Jim & Amy's Honeymoon Saga

HAWAII, October-November 1997

Chapter 1

10/19 Kona area, Hawaii

The plane ride was interminable. It seemed to last forever, and then we were only in Calf. We had just as much left ahead as we had behind.

Eventually, we got in and got our car. The car person was an eediot. First he says that there are no more economy cars and asks if we would want a jeep or a van. We wanted neither. After several go arounds, he says that he found a mid-size for us, which we'd take. He tells us to go about 50 feet across the way (with all of our luggage) and wait for the shuttle bus. Our luggage weighs a ton, and I almost ask if the car is within walking distance as we are very tired and I don't feel like waiting. But I didn't. So we go over and wait and eventually get on the shuttle for a two-minute drive. We get to the other place and I show the driver the paper that says what car we are renting. He gets very confused, goes out, and checks something. To make a long story short, we drive back to where we filled out the paperwork (with the eediot). The car, which presumably was recently returned, was about ten feet from where we had been standing. It would have been shorter to walk to the car than to the shuttle bus. I was not impressed.

We also got a surcharge for dropping the car off in Hilo rather than Kona, where we picked it up. We knew about this charge beforehand. We also got a surcharge for having two drivers, which we did not know about. I think it is a rip-off, but what can you do.

The Hilton Waikolola was a wondrous fancy resort. Being not used to such decadence, we didn't have our bags sent up (fools!). Rather, we carried them ourselves. It was some distance and my arms were ready to fall off long before we got there.

The room did have an ocean view, but it also looked out over the dolphin pool. We left the glass door open all night (we were not on the ground floor), both to let in the air and the ocean sounds.

We were tired, but also hungry, and we wanted something light to eat. Looking through the directory, we found the most likely place to have such fare, and it was located at the far end of the complex. We took the boat most of the way over there, but we got out one stop early by mistake. We wandered around a bit and found some pools, and eventually we found the restaurant.

[Explanation for the reader: The complex is formed by several large buildings stretched out along the coastline. There is a small tram that runs along the complex, and a small canal that carries some boats along as well. Between the canal and the sea, there is a large central lagoon, and on either side a series of pools, walkways, etc.]

There was a wonderful ambiance at the restaurant, but of course it cost you. There were swans nearby, other birds, and waterfalls.

After eating, we walked back, marveling at the site. Amy, who was in pretty sad shape after the plane ride and with the late hour, went to bed, but I dug out my camera and tripod (intrepid photographer that I am) for some waterfall pictures. I was tempted to try a hot tub, but I went to bed instead. It was around 11, which was 5am East Coast time.

10/20 Waimea area, Hawaii

The next morning, we went back to the same place as the previous night for their breakfast buffet. Breakfast was wonderful, but expensive. How many other buffets have Eggs Benedict?

After eating, we went back to our building, looked into some shops and laughed at the clothing prices, got some stuff, then changed and tried swimming.

Amy thought the water was great. I thought it was freezing (except for the hot tub), but it actually wasn't too bad once you got in. I figured that after heating up in the Jacuzzi, going into the cold water would be easy.


They had a decent water slide that we went down several times.

We then went over to the other half (on the other side of the lagoon) and played in their pools for a while. On our way back, we found out that it was 11:45 and that checkout time was noon. We saw several people snorkeling in the lagoon, and it would have been nice, but we were out of time. We came back to our room and showered. I was washing/massaging one of Amy's feet, and she said "You're hired." Without missing a beat I responded, "You can't afford me!" We thought it was pretty humorous, but maybe you had to be there.

That time we had the bags sent down (we're not totally stupid), and we then went down and checked out (only 45 minutes late). Amy went to look at some vending carts while I took care of business. As I was checking out, I suddenly remembered the bar key. The employee asked if I had left it in the room, and I said, "No, my wife has it." It was still very strange calling Amy my "wife".

We then spent a few hours walking around and taking pictures. Eventually we collected the car and bags, and we left.

We ought to come back in a few years and spend 2-4 days there. One could really have a relaxing time there.

We drove up the coast and had a pizza for lunch at the junction of 19 and 270, then we continued up the coast. At the northern tip of the island, we drove down a dirt road (hoping not to trash the car) to an ancient Hawaiian temple.

We then drove to the Pololu Valley overlook. The road was narrow, hilly, and winding. That must be what the road to Hana is like. We could see (barely) Maui in the clouds on the horizon. We could see clouds over the ocean with several rain showers. Eventually we caught a little rain ourselves.

