Wednesday 18th November. This is a long day of travelling with an hour flight from San Francisco to Los Angeles followed by a 5.5 hour flight from LA to Kona (after a 3 hour stop over). The flight is a little uncomfortable because the women sitting in the aisle seat refuses to get up when we need to make use of the facilities. Don't get me wrong, she is happy for us to go but expects us to clamber over her each time the need arises. We both try to avoid going more than once (no mean feat for Tony - I may have mentioned his poor bladder control). We arrive at Kona at 10pm but the heat still hits us as we leave the aircraft and cross the tarmac. The airport is little more than a few open sided buildings and we are guided up the street to the open air baggage claim. We take a taxi to our hotel, located on the ocean front about a 20 minute drive south along the coast. Reception is closed for the night but a quick phone call elicits the room number and the code to the keybox to get in. It turns out we actually have an apartment (or condo) consisting of a bathroom, bedroom, kitchen, lounge and large patio overlooking the pool.We get straight to bed because not only is it late, we've lost another hour or two and are now 10 hours behind good ole blighty.
The next morning we wake to glorious sunshine and after packing the essentials (sunscreen, sunglasses, swimsuit, towel and book) we wander into town. We have already discovered from the taxi driver last night that a free trolley bus runs along the coast which we can pick up at the Pier. There are a number of gift shops, galleries and jewellers en route to the pier so our walk is occasionally distracted by a bit of browsing. By the time we get to the pick up point, we discover that we have just missed the trolley and the next one isn't due for at least an hour. After grabbing a bite of lunch at one of the nearby ocean front restaurants, we take the trolly to Kahalua Bay. I settle on the shingle beach while Tony tries out the water. Within 5 minutes he's back wanting money to buy a snorkel and mask because the water is crystal clear and there is an abundance of colourful fish swimming around the coral reefs. He can hardly stand still as I fish out the money from the bag and he's gone the second I place it in his hand. When I next see him, he's the proud owner of a snorkel and mask costing around $65. When I suggest that he probably hasn't got the best deal in town, he proudly holds up a pair of fins and tells me he negotiated their use "free of charge" for the next hour and half. I just gawked at him in wonder!!!!
Every 10 minutes he returns to the beach to describe in detail the fish that he's seen - occasionally his return is motivated by fear in encountering a particularly large fish and I have to encourage him to get back in the water and leave me in peace. Finally, he comes to get me because there are a number of very large sea turtles swimming in the bay which he tries to follow and gets himself in trouble with the Life Guard on duty. After the sunset, we catch the trolley bus up to the shopping centre to pick up a few groceries. During the ride we are interrogated by a couple of kids who have just moved to the island with their mum all the way from Colorado. They are on the trolley when we get back on and the interrogation continues until we get off at our stop and make our way home.
To sum up our first full day - fabulous everything; fabulous weather, fabulous people, fabulous ocean and fabulous food (despite 90% of every menu being made up of local fish dishes). We think we are going to like it here!
Friday 20th November, we wake up once again to sunshine (oh this could get tedious) and wander into town for breakfast. Tony orders the exotic scrambled egg and sausage patty in an English Muffin (I wonder whether Ronald stole the idea from Bongo Ben's whilst "hanging loose" in Kona). I enjoyed the island style french toast with crushed macadamia nut (mac nuts as we call them here!), bananas and a little maple syrup.
Today we decided to amble to the beach by the pier. As we pass a tour and activity booking centre, we are lured in by the cheap prices on the door. Of course it's never that easy but once we'd decided on the actiivities we wanted to do, we could save $500 if we spent 2 hours at a "vacation club" presentation. Long story cut short we decided to do it to get the savings! So we booked up our activities for the week (more about those later) and continued up the street. We hadn't gone more than a couple of feet when we found ourselves at "Sloan Gallery". The gallery features the work of 3 local artists. One particular artist paints the most stunning pictures of the island (and mainly the volcanos) in acrylic. We are beckoned in by the Gallery manager. Tony comments on this particular artist's work describing it as jaw dropping (they really are quite remarkable). The only other man in the gallery, up a ladder busy hanging a painting, remarks "that was the effect I was aiming for". It turns out that this unassuming guy is the artist and a partner in the gallery, Clint Sloan. He introduces himself and we chat for a few minutes and he seems genuinely pleased that we appreciate his work. An original Clint Sloan sells for $20,000! In truth we had popped in the day before and we were already thinking that we would ask prices to see whether we could stretch our holiday budget and buy one. $20,000 .......mmh that would be a NO then. After some serious deliberation, we did end up getting something more affordable on which Clint said he would like to include a dedication for us, which was really nice of him.
