Friday, October 28, 2011
Hawaii Cruise - Day 6
Yes, I skipped day 5. We just got too busy for me to blog, but I may go back and fill it in later. Today was our first port of call in Hilo on the big island. We were both up early as we approached the island, and it was fairly clear so we could see the huge gentle curve of Mauna Kea in the distance. We also were pleased to see a good strong AT&T cell signal after 4 days of radio silence. We had brought along our Clear hotspot in hopes of getting good Internet access also. There was still no signal as we approached Hilo, however.
Just before entering the breakwater, a small pilot boat dropped off a harbor pilot who literally jumped onto a ladder on the side of our ship to board. About 20 minutes later we were docked. Fortunatly the ship rotated about 100 degrees before docking and we went from no internet signal to full, so we were back online!
The port in Hilo is a few miles from downtown and is quite industrial. We had booked an 8:30 tour, so we were among the first off the ship. As we were waiting in the terminal building, we noticed that several people ( including myself) were gently swaying back and forth as if the ground were still rolling slowly.
We met our tour guide, Kana, who appeared to be an old hippie with a pony tail, wearing shorts, white socks and black shoes. Fortunately, he turned out to be a great guide. There were 12 of us, and we loaded up into a small bus and he drove us around to some of his favorite spots around Hilo while giving us a running commentary about history, culture and architecture. For example, did you know that most older homes in Hilo have outer walls which are only the thickness of the boards? The window frames are thicker than the walls, so they stick out like little boxes, and the plumbing runs along the outside of the house since there is no space inside the walls.
Our first stop was along a narrow road in the hills above Hilo where we took a short walk along the road to an old concrete bridge. Our first waterfall was visible from the bridge. It's amazing how green and lush everything is - like home only warmer! We then loaded back into the van and stopped at Rainbow Falls. The sun angle didn't really allow us to see the rainbow, but we did come down the trail to the side of the falls and saw some wonderful Banyan trees. After a little more driving around, we took a rest stop at the Boiling Pots. No, they don't really boil, but supposedly the rushing water looks like it's boiling (no, it didn't to us). However, it was time for snacks, and we had the choice of several interesting fruit drinks (green tea, coconut water with pineapple, passion fruit, etc.). Kana also found some bananas and guavas in the park and let us try them. The bananas were about half the size of what we get in the stores, and tasted a bit more intense, but not terribly different. The guava was wonderful and juicy.
Our next stop was the Kaumana caves. This is a long (several mile) lava tube system. It reminded us a lot of the lava tubes that we explore in central Oregon and Northern California, except that it was much wetter. There were also these amazing long roots coming through the cave roof and hanging down to the floor. These are from whatever plants are the first to colonize new lava flows. Sadly, we only went in about 100 feet, and didn't get into anything close to full darkness. We thought that maybe someone should offer a 2 hour cave exploration tour with knee pads, helmets, etc. We'd be there. On the other hand, how many people would come to Hawaii to spend several hours underground?
Our final stop was a black sand cove on the other side of the ship from Hilo. These was actually very little beach to speak of, but a very nice sheltered cove with lots of lava rocks and some coral. After Rachel went in swimming, she finally talked me into braving the cold water. It actually got much warmer as one swam out of the shallows and into slightly deeper water. Alas, after only a while it was time to get out, dry off, and head back to the van. Overall, it was not the tour we were expecting, but was a lot of fun anyway. I guess we were expecting more hiking and wilderness, but we ended up with a great tour of the Hilo area.
After a quick lunch back on the ship, we boarded the shuttle for Hilo Hattie's - the landmark shopping experience in Hawaii where I got a couple more aloha shirts. We also stopped at Walgreen's for a few forgotten items. Interestingly, both Hilo Hattie's and the Walmart across the street have free shuttles from the ship. Hilo Hattie's is a 15 passenger van while Walmart's is a 50 passenger bus. Since there were at least 35 people already in line for the Hilo Hattie shuttle, we thought we'd cross the street and try our luck with the bigger Walmart bus. However, after spending a few minutes in that line, we opted to take a taxi driver up on his offer to take 5 of us back to the ship for $2 each. Money well spent!
Dinner was in the Pinnacle Grill for Le Cirque night for the 4 of us. This is where they recreate parts of the menu from the famous Le Cirque restaurant in New York. They do this once a week in the Pinnacle, and it usually sells out, although we saw a few empty tables. The food was incredible. The highlight of my meal was an amazing deconstructed Cesar salad: whole leaves of Romaine lettuce with a basic Cesar dressing topped with anchovies, served with a round 3 inch diameter crouton topped with a barely cooked poached egg. Marvelous! We also had an amazing deep and rich butternut squash soup served with huckleberries. The deep rich roasted flavor of the squash was accented by just a bit of maple syrup. We also had the wine pairing which consisted of a glass of prosecco, Chardonnay, and Merlot served with the various courses. We all just rolled back to our cabins after dinner.
But wait, we weren't done yet. J Neal, the magician that we'd seen a couple of times earlier was going to do his full show. We attended the 10:00 performance and were not disappointed. He did a lot of sleight of hand tricks, and was just masterful. Some tricks were done to music, while others were done with very engaging patter. Sadly, he's getting off the ship tomorrow, but we enjoyed all 4 times we saw him in various capacities.
After the show we decided to call it a night. Tomorrow is Honolulu, although we do get to sleep in a bit.