Black Sand Friday

Waipiʻo Valley, Big Island, Hawaii. A sacred place for Hawaiians, it was also the capital and permanent residence of many early Hawaiian Kings. © Carl Amoth

Waipiʻo Valley, Big Island, Hawaii. A sacred place for Hawaiians, it was also the capital and permanent residence of many early Hawaiian Kings. © Carl Amoth

Ok, so maybe it isn’t quite as exciting as getting up at 4:00 a.m. for Black Friday Sales, but spending a day exploring yet another magnificent slice of Hawaiian beauty certainly hit the mark for us.

Our time zone change has us up at 6:30 a.m. every day (for those of you that know me well realize this is NOT my vacation wake up time). The good news is it provides us ample opportunity to drive around this vast Island. Did you know that ALL of the other Hawaiian Islands could fit inside the Big Island? It’s true.

We weren’t up for a big brunch this morning and opted instead to try out a recommendation I received from Kevin, who I met down by the pool the previous afternoon. He and his wife have been coming to the Big Island for 11 years and have been married for 40! Needless to say, he has a good lay of the land around here.

Kevin recommended breakfast at Island Gourmet at the Queen’s Marketplace where he said we could get a full, delicious (generous portion) breakfast for $6.99. He was absolutely right on all counts. the breakfast sandwich was an actual sandwich not a muffin or biscuit and thoroughly LOADED with delicious sliced ham, a fried egg and cheese. It came with hashbrowns and at that price, it was an absolute great deal. I ordered a piece of chicken. I know, I know, for breakfast? Yes, but I didn’t realize how big Carl’s breakfast was going to be, or I would have just shared.

I love this market as it is filled with all types of tempting delicacies. WAY TOO MANY temptations. Chocolate Macadamia nuts, Chocolate TOFFEE Macadamia nuts, salami, cheese, Pringles (did I mention Pringles? Lovely, lovely Pringles?) Those of you that have followed previous blogs remember my affinity for Pringles, the ubiquitous vacation snack that can be found just about anywhere in the world, but I digress.

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Waipi’o River, Waipi’o Valley, Big Island, Hawaii. © Carl Amoth

We are off and driving heading Northeast again today with our sites on Waipi’o Valley. As is our normal routine, I read the tour books on upcoming sites and Carl drives. It is the perfect arrangement. Part of my reading is taking in our friend, Charlie Oliveria’s, fantastic and detailed notes and recommendations. Charlie moved his family over to the Big Island to live for about a year and as such, he was able to provide an insiders view as to how we could best spend our limited time. One of his notes stated that we must go into Waipi’o Valley. The book also says that in order to do that, your car MUST have 4WD. We don’t have 4WD, we have a Ford Fusion with an engine that has slightly more power than a motorcycle’s. However, the book does provide the name and location of shuttle service that will take us into the Valley.

 

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1,450 ft Hi’ilawe Falls, Waipi’o Valley, Big Island, Hawaii. © Carl Amoth

We headed to Kukuihaele and as luck would have it, we arrived about 15 minutes before the next shuttle with Waipi’o Valley Shuttle Service. After detailed conversation, Carl elected a customized shuttle option which would allow us more time in the valley and hence more photo time. This is a guided tour, and although we are typically more of a “go it alone” type of couple, this did appear to be the best option to get into the Valley. We were asked about bug spray, and of course we didn’t have any and OF COURSE I’ve already been bitten three times just since getting out of the car. The shop didn’t carry bug spray but instead had homeopathic drops that allegedly work instantly when taken orally. We had no choice, so we gave it a try. Ok, maybe it helped some, because perhaps I would have been eaten alive (Mosquitos love me… bleh), but I still got plenty of bites throughout the day. Carl—as usual—NO BITES. Not one. argh…

 

One of the wild horses of the Waipiʻo Valley, Big Island, Hawaii.  © Carl Amoth

One of the wild horses of the Waipiʻo Valley, Big Island, Hawaii. © Carl Amoth

We were so extremely fortunate to have Douglas as our driver and guide. His knowledge and ties to the Island provided an optimal experience both in emotional connection and knowledgable education. His Uncle lives in the valley on the side of the river with no power, phone, water services etc. We actually saw his Uncle a couple of times riding along on his ATV with his long grey dreadlocks flowing behind him.

Coast along theWaipi’o Valley, Big Island, Hawaii. © Carl Amoth

Coast along theWaipi’o Valley, Big Island, Hawaii. © Carl Amoth

Because of Douglas’ ties to the land through his Uncle, we were allowed to go to a protected area. As we move down into the valley, Douglas is a consistent stream of history and facts. We learned about the noni fruit. It is used as a natural anti-inflammatory medication, but has also been known to improve immune systems, cholesterol, blood pressure, etc. However, you must first get by the horrific smell of this “fruit.” It really smells like Limburger cheese, so potent that you can’t hardly get the smell out of your nose. I will stick to Advil, thank you very much.

We also learned about the sleeping hibiscus flower that is a red flower that hangs upside down and looks like it never opens up. According to Douglas, if you pull the blooms off the stem and suck the nectar, it’s a natural energy booster.

Douglas and Bev with a rare double hibiscus flower, Waipiʻo Valley, Big Island, Hawaii. © Carl Amoth

Douglas and Bev with a rare double hibiscus flower, Waipiʻo Valley, Big Island, Hawaii. © Carl Amoth

As we neared the bottom of the Valley, Douglas identified a carnation double hibiscus flower that he has only seen growing in Waipi’o Valley. He provided each of us with a bloom to press into a book (later he even gave me a magazine and napkins to use for this purpose so I wouldn’t ruin our guidebooks). As previously decided, Douglas dropped us off at the river so Carl would have more photo opportunities in this beautiful, isolated location. We made arrangements to be picked up later in the day after spending time at the beach which was just a short 15 minute walk from the river.

The black sand beach was gorgeous and the sand was so very fine and soft. There were surfers, boogie boarders and body surfers out catching waves and thankfully I had brought beach towels with me and enjoyed sitting and watching the surfers and the waves. The water, although initially feeling a bit cool, was really quite warm after the first 30 seconds or so upon entering. This was an incredibly relaxing and enjoyable day and a pleasure to watch the young kids take joy in natural surroundings. No technology here.

Black Sand beach of Waipi'o Valley, Big Island, Hawaii. © Carl Amoth

Black Sand beach of Waipi’o Valley, Big Island, Hawaii. © Carl Amoth

As promised, Douglas was there to pick us up and take us out of the Valley and he also presented us with detailed recommendations on other sites to visit during our trip. He was truly a stellar guide and I would highly recommend this service to anyone visiting the Island. Our bond was so quickly and intensely formed that Douglas kindly invited us back on our next trip to take us with his family on a personal trip to the beach, even providing his home number.

Sun setting off of the Kohala Coast, Big Island, Hawaii. © Carl Amoth

Sun setting off of the Kohala Coast, Big Island, Hawaii. © Carl Amoth

We are excited to get back to the hotel and get cleaned up for our dinner with Daerick and Nedrra Lanakila, friends of Carl’s (now mine) that he had the pleasure of meeting during the time he lived in California’s Bay area. We met them at Roy’s for dinner and it felt as if I had known them for years – you know, those kind of people that you just instantly fall into step with? The talk flowed easily and freely and before we knew it, the restaurant was closing and we were one of the last two tables to leave. The food was delicious, and the company simply delightful.

Surfing the Waipi’o Valley coastal waters, Big Island, Hawaii. © Carl Amoth

Surfing the Waipi’o Valley coastal waters, Big Island, Hawaii. © Carl Amoth

Kids playing on the Waipi’o Valley beach, Big Island, Hawaii. © Carl Amoth

Kids playing on the Waipi’o Valley beach, Big Island, Hawaii. © Carl Amoth

Surfer in the tube. Waipi’o Valley beach, Big Island, Hawaii. © Carl Amoth

Surfer in the tube. Waipi’o Valley beach, Big Island, Hawaii. © Carl Amoth

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Kona, Hawaii

The black sand coast of the Pololu Valley, Hawaii

Mokulele pilot, baggage handler, and flight attendant.

Mokulele pilot, baggage handler, and flight attendant.

Aloha! Back to the majesty of the Hawaiian Islands and the serenity of the “hang loose” lifestyle. We took a direct flight from Phoenix to Maui, and then a “little” hopper over to Kona. I had no idea how small the plane would be. It was a 9-seater, and the pilot pulled triple duty as pilot, baggage handler and flight attendant. No co-pilot—so I guess you need to have faith that the pilot is healthy and fit.

Bev next to our ride to Kona: Mokulele Airline's Cessna 208B Grand Caravan

Bev next to our ride to Kona: Mokulele Airline’s Cessna 208B Grand Caravan

Champagne and treats

Champagne and treats

It was a short 40-minute flight to Kona and then about a 25-minute drive to the Marriott. I had advised them in advance that we were celebrating our anniversary (albeit a month or so late) and low and behold when we got to our room we had a chilled bottle of champagne along with Tuxedo Chocolate covered strawberries. Thank you Marriott. In addition to that lovely gift, we also received a coupon for an additional two glasses of champagne at the hotel bar. I do so love champagne.

We were pretty wiped out from our travel day and elected to eat dinner at the hotel; the quality and service were quite good. Carl opted for the macadamia nut crusted Mahi Mahi and I had baby back ribs. We shared the crab and lobster bomb (divine crab cake-like balls) with truffle aioli. Yum. The ribs were so so, but the Mahi was delish.

With a three-hour time change from Phoenix, we were, of course, up quite early. We enjoyed dining outside this morning at the breakfast buffet and then set off to northern Hawaii. We went to the end of the Highway at Pololu Valley. We passed through Hawi, but everything was closed due to Thanksgiving.