We eventually make it to the beach for some time out of our busy schedule! Life is hard here. We watch another stunning sunset as the locals come out to fish.
Saturday 21st November. Today we are up really early as we have a Taxi picking us up at 6.45pm to take us to Kona Airport where we have to check in at 7.15am for a Helicopter Tour of the Island. We are kitted out with life jackets and given the usual safety briefing. Our pilot, Jessie, then shows us on the map where we will be flying - subject to the whims of the weather. The Big Island enjoys 11 of the 13 different climates around the world and whilst we continually bask in warm sunshine, the same cannot be said for other parts of the island. The island does have its own rainforest after all!
We take off and fly over the volcano (can't remember the name) that sits behind Kona - this volcano erupts every 300 years and last erupted in 1801.Then we fly between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. We can see the observatories at the summit of Mauna Kea and pockets of snow near the summit. Apparently Mauna Kea only ever sees a thin covering of snow but that doesn't deter the intrepid locals from boarding down when there is sufficient amounts for them to stand at least a chance of not killing themselves! A thin veil of fog sits around the mountain. Mauna Kea is the reason that Kona remains pretty dry and warm all year round.The tradewinds blow across the Big Island from the north east and hit, but cannot get around, the mountain. Mauna Loa is an active volcano which erupts every 30 years.The last eruption was in 1983 so the next eruption could happen any time now. Mauna Loa is huge, even extending a couple miles down into the ocean making it the largest mountain in the world. We can see large coffee plantations and macadamia nut farms on the side.
Next we head south east to Kileauea.Kileauea is an active volcano which has been continually erupting since 1983. It is not a typical conical shaped volcano but a large flat area. As we approach, we can see that the vast area is covered with lava rock in different shades, the darker charcoal colour is from a more recent flow and the lighter, an older flow. There are rips in the lava where you can see the lava flowing and smoking sulphur dots, where the gases have built up and burst through air pockets). The crater itself is emitting a billowing stream of smoke. Jessie follows the lava tube to the ocean where we get to see the molten lava cascading into the ocean and sending up thick clouds of steam. It was quite amazing, even more so when we spotted two guys close to the lava tube. Now I'm no volcano expert but even I know that's more than a little dangerous! Jessie tells us that whole communities used to live in this area but lava flows have consumed their homes and land. To highlight this he flies us over to Jack's house. Jack has a lovely house in a large acreage. It is however the only house still standing and is surrounded by lava. You can see what is left of the streets running in front of and to the side of his property. Apparently, Jack is too stubborn to leave his home and has to hike for several hours to reach the nearest road to buy supplies and the same back. The lava rock is still hot so he wears out a pair of boots on each hike. He used to travel by dirt bike but although the lava appears silky smooth from the height we are hovering at, it is actually extremely rough terrain. After coming off his bike a few times, this means of travel was no longer an option!
Next Jessie flies us north towards Waipi'o Valley. Along the way we see the Parker Ranch which is a huge cattle ranch apparently exceeding the size of any ranch Texas has to offer. Next its the beautiful rainforests before we reach the most stunning and inaccessible valley with huge waterfalls, some as high as 3000 feet. It is absolutely incredible. Jessie is surprised that the visibility is so good. Normally, this area is covered in mist and only the previous afternoon it had been hammering with rain. We are extremely lucky and we certainly feel it. What we have seen today is pretty mindblowing.
We head back following the coastline, flying over the 5* resorts. There are a few more white sand beaches here but we are told that the sand has been trucked into these resorts. After the obligatory photos next to the helicopter with the pilot, we pick up our taxi and are driven back to our apartment.
