The main reason for doing the tour was that it was free. My dad was traveling to
Hawaii the following month and wanted to know if the tour was worthwhile, so he
offered to pay for mine. I enjoyed the tour, but if I had to do it again, I'd fly
to the Big Island and rent a car for the day instead (and that is what I suggested
to him). Though the guide was extremely knowledgeable and had a lot to tell us about
Hawaiian culture and history, the tour is oriented towards older people and follows
a very set schedule, without a lot of time for walking around or exploring. Quite a
bit of time is spent driving in order to see all the island - I think I would've
enjoyed it more if we had been able to go a bit more in depth into one particular
area (but hey, now I have to go back!). The tour featured the coffee plantation,
the black sands beach, the Place of Refuge, a Macadamia Nut plantation, the Kilauea crater , Thurston Lava Tube and Rainforest, and probably quite a bit of other things
I've forgotten. They used to go to the active lava flow, but a tourist on a tour
had tripped and stepped into hot lava the previous year, so they were no longer
doing that, which was one of the great disappointments of the tour. When I go again
I'd like to fly into the Hilo, rent a car, drive up to the summit of Mauna Kea and/or
Mauna Loa, climb down into the cave under Rainbow Falls, go to see the lava flows,
and rent a kayak and go out in Kealakekua Bay (I met some people who had been kayaking
with dolphins there).
After getting done diving, I had the rest of the day to kill. Many of my friends and colleagues were scheduled to arrive that evening. I had heard that Diamond Head was a really cool place to go. People kept telling me there was a shuttle there, but nobody knew where to catch it. I could see it clearly from the beach and it didn't look that far, so I just started walking. Let's just say it's a lot shorter walk to go around the back, rather than walking on the ocean side. The view is a lot better on the ocean side. Along the way I got picked up ("Haven't I met you somewhere before?"), dropped off ("no, we definitely did not meet at Hula's Bar last night!"), then ran into some other MRI researchers. They were also "lost" on the way to Diamond Head, so we went together the rest of the way around, through the tunnel into the crater, and up to the lookout.
I have to say, it's a lot further than it looks walking from Waikiki to Diamond Head, and
it's a lot longer up to the top than it looks as well. All told I walked for around four
and a half hours. I took some pictures of downtown Waikiki to make a
panorama, but it
ended up resembling LA, so I'll leave them out of here. We barely made it out before the park
closed for the evening. After returning to downtown, I met up with some of my coworkers and
we went out for dinner.
I went over to 'Iao Valley State Park and hiked around a bit. It's all on
paved trails, but there were some cool streams and cliffs and stuff to look
at. After that I went to Ho'okipa Beach Park and walked around on the
rocks and watched people surfing, windsurfing (I gotta learn!), and kite
boarding. Spent a while trying to get a picture of the perfect wave
breaking over this cool rock, but I kept mistiming it and finally gave up.
Then I drove up and up and up Olinda Drive - saw some cool trees (redwoods,
I think), a bird sanctuary, and a cactus farm. It was cool going through
three or four different climates on the way up - it was comfortably cold up
on top. Too bad people built houses blocking the good view all along the
Then I went down and drove on the Hana Highway to go look for Twin Falls. I ended up driving past it and then found it on my way back, but I didn't have enough time left to do the 30-minute hike to the waterfall. I'll have to go next time. I stopped at the fruit stand and got a pineapple smoothie made from freshly squeezed (i.e. while I watched) pineapple and cane sugar. It was really really good - by far the best smoothie I've ever had. Plus the woman there gave me a handful of cane sugar for the drive home. You chew on it and suck the juice out, then spit the rest out the window. I'd never had it before - it tastes amazingly good (though it's kinda sticky). If anyone has a sugar cane grinding machine they'd like to sell, get in touch with me!
Today I went lava tube caving with Rob, this guy I met through a San Francisco caver friend. He's a great guy who's a commercial photographer here. He is working on a book about the caves of the Big Island. He picked me up at 8ish in his '82 BMW 528 (nice caving car) and we drove around to the southeast side of the island. It's really amazing country there - a nice winding road (kinda like US Hwy 1 in CA) through lush green fields (though evidently they're brown 10 months out of the year), with canyons crossing the road every mile or so.
