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Thursday, January 16, 2014

Adventure 26: The Big Island Part Three; Pololu Valley, Waterfalls, Banyan Trees, Hot Springs, and More!

Describing the last leg of our trip is almost bittersweet; I don't really want it to end!  Venturing from PART TWO, (Here is PART ONE if you're just catching up), we woke up the next day with our eyes to the west side.  I was looking forward to going somewhere I'd never been before; the Pololu Valley.  We stopped for a cup of coffee at Buddha's Cup coffee shop which didn't have any regular old cups of coffee, (just foofie barista drinks), so we tried their Kona Gold rum cake instead.  Over-priced and very sweet, (yet still tasty), I still couldn't recommend the coffee shop without coffee that only accepts cash and charges you way too much for a piece of cake that must have some crazy expensive rum in it, (maybe that's the reason they call it Kona "Gold" rum cake).  They did have this super cool mermaid thing hanging from the ceiling though...



We made it to Pololu Valley and packed Reise into her awesome hiking backpack.  It was a fairly steep hike and already warm out, so Dad enjoyed the views and the A/C while we Hattori's made our way down the trail to the beach.  Trying to choose one picture of the valley is like trying to eat just one square of a candy bar, (I just can't do it!)... so I'll give you too much nature eye candy.  ;)


We did the tourist thing and swapped family pictures
with a nice couple.








When we got to the bottom, I was surprised to find that the beach and sea-cliffs were very possibly not even the most beautiful part of the hike... The valley itself with it's calm large fresh waters and low set clouds hanging onto fairytale-like gorgeous green mountains was mesmerizing.  I could have stayed there all day and even declared out loud how badly I wish we could make our stand up paddle boards magically appear so that we could explore our way through the water and mountains.  Getting a stand up paddle-board down that mountain would prove a ginormous feat, there's no doubt.  



If there's such a place as Heaven, I imagine it might
look a little bit like this.

Incase you didn't know, Reise is in charge of these adventures
 and the navigational routes we take.  Here she's steering
Jun in the "right" direction by the ears.  ;)

Not only was I pleasantly surprised by the valley itself, but once we made it to the beach, the mountain to the left, (the one we'd been hiking down), was a whole different chunk of beauty.  Everywhere you looked at the bottom was an intensely gorgeous merging of mountains and water.

The view to the left, (the mountain we'd come down).




Our temporary "We were here" marking.



The hike back up to the parking lot was hot and sweaty.  All three of us were sweaty and HUNGRY.  Since there is no rule of what comes first in the Carroll and Hattori families, (dinner or dessert), we got ice cream first at the famed Kohala Coffee Mill which is known for the local "Tropical Dreams" ice cream they serve.  It was Reise's first taste of ice cream and her taste buds must have FREAKED OUT because she AHHH'd loudly for more, (to which we had to put our foot down and keep it from her).



After ice cream I made reservations at the Merriman's restaurant in Waimea which boasted excellent reviews.  Going to Waimea is like going from dramatic sea cliffs to a Colorado cowboy country in a scenic 30 minute drive up the mountainside.  As for Merriman's restaurant, it was definitely the best meal we had the whole trip and they even held our table for us, (ready to go with a highchair and all), after we'd gotten there late due to construction.  Merriman's is like fine dining without the price tag, (so it still looks like it lacks in portions but we felt content... WOWed even).

"I want FOOD, I want FOOD!"  Ok, she didn't really say
that... She just likes smacking tables.

My incredible ahi with ridiculously good veggies underneath.
Organic and locally grown salad, white rice, and the Waimea
Brewing Company's wheat beer on tap to wash it all down.
Jun's Chinese Short Ribs, (I'd say they're "short"!).  They were
SO SO SO good!  Alongside local salad, kimchee, and rice.

Dad's local pork sandwich with roasted potatoes and then I
ate his kimchee for him.  ;)  He really loved his meal too!
"When can I start eating THAT?!"

We made our way back to the cottage in Captain Cook but had to stop for a diaper change.  "Where are the wipes?".  After looking high and low and then under the van seat, Jun found the wipes and this rotten bag of tomatoes from the last car's renter...  



The next day was our Hilo day, which meant we were traveling half the island to get to the other side.  I got to do something I hadn't done before on this day too... Travel Saddle Road which had just been recently paved allowing for much faster travel to Hilo.  They call it Saddle Road because you are driving on a mountain between the Big Island's two largest craters/mountains, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, (you're essentially driving in the "saddle").  Again, driving up the mountain we felt we were in the mid-west; open pastures and the mountains as a backdrop.

