Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Big Island Days 9-11

Day 9, Sunday, Nov. 11. We had a day of complete contrasts: snorkeling and 82 at the beach and snow at the top of a volcano.

We went snorkeling 5 miles south at Kahalu’u Beach Park. We saw more fish here than other places on Kauai or here, even some we can’t identify. There were lots of other snorkelers (it’s a weekend) but not too many. The water seemed a little cool even with my wetsuit top on but we stayed in until we got the shivers.

We went on this great trip called the Mauna Kea Summit Adventure. Two guides took 13 people in two vans to the Mauna Kea Visitor Center, elevation 9200.

All the way there (about 2 hours) the guide talked about what we were passing by. They have “Kona Graffiti” which started as people put runners names in white stones and coral when they ran in the Ironman competition in the 70’s (I think). Then it just continued.

At the Visitor Center we got acclimated to the altitude and had an early dinner. By this time we all needed a light jacket. Then we drove up to the top of the mountain where there are 13 observatories (1 is down the mountain a bit). On the way we saw Haleakala, the extinct volcano on Maui, seen in this picture between 2 of the observatories.

At the top, elevation 13,796, we saw the remains of the snow from last Sunday night. They passed out down jackets with hoods since it was in the mid 30’s! It was just amazing being up this high with the clouds below and seeing Mauna Loa in the distance. We could see 175 miles.

We saw the sun set about 6 PM and then saw the moon and Jupiter rise. We were lucky in that it wasn’t really windy and there was just a sliver of the moon. We got to look at the craters of the moon and see the two moons of Jupiter through the two 13 inch telescopes they set up. This was an awesome sight! By the time it was pretty dark we had to pack up the telescopes and go down to a different site. This picture just shows the moon.

One of the neatest things about being up there was seeing stars at the horizon. Usually you don’t see them there because of light pollution. In fact, the whole island has special yellowish streetlights that affect light pollution the least. (Fellow canyon rafters: and we thought we could see a lot of stars there!) They also paved the last 3 miles from the top to cut down on dust.

At the new sight they set up the telescopes again and put on a star show. They talked about and showed us Cassiopeia, Perseus (including now bright Comet Holmes), Sygna, a star that exploded 3000 light years ago, and a couple of other stars. It was really interesting. They did a terrific job! We were picked up about 2 and were returned to the spot a little after 10. What a great night!

Day 10, Monday, Nov. 12. We decided to explore the northern shore that we missed on our way over on Saturday. Some different landscapes we saw.

Our first stop was the Pololu Lookout. It was the back side of what we saw at Waipio Valley on Saturday. We walked down a steep path that had been reinforced with logs and rocks. It was a beautiful black sand beach. I’m inspecting the many different colors of the sand: black, white, clear, brown, and green.

By mid afternoon we were at the Mauna Kea Beach (aka Kauna’oa Beach) at the Mauna Kea Resort. We were lucky to get the last parking spot. The grounds were beautiful as well as the beach. Unfortunately, the snorkeling, which the guidebook said was very good, didn’t pan out. We only saw a few fish. But the water was warm and the setting beautiful. We just enjoyed reading on the beach.

Day 11, Tuesday, Nov. 13. The ancient Hawaiians had a “Place of Refuge” where if you broke a rule (a kapu) you could save yourself from certain death by quickly getting to this place on the volcanic coast. Then you’d be forgiven. Some kapus: letting your shadow fall on a king’s shadow or speaking to royalty without permission. There’s a little self-guided walk showing temples, a very impressive 12’ high and 17’ thick Great Wall to divide the royalty from the warriors, and some fishponds.

We also went to the “Painted Church”. It’s a small church with scenes from the Bible painted on the walls. It’s unique but we didn’t find it too interesting. What we did find interesting was along the roadside: many poinsettia trees about 10-12 feet tall.

The best part of the day was our snorkel boat ride with Sea Quest to Capt. Cook’s Monument. It was a 3 hour trip and there were only 4 of us. They can take up to 15 so we were lucky. When we got to the snorkeling spot there were no other boats there, only a few people who had kayaked over or hiked a long hike down. What’s unique about this spot is the 90’ drop off and lots of coral, therefore, lots of fish. We saw moray eels, longnosed butterfly fish (only in HI), moorish idol, schools of yellow tang, spotted pufferfish, yellow trumpfish, needlefish, and orange-spine unicorn fish. (This was much better than the snorkeling at Kapalu’u but cost money to get there.) The guide took the boat slow on the way back to show us lava walls up close (with the small boat we could actually go inside one and see a lava tube that had broken off), other lava tubes, and lots of crabs and a limpet type crustacean that you can eat. It was very cool to see all this up close. We’re planning on renting a kayak and coming back on Friday to the snorkeling spot with an underwater camera.

Our snorkeling guide told us about seeing manta rays at the Sheraton so we checked it out. They come near the shore at night to feed on plankton. Apparently the come toward the light. We saw only two in an hour but plan to go back tomorrow night a little later. They’re really big!

1 comment:

Julie said...

you are ultra buff! LOVE the un-posed picture:)