It was by then around dusk. We drove back along 250 over the Kohana Mountains. [We found out later that Kohana was the remains of the oldest volcano on Hawaii.] The view would have been great if it wasn't dark. There was a lot of up and then down. I think the top was over 3000 feet. We stopped in Waimea at a McD's for a cheap dinner, then eventually found the Mountain Meadow Ranch [a B&B].

When we got there, no one was home, but we moved in and made ourselves comfortable. We learned later that our hosts had been to a party at a friend's house. I taunted Amy by being very interested in the mechanics of an old barber's chair.

The weather in the morning had been hot and sunny (at the Hilton), but towards dusk and afterwards, at least in the mountains to the north, it was cold.

10/21 Waipio Valley, Hawaii

This was a day for losing things.

We got a somewhat late start, after looking around the Mountain Meadow Ranch and talking to the husband about his work in video.

We drove down to Waipio Valley, which is a huge valley with near vertical 1000-2000 foot sides, a flat bottom, and a black sand beach.

We arrived and walked down to the overlook. There, we saw that there was a small river splitting the valley (not surprising). We decided that we should bring some sandals to cross the river in. Amy didn't want to hike back up to the car, so I went alone. I found my Tevas with no problem, but I kept looking and looking for her sandals with no success. I was getting really annoyed as we had heard that theft was a problem and that one shouldn't show your stuff at tourist spots. So here I was, going through every piece of luggage we had. Eventually, I looked under the front seat and found her flip-flops. I then hiked back with the footwear in hand. I found Amy counting the spiders on the retaining wall. Presenting my holdings, I found out that Amy didn't want her flip-flops, she wanted her aquasocks. Grrrr. So back up to the car (again). This time Amy accompanied me.

It turns out that it was good that we went back, as I had dropped one of my Tevas 20 feet from the car.

With the correct footwear, my camera bag and tripod (I was expecting good waterfalls) we descended the road. This is a narrow 4WD road that descends 1000 vertical feet with no switchbacks along the canyon wall. We then hiked back out to the beach along the canyon floor. Amy kept studying, dissecting, etc. every new disgusting mushy fruit we found, until she found one that looked sort of like a potato and which smelled really bad.

The black sand beach was really more of a salt-and-pepper color. The surf was much bigger than any I've seen before, and some passers-by said that in the morning and evening there tends to be surfers there.

We changed shoes and waded across the river. It was just over our knees, although there was a bit of a current. It was slightly treacherous, since if one stood still the sand washed out from beneath your feet. We then proceeded to walk through the surf along the beach to the other end. There was a neat zigzag trail up the far canyon wall that would have liked to have climbed. It looked like it was on a real steep face. Unfortunately, with the climb out the road on the other side waiting for us at the end, I didn't want to waste my energy that early, particularly as we hadn't thought to bring a lunch.

We then planned to hike up the valley, cross to the side where we entered, and then go back down to where the road ended. As we started out, we found the trail to be really weird. Most of the valley floor is privately owned (farmland). The trail we were on was the only way to get to some of the dwellings. So we kept passing by people's front lawns and almost felt like we were going through their yards.

The day had started out sunny, so I wore my shades; but a lot of the trail proved to be under trees, and after a while the sky clouded up, so it got a bit dark. Unfortunately, I had left my real glasses back in the car, so I had to make do with the shades.

A ways along the trail, we ran across another group of people going in the opposite direction. They had apparently also gone the way that we were going, trying to cut across to the other side halfway up the valley (like us), but they had been unable to find a trail across, and the trail along the side of the valley had ended. So they had turned back. On a more positive side, however, they told us of a small waterfall further along that emptied into a pool where one could go swimming. They said that next to the (small) waterfall there was a rope that one could use to climb up to a mid-level pool, which had a much better waterfall emptying into it. So this became our prime destination.

We found the pool with no problem, but we were not dressed to do any swimming. I took some pictures of the lower falls, then I tried to find the rope to the upper pools. Immediately on either side of the pool, the banks were too steep to really go anywhere. I looked further to the left and found what appeared to be a primitive trail. This proved to be extremely steep--I'm guessing 60 degrees or more from the horizontal (i.e. more up than over). The ground was covered with a fairly thick mat of hefty looking vines. I couldn't find anything like a rope, though, so I eventually decided that the "rope" was actually the vines, and I began climbing (without the camera stuff; I was just reconnoitering). I climbed upwards for quite some distance. I couldn't find any way to move back towards where the waterfall was, and I began to wonder if the trail went all the way to the top of the valley. I went back down and got Amy to see what she thought of the whole thing. Then the two of us went back up the "vine-ed" trail to just beyond where I had turned back. At this point, the vines died out, the prickly scrub brush got thicker, and the trail petered out. We decided that this was not getting us anywhere so we went back down.

