Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The week after

I just spent a week and a half on the big island of Hawai`i doing a triathlon, exploring the isle, and getting back to "island time".

I look and feel like I just spent a week and a half in Hawai`i.

Technically, I haven't shaved since March. I just saw Coach Gurujan at the LLS office, and he didn't even recognize me until I said "what up guru!"

I took the red eye flight from Kona to San Diego, and haven't even been on the mainland 3 hours yet.

When I see exit signs, I am still looking for the accent marks on words to pronounce them correctly (example: Anhaeo`omalu, Honoka'a, Ali`i, etc).

Is there a more inspiring time to write? I think NOT!!!!

What can I say... the trip was incredible. Here's the rundown:

A large group of us led by teammate marine geologist geophysicist Greg Kurras made a trip from Kona to the Hawai`i Volcano National Park with hopes of seeing Lava up close and personal. It was a pretty long trip - 4 hour drive each way, and an hour's worth of hiking over black lava fields. Seeing as though we weren't planning on staying on the side of the island, we also had to hike back an hour, and drive back another 4. Unfortunately, we didn't see any lava up close, nor any at all really. We just saw the ocean entry up a ways, and since we got to the park a little later than we wanted, it would have been a long dark hike for at least another hour to see it. None of us felt like doing it, so we just hung out in the lava fields.

It felt more like a road trip/camping trip. All in all, it was pretty cool just hanging out with people. Wish we coulda saw lava though. We made our trek back afterwards, and didn't get back to the house until 2:30am (that's 5:30 am west coast).

One thing that was neglected during the past 5 months of lavaman training was letting loose. I always tell people "alcohol is detrimental to physical performance", so going out kinda takes a back seat during training/racing season. Although Tuesday wasn't a total catch up day, it's suffice to say that I was handed a memosa at 930am when I woke up, and didn't stop until... ah, whatever, who cares! It's vacation!

The house we stayed at had a pool, 5 putting greens, and Alana provided a limbo dance station, so, needless to say, we made the best with what we had and got a little bit loose :) After some sobering up, we made our way down to Hapuna Beach, one of the nicest in the state/country, for the sunset, and ended up body surfing until we couldn't see the waves coming from the horizon anymore. We cooked up a feast back at the house, and with all the activities during the day, called it an early night.

Today, Ryan played tour guide leading Alana and Nelson down to Waipi`o Valley in late morning/early afternoon. Waipi`o Valley is one of the more beautiful places to visit on the big island:
After checking out the ocean vista's, we decided to take Nelson's 4WD SUV rental down the no rental car down this 25% grade 900ft hill down into the valley. We made our way through a few rivers, and were greeted by a few of the locals.

Little did I know that chevy steering wheels were appetizing to the locals:

After our little social event, we made our way down to Kona afterwards to meet up with people for a Manta Ray Dive. Thankfully, my roomate Greg reminded to bring my underwater housing for one of my cameras, and for this, I was glad.

We did a pre-sunset snorkel to check out the fish and reefs. After that, we had some dinner (and I started to get a little sea sick), and then after the sunset and it got dark, they turned on the lights for the manta rays. Manta Rays are 1500-2000 pound animals, and feed only on plankton in the water. It is estimated that they eat 10% of their body weight in plankton each day, and with plankton being on the near microscopic scale, these things basically eat all day (where do I sign up for that?) to get in their calories. By turning on special lights underwater, it attracts the plankton, and accordingly, manta rays. Unfortunately, there was only 1, but even with only 1, it was incredible. These animals are immense - reaching up to 20ft in wing span, and very graceful and beautiful. With the low ambient light underwater, it was tough photographing the ray feasting, so I had some fun with some underwater photography:

Thursday was a chill day for Alana (by the way, Alana is my girlfriends "white" name. (Her real name is Nafiseh (prounounced: Nah-Fee-Seh), or "Naf" for short). We went into Kona, and picked up our rental car, and hung out in town for a while. I made my customary stop at Island Lava Java (I love that place), and then we went back to A-Bay and hung out on the beach for the rest of the afternoon.

Dave and I were looking to do some surfing on the island, but unfortunately, there wasn't any surf at all! Bummer dude. We headed back to the house for sunset, and to cook up some grub for dinner.

Everyone from the house was gone at this point,

so Naf and I made our way down the kohala/kona coasts to the town of Captain cook to check out some sights. We stopped at the much heralded "Super J's" for some authentic Hawai`in food:

Talk about authentic. This was a restaurant/some family's living quarter. It wasn't obvious at first, but after being there for a few minutes, it started looking like the family lived in this restaurant. It was really hard to describe. Think: one big, dimly lit room, with a TV/recliner with woman rocking a baby on one side, a counter in the middle with a stove/oven behind it. Rather than displaying food menu items in the glass under the counter, there was family pictures and heirlooms. On the other side, was a large, friendly Hawai`in woman preparing food (chicken or pork rolled in fresh taro leaves) on a table, which happened to be same table we ended up eating at. Naf and I ended up chatting with Janice ("Super J" herself and her daughter(?) Jenna Marie) about the island and, of course, the Ironman. Jenna has volunteered at the Ironman 3 years in a row, and I was very intrigued by this. She said that it is just mayhem. Absolute craziness. She said that she insists on only volunteering for the run portion because people are pretty rude and are going very fast on the bike. She said she did Faris Al-Sultan the year he won it (2005), and that he was a very down to earth and cool dude. I gotta say, this was one of the coolest experiences on the island to really sit down and speak with native hawai`ins, especially ones who seemed to have deep roots to the island. (side note: I really really like the hawai`in accent on the natives)

After Super J's, we had another cultural experience by going to the city of refuge. This is a historical site for hawai`ins who were seeking - you guessed it - refuge, from attackers.

