On to Kona and Beyond

We had a delightful dinner at Ohelo with Frank and his wife Zoe. The food was fine and the company even more so. So much so that we sat at the table long after paying the bill to the distress of those waiting for the table. The staff did not even bother us at all.

The next day we set out for Kona with dreams of coffee and other treats along the way. Of course we could not pass through the territory unimpeded.  First there was the Ka’u Coffee festival that called us off the road, I tasted several interesting coffees, none worth the asking price to me ($15/7 oz bag minimum). Being fully caffinated  we moved on down the road stopping at Black Sand Beach again to look for turtles.

Which we found. There were also several in the water which were hard to photograph. After a stop at Punulu’u Bakery for lunch we continued up the West Coast to our B and B Hale Maluhia Country Inn. Our room was the Japanese Tea House.  It is an octagonal room with shoji screens all around and the bath had a lovely open shower and soaking tub. It had all seen better days and will again as they complete recovery from a major rain storm a year ago. I would note that backing into the driveway is not for the faint of heart.  It feels like a 20% grade around a 90 degree curve. I did it a couple of times, but not in the dark. Going in forward would not be a good idea as it would require backing into traffic coming around a tight U turn. 
We took two major drives from there. First we drove to the north shore visiting beaches and towns along the way. We drove up the dry side and returned along the lush higher inland road.  The next day we elected to drive to the peak of Mauna Kea where there are several famous astronomical observatories. The road is limited to 4wd vehicles.  This is not so much due to its being a rough road as it is for the need to maintain control while descending the 20% plus or minus grade on dirt. 

We returned to the room for a rest and then had dinner at Jackie Rey. It was delightful.  They had a lovely mushroom dish for Carol and I had to have the Ono, a local delicacy white fish.  Coconut Ice cream was too great a temptation and it went fine with an excellent cup of Kona coffee. At $40 to $50 a pound I will not be buying it for regular use. My excellent Costa Rican or Tanzania peaberry are really very good for a quarter of the price. 
We flew on to Maui this afternoon and picked up our rental for the drive to Lahaina from Bio-beetle Rental. The car is a 10 year old Jeep Patriot that had been modified to run on 100% bio fuel.  The car has been hard used in over 97000 miles of rental service! 
We arrived at Chris’ apartment – Air BnB – and we were warmly greeted and given the run of the place.  

Oahu and Big Island

Hilton Hawaiian Village is a wonderful old resort. It has so much that it takes real effort to leave. Well in advance we had planned two excursions.  The first was to Doris Duke’s home, Shangi La. If you don’t know,  Doris Duke came into her fortune at age 12. Her parents died and she was the soul heir to Duke Energy for one. She fell in love with Islamic art and Hawaii at about the same time.  The house, which she continued to update as late as 1992, is a wonderful collection of designs and items.  It is worth the trip if you will be in Honolulu.  The other stop was Pearl Harbor, the Arizona Memorial :

I know this is not the “expected” view, but you can get that on line.  Even almost 75 years later it is moving to watch the film shot during and after the attack. To stand above the remains of the men of the Arizona. 
We met Tolly and Todd our first night there,  these men were students of Carol’s when she was teaching photography.  Through the magic of email and facebook they have stayed in touch. Todd is a concierge at Hilton Hawaiian Village and one day was actually working on the Rainbow Tower where we were staying,  there are 7 towers! (Correct me if I’m wrong Todd). On Sunday when neither was working and we had no plans they took us for a drive around North Shore. Along the way we had fresh grilled chicken in a roadside barbecue, a chilled coconut from which we drank the milk and then had the shell cracked so we could eat the meat. I seem to remember we stopped for lunch, too and then we had to try a special shaved ice. I was delighted to gain 2 pounds all at once 🙂
On to Big Island, formally known as Hawaii Island. We are staying in Volcano House,  constructed in 1931 to replace the 3rd in a line of hotels here.  This hotel has the distinction of being the only hotel built inside the caldera of an active volcano. From most anyplace in the hotel it’s possible to watch the eruption that has continued since 2008. 
I’m not actually sure where this was taken,  either from the hotel grounds or from Jaggar Museum which is even closer to the crater.  There we met Frank Truesdale,  PhD to whom we were introduced by Niece Daisy who studied with him. Frank gave us a wonderful tour of the externals that any tourist can see and then we were introduced to the monitors watching every move of the Earth in the area to better understand what is happening and to hope to save lives by predicting major events.  Ultimately be took us up to the volcano Observatory above the roof of the museum with viwes to the floor of the crater.  The inner crater happened to be quite active and we could see the lava lake over the rim and watch it spatter above the rim. 
After a beer at the nearby military recreational facility we parted.  We now have plans to have dinner with Frank and his wife on Friday (that’s tomorrow as I write). Today we drove South and West toward South Point, the southernmost point of land in the US! Along the way we stopped at Punalu’u Black Sand beach where we didn’t see turtles 🙁 We did get to Green Sand Beach, one of only two in the world. 
We did make it to the southermost point of land

 More importantly we made it to

We bought take away lunch there and stopped back for ice cream on our way back to the hotel.  We will drive by there again on Saturday.
There is more to tell, but I am tired and I suspect you, my readers,  must be too. 

Elevator buttons

We are at Hilton Hawaiian Village – Rainbow Tower, having flown in from Sydney two days ago.

Hilton has elevated the frustrating of small boys to a high level.  Every small boy I have known (no small girls in our life) must push the floor button on the elevator.  These elevators have no buttons in the car! There is a panel on the lobby wall where one enters the destination floor and the appropriate elevator car is illuminted. You enter the car and then exit when your destination is reached with an announcement. Not only small boys find this frustrating. We are all used to entering an open elevator car and THEN pressing the desired floor. I just rode up with two small boys who found this completely unsatisfying.  They screamed through four floors wanting to push the nonexistent button, only to resume screaming when the grandfather, trying to change the subject, asked who would open the door to the room.

