Our last day in Kona and our last day with Sharky. One last morning waking up to the sound of surf....
Mike and Chris appeared early and headed out into the surf break, painted pink by the dawn light off Banyans. Bill acted as photographer on the balcony and Kathy followed them out for a spot of early morning boogie boarding. On return it was full steam ahead with breakfast and packing, and then the boys headed off to the airport to arrange transport home for Alan the bike box and to collect Sharky's hire car - a Chevrolet Camaro....
Meanwhile B and K packed up and cleaned the flat and enjoyed a quiet coffee on the balcony soaking up the sea view and the setting.
At 11 o'clock prompt the sparkle team arrived with lots of smiles and Aloha and we said goodbye to Banyan Tree 204 and set off for the beach.
An un-promising name perhaps - the Old Airport Beach, but what a great place! Loads of parking - on the old runway. Ample space for test driving the Camaro and a beautiful long 'salt and pepper' sand beach with palm trees, fresh water showers, saffron finches and mynah birds... and surf! We set up camp in the shade of a palm tree and the boys surfed whilst B & K snorkelled. The water was shallow and despite the surf there was a good view of many fish. After a few minutes however we realised that we were drifting out to sea effortlessly and rapidly on a rip tide. Gentle attempts to head slowly back in swimming breast stroke were rapidly replaced with flat out front crawl and were hampered by the surf and shallow water over the sharp coral reef. Once again the Pacific ocean had made fools of us and we were relieved to clamber back up the beach onto the shore.
The guide book and app had mentioned a good sandy cove for snorkelling at the far end of the runway, so we wandered along the beach to find it. We found ourselves sharing our snorkel spot with a lady and her diving dog. This amazing animal was a black Labrador / Blue Heeler cross. He was swimming out to fetch a punctured tennis ball that sank to the bottom, from where he duck-dived down to retrieve it! It was quite amazing to watch him in the water, standing on his hind legs watching the ball sink, then diving down, tail in the air, to pick up the ball!
We snorkelled again in the shallow and rather challenging water but saw several brightly coloured parrot fish, bird wrasse and puffer fish, before walking back along the beach to the boys.
An eclectic lunch followed - this being the contents of our fridge that would surely not survive a day in a hot car.... Vanilla ice cream milk shake, salami, ham, tomatoes and peppers. Apple pie to follow. Strange, but tasty.
Then it was 2pm. Time to say goodbye to Sharky, to return our surf board to Pacific Vibrations, one last look at Kona, to browse the wood carving shop and to buy postcards .... And then it was time to head north along Saddle Road and towards Mauna Kea and the observatory.
After leaving the humid heat of the west coast it was lovely to arrive at the meeting point at Pu' Huluhulu at 6,000 feet. A light breeze like a warm Summer afternoon in England. Feeling slightly silly we changed into long trousers and boots with long sleeved tops, and packed bags containing hats and gloves, being ready just as the Forest and Trail minibus arrived to pick us up at 4pm. We followed the minibus up hill a short way to a pull in and then on to a tent for dinner. As we climbed onto the bus Eugene introduced us to the current occupants 'this is Bill, Kathy, Mike and Chris from England. Chris successfully completed Ironman on Saturday!' The other members of the group didn't actually applaud but all chattered enthusiastically in the way that Americans do, to our shared embarrassment!
Barbecue chicken and cups of tea all finished and after about an hour to acclimatise we were ready to head on up to the Visitor Centre at 11,000 feet. From there the road became steep and restricted only to 4WD vehicles. Essentially a tough and rutted cinder track it was a long hard drive, but with spectacular views all the way to the top at 13,976 feet.
We were all issued with 'Arctic parkas' and offered gloves in anticipation of the sub-zero temperatures at the top.
At the summit the view from above the clouds was astonishing. The telescopes perched in a row along a ledge and whilst we watched, various parts moved and roofs opened, presumably in anticipation of a night's ground based star gazing.
The sun slowly fell, turning all shades of red, orange and pink and making the whole area appear other-worldly.
The unusual light combined with high altitude and freezing cold to make us all feel a bit strange - slightly breathless, light headed and rather dazed and confused. A sort of dream-like feeling. The summit was populated by groups of people, similarly dressed all stumbling around, some wearing fleece hats and gloves, some lying with their legs in their air. All very strange. The photographs of the summit speak for themselves.
Once darkness had fallen, Eugene was keen to move back down the volcano and we descended a short way down for more photographs and then down again to s flat area where we stopped and he assembled the 11 inch telescope and served everyone hit chocolate and brownies.
We then marvelled at the clear skies and, as our eyes grew accustomed to the darkness, st the sheer number of stars in the sky. Eugene gave us a your if the night sky.
Scorpio and Saturn with its rings and moons in the southern sky, the other zodiacal constellations in an arc across the southern sky - Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, Aries. Then we saw a star cluster, the Milky Way, Andromeda, Alpha Centauri and a fuzzy area shaped like a 'cheerio' - a Nebula. Fascinating stuff from a very well informed guide. Inspiring.
We stopped off at the Visitor Centre on the way back to the car and drove on towards Volcano Village, for part two of our Hawaii holiday.
We arrived at Kilauea Lodge at 10.30. collected our key, tried to let ourselves into the wrong house, then finally arrived home...Plantation House a lovely, spacious colonial style house with steps up and down to the front door, shutters, high ceilings, polished wooden floors, a huge comfortable lounge and large soft beds. It wasn't long before we were unpacked and in bed. The night was strangely quiet - no surf, just the chirruping if the frogs in the trees and bushes in our garden.