At the base, there were some of these vines hanging down from the trees. So I grabbed some, pushed off from the slope, and did my "Jim-of-the-Jungle" impersonation. It was rather fun, and I can see that in different circumstances, one could get the idea of Tarzan swinging from tree to tree on vines. We definitely don't have anything like that back east.

Note: After our return to the East Coast, I was talking with a friend who had hiked that valley six months previously. He had been to that waterfall and said that the rope was on the right side, but that you had to swim to get to it. Upon checking my slides more carefully, I did see the rope to the right of the waterfall! But even if we had seen it then, I'm not sure if we could have taken advantage of it with our clothing. On the other hand, we wouldn't have had the "experience" of climbing the vine-covered hillside.

We proceeded further down the trail, but like the people before us, we found that the trail soon ended, and there was no sign of a cross-trail. So we headed back the way we came. It was now getting later in the day and darker, and I really wished that I had my real glasses.

Halfway back, we ran across some wild peafowl in the trail; i.e. a peacock and several peahens. They moved off the trail as we approached, but they didn't seem too afraid of us. So I left the trail myself and started stalking them with the camera. It was too dark for existing-light photography, but I tried a bunch of shots with the flash. They didn't come out so well--some are recognizable, but none are great. Further along, almost to the beach, we found some wild horses/mules standing next to the trail munching on the vegetation. They pretty much ignored us and kept on grazing.

For the hike back, we opted for bare feet, putting our boots back on after we waded across the stream. This time (closer to dusk) there were a bunch of people surfing in the waves.

It was a long grind up the road. We hoped that some kind driver in a 4WD would invite us to join them, but none did. So we ground up the hill, and eventually we reached the top.

It was by then almost sunset. So I eagerly looked for my glasses to replace my shades.

I couldn't find them.

Not anywhere!

I looked all throughout the car and our luggage, but my normal glasses were not to be found. I guess that I hadn't left them in the car, but rather taken them with me and dropped them somewhere in the valley. I was not a happy camper. Amy hadn't felt like driving, but with the sun going down she didn't have much choice. I couldn't see that well with them on or with them off. We stopped in the closest big town (which was pretty small) and eventually with some help found about the town's only pay phone. We called the Mountain Meadow Ranch to see if by any chance I had left my glasses there. They did a quick search, but as I expected, they didn't find them. So Amy drove us to Hilo.

We sort of drove around randomly, looking for someplace to eat. After a while, we settled on this diner called "Ken's". It proved to be fairly decent food for a good price and we ended up eating there several times. Then we drove on to the Rainforest Retreat. This was actually an orchid farm that had a few buildings for guests. It was billed as a B&B, but the breakfast was rather marginal (some danishes, muffins, and fruit in the fridge).

There were a bunch of large "green-houses" (not covered with glass) whose roofs led to funny plumbing, running into many large tanks. It turns out that they collect the rainwater and use that to water the orchids. They also apparently use that for drinking water, and there was some sort of filter next to the sink to be used for water for drinking. We didn't trust that, however, and stuck with bottled water (from the fridge). There was also a Jacuzzi out back, that we decided to take advantage of (after a short but heavy rain, with me running through the wet grass in the dark with my shades on). It was at this point that I discovered that I had lost yet another thing! I had a crystal cross necklace. During the hike, I had arranged a piece of webbing on the tripod as a strap so that I could wear the tripod over my shoulder and across my back rather than carrying it all day. Apparently the stress of that webbing rubbing against my chest had ripped the cross off. All I had left was the chain.

As I said at the start of the day's narrative, it was a day for losing things!

One nice thing was that they left for us a vase with some pretty nice orchids. I'm not sure if they do this for all the guests or for us because it was our honeymoon, but it was a nice gesture.

After we got settled for the night, Amy noticed a funny red/orange glow on the horizon. I thought she was joking, but eventually we decided that it was a reflection of the eruption of Kilauea (it turns out we were correct). Unfortunately, I couldn't see it very well either with my shades on or with them off.

