Monday, January 20, 2014

The Big Island

Up at 5:30 to get our bags on the bus, drive to the airport, languish in the ridiculous security-check line and finally get to the gate five minutes before boarding at 9AM.  Discovered that if you present yourself at the check-in and ask to sit in the escape-hatch rows for the extra leg-room, the cost is only $10 on Hawaiian Air and you get to board first with the other important people.  Survived the 30 minute flight to Hilo on the north coast of Hawaii (or the Big Island, as the locals call it to avoid confusion).  Each island is a county and has a Mayor but there's only one State Governor for the whole bunch.

Lumbered off to our first stop of the day, a Macadamia Nut Factory where the nuts are processed and packaged.  About 95% of the flora in Hawaii are not native plants but were introduced by man.  The Macadamia nut trees were imported from Australia.  Encased in a leathery covering and inside an extremely hard shell requiring 300 psi pressure to crack, they take some work to get at.  There are 250,000 Macadamia nut trees on the island.

Then we were off to an orchid nursery, another important export from Hawaii.  I'm not much of a gardener, but I had to admit they were spectacular.

Next we climbed Kilauea  to Volcano National Park for a peek into the immense, steaming caldera.  Kilauea has been erupting for 50 years and is considered very active.  In the distance we could just make out Mauna Loa through the Vog or fog generated by the volcanic steam and gas.  That mountain rises from the sea floor some thirteen thousand feet below and has depressed the crust a further 23,000 feet with its immense weight giving it an overall height of 50,000 feet when it tops out 14,000 feet above sea-level.  Big.  We ventured into a lave tube and admired some Fiddle-Head Ferns that grow to tree size here.

Then off to the Kona region through mile after mile of old lava fields, to sample some of the famous coffee grown along a 22-mile stretch of coast, 1.5 miles wide.  We continued on from there to see the Punaluu black sand beach with green sea-turtles soaking up some warmth from the sun.

At last we arrived at the Marriott Courtyard Kona Beach Hotel in Kailua and crashed for the night.

Macadamia Nut Factory

Growers use Norfolk Pines as windbreaks to protect the nut trees which have shallow roots.

Wacky orchids at the Akatsuka Orchid Gardens

Pipe-laying in Volcano Park led to the discovery of yet more steam vents

Lava-tory at park constructed from volcanic rocks.  Lava, get it?  Volcano joke.

Part of Kilauea's caldera.  The hills in the distance are the far lip of the crater.

Walking through an old lava tube.

Fiddle-head fern unrolling a new leaf

Here they grow into trees.

Black-sand beach

Protected Green Sea Turtle soaking up some rays.  Humans aren't allowed to get closer than 15 feet to them.

What amounted to a Kona coffee souvenir shop

Samples arrayed for our delectation.  It's still expensive coffee, even here.

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