It is still morning so we grab up our swimsuits and head out to the beach. We do a little browsing on the way and Tony disappears for tinkle. As I'm waiting for him, I see a bus approaching me showing its destination as Captain Cook. This is somewhere Tony has been trying to figure out how to get to since the first morning we woke up in Kona (after a conversation on check-in with a departing guest). Tony has spotted the bus too and we make a quick decision to catch the bus to Captain Cook and chase it the bus stop. Turns out that this bus is free too! All public transportation on the island is free - suits us. It's about a 50 minute drive to Captain Cook, the final destination of the bus before it turns around and does the same route back again. We get off and wonder which direction we need to take - the bus had been climbing steadily for the last 15 minutes and the coastline was not in sight. A quarter of a mile or so up the road, we spot a pizzeria and I send Tony in to ask directions. I knew we were in trouble when I hear a feminine burst of laughter (Tony just isn't that funny on a good day). This was confirmed when I hear her shout to the proprietor of the neighbouring shop "he thinks he can walk to the Cook Monument" followed by a twin burst of feminine laughter. Tony returns to me with the bad news. The only way to reach Captain Cook bay is by a treacherously steep and rugged trail which would take hours to get there and back. If we left now we would never be back in time to catch the last bus - and this assumed that all we did was walk there and back! As you do when you realise you're up the creek without a paddle, we slowly turned through 360 degrees seeking inspiration. We both spotted the bus at the same time, sitting in the same spot where we left it. We both automatically start moving towards the bus, quickly slipping into a trot then a run when we see the driver crossing the road to get back on the bus. I told Tony to run on without me and get the bus to wait but at the same time I notice that the driver has spotted us and is watching us perplexed. Tony reaches the bus and is clearly explaining our predicament. I realise that she is clearly in no hurry to get moving and slowed down to a walk so as not to give the other passengers too much entertainment. Some hope there! All the passengers proceeded to poke fun of us and as we were joined by more passengers at every stop, they were dutifully filled in on the reason for the jollity on the bus! Fortunately, all talk stopped when a female passenger got on the bus who had had the misfortune to have fallen into a vat of perfume. Conversation stopped as everyone focused on trying to breathe without choking on the noxious fumes emanating from the poor soul. Fortunately, we were getting off shortly.
We decided to get off at Magic Sands which is a beautiful beach with good surf so is a favourite spot for body boarding. Consequently, not so great for snorkelling but Tony persevered and I encouraged him for the peace and quiet it would gain me. Magic Sands is named for the strange way in which every year the sand is completely removed from the beach by the surf during the winter. In the spring, the ocean dumps the sand back onto the beach - just like magic! We watch the sun go down and, as the locals start playing their ukelele's and chilling out (they really do that), we jump the trolley back into town. On our usual amble around the local outdoor craft stalls, we discovered a stall selling photos from around the island. The two men manning the stall were the photographers and they introduced themselves. We were drawn to the photos of the lava tubes and they mentioned that they were taken early that same morning. Turns out that these are the same two guys we saw from the helicopter that morning. They'd seen the helicopter overhead. These guys are winning all sorts of awards for their work and are offering "before we are famous" knock down prices. Their photos were much better than ours so we had to buy one! This rounded off another great day in paradise.
Sunday 22nd November. Another early start! It's time to pay our dues for our heavily discounted activities. We are picked up and taken to the Kona Coast Resort at the end of Alii Drive for the vacation club presentation. I am instructed not to ask questions and leave it to Tony! It is fairly clear from the start that we are not interested and we don't get the hard sell. In fact, our rep pretty much gives up on us and lets us leave early! They give us the money for the taxi back to our apartment.
We have a lazy day ambling around the farmers market and shops, buying little souvenirs. This is not a quick process because we always end up in conversation with the stall holders or sometimes the other customers. Everyone thinks we are Australian because they don't see a lot of English people out here because of the distance - only the occasional honeymooners. Tony has really gone island and keeps showing all the locals the "shakka". He's also bought himself a book on Hawaiian fish and tries to get Humuhumunukunukuapua'a into every conversation we have. It is one of the few Hawaiian words we can pronounce!
Monday 23rd November. Yet another early start (I thought this was supposed to be the relaxing part of the holiday)!! This time we have to walk to the Pier because we are going on a snorkelling boat trip. We are really lucky because there are only 4 of us plus the boat captain, Spencer. Once we get underway, we have a great view of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa and of course the lava rock coastline.