Somehow Rob recognized the right bush or rock or something by the side of the road and knew where to stop for the cave. We walked through the brush a bit and there it was. The entrance was a 50-foot diameter 30ish foot deep sinkhole. The sides weren't too steep - we could climb in and only needed a sling for one six-foot drop. There were coffee trees growing all over inside the sink. We squeezed through a few small holes (fortunately no crawling required - I could make it all bear walking) and found ourselves in the lava tube.
The tube ranged from 10-50 feet in diameter and was mostly walking over
jagged breakdown, from toaster-sized to automobile-sized. Previous cavers
had left candles all over, and we lit them as we went by.
It took about an hour to get to the end, where we found a room with many candles. We lit them all and tried to take some pictures. I did a couple with my point-and-shoot, but they didn't really come out. Lava tubes are so dark - every surface absorbs light, I even had trouble walking with my flashlight. Then we broke out Rob's digital camera and two slave strobes. He set them up and shot some pictures of me - they looked good on the LCD screen, and turned out really nice. On the way out we tried shooting some pictures in the big room - I held one of the strobes a hundred feet away from Rob to light up more of the tunnel. The Firefly slave sensors are really impressive.
The three cave photographs are courtesy of Rob Ratkowski.
After that we headed out. I managed to cause a small rockslide on the way out, but it stopped after a few feet. On the drive back we discussed digital cameras - I really need to get one (he's selling *three* of his to buy a Nikon D100).
After I got back home I had some food and then arranged a bike tour for tomorrow. Then I went for a drive to see some waterfalls. I went to Twin Falls, the place I drove to yesterday but hadn't done the hike in. I bought another pineapple smoothie and got a handful of sugar cane to eat on the hike.
It was a 20-30 minute hike to the waterfall, the last 2-3 minutes in ankle-to-waist high water. Fortunately I had a waterproof case for my camera, but I had to find a place to stash my cell-phone, so I hid it in the trees with my shoes. I got to the waterfall and I was the only one there! I was under the impression that this was the place to hang out - but evidently everyone leaves earlier in the day.
I thought the water would be cold, and it felt cold for the first minute or
two, but after swimming around a bit it felt really nice - not cold at all.
I think it might've even been warmer than the ocean. A few minutes later a
couple showed up with two kids and I got them to take my picture standing
under the waterfall. It was fun swimming under the waterfall, but I was really
nervous that a stick or something would come over the edge and land on my
head. I hung out a bit longer and then started going back. On the way back
I noticed this little side trail and found lots of little waterfalls over
some basalt. It was really cool how the water would find routes through
the rock. There was a good spot for cliff diving, plus a vine to swing
out over the water, but I had already dried off and didn't feel like trying
to figure out whether it was deep enough to jump.
I hiked back and the smoothie-woman gave me a free cup of cane juice
with lime and ginger. I need a constant supply of this stuff - maybe
I can grow cane in Madison. ;-) She towed her stand out every day
with this '79 Toyota truck that had *every* body panel rusted out...
No doors, no side panels, and the hood and fenders were replaced with
woven bamboo mats. It had a bumper consisting of both wood and an
I-beam, no grille, one headlight was safety-wired in place and the
other was zip-tied. Anyway, it was pretty cool. She was about to get
rid of it - the engine still ran great, but everything else was failing
or falling off.
I was going to go check out another waterfall, but it was an hour drive further on and it was getting kinda late, so I headed back. I stopped at the beach and watched the wind-surfers and kite-boarders doing outrageous tricks in some waves.
One of the cool things about Maui is that you can see the sun set multiple times. The hills are so steep here than you can watch it set behind the mountains at the beach, then quickly drive up a few thousand vertical feet and see it set again. I took some pictures of it sitting from the beach, then tried to make it up the Haleakala Highway and get some nice red-sky pictures, but I was a little too late and the best part had already passed.
Tomorrow (i.e. in six and a half hours, as I write this at 7 PM local
time) I'm getting up to walk to the bike shop for a ride to the top of
Haleakala. We'll watch the sun rise, tour the summit a bit, then bike
the 10,000 vertical feet over 38 miles down to the ocean (all but one mile
We arrived at the summit about 40 minutes before sunrise. It was 30-40
(that's 0-5 degrees centigrade) and windy, but fortunately not raining. I
sat down on a rock where I could look into the crater, but I got cold
pretty quickly. Jeans and my jacket shell just weren't enough... So
I went back to the van and pulled on some shell pants and a blanket.
I found a spot between two rocks where I was out of the wind and sat
there huddled in my blanket, shivering against the cold, waiting for the
sun to rise. Eventually I warmed up a bit (I think it just takes a while
for my metabolism to get going in the morning) and could get up to take
pictures. The crater is amazing - it looks like something you'd find on
another planet. I'd love to hike down into there, but it's an all day
hike to go in and out, and a 2-3 day trip to tour it. They say
you could fit Manhattan Island into the crater.
Finally the sun crept up over the horizon and everything became a
fiery red. I took some pictures, but within a few minutes it was
fully up and I walked back to the van for the ride to the bike staging
area. He drove us down to 6500 feet (unguided bike tours aren't
allowed inside the park boundary). Unfortunately all they had was
mountain bikes, even though the way down was all road - I think they're
trying to prevent people from going too fast. He let us off at 6500
feet and followed us a little ways in his van, then went down. All
the way I was looking over my shoulder for the "Nene crossing" sign
so I could get a picture, but I never saw it.
The road down has 29 switchbacks and drops about 500 feet per mile for ten
miles. It was really fun biking down, but all too short - I could've been
down in 20 minutes if I bombed it. I did some corners marked "U - 15 mph"
at 30 or so, which was pretty fun. I met a couple from Denver who did
all sorts of hardcore bike races in the mountains there - we raced a bit
and took some pictures of each other. At the bottom of the summit road, I
made a left and took the long way home. It was still almost all downhill
- there were only two short uphill sections, each under five minutes of
pedaling. Other than that I didn't pedal more than 30 seconds the whole
time. I was home by 8 AM, with 20 miles already under my belt. I tossed
the bike in the garage and made myself some breakfast, planning to go
out and bike a bit more afterwards.
However, I got out and discovered I couldn't go anywhere without going up or down a hill, and I was too lazy to pedal much. In hindsight, I should've gone all the way to the Teduschi Winery (would've made it a 38 mile downhill ride) and paid the $10 for a van pickup. But I was annoyed at Wayne (he smoked just outside the van before everyone loaded up and I could hardly breathe in his van - I guess he doesn't notice that it still stinks in the van when he smokes right outside the door) and didn't want to see him again. So I biked around the neighborhood a bit and then dropped the bike off at the shop and walked home.
So now it was around 9 or so and both Jeane and Dan were out, so I couldn't really go anywhere. It's a 30-minute drive from the ocean, and just about everything else - the only thing within walking distance is a cute little town. So I couldn't go anywhere, and didn't know what time they were getting back. I took a nap for a while, read for a while, and planned some trips for later on.
Jeane got back around 2ish and suggested I go to Wailea, a beach on the south side of the island, and maybe find some snorkeling. I went down to the beach and looked around a bit, but it didn't look like a good spot for snorkeling. So I went to a local dive shop (biggest dive shop I've ever been in) and asked where they suggested snorkeling. He told me some spots and also suggested I get food at Alexander's Fish Market, which was just down the road. I got some fried Mahi at the fish market, then drove east looking for the snorkeling site. I stopped at a bunch of other dive shops along the way, and by the time I got there it was around 5. It looked pretty promising - there were even some people kayaking so I felt ok getting in the water by myself. But the sun was getting low and the kayakers were getting out and so I didn't go. :(
I started driving back, then decided to drive up Haleakala again and try
to catch the sunset from over the clouds. I had to go really fast and
I still missed the actual moment the sun passed below the clouds, but I
got up there and everything was red and the West Maui mountains were just
peeking over the clouds and it was pretty cool. Plus on the way up I saw
this cool bird with a red head and I thought it was a Nene, so I was really
pleased. It turned out not to even be a Nene, but that's ok. I found
the "Nene Crossing" sign about 1/4 mile uphill from the point where we
were dropped off on the bike tour, so I finally got a picture of it. And then
there was this cool little hill that I decided to go up and take more pictures
of the sunset. So in my sandals and swimsuit I scrambled through the
brush (I started on a trail, but lost it along the way) up to the top -
it felt like I was at 10,000 feet instead of just 7,000. I took some
pictures and then scrambled down in the dark. Then I drove back down
through the clouds and was home by 8.
