Monday, Oct. 31

Today was the day to leave our hut and continue our clockwise tour of the big island towards our Kailua-Kona bed and breakfast.

In all I think we probably did more driving than either of us have done in years. We spread our still-wet clothing over the back seat, but it didn't dry even after we'd passed the southermost tip of the US (near where we stopped for a boring but OK lunch), so we brought back to the dry side of the island a musty smell to remind us of the rain forest.

We escaped the smelly car to visit Pu`uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park and walk along their self-guided tour.

We also stopped a while in a little town where Sara picked up some fabric and I remedied a couple problems at a local drugstore:

  1. I realized that I had left my watch beside the tide pools the day before. My watch (a Casio LA11WB-1) has the best countdown alarm ever: it only supports seven fixed intervals (1, 3, 5, 10, 15, 20, or 30 minutes), but that's enough, and you can operate it very quickly without even looking at the watch face. So I was delighted that they had a version of the same watch for about $12.
  2. Since Ajit gave us this digital camera I've prided myself in my second-rate photography. But on this vacation I'd had a plan: to replace the bad photography with far, far worse drawing. I hadn't gone so far as to actually purchase any supplies, though, and given how rural most of the island is, this was the first time I'd run across a place selling ordinary unlined paper.

Once we found the bed and breakfast in the dark, the owner recommended a restaurant as being particularly representative of the local food. We found our food there fine but boring. The traditional hawaiian taste seems to run towards slightly boring. But I was glad to have tried it. (And my dinner--shrimp in some sort of coconut thing--was tastier than Sara's.)

Sunday, Oct. 30

The Sunday market just off the highway a little past Pahoa was an odd flea market/farmer's market combination with a lot of hippie-ish locals hanging around. We walked through everything once then picked up some food (crêpes and barbequed rice triangles) which we ate at a picnic shelter at Lava Tree State Monument on our way to the coast afterwards. It was, as usual, raining, so we were grateful for the shelter, though it didn't protect us from the mosquitos.

Our coastal goal was the Kahopo tide pools, which we'd heard were fun for snorkeling. On the way there we also stopped by a big warm tidal pool for Sara to swim a little, then got lost on the mesh of little gravel roads in the subdivision surrounding the tide pools.

The snorkeling was neat once I figured out where I was supposed to put my mouth and got over the strangeness of breathing with my face in the water. You get to see weird tropical fish like you'd normally only see in someone's aquarium, but they're just hanging out there among the coral.

I managed to cut myself on some lava, so we cut it short and headed back.

On the way back we had our first long drive along a one-lane road carrying two-way traffic. I got the hang of it after a while, though I was a lot more timid about it than any of the locals.

There were surfers out at Isaac Hale Beach Park, so we stopped watched a while; when the rain picked up again Sara retreated to the car, and I followed a few minutes later.

For some reason I'd thought it'd be a good idea to go in the tidepools with my t-shirt on and between that and the rain we had a lot of extremely wet clothing.

We set our clothes out on the porch in hopes that they might dry a little if it ever stopped raining for long enough, then we had another dinner in our pleasant little hut and went to sleep.

Saturday, Oct. 29

In the morning we walked to nearby Kehena beach. It took some time to find the steep rocky path down. There was one woman swimming, but it looked too scary for us, with big waves and lots of craggy sharp lava surrounding the small black-sand beach. The blocky vertical cliffs looked like some spray-painted foam movie set.

We drove back to Hilo for the farmer's market, then had lunch at a pleasant Japanese place called Miyo's. I got the soba and sashima, Sara got tempura and sashimi, and both were great.

Sara's family never visits any place without a trip to the local botanical gardens. We overshot the Tropical botanical gardens north of Hilo and had to backtrack along a narrow ocean-side road to get there. It was scenic but somewhat intimidating for people that ordinarily never drive.

I'm not really a nature lover, but even I found the botanical gardens interesting thanks just to the sheer strangeness of the plants, some of which would have looked completely in place in a movie set on, say, Venus.

The gardens also had some macaws. I wondered why one kept saying "Oh no!" before noticing the plaque explaining he and his partner were named after the bay (Onomea) which the gardens were built on.

We found Larry and family again at the gardens, after we visited Rainbow falls in Hilo, we saw them ambling around Hilo's japanese garden. At that point is was almost embarassing--did they think we were following them?--but we had a nice talk with them. It turns out his son and daughter work at General Dynamics (previously Veridian, previously ERIM) in Ann Arbor.

By then it was dark, so we drove back and had another dinner in our weird little octagonal hut.

Friday, Oct. 28

Nate, Kirk & Patty departed early in the morning, leaving us with a breakfast of rambutans and papaya for breakfast.

The first stop was for food, gas, and a Hawaii map at a local convenience store. From there we drove to the Volcano National Park visitor center. After watching their introductory movie Sara noticed Larry N. in the audience, a UM biology professor who was also in grad school with Sara's dad.

After a chat with them we looked around the nearby volcano art gallery and ate lunch on their porch, then walked across the way to the volcano house and looked out over the crater.

Finally we set off around crater rim drive, stopping along the way frequently for scenic outlooks. Larry and family (wife, daughter, and son-in-law) showed up at the Jagger museum, so Sara chatted some more and took his picture for her dad.

By now we were behind schedule so we took off towards our next lodging. The local natural foods grocery in Pohoa provided us with some more groceries, and we arrived around nightfall, in time to make ourselves a pleasant dinner of bread, cheese, beans, nori rolls, and more.

