Tag Archives: Travel

Helicopter flight

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He ali’i ka ‘āina, he kauā ke kanaka.” – The land is chief, man is the servant.

Before I came to Hawaii I decided that this would be THE place to do my first helicopter flight ever. I have seen some youtube movies and knew it, this is it. Big Island was the place where it should happen. Possibly over some volcano, hopefully spotting some lava. We booked a flight with Safari Tours for April the 2nd, in the front 2 seats. We came to the airport in time, well, too early to be honest. Eager to go. The lady of the company was very friendly. “Hello Joanne and Mary”, well, close enough. Together with a family of four we got our safety drill. Lifejacket on, instructions on how to use it, where the extingiusher is and what to do in csse of… and last but not least, she gave us the advise to enjoy ourselves!

Richard was our pilot. He parks the heli, we are pointed to our seats, locked in our safety belts, headphones on, and off we go. Richard talks and talks and talks some more. Very entertaining, like listening to an one man show during a flight. I am not nervous, just excited to get up there. We pass some Indiana Jones and Planet of the Apes film sets, our pilot figurated in them somehow. We see a town called Pahoe. Here people were in distress not even a year ago. They saw a big lava flow coming down from Pu’u O’o crater (part of Kilauea volcano), threatening to take over their town and their houses. After a few months, the lava stopped, taking only one house, part of a cemetary and just stopped next to the recycle station. We fly over the lava, now black, hardened out and cooling down on the inside. Scary to realise people are living so close to this highly active volcanic area. House prices so close tomthe crater seem to be the lowest on the island… I wonder why.

Next Pu’u O’o crater. The little devil herself. Well, wow, just wow. She has been erupting since 1983. An impressive lava flow is what we see, old, black, hardened out… at least that is what she makes us believe. Nothing is more deceiving than a lava crust. We notice smoke at the ends, we fly over and see trees still catching fire. It is that hot. Poor trees, they just burn and they did nothing wrong. Wrong time, wrong place. The methane gasses flame up as well and we realise that nature is beautiful when it shows its horror face (and when we are at a safe distance). Richard explains that new lava is shiny and silvery, and when you focus you can see it move. I look carefully and indeed suddenly I see a more silvery spot in the huge lava field, and coming closer, I see the dark red lava slowly moving. Again, wow, just wow. Then we fly over the crater of Pu’u O’o. Wow cannot describe it anymore, this is awesome (America’s favorite word). A pool of hot lava is bubbling and steaming. I try to make some photo’s, but it is difficult. I have to just remember and keep on dreaming about it. Richard loves flying the heli, so we go over, and over, and over the crater. Many times to give us all the opprortunity to see it. Did I say wow already?

Next we follow the lava flow down to Jack’s place. The last man standing in the lava fields. His house was completely isolated, but he loved it and stayed until the bitter end. Lived for more than 30 years in between all lava flows. They always passed his house and avoided it. Until April 2012. See some more on this webpage. We only see the remains of his water tank, the rest is gone. The black flows are very, very impessive. I cannot imagine how many people have been afraid and lost their houses. So sad and yet so beautiful.

Last bit of the flight is over the beautiful lush green forrests of Big Island. Thousands of waterfalls no one probably has even seen from down below. The pilot even named one after his daughter. We fly a bit, discovering more nice waterfalls, and finally get back to the heliport. Wow, just wow. This is so nice. I have this smile on my face which cannot be washed off. I was not scared, just enjoyed every minute of it!

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To airbnb or not to airbnb

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That is the question.
We booked all nights from our home computers, not knowing where we would get ourselves in to. For cost saving the idea of using airbnb popped up. Airbnb, I heard of it, but have no clue what it is. ‘You’re staying with people in their homes’, my friend said. Well, that can be fun. As long as we are doing this together I don’t mind. And so the search for airbnb hosts started. Create an account, let airbnb qualify you as decent and trustworthy (me?) and start searching for nice places. Let me give you some insight in our hosts on Hawaii and the great (yes, absolutely great) time we had so far.

First Kona Town Oasis in Kailou-Kona. The app on the phone shows the map where the location is, all in the offline mode, so that is already a big plus. We drive to this house in a ok-ish area. No, no beach in front of the room, yes locals are the neighbours. We find it, park the car, get out and… are greeted by a very friendly guy called Marc. He walks barefeet and has no clue if he even owns shoes. He is printing t-shirts, sells coconut milk on farmer markets, invented some device to climb in the palm trees to harvest coconuts… well, he is a nice guy, very laid back. Aloha as they say here. The room is a nice bedroom with a private bathroom. His daughter used it before she left the house. It is clean, cool and very close to town. First one is a big plus and we start liking the concept.

