OUR 2016 BIG ISLAND ADVENTURES

OUR 2016 BIG ISLAND ADVENTURES

Two Maui Cats on the Prowl Again

HIGHLIGHTS

Elizabeth and I are like cats when it comes to prowling the Hawaiian islands. We like to leave our scents on each Hawaiian island about once a year. In the last two days (July 7-9), we played tourists again in our own home state – on the Big Island this time.

We are just back from two days of adventures. And we had a blast.

Eliz snorkeling 2

We went sailing, snorkeling, kayaking down the Kohala ditch – over and three the three miles flumes and tunnels, and more.

Flumin Kohala header

We visited the Original Chocolate Factory and learned all you’d ever want to know about how to grow and make chocolate from seed to seed.

I also had my favorite “malasada” – at Tex’s on the Hamakua coast. Make that two. I saved one for this morning’s breakfast. ūüôā

“Who’d believe me¬†if we told them I drove 35 miles one way for a malasada,” I told Elizabeth while we were driving from Hawi to Tex’s along the beautiful upper Kohala Mtn road. But it was worth it, despite the fog and mist we had to go through past Waimea.

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And we witnessed some beautiful sunsets over the ocean.

These shots are just a few “appetizers.” More to come as I make time work on full travelogues.

DAY 1 – TOUCH AND GO CHALLENGE UPON ARRIVAL

We rarely plan too many things ahead of our trips. But this time, for some reason we had our full schedule worked out even before we left Maui.

The first thing we were going to do is get a rental car and drive fast from the Kona airport to Keauhou Bay where we had booked ourselves on a Sea Quest sailing and snorkeling afternoon. ¬†That’s about a 45-60 min ride, depending on the traffic. And we only had about 30 mins after arrival to disembark, get our rental car and start driving. So we knew it would be close. Assuming, of course, our flight was on time in the first place. (Which it was).

What we did not know, however, that we would face the first hurdle even before leaving the airport. The clerk at the rental car counter told me that the CarRental.com agency, through which I reserved the car, had booked it at the Kona (city) location. Which is about 10 miles from the airport.  The clerk said they were out of cars at the airport, but he promised to do what he can.

“Please do,” I pleaded, explaining that we had booked a sailing trip within the hour. “I don’t care if it is now washed. As long as it has 4 wheels and it runs.” ūüôāCar rentals

I had already previously published a story about how lousy this CarRental.com outfit is. It was because of a different kind of bad experience we had with them in Honolulu. So this was just the icing on the cake. Never, ever again will we use CarRental.com.

Anyway, the nice Enterprise Car Rental clerk found a car for us and personally drove it to where we were. He filled out the paperwork by hand, just like in the good old days, and off we went.

As it turned out, we made it to our boat rendezvous at Keauhou Bay with time to spare.

SAILING AND SNORKELING

Eliz snorkeling 2

This was our third or the fourth sailing and snorkeling trip to Kealakekua Bay where Captain Cook took his final breath on February 14, 1779. This time, we were in a Zodiac with a group of 10 other people. Bill was the captain, and Kai his assistant.

Both members of the Sequest Tour (http://www.seaquesthawaii.com/) were exceedingly nice. Captain Bill, a Native Hawaiian, was a wealth of knowledge about all sorts of things, historical as well as natural/environmental.  We highly recommend this company and these two people to anyone considering sailing and snorkeling on the Big Island.

Eliz snorkeling 1

Anyway, snorkeling and swimming in general has never been Elizabeth’s strong suit. But she showed up and she suited up and went into the ocean despite her fears. And that’s what counts.

She said later what spooked her especially was this big eel sticking out of the crevice in the coral.  The portion you can see here was about 4 ft in length. Another diver told us that later the eel came out and was probably more 6-7 ft long.

You can see here Elizabeth getting out of water and then explaining excitedly to Bill and Kai what happened and what she saw down under. ūüôā

Here are also some other¬†underwater snorkeling shots I took…

When I saw that fish in the last¬†shot above (with the brown neckline), I thought it was our Hawaii State Fish – Humuhumunukunukuapua’a. ¬†But now I am not so sure. Anyway, it looked alike.

When it was all said and done, Kai served us a nice snack.

HOMEBOUND SAILING

Our sailing back to Keauhou Bay was even more interesting¬†than the snorkeling experience. Captain Bill kept maneuvering¬†the Zodiac and swerving in and out of numerous little coves, explaining what each of them was called and why it was named so. There was a Dragon’s Breath cave, the big cave which collapsed a long time ago with an image of Ku – Hawaiian God of War, several huge lava tubes, and close to the harbor a high cliff from which some brave folks were jumping into the ocean.

Captain Bill narrating the story of one of the coves near Keauhou Bay – July 7, 2016 – a film by Bob Altzar Djurdjevic (direct Youtube link –¬†https://youtu.be/suPmXX7g16g)

 

Here’s a video of one of those cliff jumpers…

Cliff jumping in one of the coves near Keauhou Bay – July 7, 2016 – a film by Bob Altzar Djurdjevic (direct Youtube link –¬†https://youtu.be/WbO7-xBgN3U)

When we got back into the Keauhou Harbor, we witnessed a Hawaiian canoe race. What’s interesting about these two pictures I took is that the crew were all girls. And they really knew how to paddle. Hard. I was impressed.

