Sunday, December 03, 2006

Go west, young man.

It's not that I haven't been thinking about blogging. I have. Stuff will happen and I'll think, hey, now that would be a good topic for a blog post. But then I'll realize how long it's been since I've posted and I'll feel like whatever idea I have is simply not spectacular enough to justify the long hiatus. Like the first one back has to be awesome. And so I let all these totally reasonable topics pass by.

Well, no more. I've been reading books, going on vacations, seeing movies, and thinking about my job. Having Thanksgiving. Planning other trips. All totally bloggable things. So I'm going to enter back into the fray with something small.

Hawaii! About a month ago we went to visit Jake and Kara in Maui and then went on our own to the Big Island. Okay, the obligatory smack talk first: I really wanted Hawaii to be French Polynesia, and it wasn't. Now that's not an entirely fair expectation, because 1. I went to French Polynesia on my honeymoon, after years and years of wanting to, and 2. There is nowhere in the world like Bora Bora. But you know, in the interest of full disclosure, etc.

We started off on Maui for five days. Jake and Kara live in Kihei, so we used that as a jumping off point for anything we wanted to see in South and West Maui. It's kind of weird for me to imagine that people live all year that close to those beaches (and some of the beaches really are beautiful). In my head beaches are about vacation. I can see being richer than I am and liking to have a beach house, but I can't see having only a beach house and living there twelve months a year, year in and year out. My dad left California because he worried that he wouldn't get any meaningful work done if he stayed, and he wouldn't care. I guess I am my father's daughter. But all in all, South and West Maui felt like anywhere else in the US, but with a beach. It felt like Southen California, for all the goods and bads that that brings.

We spent the weekend on the east side of Maui, in Hana, which was more remote and also more beautiful. One of the really nice things about Maui are the many places you can hike a bit away from the road and find secluded pools for a swim, some salt and some fresh water. Although my favorite on the island was the Olivine Pools north of Lahaina, Hana also had some really nice spots. The Venus Pool isn't really a pool so much as it is a part of the ocean that is protected by some lava formations that break the surf, and although the water was a bit gunky with branches and leaves from the rain that had recently fallen, it was still a great place to hike and swim.

All in all I liked the Big Island more than I liked Maui. We spent five days on the Kohala coast, where I think the beaches are more spectacular than Maui's, and three days in Volcano National Park seeing lava and hiking and smelling a lot of sulfur. I preferred Kohala, but I'm glad we went to Volcano, because it was unlike anywhere else I've traveled.

The night hike through the lava field to see the molten lava pouring into the ocean was petty miserable for me. Hiking though fields of cooled lava resembles nothing so much as hiking through a parking lot that's been through an earthquake, with very unforgiving footing and sharp edges to cut yourself on if you fall. In the dark. Considering the ease with which I trip and fall walking around a city on lighted sidewalks, I find it surprising and lucky that I didn't fall down and lacerate myself on the lava. But I'm glad we went to the park, because we did go on some spectacular hikes, and it's kind of awe-inspiring to walk around on actually new land and to realize that this island is growing because new land is being created! Right now!

The biggest sour spot on the trip, and really the only one, happened when we tried to take a helicopter ride from Hilo, which we tried to do while we were driving through on the way back to Kohala from Volcano. We had reserved it a long time ahead, as it was the aspect of the trip that Chris was most looking forward to. Well, we took off, but the pilot thought the helicopter might have a mechanical problem, so we landed again right away. Props to the pilot for being vigilant, but everything about the followup experience with Blue Hawaiian (the company with whom we had contracted) has indicated a shady, unprofessional operation. They were unwilling to reschedule us for a tour from the other side of the island (where we due to arrive back that same afternoon), and then when we pointed out that we had booked far ahead of time, they offered to let us book from the other side of the island at a rate higher than even the standard intenet rate for a full-island tour. When we decided to get a refund instead, they became pretty pissy with us, and we're actually still waiting to get our money back almost a month later. All in all it left me cold.

In any case it was a good couple of weeks overall, with some really great beaches, nice hikes, and good food. I should proably do another post on the food, but I'll just say for now that I enjoyed one of my best dinners in recent memory at Merriman's in Waimea, and if I ever go back to the Big Island, I'll be sure to take time to go again.

It's only appropriate to blog about Hawaii when we in Seattle had completely atypical snow and ice storms for most of the last week. I moved west to get away from this crap!


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