We reach our first stop - Captain Cook's Monument. We are the only boat here so have the entire bay to ourselves. This is a popular snorkelling spot because of the variety and abundance of fish to be found here. The waters are a beautiful turquoise and you can see clear to the bottom just by looking over the side of the boat. Whilst we're gearing up, Spencer tells us a little bit about the history of the area. When Cook discovered the Islands, the Hawaiian people believed he was a God and he was welcomed warmly. Upon leaving the islands, his boat ran into some difficulties and he had to return to make repairs. Because of this the islanders realised that Cook was not a God after all and were angry. The King ordered that the men Cook had sent ashore be taken hostage. This was a fairly typical process at that time and was simply the start of negotiations. However, Cook retaliated by firing cannons into the high lava rock face. Unfortunately, this sealed Cook's fate as he had unwittingly fired upon a sacred burial ground. He was killed in the battle that ensued. They nevertheless honoured him by cooking him and stripping the flesh from his bones before returning his bones to what remained of his crew, as was their custom at that time. The islanders were deeply religious and believed that your soul was contained in your bones and not in your flesh. This would have been a great concession by the islanders but I doubt whether the battle weary crew would have appreciated it at the time! In fact the burial rock face that Cook had fired upon contained the bones of Kings (similarly cooked). No one knew the exact location of the bones for fear that the bones would be stolen. A young islander would be chosen, lowered over the rock face and he would dig a hole and bury the bones. When he called up to confirm he had completed his task, the rope holding him suspended would be cut and he would fall to his death. He would have known what fate awaited him and considered it an honour to be chosen - that's what I call job satisfaction! The Hawaiian's have had a great fondness for England over the years and deeded a small parcel of land to the Queen of England. The parcel of land, on which a monument to Captain Cook has been erected, is located a few feet from where he died in battle. This parcel of land remains British Territory today.
This was my first time snorkelling and I'm not great with water so I opted for a noodle (about 4 times the diameter of a regular noodle) so I could concentrate on breathing properly and not worry about keeping afloat. After swallowing a bit of water when I first jumped overboard, it turned out to be a lot easier then I had imagined. In fact it was pretty fantastic. It was very deep but crystal clear all the way to the bottom. And it was warm as well! The array of coral, sea urchins and fish are amazing. The fish are not fazed at all by humans and allow you to swim really close to them - this is a marine conservation area and you are not allowed to touch them (or for that matter the coral reefs). I had imagined that being under water would be really peaceful and it is but it is definitely not quiet. There is a continual cracking noise in my ears which I hadn't expected. Our time at this spot is soon up and we climb back on board, each of us full of stories of our experiences.
Spencer powers up the boat and we head 10 minutes further South to "place of refuge". This time there are a number of other snorkel boats here and a few snorkels already peeking out of the water. Again, this is another historical spot. Many years ago, there was only one punishment for breaking the law - execution. Regardless of the crime or the motivation or provocation, you were simply put to death. There was only one way you could avoid this grisly end and that was to escape the King's men. If you could escape and successfully make your way to the "place of refuge", you would be exonerated for your crimes (again regardless of what heinous acts you might have perpetrated) by the holy men.
It's overboard again with my giant noodle (I'm strangely not embarrassed despite it's discreet canary yellow colour). This time the swells are beginning to increase and the water is a few degrees cooler. Spencer has warned us that we will be swimming against the tide to get back to the boat and to keep checking where we are in relation to the rocks as the swells will be pushing us in that direction. The fish in this spot are not as abundant but this time we are swimming with huge sea turtles. Tony lets me have a go with the camera this time and I snap away. After a while we head back to the boat (thankfully we have fins on otherwise I doubt I would be making any progress to the boat at all). Nicole is already on board sunning herself but on seeing me shouts "did you see the shark?". I shouted back that I hadn't and ask "Shark - for real?".She is insistent that there is a shark swimming around the boat. I'm still in the water so I stick my head under again but see nothing and climb aboard. I'm not sure why I'm not scared! I see Tony circling the boat and presume he's trying to get a photo of the shark. Shortly after he climbs on board and I ask him whether he managed to photo the predator. It turns out that he had been completely oblivious to the shark but nevertheless he puffed out his chest to express his manly bravery in swimming with one. I had to remind him that it wasn't "bravery" if he had been oblivious to the potential threat..........whereas I knowingly swam with the shark!!!