Next time we go, we ought to get a guided horse trip through the valley. It would be a lot easier getting back up the road, we would learn more about the area, and it seems that the guides arrange with some of the land owners so that they can do a loop rather than retracing their steps. (Of course, if we had gone with a guide this time, I couldn't have done my "Jim-of-the-Jungle" routine.)

10/22 Hilo / Hamakua Coast, Hawaii

The next morning, we made breakfast. As I wrote earlier, it was not much of a breakfast. Rather than a true B&B, I would call it a B&semi-B. We then looked through the phone book to try to find an optometrist that could make some glasses on fairly short order, and we called around. We were amazed by how cheap the phone service was in Hawaii. It would take all day to drive around the island, but every call within the island is a local call. Contrast that to where I live, where a call two towns over (15 minutes away) is a toll call.

After that, we wandered around the orchid farms a bit, then we packed up. Before packing the car, though, I did one more search for my glasses. Mirabile Dictu--I found them! I had apparently placed them in the bottom of the storage compartment between the seats. Being that they were in a black case, I was wearing my dark glasses, the compartment was fairly deep, and it was night, I hadn't seen them. So it ended up that we didn't have to visit the optometrist after all. We also found that we got to keep the vase of orchids. That followed us around for the rest of the trip.

We drove partway up the coast, then took a scenic detour past the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, and some small waterfalls. There, we caught a small sprinkle.

Further along the coast, we stopped at a state beach. There was a small breakwater there, made up of large concrete interlocking pieces. They looked like a giant had just dumped them randomly, but since they were actually the size of a car, they must have been carefully put into place one by one. We were again amazed by how big the waves were (and the size of the spray when they hit the breakwater).

We drove up the coast to fairly near the valley where we had just hiked. We had lunch at a café called Tex's Drive-in, in the biggest town up there--Honokaa. We had a coupon for it from our coupon book, and it seemed one of the better places where locals eat out. I think Amy got some sort of Portuguese soup there, which was pretty good. Amy also had a Portuguese donut.

Halfway back, right off the highway, I noticed a decent waterfall. We stopped there on the way back, and a sign said that there was a small botanical garden there with a better view of the waterfall. So we drove up to there, past what appeared to be sugar cane fields left to go wild. We ended up paying a few bucks and getting a map and then went to the "real" falls (the Umauma Falls), not the "baby" one that I had seen from the highway. I took some pictures, but I wasn't that impressed. We wandered around the garden for a bit, then went back to the original set of falls. I actually liked those better, and started taking some pictures. Just then, a rainstorm came by, and I had to run back to the car for my raincoat. I decided that I couldn't get any good pictures in the rain, and had just packed up my camera stuff, when the rain stopped. So I pulled everything out, and got some more pictures. It turns out that the best falls were a small tributary on the left side that fell into the valley near the road bridge.

We then drove down to the Akaka falls--a fairly large fall that is a big tourist trap. It has a pretty big vertical drop. It was an OK fall, but it didn't make for that great of picture. We also saw the second set of falls there: the Kahuna falls.

We then returned to Hilo and ended up at a Border's Bookstore. Amy wanted to get some books on the native birds and flowers. Amy took rather a while looking at books. I wandered through the store, and eventually found myself in a far corner where I perused the books. After a long while, I figured that Amy was taking much too much time and went in search of her. I could not find her! I went around and around the store several times, to no avail. Eventually, I left the store, only to find that she had made her purchases, did not find me, and had left rather a while back. This "desertion" after a fairly lengthy wait to begin with, left me in a rather upset frame of mind.

We caught dinner at Ken's again, then proceeded up to Volcano House. As we were checking in, we heard some Christmas music playing over the sound system. We commented upon it to the clerk; we thought it was interesting as Amy is often humming or singing Christmas tunes out of season. The clerk apparently did not think it cute, for he called someone on the phone, gave them grief over the choice of music, and told them to put something else on. We though it rather sad.

We were staying in the Ohia Wing. This was a separate building with a bit more rustic (and cheaper) accommodations. It also had the benefit that there were fewer people wandering around outside.

Our first impressions of the site, though, we quite good. The night was dark, the Kilauea Caldera was really black. The dining room was neat, with a huge view over the caldera. We just had to go for a walk and enjoy the ambiance. It was a fairly romantic, though short, evening.

Geographic Note: A few decades ago (1974 & 1982), Kilauea was erupting in the caldera, and the sight from Volcano House would have been spectacular. Since then, however, the vent has moved about ten miles to the east to Puu Oo. You can't see it at all from the area around the caldera. You can see its glow from down near the coast, or after a long hike over a very rough trail (at night), but one of the better viewing locations is halfway between the park at Hilo, at a cross street called Glenwood.

