Archive for November, 2014

Hawaii: a delayed report

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

I’ve been terrible about updating, and I do have stuff to tell about. We just came back from a fantastic four-day weekend in New Orleans where we reunited with a bunch of Ted’s college friends and their spouses. But before I can even talk about that I need to mention our trip to Hawaii at the end of September.

I’d never been there and had wanted to go, ever since we went to Cairns in Australia and everyone was talking about how much it resembled Hawaii. Ted’s been there before, but it was back in his teenaged years so he was ready for a revisit too. Normally I prefer winter adventures (liek the Ice Hotel) to tropical ones, so I wasn’t actually expecting to like Hawaii as much as I did, but we had a great time. Possibly all the Mai Tais had something to do with that, but I think it was mostly the warm ocean itself – I tried to make sure I got in the water every day, even on the days we went off exploring.

We spent our first few days on Oahu, in Waikiki. The beaches were crowded, but we enjoyed them anyway. We tried out boogie-boarding, not too successfully – where are you supposed to put your legs, anyway? – and stand-up paddleboarding with somewhat more success. We visited Pearl Harbor and I wished my Dad could have been with us – he’d have liked it. I’d been interested in visiting the Polyneian Cultural Center, but I was a bit uncomfortable when I found out it was run by the Mormon CHurch (and not, say, actual Polynesians) and I heard it described as a Disney-like version of history. So instead we went to the Bishop Museum, founded in honor of Bernice Bishop, the last Princess of Hawaii by her widower, and it was really excellent. That museum also helped us realize how alive Hawaiian culture really is even now, and what a large part of the people there are of Hawaiian ancestry, at least partly. (The Hawaiians were very open to marrying any immigrants who settled there, which may have helped their survival through all the germs said immigrants brought.) It’s definitely well worth a visit.

Also worth tasting are the Mai Tais, which we learned to like in Waikiki and ended up having most days we were in Hawaii, with the occasional Blue Hawaiian or Sandy Beach to lend variety. (Uh, when I say “learned to like” – there’s not much learning curve to it!)

After a few days there we went on to the Kona Coast of the Big Island. There we spent more time swimming, not to mention snorkeling, more SUP, kayaking, and of course drinking Mai Tais. We went out for a short ride on a glass-bottomed boat and got to see rays swimming right below us. Both in that boat and later that day with snorkels we also saw a ton of coral formations, right there in the shallow water in front of the hotel. We spent one day driving around the island, stopping to see steam rising from the crater at Volcanoes National Park – we’d have liked to do some flightseeing to see the active lava flows but the price was very high. So instead we circumnavigated the island in the car – even though this is the biggest of the Hawaiian islands, you can still drive around it in a day, seeing lots of spectular cliffs and gorges. Unfortunately, one of the things I’d wanted most to do didn’t work out – we went on an excursion up Mauna Kea to see the sunset and stars up there, but it was having one of its rare foggy days, so we mostly just saw gray. We did manage to get in a quick visit to the National Energy Laboratory of Hawaii, only fifteen minutes from our hotel and the home of the Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion Turbine – my senior project in college was to design a smaller version. (OTEC uses the potential energy inherent in the difference between the cold temperature of deep ocean water and the warm temps on the surface to generate electricity.) Sadly, they never really got the big one running, but there are hopes they’ll finally have it done sometime next year. Meanwhile they’re using the cold-water pipeline from the deeps for everything from cooling soil to grow wine grapes there to desalinating and selling to Japan as special 2000-year-old unpolluted drinking water, only $20 a bottle.

Next time, we definitely need to make it to Maui! And soon, I need to post a fe pictures and write up our New Orleans trip.