Archive for September, 2005

Hawaii Volcano National Park

Posted by Arlo on Sep 26, 2005 under Postcard Valet, Travel

One of my favorite photos from the trip.Despite going to bed relatively late after the night dive, our next day in Hawaii started very early. We didn’t realize it at the time, but it was to be the longest, most tiring day of our vacation.

I wanted to spend some time in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, but didn’t know what to expect. Would the park be crowded? Would it take more than one day to see it all? Would the active steam vents – as our guidebook said – lose their grandeur as the day warmed up?

We were staying in Kona and the points of interest were on the other side of the island, a three-hour drive away. We left at 5:30am, hoping to pull into the park early enough to see the steam while the air was still cool.

The drive from Kona to Kilauea was nice, if rather long. The traffic was sparse and the road alternated between long, straight stretches and Hana-like curves that slowed us to a crawl. We drove through arid, almost desert-like regions, soggy hillsides thick with vegetation, barren black lava fields along the jagged southern coastline, and finally into the rolling hills of the park.

We paid a $10 fee at the gate and drove straight to the visitor’s center. A park ranger had just opened the doors and was going about the business of posting the daily activity reports. We had a quick look around, asked a few questions, and drove off on a road called Crater Rim Drive, which encircles the mostly-dormant craters of Kilauea.

We skipped the first point-of-interest, Sulfur Rocks, for the steam vents that were just a quarter-mile down the road. There was only one other car in the parking lot – getting up early had paid off for us. I dug out our cameras as Oksana changed into warmer clothes; it was windy and the early morning mountain air was still cold.
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Manta Rays

Posted by Arlo on Sep 13, 2005 under Postcard Valet, Travel, Videos

A manta ray skims over two divers.When planning a vacation, I sometimes waffle between wanting to have a thorough, scheduled-to-the-day plan versus one built completely on freedom and spontaneity. I usually opt for the latter. For instance, when Oksana and I decided to spend a month in Costa Rica, the extent of our planning was to buy a guidebook and book round-trip tickets to San Jose. Everything, including the hotel we stayed in our first night, was found after we arrived.

The same attitude that worked so well for us there, gave us some problems in Hawaii. After the first three days, we spent too much of our vacation time fretting about where we would stay. While I was never particularly worried, Oksana let the stress build up whenever our internet searches and phone calls for the next hotel dragged on too long. I can’t argue that it would have been nice to know, before we ever stepped on the plane, where we would be staying each and every night.

On the other hand, one of the best things about vacations is the unexpected discoveries. While at the B&B in Maui, we met up with a couple who raved about an exciting snorkeling excursion on the Big Island. Had we been locked into hotel reservations, we might not have been able to take advantage of their suggestion to pay for a night dive to swim with manta rays. As it was, we were able to plan our Big Island stay around that tour.

As soon as we checked into our Kona hotel, I called the company they had suggested, Big Island Divers, to get the scoop. $70 per person gives you a 1-tank night “dive” with sightings of mantas almost guaranteed. I asked if it was worthwhile to go as a snorkeler, and the woman on the other end of the line proceeded to describe the underwater wonders we would see. Prices seemed non-negotiable, despite the fact that we wanted to use our own equipment and wouldn’t need a tank of air. Still, it sounded good enough to reserve a spot for Oksana and me on their boat for the following day.

When the time came, Oksana and I drove to the dive shop. We paid for our trip, got fitted with wetsuits, and waited around while the rest of the divers on our boat readied their own equipment. We drove to the harbor behind the boat trailer and, once all 20 or so of us were on board, cast off just before sunset.

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Posted by Arlo on Sep 7, 2005 under Postcard Valet, Travel, Videos

Sunrise over Haleakala.3:15am. That’s how early you have to get up to beat the sunrise to the peak of Maui’s tallest volcano, Haleakala. When you’re staying in Kihei, that is.

We had packed the night before, so we were out the door fifteen minutes later. The roads of Maui are essentially deserted at 3:30am, at least until you start climbing the winding Haleakala Highway up the volcano. Even before dawn, cars group up and ascend in clumps.

Although tired, Oksana and I enjoyed the dark ride up the mountain. Below us were thousands of lights (and what looked to be a large sugarcane fire) illuminating the flat valley between Kahului and Kihei. Above us, the Perseid meteor showers were at their height and even with my attention focused on the steep curves, I couldn’t help but see half a dozen bright shooting stars in the clear mountain air.

The park itself is open 24 hours a day, even though the entrance may not be staffed. We coasted to a stop at a place where the cars lined behind a ticket vending machine. Many drivers had exited their warm cars and were standing in a line with their arms crossed and their shoulders hunched against the cold. Some guy couldn’t get the machine to accept his wrinkly old ten, so to get the line moving again, Oksana traded him a crisp $10 bill. Of course, when her time came, no one would exchange theirs for the dog-eared reject. She came back to the car, grabbed a twenty from my wallet, and soon returned with 10 silver dollars in change.
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