10/23 Hilo Area, Hawaii

For a change, we got up fairly early. We had breakfast at Volcano House. It was buffet-style and a bit pricey for what you got; but not too bad. With the daylight, we got a great view of the caldera.

We then looked at some of the steam vents on the Volcano House grounds, and then visited the visitor's center. The vents are fissures in the ground where water seeps in, gets heated to boiling, and comes out as steam. Some are rather sulfury, but others are mostly water.

We then went back down to Hilo to check out some things that we hadn't had time for before. First up were the Rainbow Falls. There is a rather small window when these should be viewed (roughly 9:30-11). At other times, either the falls are in the shade, or the sun is at the wrong angle to form a rainbow. We got there at the end of the desired time, just as the rainbow was fading. It didn't help matters that the sun was also fading--it was getting a bit cloudy. After the requisite round of waterfall pictures, we went further upstream to see the boiling pots. These are supposed to be areas where the water falls into holes and "boils" as a result. They were so-so, but I did have to take a bunch more pictures.

One really neat thing that happened while I was taking waterfall pictures was that Amy found a guy sitting on a mat on the ground, weaving things out of Hala fronds (sort of like palm fronds). He would then gives these away for free to the tourists who came to look at the falls. Apparently this was his expression of "aloha", i.e. his way of giving back to society for what he had been given (his skill, etc.) Amy'spent a while talking with him (I can'take a fair amount of time when I'm distracted by a waterfall), and she ended up getting two fish and a bird.

The big event of the day was going to the botanical garden that we passed the previous day. You had to pay at a small building on the main road, then they ran a shuttle van to ferry people to the actual gardens (on the coast). They warned us about the mosquitoes (a bad sign...) and provided cans of "Off". As is typical, I got eaten by the wretched bugs, while Amy was totally unaffected. She spent most of her time looking at the plants, while I spent most of my time working on waterfall pictures. (That's all the worse for the mosquitoes, as I can't move around too much while using the camera.)

After the mosquitoes had lunch, we did the same. We went to a local fruit smoothie place for lunch. Again, it was supposed to be a good place that locals went to. It was somewhat pricey, so I skipped the smoothie (had some of Amy's). We both got tamales as it sounded good. In reality, I was rather unimpressed.

Just north of Hilo, we pulled into a cemetery to take some pictures of a large Banyan tree. These are the trees that grow extremely wide, so that you almost wonder how the branches can span the distance without drooping too much. There, we saw a large number of mongooses. These had been imported into the islands to combat rats. This proved to be a stupid idea, as the rats tend to be nocturnal, and the mongoose hunt by day. Instead, they have proliferated and are decimating the native bird populations (they like eggs).

On the way back, we stopped again at the Rainbow falls to see how they looked in the sun, but at that time of day they were back-lit, so I didn't bother with any more photos. We wanted to get some "authentic" Hawaiian shirts, and we had a coupon for a chain called Hilo Hattie's, so we went there. They were somewhat pricey, so I checked out an adjacent Walmart's. I didn't like the selection there, so I went back to Hilo Hattie's and we got some clothing there.

My notes mention Ken's again, which was becoming a tradition. We found out that the planes come in to Hilo right overhead (and fairly low). One of them almost sounded like it was going to land on the diner itself.

We then took a drive south of Hilo to get our token viewing of that part of the island. We passed by the "Painted Church", but we decided to stop on the way back. We planned to drive as far south as we could and try to see if we could see where the lava was entering the sea. We got to the end of the road right around dusk. There was a large wall of lava that we climbed and then wandered along the top trying to get a better view. We barely saw some glow, but it was very wimpy. There was a big crack running through the lava, about 18 inches wide and about 5 feet deep. It would have been rather unpleasant to have fallen into. It reminded me of the crevasses of Rainier. On the way back we forgot to stop at the church, and by the time we remembered, we didn't feel like back tracking.

My notes seem to say that we had dinner at Ken's then, and then we returned to Volcano House (after stopping at Glenwood to take some pictures of the erruption--you couldn't see the eruption itself, but you could see the red glow of it reflected off of the smoke and steam rising from it).

That night, as we were going to sleep, we found that there was a cricket in the room--a very loud cricket. It drove me crazy until I could stand it no longer and got up to find it. Of course, at that point it decided to stop chirping. Eventually it did chirp and I located it, and it was "encouraged" to spend more time out of doors.

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