Ah, small boys, we survived or own two and their five, and now everyone else’s.  It’s a wonder they are permitted to live to manhood.


Alice Springs is a cool little town.  With decent hotels, dining,  art and a fine hospital. From here there is 1,500 kilometers North to Darwin and a like distance South to Adelaide. Those roads are not interstates with towns and services.  In some cases they may not be paved all the way.  Carry the fuel you need and spares to repair flats and anything else that might break.  For good measure carry a satellite phone as cell service quits at the edge of town. Our busses had satellite phones mounted by the driver.

That is the Gap between East and West McDonnell ranges

The Todd River with puddles from recent rain

Yes it rained on us in Alice Springs and it was cool, mid 70’s. They promised us the river would flow if we had 4 or 5 days of heavy rain. The good news was we did not see it flow. 
We drove to Uluru (Ayers Rock) In the rain. Sections of the road were flooded, but not to exceed our bus’s capability of 300 millimeters so we pressed on through 600 kilometers of ever changing nothing. Finally Mt Connell came into view,  it is also known as false Uluru or “fooluru” according to John, our driver guide. It looks like the Rock but there is still 60 km to go. 
We arrived at Sails in the Desert, our hotel, to find our evenings plans had been washed out,  no dinner under the stars and the roads were impassable and the grounds a marsh. Instead we had a magnificent buffet dinner in the dining room. 
5:45 wakeup to see Sunrise light the rock was not a wash out, but the clouds lingered and this is what we saw:

Not the image we were looking for 🙁

After a day driving around the Rock and various interesting stops we drove to the “sunset viewing area” where our hotel had set up a table with snacks and champaign.  We waited under clear skies for the sunset and here is one of don’t ask how many pictures I took on each camera.  This is from the phone:
It is not enhanced or fiddled with,  if anything it is not quite as brilliant as it appeared to the eye. OMG! 
Oh, the hospital.  Carol had a bad cough and her hip was bothering her,  a lot. So we made it to a clinic which assured her the was nothing broken and that her cold seemed as if it would resolve itself.  They arranged for an xray of the pelvic area to be sure there was nothing broken. We found our way to a modern hospital right next to the Royal Flying Doctors visitor center.  Medicine in the outback is not taken lightly. It can be a thousand kilometers over bad or no road to get medical help.  Without the Royal Flying Medical Doctors people in the outback would be in a bad way.  The outcome for Carol was as expected. We have walked a lot today 🙂
Tomorrow we fly back to Sydney and Friday onward to Hawaii.

Full days

To get Wednesday straight.  We started with a bus tour of the CBD (Central Business District for the acronym adverse) that wound up at Circular Quay where we boarded a very large cruise boat to complete the city tour from the water,  with a lovely (overwhelming) buffet lunch.  We passed under Sydney Harbor Bridge a couple of times and I got my binoculars out to ogle the climbers on the top of the bridge.

After our tour of the Sydney Opera House we bused back to the hotel for a two hour break.  We caught a cab back to the Opera House for the 6:30 performance by the Sydney Symphony of the aforementioned Leningrad Symphony by Shostikovich. They opened with a world premier of a Cello concerto follwed by a performance of  a cello piece by Tchaikovski. The cellist then played an encore including vocalizations, hammering on and other methods of achieving sound not normally associated with concert performance on the cello. It was marvelous and the standing ovation was well earned.  Following intermission the Orchestra doubled in size for the Leningrad.  90 minutes later I felt I had survived the siege on Leningrad.  The performance was wonderful,  I do not remember ever hearing a live performance,  RPO must have performed it in a moment of feeling rich. We walked back to the hotel stopping for a snack on the Quay.
 We were preparing for the morning climb of the Bridge. The are plenty of superlatives, all available on bridgeclimb.com. There will be pictures, later. I had to buy them on a thumb drive.  We were not permitted to have anything with us that could fall or be dropped.  We were provided hats with clips to lanyards to the provided jump suits.  There were lanyards for glasses, even a handkerchief with clip was proved and a fleece in a bag clipped to the safety belt in such a manner it could be extracted and worn without unclipping it. We were to spend almost 2 hours directly above the flow of traffic,  a long way above. For all the nervousness the climb was essentially a long walk along a narrow catwalk,  we were harnessed and locked into our safety line already.  Then we climbed a series of ladders,  passing through the traffic deck between lanes 5 and 6 in a caged safety Island. Eventually we gained the top arch and began a long climb to the midpoint.  None of the climbing was particularly strenuous and there were many pauses as our guide related the history of the construction and we waited for the group ahead to move on. We were working with a 10 minute separation.  At the mid point we crossed the top center beam to the west side of the bridge to begin our descent. Total time from check in to tossing the used jump suit down the laundry chute was just over three hours. We would recommend that any able person who can climb two stories without straining should do this for the once in lifetime experience.

We walked back to our hotel and took a break to recover from the physical and nervous energy we had spent.  Friday we got up early and flew,  and flew,  to Alice Springs.  Near the middle of no place in the Outback. I’ll write about that in another post.

Sydney Opera House, not just a tour

Today we tour the famous Opera House.  Tonight we attend a performance of the Leningrad Philharmonic playing Shostikovich and Tchaikovski. Since we didn’t have our schedule or theirs until yesterday we had to take what seats that were available.  Last row. There were seats in the first row but apparently the stage is quite high.

More tomorrow.