Next we drive to the Holoholo In in Volcano. Yes, we stay in a hostal, but we booked it also through airbnb. Satoshi, the Japanese owner, is waiting for us. We have a really nice conversation about traveling (he went backpacking in the 70s, so he is one of the pioneers) and how he got up there starting the hostal. He is very friendly in a different way. His place is very nice as well. The first night we were the only guests. Bit spooky to be in a hostal all by yourself, but the quietness made me sleep like a baby. The room was big, with a nice bathroom. Thumbs up again.

Next one we needed long to decide. We wanted to stay around Hilo, but could not find something nice. I ended up booking ‘retreat in style’ in Kea’au. The host is called April, and April sends already a lot of messages before we were on Big Island already. We arrive and are overwhelmed by the hospitallity. She is a chatty lady who likes people to feel at home at her place. She rents out a bedroom with private bathroom to people like us. Just for 1 or 2 nigths mostly. She loves talking, just like the little Coqui frogs love to make a lot of sound in the garden at night.Before we could go to sleep, we knew everything about her, but…. in a nice way. She is so sweet and caring about people, that she forgets to care for herself sometimes. She is a professional massage therapist, who gives my friend a treatment and talks to angels in the same time. Hmmm, I pass, if only for the rose water which is sprayed around a lot. In the morning a nice cup (well, impessively huge) of coffee is awaiting us. She has all kinds of tips where to go, what to do. To stay with her was great, again!

Last bnb on Big Island was again located in Kailou-Kona. Marc unfortunately had no room for the last night, so we booked at Charlie and Joanne’s place. In a nice neighbourhood we find this large house. A very clean, quiet place, with a great bedroom complete with towels, shampoo, water and snacks. 5 star rating I would say. We ask them where to go for dinner and Joanne decides to join us for a girls night out. Hilarious. We have no clue who she is, but we go out. First to a pub with great coconut shrimps, then to a café at the waterfront. Joanne is very funny. A woman with a very sad story, who just wants to make some fun. Well, we did have a lot of fun! She is a bit happily crazy if you ask me. We sleep well and in the morning both Charlie and Joanne get up to make us some coffee, give us yoghurt and say farewell.

As soon as the visit is over, and you think you have moved on, airbnb requests you if you would lik to write a review. And funny enough, the hosts write a review of their guests as well. That way, people who make a mess can be banned by airbnb more easily. I start to like this concept. I have to say, I was hesitant at the beginning, but I love it now. Just one more place for me to go this holiday. Let’s see…

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

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For me, Hawaii is volcano. My main goal of this trip is to see the Kilauea, Halema’uma’u crater and more. Lava, steaming vents, sulphur smell… well, we are on the right island. Big Island, land of Pele, beach boys and… 5 gigantic volcanoes. Mauna Loa even being the biggest volcanomon earth, calculated in mass  from the sea floor. It looks like a small hill, but the top is over 4000m high.

We arrive in the dark, in the mist. However, the next morning is nice. Sort of clear, blue sky, few clouds. The park is at around 3500ft/1000m, so temperstures are very comfortable. Much sun cream is applied until we are very sticky at the end of the day. Off we go. Steaming vents, check, sulphur banks, check, crater rim road and… Kilauea with the Halema’uma’u crater, check. Wow, impressive. This thingy is huge and steaming from the main crater. This is absolutely amazing. How can a place so beautiful be so dangerous as well. The stupid thing is, we all drive, walk, relax in this place, which endures earthquakes every day and it has a very, very active volcano underneath. Well, a hot-spot even. I do not care about the danger, even though our American hosts like to point it out on every corner of the street. Every parking or edge of the rim has multiple signs stating all the hazards, dangers, do not’s. Ah well, I just wanna see, wanna feel, wanna hear, wanna  smell. Just using all my senses, except for tasting. I am not a geologist and will not be licking rocks 😆

The weather forecast for the afternoon is not completely dry, so we decide to just drive past all touristic and scenic sites. Pit craters, echo crater, lava flows from 1979, 1974, 1973, a nice sea arch at the ocean, a road which has been over flown by lava in the 70s , some ancient petroglyphs and finally a very nice lava tunnel. So many sites to visit, all telling their own story of how tiny we are compared to the power of volcanoes.
Tired of driving and the many impressions we go to the crater rim after sunset to hopefully see the lava glow in the Halema’uma’u crater. Unfortunately clouds have come again and visibility is close to zero. No glow at all, which seems to be very rare according to the rangers. We go ‘home’, where we have a very nice ‘doggy bag’ leftover meal from the supersized Thai dinner yesterday. While eating a great idea pops up in our minds. In the mornings the sky seems to be clear, why not catch the glow in the dark before sunrise. We set the alarm at 4am.