I forget the exact history of it, but the place was amazing. It was absolutely beautiful down there, and you could tell it had a sense of peacefulness, yet with the stone walls and tiki's guarding the place, you always felt guarded.

We made our way down to south point, the most southern point in the US,

hung out for a bit, and then made our way up to HVNP (again). We drove down to chain of craters road (Side note: Driving to see lava is not like going up the road to the convienence store to grab some milk. After entering the park, its a good 45-60 minute drive down a long windy road) to see if there was any lava activity that we could hike to in a short distance. Well, there wasn't any activity, but we could see some ocean entry from afar. Little did we know, it was a small taste for tomorrow. We headed to volcano village afterwards to crash for the night.

Satu... err Lavaday
The day dedicated to HVNP. This marked my 4th time to the park since last year, yet I had never seen anything other than chain of craters road and ocean entries from miles away. We hiked through old volcano craters (kinda spooky), walked through rain forests, saw natural steam vents (side note: hawai`ins dont drill for oil - they drill for steam on the island as a natural source of energy, which goes to show you how many holes in the ground there are that just have steam coming up).

This was going to be the last day in the park for the trip, so I told Nafiseh that we were going to hike to see lava today - I didn't care how long it would take. I figured it would take about an hour and a half each way. Now, hiking over a lava field is not like hiking on a dirt trail in the woods. It's constant up and down, and watching your feet to make sure you don't trip and fall and end up with lava rock in your hand that has to have a doctor from the ER remove after injecting you with a very painful dose of lidocaine, but I digress.We had been hiking for an hour and 15 or 30 minutes, and we saw a group of people walking back. We asked them if they saw any lava, and they DID. I was so excited right now. I didn't care how long it would take to get there, I wanted to see it. They gave us some general directions, and we followed. After about 20 minutes, I noticed the temperature started to increase. I looked up, and I could see the heat from the lava field actually blurring the landscape (similar to if you looked just above a candle while it's lit - look closely - you may have to click on the picture [and no, it's not edited]).

I continued on for about 5 minutes, then it just started getting hot. The sun was about to set, yet it felt like Miami in mid july. I saw about 4 people standing up on a ridge just standing there, and figured they could see something. I started walked up to them, and was about 2 feet from them, and said "Man, it is toasty up here!" One guy turned around and looked at me with a "who brought sherlock" look on his face, and I looked past him and BAM!

Wow. I was like a kid in a candy store. It was incredible. and it was incredibly HOT. The temperature of lava is about 1200 C, which is well over 2000 F. I could get about 2 feet from it for about 3 seconds, and thats about it. It is comparable to when you are broiling something in your oven, and when you go to open the door to check on it, you accidently leave your face right next to the door not realizing that the temperature in there is in the hundreds of degrees, and you jump back because you think you just seared your eye brows. All that, times 10. It was almost unbearable.

After hanging out for a bit, we opted to hike down to see the ocean entry. With the lava fields, its hard to gauge how far it would be. We started on our way, but were pretty timid about it at first since the first 20 minutes of the hike was very warm. Warm, as in, well, there is a surface flow a couple hundred feet from us, and we have no idea if we should hike across this really hot surface and risk... I dont know... FALLING THROUGH!?

So, of course, we trucked on through. We met up with a few people, and they said it was one of the most incredible experiences, and was totally worth the additional 45 minutes. We decided to move on, got to about 75 yards from the ocean entry. By the time we got there, it was completely dark out, and with the inconsistent flow, no pictures would do the justice. We kinda just sat there and marveled land being formed in front of us. The only sounds we heard were the crashing of waves against the cliff, and the SSHHSSHSHSHSH of lava meeting ocean water, along with witnessing the random explosions of seeing rock shot in every which direction.

It was a very... surreal, dare I say, magical experience.

After a while, we realized that we had a long hike ahead of us... in the dark. It was kinda spooky honestly. There were 2 very stressful times:

1. walking back over the really hot portion of the lava fields and wondering if we were gonna make it back
2. one of our flashlights going dead on us

thankfully, Nelson let us borrow his headlamp, which seemed to have the power output of the HID xenon headlights on my car, and lit up the path very well. It was a very long hike back (2+ hours), but we made it, and decided on our way up to Hilo that tomorrow was sleep in day.

Sunday & Monday
Definitely a sleep in day. After a much deserved slumber, we of course had to have brunch at the best place this side of the pacific at Ken's House of Pancakes. After carbing up, we made our way checking out the east isle's beautiful waterfalls:

and botanical gardens (Yes, I was dragged into this against my will :)

We ended up staying up in Hawi that night for 2 reasons:

1. I have never been to that part of the island
2. Most importantly, it is where the bike turn around is for the Ironman course, and I of course had to digitally document it (yes, it looks boring when there isn't a race going on)

3. I wanted to get an impression of what the "climb up to Hawi" is like.

Apparently there was a few other people who wanted to do it too, and saw numerous cyclists making the trek up the hill(s).

After we departed, we started driving down the coast. As we came to a clearing, we were greeted with a huge vista of the island of Maui. It kinda of took a second to register, but it was neat to see another island... and it was huge (it may be hard to make it out in the pic).

We drove down to A-Bay for the rest of the day to work on our Hawai`in tans (some more than others) and relax before our flight at 9pm.

Red eye flights are never fun, but we were greeted with a nice california sunrise at the ripe hour of 6:30am.

Being back hasn't totally hit me yet, and I definitely hope to milk this island time thing as much as I can before real life starts to come back and settle in!

Thanks for reading!

NEXT UP: VINEMAN 70.3 on 7/22/07!!!!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wonderful article, I mean wonderful trip, there were also beautiful pictures taken from the island.
Keep going on these trips.
Have a nice life guys.
Best wishes Ada