Busy and adventurous today today! Started at 6am as planned, to try to keep Chris prepared for his early start on Saturday and make the jet lag less intrusive. Ran south down Ali'i Drive for about five miles passing beautiful houses,beautiful beaches and lots of beautiful people out running and cycling. Home for a huge breakfast of fruits and eggs & bacon. By 10 we were ready to set off for today's adventure to snorkel at Captain Cooks Monument in Kealakekua Bay. Crystal clear waters temping with coral and fish - said to be the best snorkelling in the state of Hawaii. It's pretty inaccessible and is a protected reserve.
We divided into two parties. We dropped off Mike, Chris and Sharky at the top of the path on Napoopoo Road to walk the two miles to the Captain Cook Monument. The path is pretty rough, overgrown by elephant grass and crossed by pig tracks, and populated by many mongooses but down hill all the way!
Meanwhile Bill and Kathy headed to Kona Boys Kayak rental shop and hired a two man kayak complete with paddles, seats, dry bag and cool box. By the time we have finished chatting to Laura and having a thorough briefing and update on the local kayaking and nature reserves, Frank has loaded the kayak onto the roof of our car and we are good to go! We have detailed directions to our launching place but arrived at the end of the track to find a large gleaming white police truck and three uniformed officers, complete with boots and belts, in a state of consternation.
It transpired that a Welsh tourist and parked his car in the wrong place and the frowning trio were issuing a parking fine of $160. We smiled and waited and checked carefully where we could safely park before they moved on to fight crime elsewhere on the island.
The launch was daunting. On the 'beach' was a local linked to Kona boys by walkie talkie whose best advice was to 'come again tomorrow - the sea's too rough today' he went on to radio the hire shop to ask them to stop sending people down. Well, we were undaunted by that kind of scaremongering talk (well, Bill was) and carried on unloading the kayak and lashing into it our snorkelling gear, cool box and dry bag of cameras and phones etc. We had our special visitors pass to the area, meaning we were allowed to kayak in the protected wares but not allowed to land or touch the rocks or coral or wildlife at all. Our plan was to paddle to the Captain Cook monument where the boys were walking, and to meet in the water there.
The slip way was a skating rink so we dragged the canoe onto the back pebbly beach. Moderate waves meant that we had to time our launch carefully. Despite us having ignored his advice the man in the slipway cheerfully shouted advice from his deck chair! Just at the crucial launching moment a turtle drifted into view, bobbing up and down in the surf. He swam towards us and, about 4 feet away lifted his head out of the water and looked at us sideways on, blinking in the sunshine. I could see every detail of his shiny freckled face and neck and beak... But then we were off, pushing the kayak into the water, leaping in, the turtle bumping against my thigh as we clambered in and paddled like fury out through the surf! The top tip we had received was to keep to the right of the pinnacle rock in the central channel. This was safely executed and, paddling like fury into the waves, off we went.
After rounding the point, the surf quietened slightly so that we were able to paddle across the mouth of the bay. After about 45 minutes paddling we arrived at the monument to find our hiking party already in the water snorkelling.
We picnic afloat and try not to drop bits of sandwich (Mike...) as feeding the fish is illegal.
Tying the canoe to an ankle using one of the roof straps we head off snorkelling. A blanket of coral just a few feet below the surface, teeming with colourful fish. There are shoals of Yellow Tang, Moorish Idols, Yellow Pipefish, Millet Seed Butterfly fish, Hawaiian Bird Wrasse. Best of all there were Red-lipped Parrot fish - blue, mauve, turquoise and yellow - all grazing on the coral. We could hear them scraping, crunching and grinding through the water.
We snorkelled along to the outer edge of the bay where there was a beach. Then we moved into the more sheltered waters closer to the island. It was all astonishingly beautiful.
After a couple of hours we executed a complex but law-abiding transfer of the boys' walking boots and cameras into the dry bag and onto the kayak for stowage without the kayak actually touching the shore. Then, with all luggage safely stowed we set off, Bill paddling the kayak and the rest of us snorkelling our way south over the coral lining the sheltered inner edge of Kealkekua bay back towards
The plan was for the boys to swim the bay home whilst B&K kayaked. Snorkelling equipment safely stowed, and kayak crew reinstated, we headed towards our landmark - the church and the lime green house.
As we approached, it became clear that the sea was quite a bit rougher than on our departure and huge plumes of white surf were crashing up and over the rocks at the entrance to the cove where we were allowed to land.
We indicated our onward route to the swimmers who 'admired' the surf (to quote Sharky 'b*****ks to that!) but after contemplating an early beach landing they decided to keep going. And on they swam, arms rhythmically turning over their heads, over and over, moving impressively through the water as gracefully as any dolphin.
The only safe route back to the launching cove was to head out to sea to avoid the surf covered rocks, head south and then head straight into the beach. This we did. The kayakers kept the swimmers in sight (they kept disappearing alarmingly behind the swell). When we drew level with the cove and the landing beach was in clear view we commenced our final approach, taking care to tell the swimmers to keep to the LEFT side of the central pinnacle rock. We set off, with Mike following. On glancing back we noticed Chris and Sharky swimming steadily towards the RIGHT side of the central rock.... About turn. After setting them straight we restarted our final approach and, waiting for a quieter break in the waves, paddled like fury through the surf and up the beach, leapt out of the kayak and dragged it out of the water. At least that was the plan. (It was actually a bit messier than that but we made it and no one got hurt!!) Meanwhile Mike scrambled ashore via the rock pool route and Chris and Sharky rolled in, up the black pebble beach like ship wrecked mariners.
Exhausted and relieved to be back on dry land we loaded the kayak back into the roof.
We then realised we were cutting it fine for Chris's Ironman 'Parade of nations'. Athletes assemble at 4pm. Parade at 5. Oops. Rather waterlogged we piled into the car and headed to Kona. The boys piled out and headed to the assembly spot. B&K parked the car and followed
The parade was great. Much better than expected. A mini Olympic style flag-waving parade of athletes in alphabetical order by country, announced by loud speaker and celebrated by an enthusiastic crowd. We manage to find a prime spot in a bar with a balcony overlooking the street. Two cold beers and a prime spot in the sunshine to watch the teams of Ironmen walk by. Just one athlete for some countries eg Croatia, Costa Rica and Korea, but 148 for the UK, over 700 for the USA! Just in front of the UK team was a group representing the water marshalls complete with kayaks, buoys and dolphins. They were banging drums, chanting and having a very good time indeed!
As the teams paraded into the Ironman village, we headed on to Humpy's for more cold beers / iced water.
After some time at the welcome party we headed home for a chicken and sausage BBQ on the poolside at home. Late night swimming, crickets chirruping, waves crashing, chicken sizzling. Not a bad way to end the day!