4am, my alarm is buzzing. I silence it. Don’t want to get up. I check the window and decide it is very misty. After 10 minutes my friend says something and leaves the room. What the…? After few minutes she returns. She checked the webcam and it is clear and glowing in the pit. I check the window again… oh, it is condensation. Hmmm… well, why not. We get up, dress quickly and head off. 4:40am we are standing at the rim of the crater. We are definitely not the only lunatics and feel very fortunate to be able to see this. It is so beautiful. We enjoy every second, feel no cold (until our fingers are not able to operate our camera buttons anymore) and stay until the sun has risen. Wow, just wow…

We plan to hike the trail in the Kilauea Iki crater. We want to do this 6km trail before we have to check-out from the hostal. A very nice hike along and through this crater, which will take us 3 hours to complete. We are enjoying every moment, warming up a bit, seeing very strange landscapes of lava flow, with both pahoehoe and a’a lava. Along the way I remember we did not yet have breakfast and decide in the middle of the crater it is time for some food. What a nice place for a picnic. We have to go back to the hostal to get our luggage, but we will come back in the afternoon. Why not…
And so we did. In the afternoon we hike the nice trail to Pu’u Huluhulu and Mauna Ulu. Not too difficult, but again very nice. It is like walking on chips, you hear the crisping sound of breaking lava under your feet all the time. The view is nice, unfortunately clouds again come in, blocking the sun. Along the way we see lava creations with round holes in them. Tree stems, there were trees there when the lava came down. The trees are long gone, but the prints and shape of the stems are still clearly visible. Amazing! En route to the top of the view point at the end of the trail we meet a couple of Nene goose. They slowly walk the same trail. We do not want to disturb them, as they are probably nesting somewhere. Strange place for them, but hey, why not… The end of the day ends wet again. Rain is pouring down again. Time to move on (unfortunately) to Kea’au, on to our next airbnb host.

Aloha Kilauea, until we meet again!

Big Island – Hāhālua and more

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away!

Hāhālua, or manta, is a large fish swimming in the waters around Hawaii. Wing span can be up to 5 meters of this super friendly pacific manta ray. “They have no real teeth, no stinger, and a harmless disposition. Their only defense is to flee. These huge and gentle creatures feed on a food source of almost all microscopic organisms called plankton, so Manta must work very hard to get this tiny food. At night, light attracts brine shrimp, a form of plankton that rays feed on.  Using their cephalic fins like big scoops, they funnel water into their wide-open mouths and filter out these organisms.

We wanted to see them and decided to book a very touristic tour to a bay which is lit with lots and lots of lamps, attracting the plankton and thus the manta rays. Probably with 50 divers we were sitting at the bottom of the bay, lighting it up with our lamps. After a little while she came. A young ray, probably 1.5 – 2 meters wide, swimming and feeding itself. Mouth wide open swimming, no better flying over our heads.
In the end we arrived back safely in the harbour. We had a great dive, even though I was so, so sea sick. Lost a lot of weight there and fed the manta’s. So, it was all on me this time.

The next day we make a slow start. My stomage finaly relaxed again, so I needed food. Breakfast with a view on the sea, palm trees and a giant cruise ship. Hahaha, time to leave before all the guests start swarming the town. We drive slowly to Volcano, passing by some nice spots along the way. First of all the beach where Captain Cook got murdered in the end. To be honest, it is a very nice place now. Then to Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park (try saying that). This is a beatiful historical site with some houses and wood carvings representing ancient times. A great place to have lunch, with a view again. White beach, palm trees, nice swell and some lovely cardinal birds.
Next stop painted church, which is very nicely painted on the inside, and black sand beach. The last is well known for the endangered green turtles which come to the shore to just relax on the beach. Luckily, many Hawaiian volunteers do their best to protect these animals.
At the end of the day we arrive at Holoholo inn, a nice hostal, owned by an old Japanese world traveller in the town called Volcano. We enjoy a Thai dinner and go to sleep. We are the only guests tonight. It feels strange to be alone in this large place, but we sleep well.