The Hana Highway is a 40-mile road to the east end of the island. It has
several hundred curves, lots of single-lane bridges, and goes through some
really beautiful terrain. It's also one of the most frustrating drives
of my life (even more so than San Jose). There's no places to pass unless
somebody pulls over to let you, so one stupid person can slow down a ton
of people. It's a road you can easily drive 30-40, slowing down to 10-20
for the tighter corners. But a very few people insist on driving it at 10-20
instead. Most politely pull over when one or two cars are stacked up
behind, but a few idiots do not.
Anyway, I headed out in hopes of seeing some cool waterfalls. I missed my favorite smoothie stand because I wasn't paying attention, which put me in a foul mood right away. But I had fun for the first half hour or so - no cars to wait behind and it was pretty cool. I stopped and saw some waterfalls and took some pictures. I made a panoramic picture of this neat bay along the highway - it's shown at the top of this page.
I was hoping to get to a park just past Hana, where there are supposedly some 300-foot falls twenty minutes hike from the road. But 2/3 of the way there I got stuck behind this idiot in a minivan who was driving agonizingly slowly. He'd go 20 in all the straight sections, slow down to under 10 for the corners, and at some of the narrow spots (wide enough for two cars, but still tight - like a lot of streets in Madison when you have parked cars on each side) he'd stop completely. I was stuck behind him for 30-45 minutes. I even stopped to look at a little waterfall because I was getting so frustrated, but I caught back up to him after 5 minutes of driving. I tried tailgating, I tried staying back, but he would not pull over to let me pass. Finally he gestured for me to go by, just before a really tight blind corner. Yeah right... I waited until the next straight section, floored it, and blew by him, then had to hit the brakes so I could stop before a one-lane bridge.
After that the drive was pleasant, but I was so far behind schedule that I
didn't think I could make it to the park in time. I was supposed to be back
at 5 to meet up and drive to Lahaina do a night dive at Black Rock. With the
extra 20-minute drive to the park, the 40 minutes hiking each way, just 10-15
minutes to hang out at the falls, and then the extra drive back, there was no
way I'd make it on time. So I turned back at Hana and decided to go check out
some other falls I had skipped on the trip.
I stopped at this place right beside the road where there was this beautiful blue pool and went down and walked in it a bit, but I didn't have my swimsuit on, so I didn't go swimming. On the climb out, I ran into this 40ish couple that told me about a really cool waterfall called Punalau. It's 1/4 mile past mile-marker 13 (left-hand curve), upstream of a little bridge that's marked "1911" on the outside wall facing the ocean. I rock-hopped 5-10 minutes up a mostly dry streambed to get to the falls. As I got further in, the walls rose around me, until I was in a slot canyon 30 feet wide and 100 feet deep. I can understand how people get killed in flash floods here. The walls were completely covered in green moss, and had all sorts of trees and other weird plants growing out of them. It looked like something out of Jurassic Park.
I got to the end and there was a narrow waterfall going up a hundred feet - it was really neat being boxed in on three sides by such pretty cliffs. Since I hadn't seen anyone on the way in, I couldn't resist going skinny-dipping (and skinny cliff-jumping) for a bit. After that, I snapped a picture of the canyon, but it was the last shot on my roll, so it turned out somewhat bad (bottom cut off and weird exposure). On the way out, I noticed that there was some little plants with leaves four feet long - my outstretched arm was not long enough to reach across the leaf. Unfortunately I was out of film, so I couldn't get a picture. It looked kinda like a rubber plant.