Kristina/Sis, I took this picture for you specifically.  You
can have Wyoming and Hawaii all in one! :)

First stop in Hilo, just like when folks come
to Hana, is typically a waterfall...  Rainbow
Falls to be exact!
A happy baby all the time!  How did we get so lucky?

Up and down a path at Rainbow Falls is this gigantic and
remarkable Banyan tree.


:)

We're moving in!

And there's room for Dad to move in too!  :)

Just a camera nerd thing here... I rarely ever use my flash,
but here is the banyan with the flash...

And here it is without from the exact same position.
I can't believe my little built in flash could light it up
that much in the first picture!


If you've never seen a Banyan before, one
tree can create what looks like a whole
forest of trees because they drop their
roots creating more "trunks".

Dad and Jun walked the road back... I
ventured a narrow jungle path I'd spotted.

A co-worker of Jun's is a fan of the Big Island Cookie Company so we said we'd get him a box of cookies while we were there.  You can watch the workers hand-dip the shortbread cookies through a glass window.  The whole thing felt wrong and "exposed" to me.  The chocolate and cookies were good, but not good enough to explain the insane prices.  It's a tour bus stop... which explains both the big glass window and the price.  On a side note for those who like macadamia nuts, Mauna Loa chocolate covered mac nuts are just as good and less than half the price!





Our last stop near Hilo was the Ahalanui Park and hot springs.  This place was a definite trip highlight for all of us, (Reise included as she LOVES the water).  The hot springs are volcanically heated up to 90 degrees and it felt AMAZING.  It was close to dusk and so it was nearly vacant of people and the air was cool while the springs were nice and hot.  The pool butts up to a beautiful ocean scene where the sound of the waves crashing makes it all the more relaxing... I don't think any of us wanted to leave.



Our last full day on island we spent locally in Kona and Captain Cook.  We enjoyed more snorkeling at Two Step, more food and beers from the Kona Brewing Company, and a stop at St. Benedict's, (more famously known as "Painted Church"for its inside walls that were painted by Father Everest Gielin in 1927-8).

Small and unassuming from the outside, the inside paints
a much bigger picture of this churches color and charm.


Reise had a lot to look at.




That concludes our Big Island Adventures.  We now have a whole list of things we didn't have time to do and will definitely have to do our next trip there.  We had an amazing time and we are SO happy to have had Dad/Granddad with us for our family vacation.  Remember to let me know which photos or stories were your favorite.  I love hearing from you!  :)


Lots and Lots of Aloha,
Danielle

Friday, January 10, 2014

Adventure 25: Big Island Part Two: Wine, Volcanoes, Captain Cookie Monster, and One of My Best Friends- G!

After Punalu'u Beach, (click here if you missed PART ONE), we headed onward towards the volcano.   Jun and I are both wine lovers so the Big Island's only winery, (the Volcano Winery), was a must.  Dad wanted more Grandad/Reise time, (and he's not a wine drinker either), so Jun and I got to enjoy wine tastings together.  I'm not a fan of sweet wine, so Jun ended up getting most of my tastings as well as his own.  By the time we were done, it was obvious that my light-weight husband was feeling VERY GOOD.  We got two bottles to go and headed towards the volcano, now with two kids in the car.  :)


Tucked away down a country back road, the
Volcano Winery had a lot of charm.

Cheers!  (This picture makes my arm look HUGE... I swear
Jun's arms are 5x's bigger than mine).  ;)

Our "pourer", (there's got to be a better name... John Andrews
help me out here), was fantastic.  She loves to hike, so she
gave us the "local's" scoop on where to go.



AFTER the tastings.  ;)

Once at the park, we did as much as we could without running out of daylight.  The lava flow was "inaccessible", but we still enjoyed all there was to see.

The steam vents from the volcano made a
neat photo for capturing sun rays.

There's something eery about watching sulphuric
steam coming out of the ground.

One of the still active craters.



My favorite people!

:)

Familia.




You'll have to look closely to understand this picture.
The green dot towards the bottom right is a tree.  That
diagonal line towards the top is a trail with people walking
on it.  We want to do this "Kilauea Iki" trail when we go back.

Thai Thai was a restaraunt recommended to us by the nice winery ladies.  They said if we asked for our food to be hot, it would come out THAI HOT, (which is how Jun and I both really like it).  I usually have to say that I don't want my food "white girl spicy", but with some real "feel the burn on my lips" heat.  They were right; this place knows how to make some delicious SPICY Thai food with fresh ingredients and they have a really nice wait staff.


A young boy, (the owner's son?), came out of nowhere and gave
Reise a basket full of toys to play with.  And it really shocked
me that they use real orchids to garnish their beverages.

