiting the delivery of Chris’ new-to-us smart phone. Apparently everything takes longer than expected for delivery in Hawaii. We are working on our patience… This has provided us plenty of time to discuss our upcoming cruising plans. The main options that we’ve been discussing include:

(1) sailing NE back to the mainland west coast this September,
(2) sailing south through the Line Islands this Decemberish and then this coming spring continuing SW through the South Pacific (this option has the variability of instead heading first to Micronesia then south toward Australia), or
(3) spending until early next year in the Hawaiian Islands (including the possibility of land-life for a few months) and then implementing option (2) or later in 2012 option (1).

Although we haven’t come up with any long-term answers, we have been reminded that our MO has been to move slowly and see areas, so placing time restrictions and implementing the pressure to “hurry up” is not preferable (and maybe not even possible) for either of us. This pretty much knocks out option (1) for this year because we need about a month to prepare Tao for another cross-oceanic voyage which would in turn mean getting to Honolulu ASAP. So, for now, we are continuing at our preferred slow pace enjoying every day and getting prepped to get back underway.

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