After that I headed back to meet up for diving. The drive wasn't too bad this time,
most everybody that was going slow pulled over to let people by. I stopped at the
smoothie stand this time, hoping to get a double, but the usual woman wasn't working
there. Instead I got a single, which was a good thing, because the new woman made
really crummy ones. It was like a slushie, and it seemed she forgot to put the cane
in or something. And she only gave me one chunk of cane to munch on. I talked to a
couple from Phoenix for a while, then headed back.
My friends had had a long day and weren't up for diving that evening, so we drove instead down to the dive shop to arrange a morning dive at Molokini crater the next day. Unfortunately they were closed! So we went home and got on the phone and one of the boats is going to Molokai tomorrow morning, something that's extremely rare (they only go 6 times or so a year - the weather is usually too crummy). So I signed up for that, and I'm going to try to do Lanai or the crater on Thursday. If I can't find anything for Thursday, I'll probably drive to Hana again, but this time I'll leave at 6 in the morning and try to beat the traffic. There's still a lot of cool spots I missed, and I'd like to see some stuff in Hana too.
So anyway, I have to be at the dock at 6:30 tomorrow morning, and it's a 45 minute drive from here. Oh well - I managed the 3:20 wakeup for biking last time. It'll be worth it. :) So that was my day. Two more days here, one more in Oahu, and then I'm heading home.
On the way out, I took my camera out to take a picture of a valley in West Maui and the battery was dead. That'll teach me to pay attention to the "low battery" symbol that's been flashing on intermittently for days. Immediately I knew we'd see something cool on the trip, since my camera was no longer working (incidentally, I took it out on the drive home and the battery had recovered enough to take more pictures).
First we did a drift dive on Kanaka, a small island just off the coast of Molokai. As we were gearing up, we picked up a diver who had become separated from her group on another boat. Turns out it was her second dive after being certified - so much for being an "advanced" dive site. She was from San Jose and had hose protectors with "Diver Dan's Wet Pleasures" (my "home shop" when I lived there) emblazoned on them, which I thought was cool. She wasn't really in the mood to talk though.
The first dive was pretty cool - we circled the island, going down to about 85 feet. It's a spot where hammerheads are seen frequently, but I just saw one shark of in the distance - I'm guessing it was a reef shark. There were sooo many fish of all colors and shapes. It's hard to even remember all of them, but the divemaster was constantly doing the twisted finger "rare" signal. The current wasn't so bad at the start, but near the end it was really ripping, and we ended up surfacing far from the boat. That's ok - they came over and picked us up. The boat was the same style of all-aluminum boat (made in Everett, WA) that I dived from in Hornby Island.
We surfaced from the first dive and were soon rewarded for my dead camera. We were hanging out on our surface interval eating pineapple and Chex Mix and five dolphins surfaced around the boat to play. And I do mean play... ;-) While the dolphins got busy (I think they even had a threesome), we all made jokes and people with functional cameras took pictures. After a while we started the engines and cruised around slowly, so the dolphins could jump in our bow wave. They did for a while and did some more playful stuff - we probably had them with us for over an hour. The disappeared for a while, but returned right before our second dive. Sadly, they disappeared again while we were getting in the water, so we couldn't play with them (no, not that way!!!).
The second dive was on Mokuho'oniki, an even smaller island off Kanaka. We dove on the "pinnacle", a circular reef that comes up from 70 feet to around 30 feet. We descended to the base and did circles around, gradually coming up. This dive didn't have the schools of fish that we saw in the first one, but the visibility was more than 100 feet. There was tons of cool stuff on the reef - a lot of big eels, some cool snails, and lots of other stuff I don't remember. The Ed Robinson SCUBA web site describes the sites.
The reason I don't remember all the details of the boat dive is that I came back, picked up Jeane, and we headed over to Lahaina to do a shore dive at Black Rock. This was probably the coolest dive I've ever done - I've said that many times before, but I saw more stuff on this dive that I ever remembering seeing before.
We stopped at the Maui Dive Shop to tanks and wetsuits, then went over to Lahaina. While we were waiting to meet Dan, I went cliff jumping from Black Rock. Just off the tourist beach there was a six-foot sea turtle, and a couple was snorkeling and the woman lent me her mask to watch it for a bit. I swam out to the rock, jumped once, then climbed up to jump again. There are torches running out all along the rock, and just at sunset this native guy comes out and lights them all.