We head back to the pier with stops to view sea caves, arches, blow holes and old lava tubes. Despite the tidal erosion, the continual eruption of Kileauea means that the island is actually growing as lava flows in the ocean and is cools to form rock. The islanders speak of the Big Island as the newer of the island group. Beaches haven't had the chance to form to the same extent as the other islands because of the active volcanoes. But the result is the best snorkelling and most abundant marine life in the islands. Plus the lava itself is strangely inspiring. Our final stop is "End of the World" where Spencer points out the huge sea cave from which daring locals cliff jump. The swells are really picking up now so it's a choppy ride the rest of the way back - apparently there are high surf warnings in the rest of the islands already and the surf here is expected to become increasingly high during the course of the week.
Spencer ends the trip with a curious fact, "When you are under water, did you hear a constant cracking noise like rice krispies", he asked. "Yes" we answer excitedly, eager to learn the source of the noise. Well it turns out that the Parrot fish feeds on the coral and the noise we have been hearing is the parrot fish breaking down the coral and excreting it through its gils. In fact approximately 70% of the white beaches on the Big Island are made up of the excreted coral. A single parrot fish excretes around a tonne of coral every year - that's a lot of parrot fish poo!
We are starving now and, as Spencer gives us a coupon and recommendation, we head over to Splasher's Grill for lunch. The plates of food are mammoth and we only clear about half of our plates before wandering back to the beach for my customary laze and people watch and for Tony to snorkel and brag.
Tonight we are heading to the resort next door for a traditional luau and whilst I get washed up, Tony snores loudly from the bedroom. We head over and receive a shell lei greeting and mai tai. That goes down in 3 swallows so we collect another and select a seat for the nights entertainment. We are joined by a family from Chigago who have just arrived in Kona after spending a few nights in Hilo on the other side of the island. It was a really good evening helped along by the open bar, no doubt. It starts off by the ceremonial digging up of the kailua pig from the imu (earth oven). This is one of the traditional island delicacies. The pig has been wrapped in banana leaves then placed on smouldering ashes. This is covered with linen cloth and the whole lot is covered with earth.The pig has been baking in the imu for the best part of the day and as they remove the earth it doesn't smell good. One little boy even shouts into the respectful silence "that stinks, I'm not eating that" to the embarrassment of his mum. Fortunately, as the layers are removed and the pig itself is revealed, the smell changes to succulent barbecued pork and the little boy redeemed himself with a "boy, that smells good now".
Dinner was served which was a large buffet of local delicacies. I managed to make it look like I'd eaten a hearty meal. Fortunately there were a couple of things that were actually quite nice - the fresh pineapple was delicious.
Then it was onto the dances - this included several Polynesian styles that concluded with a fire dance. Tony seemed to enjoy himself and insisted on having his picture taken with a couple of the Hula dancers.
Tuesday 24th November. Today is the ocean kayak safari so it's up early to catch the first trolley bus of the day to Keauhou Bay. There are only 11 of us in the group and 2 guides: Brent and Cassie. We only carry stuff which we don't mind getting wet and that will float in the event we capsize. As Tony is bringing his own (did I mention expensive?) snorkel gear, Brent helps him secure it to the Kayak.
We are in a two man ocean kayak and it is clear from the start that Tony and I are going to have a serious fall out. I'm in the front and Tony takes the rear. The point I would make here is that I can see what is in front of us and Tony can't! We are asked to kayak a little way out in the Bay and hang around whilst the guides get into their kayaks. I say to Tony to stop paddling but he just paddles harder and we collide with one of the other kayak's. Naturally, I am irritated because he had ignored me, resulting in the collision. His defence is that he couldn't see! Exactly, I point out, that is why you are the muscle and I call the shots. I soon wished I hadn't mentioned muscle because he came over all Hawaii Five O and started leaning over the side of the kayak as he paddled from side to side, completely destabilizing the boat.
