Thursday, March 22, 2007

Adventures




It was a typical Hawaiian morning, misty and warm turning into blue skies and sunshine. The Big Island seems to have many microclimates, with unpredictable weather, as clouds blow in and out. As we drove across the northern part of the island back to Wai'po Valley, the weather changed from showers, to sunshine, to gusty winds. We were totally energized for this hike, especially the down and up hill climbs in and out of the valley. The valley is along the coast, one of many that line the northern cliffs of the island. It is a narrow cut in the land, lush and tropical. From the top of the cliff at the overlook, we could see the winding river as it flowed into the ocean. One enters the valley via a one mile hike down a very steep one lane road. At the bottom, we walked toward the back of the valley, an immense bowl with 2waterfalls dropping straight down the side of the cliff. Backtracking we walked toward the ocean through a magnificent tropical forest. Bright orange blossoms dotted the tops of trees, 20-30 feet above the ground. The sound of birds was everywhere. The river entered the ocean atop black sand and met the crashing tides head on, swirling foam in many directions. It was quite windy and the dampness of salt lingered on our skin. What a beautiful way to start the day. Our return was the workout we had been anticipating, a mile climb up a very, very steep road. It made Mission Peak seem easy. We climbed steadily, stopping only briefly to allow passing cars to go by, a good excuse to catch our breath. Reaching the top, we felt a great -- our workout accomplished.

The afternoon was spent driving down the Kohala or west coast to Kohona Bay where we spotted a large green turtle along the shore. This part of the island is very dry, rollling hils that show a combination of lava and yellow grassland, intermingled with bright bouganvilla gardens of resorts.

Our excitement built as it was to time for our big adventure up Mauna Kea, the highest observatory in the world. We decided to drive up before dusk to familiarize ourselves with the road, which we had read and heard was somewhat treacherous. The drive up took about an hour on a narrow, and not so well paved road that climbed upward through mist, fog and sometimes clear skies. Past the 8,000 ft. level, suddenly the skies were blue and the air crystal clear. The road climbed steeply now. We were above the clouds and found a place where we spent a considerable amount of time watching a magnificent sunset and amber hills surroundedd by blue and pink clouds. It was surreal. Along with a large group of visitiors, we waited for darkness at the Visitor's Center. Several telescopes were set up with astronomers there as guides. This was an amazing experience--seeing Saturn, about the size of a pea but with its rings a slight orange hue is unforgettable. It was a new moon and through the telescopes, we could see the gray surface and its craters so clearly. Another was set up to see Venus, and the last 2 stars in our galaxy and 2 galaxies out of ours. It was quite a thrill! What sights we had seen this week-the birth of new lands, stars millions of years old, lush rainforests, and the bluest of ocean waters!
We have met friendly and warm Hawaiians and experienced a life so different from our own.
It is hard to believe we have only been on this island since Sunday; tomorrow we leave for Maui.

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