 * * *

OUR BEAUTIFUL RESORT VILLA, PERFECT KONA SUNSET

Up until now, we have been staying most of the time when on the Big Island in the Waikoloa area. Since about 2011, the Prince hotel on Hapuna Beach had been our favorite. ¬†But that changed when they started to raise prices and eliminate the kama’aina (local Hawaiian) privileges.

This time, I booked us a villa at the Kona Coast resort in south Kona. And what a delightful place it turned out to be – both inside our spacious villa with 1 bedroom, 2 baths and a full kitchen.

After a fairly gloomy weather during our sailing and snorkeling adventure, the bonus that awaited us at our resort was a beautiful south Kona sunset. We went out for a walk, and returned with these sunset pictures.

And now, here are the last four minutes of the sunset taken from virtually the same spot.

 * * *

DAY 2 – BEAUTIFUL MORNING AT OUR RESORT

The morning of our second day on the Big Island turned out a beautiful continuation of the gorgeous sunset from the night before. Elizabeth and I went for a walk around our resort and brought back these pictures.

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VISIT TO ORIGINAL CHOCOLATE FACTORY

Just like our first adventure yesterday, this one started with a bit of a challenge. We had trouble finding the Original Chocolate Factory even though it was only about a mile or so from our Kona Coast resort. It was tucked in the hills above south Kona, and my Google Maps guide, whom Elizabeth and I call Miss Polaris, decided to take the morning off.

By the time we eventually figured out what to do, Miss Polaris came back online and we ended up arriving just in time for the Chocolate Factory tour.

This tour was Elizabeth’s idea. I went along hoping to learn something about how to grow and make chocolate, just as we did six years ago when we decided to try our hand in harvesting and processing our own coffee.

I was not disappointed. The owner of the small plantation gave us an excellent tour with lots of interesting details. But Elizabeth was downright mesmerized. She loved the tour.

In the end, we walked away with some $60-worth of excellent chocolates, some of which we proceeded to consume right away. ūüôā

 * * *

FLUMIN’ KOHALA: SAVING BEST FOR LAST

We didn’t plant it that way, but our last adventure on the Big Island was also the best – kayaking down the Kohala mountain waterways (see¬†http://fluminkohala.com/).

Flumin Kohala header

The trip had everything you could wish for in an adventure – uncertainty, excitement, surprise, lots of screaming (especially by Elizabeth), beautiful nature, and wonderful lessons in history and botany delivered by our two young Native Hawaiian guides – Austin and Mark. And we got thoroughly soaked, especially during two surprise “pirate” attacks in one of the many tunnels through which we had kayaked during our 3-mile ride.

But let’s start at the beginning…

GETTIN’ TO FLUMIN’ WAS HALF THE BLOOMIN’ FUN

Leaving the Chocolate Factory site in south Kona at 11:40 should have given us enough time to drive to Hawi where the Flumin’ Kohala office is. At least that’s what the directions in Google maps said.unnamed

“I don’t think I’ll need the map,” I said to Elizabeth as we drove out onto Hwy 11 in Kona. “But just in case, here it is FYI,” I handed her the map.

We had been to the Big Island at least half a dozen times in the last eight years. So I did not think there were many parts of it left that would be new to us. The Flumin’ Kohala kayak trip was one of them. That’s why I booked it. Getting to Hawi and finding their office there should have been a cinch. We were supposed to check in there at 1 PM.

Indeed, we got to Hawi around 12:50, a little bit ahead of schedule. When we reached the intersection of Hwy 270 and 250, I said to Elizabeth, “this is it, right?”

“No,” she said checking the map. “The map shows we should go to the end of Hwy 270.”

“Are you sure?” I shook my head in disbelief.

I stopped the car so I could check the map. Indeed, Google had places the Flumin’ Kohala office at the end of Hwy 270 – at the Pololu Lookout where the road¬†dead ends.

We had been there several times before on earlier trips. And I remembered the beautiful views from the high cliffs. But I was puzzling where in that narrow space there could have been enough room for an office. Still, a kayak tour doesn’t need much space. Even a small trailer would do. So I kept on driving and watching the clock.

Thanks to twisty roads and some construction trucks ahead of us, it took more than 20 minutes to navigate the 8-mile drive. ¬†At one point, I got a call from a concerned man (Edward) at the Flumin’ Kohala office.

“We are almost there,” I assured him sounding¬†hopeful.

And indeed we were. We got to the end of the road and the Pololu Lookout at 1:05, only 5 minutes behind the schedule. Alas, there was no office there. Just a bunch of cars parked along the side of the road and tourists taking pictures of beautiful coastline views. Like these…

I called the office and explained where we were.