How we managed it I'll never know but we somehow reached our first rest point without either killing each other or capsizing. During the short rest, Cassie demonstrated how to exit and re-board the kayak in the water - without overturning it. She suggests we all give it a go. Tony, being a man, doesn't listen properly and thinks she has given us the go ahead to start snorkelling. He turns around and starts trying to untie his gear. He struggles with it and starts wrestling with it harder (yeah that'll work), tipping the kayak in the process. I put my legs over the sides trying to stabilize the kayak, as just demonstrated to us by Cassie. Tony seems completely oblivious of our precarious position and starts yanking on the snorkel to free it. I'm just thinking to myself, that I am going to kill him if he doesn't stop when he manages to free the gear and tips us both into the ocean is one go. All I can do is glare at him as we retrieve our floating items. Remember the items that don't float have to be secured to the kayak - so what do you think sunk 60ft to the bottom of the ocean floor? You've got it Tony's expensive snorkel gear! Cassie tries to locate it and would have attempted a free dive to retrieve it but there is no sign off it.
Once we are back on board, we push on to a sea cave at "End of the World". The swells are increasing so we are unable to enter the sea cave because we would be pushed up onto the rock. The sea cave is also the site where the locals cliff jump 35ft into the ocean. As we watch, 2 "cliff jumpers" get into trouble as they are thrown perilously close to the rocks during a series of high swells. Brent kayaks over and the 2 hold onto his kayak as he paddles them to safely away from the rocks until they can reasonably safely start the 35ft climb up the vertical cliff face.
We are offered the opportunity to do the cliff jump, and without actually agreeing, I found myself exiting the kayak and swimming (sort of) to the cliff face. Another series of large swells commence and we are required to tread water to avoid being smashed into the rock. Then one at a time we allow the swells to push us up against the rock so that we can start the 35 ft climb. It is scary as hell and I haven't even looked down yet. We wait for a break in the large swells and the first of our party jumps. The next person bottles it after looking down and graciously steps aside for me to go first. I look down and my mind boggles that I've put myself in this position. I don't think I can take the next step but there is no other way down. The cliff face we have climbed is sheer and would be too dangerous to attempt in the opposite direction. Cassie has warned us to keep our eyes open and look down when we jump to avoid tilting backward and getting "spanked" as she called it. I start to launch myself off but bottle it at the last second. The previous "bottler" offers to go before me and just jumps. She hoots with excitement. The swells are starting to increase again and I realise I have to go now - Tony and Cassie still have to jump behind me. I get as close to the edge as I can and jump. When I hit the water and go under, I swallow some water (again) and come up coughing. It is the scariest thing I have done to date. I feel really proud that I managed to do it - albeit Hobson's choice. It was a little painful hitting the water and I think one cliff jump in a lifetime is enough for me. Tony follows me down and gets "spanked" in the process. He really got a kick out of it. The swells have increased significantly now and Tony and I fight the current to get back to our kayak.
We paddle on to a quiet bay for a spot of snorkelling and a picnic whilst floating on the ocean! On the return trip, we paddle closer to the coastline, squeezing between the rocks which we would never have coped with on our way out, even without the high swells. It was quite a turbulent paddle back but we make it without Tony capsizing us again!
Before ending back to Town, we relax on the beach for an hour to dry off. Back in town, our main mission is to replace Tony's lost (sunken) snorkel gear and he decides to get some fins as well. Tony has now spent a total of $200 on snorkel gear - hopefully, he'll take more care of this latest stuff. The rest of the day is spent on the beach with Tony test driving his new gear.
Wednesday 25th November. Tony is booked in for a surf lesson today so we have a relaxing start to the day - the lesson doesn't start until 11am. When we catch the trolley bus, we are surprised to notice that it is standing room only on the bus. We have failed to notice that a cruise ship has anchored a little way offshore and passengers have been ferried over during the last couple of hours. It has not been unusual during the last week for Tony and I to be the only ones on the bus but we are willing to share - the ship is only in for the day and will be leaving again shortly after sundown.
When we get there, I eyed up a spot on the beach where I planned to spend the day and wandered over to the surf shack with Tony. At the moment Tony is the only one in the class. The instructor encourages me to give it a go but I tell him I am convinced that I wouldn't be any good and it would be a waste of 2 hours for both them and me! He guarantees that I will be up and says that I will only have to pay if in fact I do get up. In addition, the lesson will be kept to just me and Tony! I decide to give it a go.