Well it turns out I was standing out on the rock
right at sunset, and out he came. He talked to us as he was
lighting the last few torches, then did a perfect dive off the rock.
There was a tour boat out there and everyone was taking pictures, so
as soon as he was out of the way I jumped too. I saw a few flashes
go off on the 25-foot drop to the water, so maybe I made some
random tourist's vacation photo album. I talked to him a bit on the
swim in, but we didn't see the turtle again.
Anyway, we got all ready for the Black Rock dive. I managed to get the flag caught by fishermen right at the beginning, but they were cool about it. After that we made it down to the wall and it was incredible. Dozens of huge eels - some four feet long. Hundreds of fish, including these giant blue ones with big sucker-mouths. We found what Dan thought was either a cuddle-fish or a squid and played with it for a while. Its whole body was translucent and we could shine our lights through it. It was red, except for the eyes, which were green. One of the eels swam into this little cave with a crab and they fought, and I saw another eel snap up a little orange and purple wrasse(?) and it held it sideways in its mouth for a while. There were some weird lobster crabs and some other diver tried to spear one, but the spear bounced off. I found a few big lobsters, plus a big crab that we watched scurry around for a while.
We saw so much stuff it's hard to even describe it all. Then at the end,
we turn into this little cove and the six-foot sea turtle was there again,
only a couple feet from us. It curiously peaked out of its spot, looked at
our lights, and then swam up and away. They're such beautiful animals.
They move in such a graceful way. We saw another smaller on a few minutes
later. Finally we ran low on air (60 minutes at 30 feet) and swam in to
the beach. I think I'm going back tomorrow morning for another dive - I
have to drive over there anyway to return the gear...
I took Jeane and Dan's rental equipment back to the dive shop, picked up another tank for myself, and headed over to Black Rock to do some diving.
Black Rock is an amazing dive - I already wrote about it a bit in the previous day's account. There's not as much to see during the day, but it's still a wonderful experience - eels, tropical fish, and sea turtles. The dive was so great that I cut it a bit short (got out with 750 psi left) and headed back to the dive shop to rent a camera or buy a disposable one. The Maui Dive Shop didn't have cameras, but they suggested a place down the road that did. So I drove over and they had nice cameras, but the women there had never rented one before and didn't know how much they cost. She was sure they would be less than $10, so she gave me an MX-10 with a YS-40 strobe and a roll of film for the day for $7. Unfortunately it was already a bit after 4 PM, and rentals had to be back by 6, so I had to hurry. I got my tank refilled and headed back to the site for a second dive. The second dive was just as great as the first, and I shot one roll - hopefully it'll turn out better than my usual pictures. [Note - all the dive pictures in this report are from that one roll]
I took the camera back and she'd since discovered that rentals were $35 (duh!), but she said she'd give it to me for $7 since that's what she had said before. I gave her $15 and hung out for a while at the shop.
After that I returned my tanks and other gear to the Maui Dive Shop. They ended up forgetting to charge me for some of the gear, which was nice (saved another $30).
After that I went to Leilani's on the Beach,
a really good restaurant in Ka'anapali. The food was excellent and I got to watch
the sun set over the beach. Then I drove back to Makawao to pack for my morning
My flight home was nice - I slept most of the way (red-eyes rule!) and
talked for a while to the women next to me. She worked for a defense
contractor (my dad thinks the company is a CIA front) in Hawaii and suggested
I come work for them.
I got home Saturday morning and headed right to the Take a Stake in the Lakes cleanup dive, where I got interviewed and ended up on the local news that evening. Then I went home, showered, hung out for a few hours, and then went to Lynn and Craig's wedding. Sunday I spent all day and the following night at the garage working on FutureTruck, then left for Detroit Monday morning. Spent two days in Detroit at dyno lab at Ford, then a couple days home after that, then a few days camping on Rock Island, then off to FutureTruck competition in Lake Havasu, AZ (by way of Detroit, Houston, and Las Vegas; returning through San Francisco). Life is fun... :)