Kauai

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Kauai, the first island on our trip, is geologically the oldest of Hawaii’s main islands. Our visit starts with a very heavy thunder storm.  Due to the long traveling our first day after this crazy night is a lazy one. Get up, organise, shopping for food and driving along the coast to the north. It is cloudy, raining sometimes, but the temperatures are great. First stop is at the Kilauea lighthouse, where we spot red footed boobies, nene (endangered Hawaiian goose) and a nice, bright green gecko. Lovely. Further it goes tot Anini beach for some snorkeling. It is a fantastic beach to relax on and to see a bit of wildlife under water. I see little moray eels, the state fish of Hawaii Humuhumunukunukuapua’a (wedgetail triggerfish) and last but not least a big green turtle. We end the day at Hanalei, a nice town on the north side of the island. Here the sun starts shining and we enjoy a nice dinner. Life is good!

The next day starts with a clear blue sky. Immediately I am happy. Today we go west. There is a tree tunnel on our route, which basically is a tunnel of trees. We go see blue sea, blue sky and an interesting blow hole,  where the sea is pushing the water through a hole in the rocks to sprout in the air. Spectacular start of the day. We keep on going, pass some small villages, try to find coffee and decide to stop in Waimea. Here we visit the landing place of Captain Cook. This world traveler discovered many nice places a few hundred years ago. Some of them I have been able to visit, others are still on my bucket list. We are wondering what this guy thought when he entered this Island. In the end he was murdered on Hawaii, so the story did not end well. Lucky for us, the weather is close to perfect. We move on, go as far west as possible. In the end.. there is nothing. Well, apart from a clear view on the islands of Ni’ihau and Lehua.
We head back to Kauai Coffee Company, which we spotted earlier along the way.They grow and roast coffee beans, and we need to try. Together with Seven Layers of Heaven, a heavenly snack with all kinds of nice ingredients (chocolate, peacan nuts,…). Time to move on to Poipu for some beach time and… to see a few rare monk seals and a green sea turtle between the sun bathing humans. Amazing. They come to sleep on the beach every day and are monitored and protected by some volunteers. A nice end to this day.

Easter, without eggs. Ah well, we survived. It was a great day for visiting one of the nicest parks on this island for some hiking. Koke’e and Waimea Canyon. Again we head west, but halfway we go up the mountains. A winding road with spectacular views into canyon country. The rusty red of the soil gives all kinds of colour to the rocks. At the end of the road we hike along the rim of the mountain range and have a great view over the Na Pali coast. Doen there ends  the famous Kalalau trail on a beautiful beach. We will hike a small part of tahat trail tomorrow. For now I have no clue what to say anymore, this is so amazing. I have visited many places, seen many spectacular views, but this beats them all. Wow… simply wow. We walk a bit, until the clouds are suddenly moving in. Time to go. Next stop are the Canyon and Cliff trails. A 2 hours hike takes us along the cliff, into the canyon to a giant waterfall. Nice, nice, nice… need I say more. I am a very fortunate person to be able to do this. Traveling, exploring, meeting people, seeing fabulous places. I am glad we just started. As my fortune cookie says: “counting time is not so important as making time count”.

Last day on Kauai has arrived. We would like to hike a part of the Kalalau trail. We decide to start as early as possible and get up at 5:30. Really? Yes, and we were not the first at the start of the trail. But at least it is not too busy yet. We start with a large number of warning signs. Don’t do this, careful for that, watch out for… still, people do crazy things. We will do the first 2 miles of the trail. A nice walk through forrest, just above a clear blue sea. The weather is ok, not clear but temperatures are great for some exercise. We walk from Ke’e beach to Hanakapi’ai beach. The last is a very rocky place with many cairns. We have lunch at 10:30 and decide to leave the extra 4 miles to and from a waterfall. We rather go for some snorkling at Ke’e bach. It looked very tempting at the start of our day. And… the weather is clearing, the sun is shining. Time to enjoy! While snorkling I again see a green turtle, but also a young spotted eagle ray. We end our visit to Kauai with some nice fishy dinner… tomorrow we go to Big Island.

Conclusion, Kauai is great. Nice nature, great beaches and not very crowded. Just the driving is a bit challenging. The line maker must have been drunk. The lines on the highway are far from straight.