We get kitted out with surf shoes, rash vests and beginner's boards and climb over the lava rock into the ocean. We lay on our boards and started paddling. When we are some distance from the shore, Austin (our instructor) tells me to turn my board around and get ready because I'm going on this next wave! What the.......! Start paddling he shouts! I'm pretty pathetic at the paddling and he gives me a big push as the wave picks me up. I grip the board as I get to a crouching position. I release my grip and stand up. Am I doing it? My god, I think I'm actually doing it!Uh oh.....I'm down. I clambered back onto my board and start paddling towards Tony and Austin. I am really struggling with the paddling and am already wondering how I am going to last the 2 hours. I make it back to the guys and Tony is preparing to go. He's up briefly first time too before falling backward off his board.
We continue this process over and over again with varying degrees of success. Austin reckoned that on a good day in the course of an hour and half, you can expect to have 4 good waves.We've ridden about 20! My best ride had me on my feet shortly after being picked up by the wave and riding it all the way into the shoreline. I was heading for the rocks and I'm sure Austin must have be screaming at me to jump off my board but instead, I turned the board away from the rocks, falling off only after I had completed the turn. I started the long hard paddle back but I couldn't have been making much progress against the current because Austin came over to pull me away from the rocks, out of harm's way. Meanwhile Tony was having his own success and improving with each ride.
My next ride wasn't quite as successful and I fell pretty early on. Upon surfacing, I noticed this huge sea turtle swimming right next to me. Whilst I was distracted by the turtle, I'd failed to notice another beginner heading right for me and not making any effort to turn his board. At that moment, he fell backward of the back of his board, propelling it at an even faster rate toward me.I managed to get most of myself out of the way but the board still hit me hard in the arm.It hurt like the devil but I soldiered on. Eventually, Austin called time and we were to have one more wave each, after which we were to paddle ashore. It wasn't a good wave and whilst we were both up, the wave just seemed to flatten out. I was still up on my board but going nowhere so sat back down. Tony rode the wave as best he could and then paddled ashore. Austin came paddling over to me but was distracted by the same lad that had mowed me down earlier. The poor lad had a bad case of sea sickness!Austin took him ashore and handed me over to another instructor for one last wave. And what a wave it was! It was a repeat of my best ride of the day, complete with turn. I was elated to end the session on such a high. Unfortunately, Tony had been chatting up Austin's girlfriend and had completely missed my final spectacular ride! We both had a fantastic time and it was well worth the massive black bruise I am sporting on my arm.
We celebrate with a fantastic dinner at Bongo Ben's and a few cocktails whilst listening to the live music.
Thursday 26th November. Thanksgiving day and we are due to leave the island at 10.35 tonight. We are going to be really sorry to leave the island. Because we have such a late flight, we decided to reserve the room for a further day.
We strolled leisurely along Alii Drive to the beach for one last snorkel.I settled on the beach whilst Tony got straight in the ocean. There is another cruise ship anchored offshore but whilst there is a definite increase in foot traffic, a large number of the shops are closed for thanksgiving. It is an hour or so later that I notice Tony wasn't keeping me informed of his experiences as usual. I assumed he is just making the most of his last time and get back to my book. Eventually, he returns exhausted. It seems that he had got chatting to some senior citizen about snorkelling and she offered to take him further out. He readily agreed but it seems that they were at cross purposes. Tony was wanting to snorkel....she was taking him on one of her 6 mile training swims for the ultimate triathlon taking place in Kona on the weekend! After telling him to stop flapping his arms about and to swim properly, Tony tells me they swam out as far as the Cruise ship anchored offshore. He then begs the old dear to take him back in because the poor boy is knackered. She brings him back in and he apologises for potentially sabotaging her last training session before the big competition. He then waited for her to leave the beach before going in for one last snorkel.
Because we'd had a great meal at Bongo Ben's last night, we'd planned to have dinner there before heading home to pack. Unfortunately, like the majority of restaurants, Bongo Ben's had closed early for Thanksgiving! The only option available to us was Mexican. So, unwise as it may seem ahead of 20 hours travelling to reach Cumbrian Lakes, we had spicy food for thanksgiving.
We get home to pack and await our taxi before we head off to the airport. We hope this isn't our last visit to the islands but until next time, aloha and mahalo!