Here's the latest in my Big Island travelogue... I write all the details in the hopes that it might be useful to someone in the future.
After dinner on Tuesday, we walked to the Malama Petroglyph Trail in Puako, which just happens to be next to our hotel. The trail begins with a decorative display of some nice examples of petroglyphs like these:
and then winds through an incredibly bizarre landscape of kiawe forest:
A short 15-20 minute walk ends at an expansive pahoehoe lava (smooth and ripply - looks like cake batter) field, that is completely covered with hundreds of petroglyphs. It's a really fascinating spot, and super easy to get to.
Wednesday morning we got up at dawn for some snorkeling before Jerry had to get to work. We found lots of great fish (pufferfish, triggers, pipefish, butterfly fish, etc.), and two fantastic honu let us stare at them as they had their breakfast. In my ideal world, I would be able to wake up each morning and get in some snorkeling - the perfect start to the day. The visibility at the hotel beach wasn't fantastic, but we managed to see plenty anyway.
We were lucky that Jerry had Wednesday afternoon off, so we set off to explore Waimea and the northeastern part of the island. We arrived in Waimea in time for a nice lunch at Merriman's, where I had a barbecue pork sandwich and Jerry had a braised lamb sandwich with arugula and goat cheese - yum! From Waimea we headed to Honoka'a and the Waipi'o Valley. My plan was to hike down to the Valley, see the sites, and hike back up. I had read that the hike down was at a 25% grade, but I tend to think I can handle just about anything. By the time we got about 2/3 (I think?) of the way down, our legs were trembling and the calves were doing a little dance. Both of us feared our ability to get to the bottom, so we decided to cut our losses and hike back up. (In retrospect, we should have walked down doing switchbacks to save our legs... I think we could have made it that way.) Now we understand why most folks do the tours in a 4WD vehicle that takes them down into the Valley. Despite the fact that we didn't make it to the bottom, we did get to see the view from the top:
An odd set of circumstances is allowing me to be on the Big Island again in August, so I'm placing the Waipi'o Valley on my list of things that we'll do then. But, let this be a fair warning to anyone who attempts the hike - it's a nasty downhill grade. I tend to handle strenuous hikes without much trouble, but this one had me fearing that my legs were going to spontaneously combust!
From Waipi'o we headed east to Akaka Falls. It's a pretty crazy scene: we're walking along a paved path (complete with hand rails!) in a gorgeous, tropical forest, admiring the incredible plant life (who knew these "houseplants" grew 150 feet tall?!?), and then we start to hear a crashing, thundering sound. Around the bend we turn to see this:
There's no way I can describe this incredible waterfall, other than to say that this photo in no way does it justice. You have to see it for yourself, hear the thundering water, feel the spray on your skin, and see how this water has carved a chasm in the side of this cliff. It's so incredibly easy to get to (and free!) - definitely a must see.
From Akaka Falls we continued south to the Hawai'i Tropical Botanical Garden. Unfortunately, we arrived there at 4:15pm to learn that they let the last people into the garden at 4pm since they close at 5. The man must have sensed how genuinely disappointed we were, so he let us in but reminded us that we had to leave by 5. So began our jog through the garden in an attempt to see as much as we could in the short time. It's amazing - bizarre, alien plants, orchids galore, a view of the ocean and rocky cliffs, and lots more. We certainly didn't see it all (allow at least 1.5 hours to see the garden), but we loved it nonetheless. This too is going on my list for August - to see the garden at a more leisurely pace. We saw incredible plants and flowers, but we both agreed that this was the most bizarre:
white bat plant - if this isn't alien, I don't know what is!
It was getting close to dinner time, so we decided to grab some dinner in Hilo, which was just a few more miles south on the highway. We had been eating at plenty of fancy places, so we decided to go local, and go local we did! We ate at Cafe 100 - where the Loco Moco may have been invented over 50 years ago. Jerry got the Super Moco (bed of rice topped with a hamburger patty, slice of spam, Portuguese sausage, 2 fried eggs, and gravy with a side of potato-mac salad):
I go the combination (katsu, meatloaf with gravy, miso soup, pork and bamboo shoots, and a side of potato-mac salad):
Needless to say, this is probably not the healthiest eatery on the island!
With our bellies full, we drove to Banyan Drive on the waterfront and had a nice stroll through Lili'uokalani Gardens. In addition to the astounding banyan trees, the garden is unusual because of the manicured Japanese Garden elements interspersed with lava beds. Here is one of the banyan trees:
click on the photo to see the tiny person with white legs (that's me!) for scale. Remind me not to plant one of these in my back yard!
By this time, our feet were aching, so we headed back to our hotel in Kohala for some much needed rest. It was interesting to get a view of the other side of the island where rain and plant life are plentiful. It's incredible to see how quickly the landscape can change on this island!
Today is a quiet day of work for Jerry, followed by a lua'u tonight. Tomorrow we head to the northwest part of the island, up the Kohala Mountain Road to Hawi and back down the Akoni Pule Highway. So much to see and do! Here is today's picture postcard: