Date: February 2012
Hello Dear Family & Friends!
(Hello! Goodbye! Love! Hawaiian)
"Everything flows and nothing stays."
(Heraclitus Greek philosopher, 5th century BC.)
Enjoy life, wherever it guides you. Traveling has exciting moments of envisioning yourself in far off exotic lands and cultures. This is followed by hectic times of searching the internet for tickets, packing, researching visas and studying cultures as you make a general plan. Looking back over our 9 years of travel I can say that very few of our 'plans' worked out as scheduled. A schedule, what is that? One of the most important elements in travel is to remain flexible and open to what unfolds. Embrace the changes thrown your way and enjoy the scenery along the detour.
Life catapulted us from Africa, through Asia, back to our home in Hawaii. Having watched enticing videos of wild Okavango Delta in Botswana we drove closer and closer, avoiding wild elephants along the road. It was at a crucial junction in the road that we decided to allow change to chart our course.
My dear Mom had suffered a severe stroke, right in the midst of plans to move to Hawaii. This spunky woman, now 87, had flown to Sumatra, Vietnam and Thailand by herself to join us on our adventure. A real trooper she was always game for whatever happened. Our son Kevin flew to the Midwest from Australia to help her through rehab and her upcoming changes. It was during a phone conversation that we decided to carry out her wishes. Why let a little bump in the road like a totally debilitating stroke stop her dream?
like Tom Hanks in the movie "Terminal" (worth a look) I flew from
Africa to Asia to Los Angeles to Minnesota and back tracking to
Hawaii. Only about 50 hours of travelling non stop. The plans were
in place for the 'kidnapping'! A dear cousin Mike & wife Mary
checked my Mom out of her nursing home in Wisconsin and met me at an
airport hotel in Minneapolis. Our son flew in 2 hours later from
Seattle. My Mom was safely tucked in bed, jazzed up and excited to
be part of the caper. The following morning we literally wheeled
her then lifted her onto the plane, as she was unable to move. They
held the plane for us in Los Angeles as we rushed onboard. Lifted
once again into her seat by her strong grandson (with a sore back by
this time) we breathed a heartfelt sigh of relief. We had food
packed, pictures to look at and stories to share. Landing in the
Land of Aloha, the Big Island, we were helped to the car with the
welcome Hawaiian hospitality. After a stop for a check -up at the
hospital we were warmly welcomed into the coffee shack on the
organic coffee farm, where daughter Mariah, son-in-law Shane, and
vibrant little 2 year old Kayla had a welcoming, cozy room waiting.
Tired and a bit dazed we all slept like logs up on the side of Mauna
Loa Volcano. We pulled it off!
Life in a coffee shack. Kona, Hawaii is famous for it's Kona mountain coffee and when the coffee pickers came all the way up the mountain they would stay in little shacks until the harvest was complete. It has been fashionable to refurbish and rent out these little buildings tucked back in the jungle. Surrounded by organic gardens and coffee trees we nibbled on healthy fresh organic produce and unwound in the serenity of the lush vegetation. It was during this month that my children showed what they were really made of: kind, compassionate and responsible. It made both Mom and Grandma proud. Kayla with her dynamic personality and spontaneous joy reminded us how important love and patience were in all situations. How the cycle of life from toddler to senior is full of unexpected turns but enjoying the moment - right Now - is the key to happiness and success. It was a month teetering between the delight of family time surrounded in warm memories and quality time together; to the agony of realizing the 24 hour care required for our precious 'Gami' would be a permanent reality. The cycle of life is a strange thing. When we realize in our hearts that our lives can change forever with the blink of an eye and that death is always around the corner, it makes the life we are living more precious.
My Mom, LaVerne, had helped those around her for her whole life and now it was her turn. She had worked hard back in her first rehab to be near family in Hawaii and especially little Kayla. Watching the interaction between a 2 year old and 87 year old was priceless and worth every bit of effort in care. Real kindred spirits, both lived in the moment, painted the colors of their wild imaginations, and laughed as the chocolate ice cream dripped off their chins. (Oops, that was our secret!)
Thanks to my close girlfriends in the area we held a rip roaring 87th birthday bash, celebrating the miracles at hand. Wrapping up over 70 years of someone's life was monumental and pointed to how ridiculous all the details and paperwork we worry about really are. So much of what we consume our lives with is all 'bull' anyways. Simplify while you can. Travel lighter through life. Spend your time living instead of worrying. Like they say in the local Hawaiian dialect, pidgin, "If Can, Can. If no Can, no Can."
Once tucked into first a private care home we then moved my Mom into a 50 bed rehab hospital with excellent, loving care and a livelier roster of music, bingo and new friends. As her mind fades she is happy in her imagination. The cycle of life goes round and round. How will the cards play when our turn comes? The impermanence of life. Memento Mori.
Joseph joined us from Malaysia and we relaxed on Oahu with good friends. It was a whirlwind of beaches, scenic vistas, Thai food, eating at health food stores, dancing on the beach at Dukes to Henry Kapono, sunset hula and music at the classic Moana Hotel on Waikiki Beach, First Friday in historic old Chinatown, holiday activities with friends, and visits with Kevin and Roberta.
Back on the Big Island for the Christmas season we rented a friend's apartment and enjoyed this fabulous island, holiday activities, long time friends, between visits to see my Mom. We hiked, relaxed on beach outings and shared meals with family and friends. We visited friends in Puna, loving the rugged coastline, thick jungles, dolphins jumping at Kahena Beach, and the eclectic weekend markets full of 'Punatiks', some of our favorite people. Up north we watch a humpback whale breach 16 times in front of us as we gazed on the burnt orange sunset from our friends Hawi home.
Wanting to take advantage of my Mom's strength we were able to take her out to the family home of our amazing friends Tim, Kelli and family in South Kona for 3 days. A festive Christmas dinner complete with presents, lights and song was the best gift we could imagine. We have so much to be thankful for.
Hawaii, translating as "The Lonely One", is one of the remotest populated places on earth. Six hours by air from Los Angeles it offers a treat to anyone making the journey. From the beginning of time changes have produced a one of a kind ecosystem full of rare plants and animals, many of which are disappearing at an alarming rate. This true paradise, with year round near perfect climate, stunning beaches and scenery, and a relaxed "Hang Loose" pace attracts millions of visitors annually. There is only so much room on these 6 small volcanic islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and Nature as worldwide, is the loser.
When the cosmopolitan pace of Oahu, with the tourist Mecca of Waikiki gets too crowded, escape to the peace of rural Big Island. With a fraction of the state's population scattered over 5 times the land mass, this island boasts 21 out of 22 possible world's climate zones (only missing arctic). Small towns dot the landscape that is filled with remote white and black sand beaches, thick forests, fragrant flowers, wind swept coastlines, with a backdrop of 4 towering snow topped volcanoes. With Kilauea currently active there is often a lively display of orange molten lava, a sign of the fury of goddess Pele. Seemed a fitting place for someone like me, with adventure surging through my veins, to settle down and raise kids for 15 years. Having hiked and backpacked a good portion of this island through the years it is always a joy to revisit some of the natural wonders offered on the Big Island (the island of Hawaii). Imagine peering into a bubbling cauldron at Volcanoes National Park or hiking down the steep one lane road into the 'land beyond time' of Waipio Valley. Camp along a remote beach, star gaze on top of 14,000 ft. Mauna Kea or hike through a lush forest sweet with the songs of brightly colored birds. Breathe and take in the 'mana' or power of this unique island. No matter what far off corner of this spectacular planet we are in, a piece of my heart will always be in my dear Hawaii, the Land of Aloha or Love.
Lately my Mom's mind was fading in and out but on my final day in Hawaii I was blessed with a full day of her presence. We laughed and cried and she wished us well as we continued our travel sojourn, promising to meet us at one of our favorite ports of call. We still plan the rendezvous' on our regular Skype phone calls. Her words of wisdom ring clear in my mind, "Smile Nancy, life really IS funny!"
Off to the land of gators - Florida. After a fun visit with Joseph's brother Mark and gracious wife Marie we drove from Orlando, home of Disney World, to Fort Meyers for a great visit with long lost relatives Aunt Betty, Dave & Cheryl. We hiked with gators in the Florida Everglades along Alligator Alley, discovered an incredible array of waterfowl, continued down and out 127 miles along Highway 1 to explore the Florida Keys.
consists of bridges connecting the string of islands - the longest
being 7 miles. It's like driving on the water. The Calusa and
Tequesta Native Americans originally inhabited these islands.
They were later found and charted by Juan Ponce de León in 1513.
(In other words they didn't exist until charted by Ponce de Leon!
What an arrogant lot we white Europeans were.)
With all the tourists this once remote, laid back strip of islands became crowed and today it consists of strip malls and concrete. You must seek out quiet waysides to chill by the ocean in search of Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville . Worth a look once we enjoyed an evening out with excellent Mexican food and then watched the Humphrey Bogart classic movie 'Key Largo' in where else but Key Largo? Joseph's small computer hard drive full of thousands of movies has added color to our trip.
We slowly drove back up through Ft. Lauderdale for pizza and catching up after 35 years with my cousin, Dennis, strolled Miami Beach, then added a bit of class to our adventure by dropping in for a visit with one of Joseph's former business associates, Neil, in West Palm Beach. It was a whirlwind week full of the wide spectrum of what this attention grabbing state has to offer. Hiking through the cypress swamps of the Everglades dodging gators, hanging at little riverside bars with 'red necks' pondering whether we vegans should have gator tails or mud crabs, a highlight catching up with old friends and family, and dining at the exclusive Breakers Hotel in West Palm Beach. Versatility - all from an 18 inch suitcase!
And so it goes.........................................Next month a cheap ticket to Jamaica launches an exploration of the islands of the Caribbean, then on to Central and South America. We thought it better to be more accessible to Hawaii for now. We will return to our beloved Africa, Western and Northern, in the future. A trip of 25 years allows time for the many unplanned changes and detours . Until then let's remember to frailty of life, enjoy the moment and embrace the inevitable changes along the way. Thanks for sharing this website with anyone you think would be interested. Spread the word what a great world we share! Over 125,000 visitors last month. Thanks so much.
Light & Laughter,
$1.00 US = Less every year!
www.robertaoaks.com for a fun selection of unique Island
wear from classy women's sun dresses
to men's aloha shirts,
and many items in between. All designed by Roberta and made
locally. Worth a look. When walking around Chinatown, the
interesting old area of Oahu, stop by her store.
Having explored the Big Island of Hawaii for over 20 years we have favorite places to visit when we return. Below are a couple of highlights of this fascinating island compliments of:
Big Island Hawaii Information Guide
Big Island Hawaii Camping
Permits are required at most of the parks, and it is a good idea to inquire well in advance if you want to get one. The County begins its permit cycle on November 1st each year, for the year commencing at that time. Campers now may purchase permits for any of the County's 10 campsites over the internet and avoid a trip to the Parks and Recreation Dept. Campers may book a campsite, pay for a permit via credit card, and print an actual copy of the permit thru the state web site http://www.ehawaii.gov/Hawaii_County/camping/exe/camp.cgi
Camping permits ($5.00) also may be obtained at Kona Community Aquatic Center, 7:45 am-4 pm, Mon. thru Fri.(excluding holidays), and at the county office in Hilo and on a limited basis at:
Waimea Community Center
Hisaoka Gym in Kohala
Yano Hall in Captain Cook
Naalehu Club House
Pahala Community Center
Big Island Hawaii Camping
· Parks and Recreation - Camping Permits and State Parks.
· Parks & Camping on The Big Island - There are at least a dozen camp spots around the island, ranging from primitive camp sites with no water to rustic little cabins with housekeeping. Some places are pretty camper friendly, but you should check around locally before counting on camping in a certain area.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the "Big Island" of Hawaii. Hawaii Volcanoes encompasses 209,695 acres and an astoundingly diverse landscape. The altitude in the park ranges from sea level to the summit of the earth's most massive volcano, 13,677-foot Mauna Loa. Kilauea, the world's most active volcano, offers scientists insights on the birth of the Hawaiian Islands and visitors views of dramatic volcanic landscapes. Arid deserts exist within a few miles of lush forests. Both beckon the adventurous explorer.
· Volcano Watch - Volcano Watch is a weekly newsletter written by the scientists at the US Geological Survey's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. It is published in the Hawaii Tribune-Herald's Sunday newspaper and the West Hawai'i Today's Monday newspaper, and posted here the following Monday or Tuesday.
· Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park - The park encompasses 333,000 acres and ranges from sea level to the summit of the earth's most massive volcano, Mauna Loa at 13,677 feet. Kilauea, the world's most active volcano, offers scientists insights on the birth of the Hawaiian Islands and visitors views of dramatic volcanic landscapes. Over half of the park is designated wilderness and provides unique hiking and camping opportunities.
· Hawaiian Volcano Observatory - The activity on Pulama pali is slowly dying away. This morning a single, rather broad stream stretches down the pali from about tht 1500-foot elevation for about 1 km all the way to about 700 feet.
· Hawaii Center for Volcanology - Recent Highlights from the "Pu`u `O`o" eruption of Kilauea's East Rift Zone·
Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park Page - This site is dedicated to providing information on Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park. It is our intent to provide information that will be timely and of assistance in planning a trip, vacation or obtaining data about this park.
· You Tube Video - Kilauea Volcano Erupts - Dramatic Video
Mauna Kea Stargazing and Telescopes
Hawaii's Big Island is host to the most sought-after astronomical site in the world. Perched high atop Mauna Kea, rising 13,796 feet above the beautiful Pacific Ocean, 11 telescopes representing 13 countries are watching the heavens and looking past the stars to galaxies extending far beyond our imagination. All this heavenly science has arrived because our air is so clear, light pollution is minimal and the elevation is perfect. Here experts and visitors alike are afforded a show few can experience and none will forget.
Home to some of the most powerful telescopes in the world, Mauna Kea is about as close as a traveler can get to the stars without leaving earth. Specially guided tours take you right up to the summit, and into these huge telescopes to view the universe and beyond. With the help of experts, visitors can get to know the Hawaiian sky - from Polaris, the North Star, all the way down to the Southern Cross; from the rings of Saturn to the Milky Way. Guided astronomy and stargazing tours offer transportation, warm parkas, dinner, access to the summit of Mauna Kea, detailed narratives on history and cultural as well as expert night time viewing.
Mauna Kea Stargazing
· University of Hawaii - Mauna Kea is a very remote location. It has no public accommodations, food, or gasoline service. The observatory buildings are usually closed to the public.
· Visitor Information Station - MAUNA KEA - At 9,300 feet (2,800 meters) the skies above the Visitor Center are among the clearest, driest and darkest on the planet. The Visitor Center site is located above the elevation of most of the major telescopes on Earth.
· Mauna Kea Observatories - The 4,200 meter high summit of Mauna Kea in Hawaii houses the world's largest observatory for optical, infrared, and submillimeter astronomy. Click on a dome to identify a telescope.
Waipio Valley is certainly not hidden - in fact, looking down into the breathtaking valley from the roadside lookout is an awesome experience. However, an excursion through the valley itself, in a mule-driven wagon, provides passage to gorgeous tropical vegetation, cascading waterfalls, saturated taro fields, and a striking black-sand beach. It is also a journey through history. King Kamehameha I established his long reign over the islands from this location. Formidable battles, human sacrifices, and peaceful agriculture have all been part of life in this mesmerizing valley. The softly wafting breezes here seem to whisper of Hawaii's past, so take a moment to contemplate the ancient stories this area can share.
Today, amidst taro, coconuts, avocados, bananas and large assortment of other wild fruits, nuts and flora. Waipio has 60-100 residents, a mixture of farmers of Hawaiian, Japanese and Chinese ancestry and haoles looking for seclusion and self-sufficient life-style.
Many Hawaiian alii were buried in Waipio where a section of the beach is called lua o milu, doorway to the land of the dead. Great chiefs lived in the valley long before Kamehameha made it his base of spiritual power. According to legend, a priest from this valley gave Kamehameha custody of Ku, his war god, before he set off to conquer the islands.
· You Tube Video - Waipio Valley, Big Island
Whale and Dolphin Watching - Big Island Hawaii
Yes, the seasonal humpback whales have migrated back to colder waters of Alaska to feed. But there are plenty of other interesting whales and dolphins to see that never leave Hawaiian waters. These "year-round" whale species have been showcased on National Geographic Explorer and many other nature television programs.
At least seven species frequent the waters off the Big Island. Only one of them, the humpback, is migratory while the other six whale species feed in Hawaiian waters year-round! Some are larger than humpbacks, like the giant sperm whale of "Moby Dick" fame. Others, like Hawaiian pilot, false killer, beaked and melon-headed whales can be found in groups ranging from 6 to over 1000 whales! Because they cannot be easily viewed from the shoreline, like the attention-getting humpbacks or spinner dolphins, visitors here often overlook these playful native whale species.
When making reservations on line we found a couple interesting occurrences. First the cheapest prices for hotels listed were missing things like tax, fees, a surcharge for a double room or for the weekend or for a "door on the room". Read carefully in this domain of false advertising.
On the Florida Keys I requested a room in Key West - at the tip of the Keys. I should have had an atlas pulled up because our room in fact was 60 miles north on a different island we had never heard of. My mistake - their misrepresentation. They won and we had to drive north. Turned out ok but a bit upsetting. If it isn't the height of tourist season there is a line of little motels around Key Largo (in the middle) that offer cheaper but good rooms. Expect to pay $60-$70 a double room - more during prime season.
If you pay us enough we will give you the phone numbers of our relatives!!
While driving along Alligator Alley, besides lots of gators, there were many hiking trails, boardwalks and waysides that didn't charge to use. Ask at local tourist info centers and enjoy a walk back into the unique Everglades or ask for side roads/boardwalks where gators hang out away from the crowds. Once off the highway it gets real rural real fast, complete with dusty sand roads. The helpful info center we stopped at was near the 8' x 8' Ochopee Post Office (the smallest in the U.S.) and Ten Thousand Islands Reserve. Some people take swamp buggy's or air boats ($20/ hour) through the swamp. Not good for the wildlife but they seem to be popular.
One of their favorite activities - rolling down hills.