Someone was happy with her toys!

My mouth is watering and burning at the
same time just looking at this.

Jun and I still had a wine buzz, (with the continuation of wine drinking at Thai Thai), when we decided we wanted to end the evening with a hike, and let me tell you, there is no better way to hike.  Reise was sleeping in the truck and Dad just wanted to hang out, so Jun and I basically RAN the 1.5 mile nature bird trail the nice wine lady had told us about.

Almost all the birds on the trail were not the
least bit afraid of us.

Hello friend!


I wasn't sure if it was a mystical looking trail because I was
a bit tipsy, but now looking back at the photos, it was
indeed a very beautiful trail.

"WE WERE RUN-ANG!" (In my best Forrest Gump voice).
And I was running taking this picture... It turned out trippy!

These pheasants wanted to fight, so I did what any
compassionate animal lover would do...  I ran at them
squawking and flapping my arms like a moron.  It worked!

We made it back out to the road just in time to see the sun
setting down the mountainside.

Guess who takes too many pictures?  ME!  I took these pictures around our cottage the next morning.  We were surrounded by fruit trees, beautiful plant life, peacocks, and a semi-stray cat that REALLY loved Jun and also loved to join us for our morning coffee.

A typical view out of our front window.

The entrance to the cottage.

Oranges

Our new friend enjoying coffee with us.  :)

Seriously the BIGGEST lemons I have ever seen.
They were the size of a baby's head, (not Reise's,
but an average sized baby's head).  ;)



Tropical Christmas- A hibiscus growing beside a poinsettia.



Macadamia nuts on the tree.

This cat would climb on Jun's leg, (only Jun's).  HE TOTALLY
FREAKED OUT the first time it happened and exclaimed,
"I DON'T LIKE CATS!".  But as you can see, he came around.

I think we'll name you Captain Cookie Monster.



I don't think they knew I was taking a picture.
She is definitely a "mini-Daddy".  :)

Reise and the cat had many stare downs. I think
the cat was just jealous Reise was on Jun's leg.

Peacocks roam the property freely.

My dear close friend, Genelle, recently graduated from WVU as a Physical Therapist.  She told me she had put in multiple applications, even to Hawaii, but she didn't seem hopeful on landing paradise her first go around.  Good things happen to beautiful people and BAM: my pen-pal and friend of over 8 years is now living her dream on the Big Island.  Seeing her was one of the things I was most looking forward too since it had been THREE YEARS!  (We pen and ink each other all year long, but I hadn't seen her since she came to visit me on Maui in 2010).

We met up at her place and then went to meet with some of her friends who were slack-lining over the ocean in a sea cave.  You know that I WAS TOTALLY down to get in on that action, but after some very sketchy directions involving finding un-obvious trails and hidden hammock bags, we finally came to a cave that was uncertain if a human could pass through, let alone it being preposterous to try with a baby.  It was a totally cool place though with bizarre scenery and we never would have seen it had we not been taken on a sea cave hunt.

Hiking it in.  :)



These caves were cool, but not very tall/wide and I know the
thin lining of rock that is it's ceiling had my Dad
more than a little concerned.

G scoping out the scene. 

Seriously... I envy/admire those back/shoulder
muscles.  My Hawaii sista is also a rock-climber!





We then drove to a sweet little beach that you have to do a short drive/ hike in to past fields of dried up swirly black lava flow.  She also introduced us to another PT friend of hers, Thomas, who we really enjoyed hanging out with too!

The beach babe mermaids!

We snorkeled around and then walked to the private beach
at the far end.

Private beach with a boat wreck.

G cut her foot while snorkeling... and one of
the many reasons I love her so is that she has
such a fun-loving sense of humor.  My Dad gave
her his clean sock to help stop the bleeding and
she rocked it like a reverse Michael Jackson!

Candid sock capture.  ;)

After a nice swim and walk and catching up, we went and got some food back at the Marina we had gone to the first day, (this time at a different restaurant though).



Where's my food?!

Dad trying poke, (raw fish), for the first time.  I never
thought I would see the day!

HA, that face!  After chewing he said, "It
doesn't have much of a taste".  I think the
thought of it is always the hardest part
when trying something new.

We caught a beautiful sunset over the
marina from where we were seated.

The trip isn't over yet, but I just made you look at a boo-koo of photos and read too many captions, so I will save an insanely gorgeous hike to sea cliffs and a valley AND a beach, the best food we had on the trip, and historic landmarks, (plus more family photos of course), for Part 3.  

As always, let me know you stopped by, (either on Facebook or here), and what your favorite pictures or stories were.


Bear Hugs and Aloha,
Danielle


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