jen yu: hawai'i 2005 - day 6

hawai'i 2005 - day 6

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hamakua coast, hilo
february 8, 2005
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The problem with getting to bed early is that I wake up earlier. I tossed and turned in the dark from 4 until 5:30 when Jeremy woke up and we could pack and get going. It didn't rain, but the tarp was soaked with dew. We were on the road to Hilo by 6:50 to go see the Hamakua coast. Small showers here and there. We arrived at Akaka Falls State Park by 8:10. The paved trail is no more than a 1/2 mile loop leading from the hilltop parking lot through tropical rain forest to pretty Kahuna Falls (if you go right) and then to Akaka Falls, the main attraction. Akaka Falls is a stunning 420-foot freefall drop surrounded by lush jungle green. My new tripod came in very handy. I love the ball head.

Next, we drove Pepe'ekeo 4-mile drive, a scenic tour through tropical forest. I got very excited when we passed "What's Shakin'", a smoothie shack, but it wasn't open yet (island time, island time...) We pulled into the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens parking lot and paid our $15/person admission (hey - it costs just as much to enter the Huntington). The garden is a valley that was gifted as a nature preserve and sanctuary. It was hot, humid, and buggy. Luckily, it was so gorgeous, I didn't notice the bugs too much. My favorites were the heliconias and the orchids. There was a wide array of native and non-native plants: ferns, fern trees, palms, fruit trees (mango, guava, lilikoi, banana), bromeliads, lilies, and giant trees like the banyan and monkey pod. I give the falls and streams a C+. I loved hearing the non-native coqui. We took the path down to the ocean and wound our way back up to the car by noon.

For lunch, we tried Ocean Sushi Deli in Hilo. It looks like a complete dive, but the sushi was terrific! It's fusion - hawiian and japanese, which is what we wanted to try. It is also affordable and fresh. We noodled around Hilo for much of the afternoon. I like Hilo more than Kona because people actually live here and it is a real town. There aren't any built up resorts. We went into a free discovery center with educational displays on the Northwest Hawaiian Islands (all those tiny atolls leading out to Midway) and enjoyed the nature slide show in a cool auditorium all to ourselves. We bought some gifts and Jeremy treated me to shave ice (I got lilikoi and he got lychee) which we consumed sitting by Hilo Bay. We met a cool glass artist in the farmer's market and got our share of Kona coffee before walking to the internet shop to log on and cool off (again).

At 4, we drove to Rainbow Falls (just a few miles from downtown Hilo). Robert's Hawaii tour bus pulled up just after us and I decided that I hate Robert. We went to the top overlook, then through a small wooded path to see the giant Banyan tree about 100 meters away. These tour folks walk to the lookouts, look, then turn back around and get on the bus. Why bother? Most of them didn't even see the tree. Just as well. Jeremy was all about seeing the tree. It was enormous. He said he understood how elves felt once he saw the banyan. Being the godless heathen that he is, this tree is about as close as Jeremy got to feeling spiritual. Good for him!

After the tour left, we repacked our bags and dried the tarp. Next stop, Pe'epe'e falls and the boiling pots 1 1/2 miles up the road. It really wasn't much to see because the water was at a low flow. I asked a young woman what she was collecting in her bucket under a big tree. She was picking up kukui nuts which her grandmother makes oils and other things from. Then a car with two people from New York (very clearly from New York) pulled up to us in the parking lot and asked, "What is over there?" Oh, not again. We said the falls and boiling pots. They asked, "How far is it?" We said 50 feet. Then they said, "Which is better, Rainbow falls or this one?" I told them Rainbow was better, but that they should just get out of the car and see both because it's not far. They thanked us and parked.

By now, we were ready to get to Jeremy's friend's house and shower. We met her at her work, then drove to her house and got cleaned up. When her boyfriend got home, we all went out to a thai restaurant where we treated. The food was okay. I never actually had a single thai meal (and we ate at three thai restaurants) on the big island that I was impressed with. Alright, I am a food snob. I cook, I'm asian, and there is good thai food in Los Angeles. We left the restaurant at 8:30 as it was closing. Jeremy's friend told us that people on the big island eat early and restaurants close early. They weren't kidding! We got to bed soon after since our flight out was at 6:40 am.

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