Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Big Island - Volcanoes National Park

Our visit to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park was one of the most fascinating things we did on our trip. These are some shots of the volcano taken in the daylight. It was mid afternoon when we arrived at the volcano, and the guide from our rain forest hike told us that we needed to see the volcano during the day and at night.

James and I are standing in the same spot in these photos. It was incredible to see the steam rising from the earth.

We saw a bunch of steam vents.
These little orchids were growing all over the place.
Sulfur crystals.
There is a rainforest within the National Park.
We got to walk through the Thurston Lava Tube. Lava tubes are a type of lava cave formed when an active low-viscosity lava flow develops a continuous and hard crust, which thickens and forms a roof above the still-flowing lava stream. Tubes form in one of two ways: by the crusting over of lava channels, and from pahoehoe (Hawaiian word meaning smooth or unbroken) flows where the lava is moving under the surface.
This pheasant was kind enough to stop and pose for me.
We got to see these Nene Goose, which are the state bird of Hawaii. These are endangered, and the park rangers stop traffic whenever they see them crossing the roads.
We drove down the Chain of Craters Road, where we saw the remnants of a beach that was covered by lava flow several years ago. The coconuts are the only indication left of the beach now.
At the very end of the Chain of Craters Road, you get to an area where hardened lava covers the road. It was well past sunset when we got there, so my photos don't really do this scene justice.  James took some video. He began taking the video soon after we parked our car. The road is closed off to traffic after the parking area, and you have to walk about half a mile to get to the lava. We could see a street sign in the distance that had almost been consumed by the lava, James walked out to see what it said.  Listen for it in the video.
Here's the video:

We ate dinner at Kilauea Lodge and Restaurant. I had called earlier in the evening for reservations, and I'm glad I did. This place was busy. The owner/chef used to be the make up artist for Magnum P.I.  He spent time in Europe learning how to cook & and boy can he cook. This was one of the best meals I had on the trip.  
 The lodge used to be a Boy Scout Camp, and this fireplace was constructed during the early days of the lodge. It is called the "International Fireplace of Friendship." It has stone in from all over the world.

 Delicious homemade bread.
 Our appetizer was Brie Cheese coated in an herb batter and coconut flakes and lightly fried. Served with papaya salsa, brandied apples and three grain mini-loaf.
 I had the Safari Schnitzel. This was my first time to have antelope. Very good.
 Their menu changes on a daily basis.
After dinner, we drove back to the National Park so we could get a view of the volcano at night. This was awesome! It was getting chilly and beginning to rain, so I put on a jacket that I'd purchased at the gift shop.
I was glad I had brought my tripod. I set it up & had some fun taking some shots at a long exposure.  This is one of my favorite photos from the trip. It is no wonder the guide had told us that we needed to make sure to see the volcano at night too!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Big Island - Punalu'u Beach

 Our last full day on the Big Island, we decided to drive over to the western side of the island and see the volcano. There were a few interesting things that we passed by during our 2 hour drive. The first place we stopped was a road side overlook where you could see the coastline and lava flow from different time periods.
 The newest lava flow is black, and as it ages it will turn brown. On the left side of the photo below, you can see part of a wind farm.

 We stopped for lunch at a restaurant called Hana Hou, which is the southern most restaurant in the US.
 I had the Stuffed Papaya. It is half a papaya that is filled with Macademia nut chicken salad served on a small green salad with Lilikoi Vinaigrette. It was very good. We also ordered one Lilikoi lemonade and shared it. Lilikoi is yellow passion fruit.
 We both had a slice of their Macadenia Nut coconut creme pie for dessert. Yummy.
 After lunch, we drove to see another black sand beach called Punalu'u Beach. This beach was easy to get to - unlike the other black sand beach we visited. There were several families there, and a number of swimmers.
 Tent camping is allowed here, but there aren't any cabins. I think this would be a really fun place to camp with kids. There is a public restroom with showers.
At one time, this beach was a popular place for Hawaiians to get fresh water from the many springs that bubble up in the bay. They would swim out with their gourds, slowly turn them upside down over the fresh water to fill them, cover the hole with their finger, and swim back. The word "Punalu'u" actually means "diving spring".

 We got to see an endangered sea turtle on the beach!

 Coconut trees.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Big Island - The Luau

 We went at a luau at the hotel that we stayed at on the big island. James and I just so happened to be outside that morning as the staff was getting the pig into the earth oven. It was pretty fun to get to see this process. It was about 9:00 in the morning when they got started, so the pig cooked for the better part of the day.

 The greenery that is over the pig is Ti leaves and leaves from banana trees.

 One of the hula dancers was available before the food was served to pose for photos and give lessons on how to tie a sarong.

 This is a little shot of the buffet that the food was served from at the luau. It had been raining most of the afternoon, so it had to held indoors.  The food was not the highlight of the evening for me - the dancing was. The food was good, but it was not the best meal that we had on the trip. The pork was great, and so were the purple sweet potatoes and the creamed spinach.  Everything else was not worth the calories to me - including the Mai Tais. I had a couple of them. James had about ten of them, and said he didn't think there was much rum in them. Obviously not, if since he was still able to carry on a coherent conversation after consuming ten of them. They were served at an open bar from a huge punch bowl that was about the size of a toddler swimming pool.

 The hula dancers were awesome. They changed costumes several times, and performed dances that had their roots in various parts of the Polynesian Triangle.

After the hula dancers were finished, one of the male dancers performed a fire dance. 
 This was amazing to watch. I'm not sure how he does this without getting burned, we could tell that he was enjoying himself.

I ruined my dress to get these photos because I had to climb over a rock wall to get a clear shot - badly snagging my dress, but it was worth it. I'll gladly trade a $20 dress for these pics.