“You have to come back to Hawi,” Edward said. And then he gave us directions – to the exact place where I had thought there office was, where we stopped to check the map, and where Google maps directed us to keep driving to the end of Hwy 270.

I hurried back, though that’s nigh impossible on twisty Hawaiian roads with single-lane bridges, and, in our case, a slow poke backhoe in front us for a part of the trip. I practically jumped over the darn backhoe when I finally got a chance to pass it.

A nice lady from the Flumin’ Kohala office called us as we were entering Hawi and guided us over the phone literally¬†to their doorstep. We were met there by Austin, who was to be our kayaking guide, we found out later.

It was 1:30 PM. We were half an hour late. But nobody was bothered about that. They were all just happy that we made it despite the Google maps.

There was just one other couple on the tour. They were from Oahu. So it was an all-Hawaiian expedition – two people from Maui, two from Oahu, two guides from the Big Island as well as “Uncle Greg,” the big Hawaiian driver of the van that took us from the office to the start of the kayaking tour. ¬†But not before taking us back to the Pololu Lookout so others can also see it and take pictures of the beautiful high¬†cliffs scenery. ūüôā

FLUMIN’ KOHALA – THE ACTUAL KAYAKING TOUR

I stopped looking at the clock after we parked our car in front of the Hawi tour office, so I have no idea what time it was when we actually started our kayaking tour. Nobody was in a hurry. Everybody was having fun and taking things easy and leisurely, with lots of jokes and pokes and laughter.

Now, before we take you with us on this wonderful adventure, first a little bit of history about the tour. We learned all that in dribs and drabs from our guide Austin during the 3-hr and 3-mile kayaking ride. But I’ll spill it all out at once for you.

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The Kohala irrigation system, the so-called Kohala Ditch, was completed in 1905 after an 18-month toil by 600 Japanese laborers. They were especially brought in from Japan for this difficult job because of their masonry skills. They dug, chiselled and hammered their way by hand through granite and other hard rocks, building tunnels, flumes and bridges over a 23-mile distance. Seventeen of them lost their lives during the 18-month period.

The purpose? To irrigate the sugarcane fields. For white man’s profit…

kam

Truth be told, the Japanese did not have to dig the first 9 miles. King Kamehameha (1758-1819), a native of Kohala on the Big Island (we passed his statue on our way to Kohala Ditch), who united the Hawaiian nation, had that portion of the irrigation built more than 200 years ago.

The purpose? To irrigate the taro fields.  For the benefit of local Hawaiians.

Anyway, back on the tour, our guide Austin kept pointing various Japanese markings which the builders chiseled into the tunnel walls. One of them read, “for the glory of Imperial Japan.” ¬†They dedicated their labors to their country which was at the time at war with Russia, a war which Japan won.¬†These men were apparently given a choice to be conscripted into the Japanese army or come here and dig the Kohala mountain.

Back in our kayaks, we had a ball. The paddling was not hard as water would have taken us slowly downstream anyway.  Occasionally, like little kids, we had water splashing fights. Or we would just stop and get out of the kayak to admire the scenery. Like these waterfalls below.

At one point, our guide jumped out of the kayak and ran up the slope to dig up for us small Cinnamon plant. Which we have now successfully brought home to the Rainbow Shower and planted at a shady spot in front of our home.

We also had to duck occasionally not only to avoid bumping our heads in the low tunnel ceilings, but because of the obstacles nature laid on over the flumes. Like this giant¬†¬†Appaloosa or African Flat Top Acacia tree toppled by hurricane Iselle in 2014. We have one of those giants on our Rainbow Shower property. It’s growing tremendously fast but is also very brittle. No wonder a hurricane brought it down.

“I just LOVED everything about this,” Elizabeth exclaimed at the end of the tour. And she is not one who often lavishes praises on others.

In this case, I will second her opinion. It was a wonderful adventure and one we recommend to anyone who comes to the Big Island looking for easy and fun outings with a high educational value.

 * * *

WORLD’S BEST MALASADA – AT TEX’S ON HAMAKUA COAST

We were both excited and relaxed at the same time, as we drove along the Hwy 250, the upper Kohala mountain road, taking in the beautiful mountain and ocean scenery.

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And then, we¬†drove on to Tex’s Drive-in on the Hamakua coast. Just to get one of their famous malasada.

Make that two. I saved one for Saturday¬†morning’s breakfast. ūüôā

“Who’d believe me if we told them I drove 35 miles one way for a malasada,” I told Elizabeth while we were driving from Hawi to Tex’s along the beautiful upper Kohala Mtn road. But it was worth it, despite the fog and mist we had to go through past Waimea.

They say, “seeing is believing.” So take a look… ūüôā

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FAREWELL TO BIG ISLAND

I don’t suppose too many people who followed this travelogue would argue if I suggested that we packed a full vacation into two days. It was fun and exhilarating. We returned back home to Maui on the third day a little tired but thoroughly satisfied.

Here are our farewell pictures taken at the Kona airport on Saturday morning (July 9).

 THE END.

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