Thursday, Oct. 27: driving into the rain

Sara, Patty, Kirk, Nate, and I checked out of the hotel, drove to a nearby mall for breakfast (mostly smoothies, surprisingly yummy ones) and looked around a bit, then Sara and I went ahead on our own on the long drive to the other side of the island.

The transition was abrupt and dramatic--we drove into a cloud of humidity, leaving the desert behind and entering a world where everything was green and rainy.

We stopped here and there, in particular to walk to views of a couple of impressive waterfalls. The rain-forest vegetation was crazy.

In Hilo we parked and walked around downtown a bit. We tried to find a couple restaurants from our guidebook, but it was too late by then (most seemed to close around 2pm), so we walked into a random café where Sara got a pretty terrible salad, but I somehow managed to get a pretty good sandwich and corn chowder.

We poked around the farmer's market a bit--just a few stalls at the time--and picked up some rambutans and papayas.

An hour's rainy drive later we got to the house for the night, unpacked and waited for the others. When they arrived we went for dinner at a local Thai restaurant--pretty good, but too hot for everyone to enjoy.

They were leaving the next day and wanted to see at least something of the volcano, so decided to take the long drive down Chain of Craters road to see what we could of the lava.

It was late at that point, we were all still a little jet-lagged, and the drive down to the lava had all the disadvantages of a narrow twisty mountain road with none of the usual advantages, it being pitch black by this time. But we all made it to the bottom (after losing touch and getting a bit confused about what had happened to the other car) and saw the lava.

It was just a bit of glowing red off in the distance, but was still neat to see. We tried walking a little farther after the road ended, but it didn't look like that would improve the view significantly without walking a lot farther across much more rugged terrain than we were prepared for. So we took the long drive back home and slept. Finally!

Wednesday, Oct. 26: flying to Hawaii

I got up fairly late, caught the shuttle to the airport, checked my one bag and got on without incident. I had Wesnoth and some New Yorkers to entertain me.

When I got off at LAX there wasn't an obvious person to ask where to go for my next flight (on a different airline), nor where there any signs, and the only map I found (eventually, after quite a bit of searching around) was a photocopy taped to the side of one of the baggage inspection areas. After asking 3 people, walking across random parking lots, and backtracking a fair amount, I eventually found the right terminal and got checked in for my next flight.

So now LAX is by far my least favorite airport. I understand that it's very large, but maps and signs aren't exactly rocket
science. Every other airport I know of manages to make itself easily navigable by even the most jet-lagged passenger. And it was ugly to boot.

I had some pretty good Nachos as lunch in the terminal before boarding.

I played some more Wesnoth and read a bit more on the next flight, and also managed to get some sleep.

You know you're in Hawaii the moment you get off the plane at KOA--there's no jetway, just stairs, so the humid tropical air hits you immediately; and the terminal and baggage claim are all open-air.

So I picked up my one bag, took the shuttle to the car rental place, and drove off down the highway. I was a little unhappy about having to find a strange place driving at night while jet lagged, and not having driven at all in months. But it all went fine and I was knocking on Sara's door before nine.

This was the last day of Sara's conference, and her last day at the resort, which she was full of enthusiasm for.

She showed me the beach and the resort's local shark pond. The fish weren't large, but were easily identifiable as sharks, thanks especially to their amusing habit of swimming with their triangular dorsal fin slicing through the surface.

We talked to Nate and Kirk a bit, then I took a shower and collapsed into bed in Sara and Patty's hotel room.

Tuesday October 25

There were more than expected loose ends to tie up at work today, so I worked late, then did some last-minute errands and packed before going to bed around 2:30am, partly on the dubious theory that this would help me adjust to Hawaii time.

I also watched a bit of "The Two Towers" while packing. My parents got me the DVD set for christmas but I hadn't actually had the chance to sit down and watch much of it yet.

Monday Oct. 24

It was a fairly ordinary day at work.

I tried watching "Touchez Pas Au Grisbi" at night, with the subtitles turned off to make myself work on my french comprehension. But I wasn't really concentrating on it.

Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 22 and 23

Sara left early in the morning for her conference in Hawaii. After she left I watched a bit of a Bollywood DVD from the library, then went to juggling. The weather wasn't great, so it was inside, and it was only Noah and I there. But we had a pretty good time.

On the way home I picked up a Dosa and some stuff at Mysore Woodland, which I ate while watching the rest of the Bollywood movie, "Main Hoon Na".

I'd never seen one of these before. It was actually fairly well done, though it had all the trite melodromatic plot turns you'd expect--long-lost brothers, deathbed revelations, etc., etc. It really had everything--besides the melodrama, there were fight scenes, silly slapstick, heavily Matrix-influenced special effects, and of course lots of singing and dancing.

Sunday I stayed home and took care of some loose ends in preparation for the Hawaii trip.

Friday Oct. 21

My laptop suddenly stopped suspending with recent kernel versions, so I figured it was time to learn to use "git bisect", a nifty tool for doing a binary search through the kernel history for the change that caused a particular problem. In this case the guilty party turned out to be an alsa developer somewhere, who responded quickly with a patch that made it in just before the new kernel release. Cool!

I probably should have run straight home after work to keep Sara company on her last night home, but instead I wanted to see the japanese professor from yesterday introduce tonight's movie, "Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence". I didn't get much from it except that the director was a great dog lover--something fairly obvious from watching the hound in the movie.

The movie itself was quite interesting to watch. Visually it was a combination of traditional flat anime with sequences of digital animation that were suffused with an odd golden glow. One of the most interesting things to watch was the very well-observed expressive hound. The plot and dialog were overly serious and abstract in a way a lot of anime seems to be.


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