We had been given a recommendation from a good friend to not miss Pololu Valley, and to be sure we hiked down to the black sand dunes. It was a very lush environment down the hill but the entire time I am thinking about how steep it is going down and knowing all the while, what goes down, must come up…

I Love Hawaii

I ❤ Hawaii

I prefer to hike UP and then on the back half of the hike, it is all down hill. This was the complete opposite, but, as it turns out, the uphill climb wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be on the way down. (Of course, I wasn’t carrying the 40lb pack of camera gear that Carl was carrying.)

When we got to the bottom, we found a cool swing made out of a large piece of driftwood and agreed it was a good spot for a photo. We walked around the beach and found the water to be very warm and turquoise in color. On our way back to hike up the trail, Carl found a large heart-shaped rock and in a moment it came to us – WE HEART HAWAII! Carl tried to talk me into hugging the rock for a photo, but I vehemently declined as I had already met my posing quota for the day. Carl, reluctantly, agreed to pose with the rock.

On a driftwood swing, Pololu Valley, Hawaii

On a driftwood swing, Pololu Valley, Hawaii

Later we consumed a non-traditional Thanksgiving dinner at Krua Thai (just ok), which capped off our first day. More tomorrow Haole’s. Mahalo.

Leaving Maui in route to Kona

Leaving Maui in route to Kona

Our New England Sojourn Comes to an End

Giordano's - Martha's Vineyard

Giordano’s – Martha’s Vineyard

We finished up Martha's Vineyard with a great late lunch/early dinner at Giordano’s (fabulous meatballs and pizza and great prices) and then grabbed a taxi back to The Victorian. Carl worked on photos for awhile and then we decided to head out for a walk in Edgartown around 9:00 p.m. The place was really lively (it was Friday night after all), but not nearly as packed as Oak Bluffs. Carl took a few evening city shots and then we found a nice restaurant, Alchemy, for a late night after dinner drink (well, we didn’t really have dinner, but that is irrelevant). Carl did, however, succumb to the temptation of one of their lovely desserts: maple flan with fried bananas. We also had a great conversation with the bartender who is a recently returned local who had been living in San Diego.

Hy-Line Cruises

Hy-Line Cruises

We were all packed and ready to go because we had a Ferry to catch at 9:20 a.m. the next morning. The taxi to the Marina was uneventful and the morning was so beautiful and the temperature was perfect. We rode on the top deck outside (as usual) and enjoyed a very smooth and gorgeous ride back to Hyannis on Hy-Line Cruises. We quickly grabbed a taxi to take us back to the Captain Farris House where we left our rental car. So, we are now at two taxi’s, one Ferry and one rental car on our journey home.

Victorian Inn - Edgartown, Martha's Vineyard

Victorian Inn – Edgartown, Martha’s Vineyard

My friend John Moynihan had warned me that the traffic could be wicked brutal on a Saturday heading back to Boston. Oh, boy, I had no idea how right he would be! We got to our rental car at 10:30 a.m. and our flight wasn’t until 2:35 p.m., so I thought we would have loads of time to drive the 79 miles to the airport. It started out fine but after about 30 miles the traffic came to a complete crawl, barely moving. Now we started getting nervous. After about 30 minutes of barely moving, we decided to take the next exit and see if we could drive around whatever was up ahead. We re-routed ourselves and seemed to be gaining some distance only soon to be stuck in small town traffic (probably due to lots of folks having the same idea). We worked our way back to the Interstate hoping we had cleared enough of the backup and again, at first it appeared to be moving pretty well.

That was an illusion because, again, traffic came to a crawl. It is now well after noon and we still have 20 miles to go. There really aren’t any alternate routes, so we had to stay the course we were on. At this point, we are both a little stressed out (you know how it is when your vacation is over and you just want to be home). We did not want to miss our flight.

Unbelievably, about 10 miles out, the traffic really picked up and we were moving at the speed limit. Now to find a gas station to fill up the rental car. I called Avis and found out there is actually a gas station at Terminal E at the airport. We filled up, returned the car and jumped on the shuttle bus to the airport at 1:20 p.m. Whew! We made it! Or did we?

We get to the USAirways check-in desk to print our boarding passes but there seems to be a problem. I am directed to the counter where we are informed that there was a mechanical problem with our aircraft and they had to switch it out with another plane. It turns out to be an Airbus 320, not a 321 that we were supposed to be on, and it is a smaller plane with fewer seats and only three rows in First Class, and guess which row we were booked in? Yes, the fourth row. So, not only have we lost our first class seats, we don’t actually have seats at all on this flight due to the smaller-sized plane. The gate agent assures me they are working on it, but we have to go to the gate to get seats. Due to my Chairman status, I will be the first priority to get open seats. Well then, what do you do? Nobody’s fault, no reason to get upset, we just want to get home and it’s barely a 2-hour flight.

We get to the gate and talk to Barry. Gotta love Barry. He immediately tells us that he is working on seats for us, but not likely he can get us in the front cabin (we already figured that wasn’t going to happen). He did tell us that he can absolutely get us seated together and he has already talked to the head flight attendant and they are going to service us as if we were sitting in first class. Now, I certainly didn’t ask for this (yes, I am a bit of a princess, but come on, I wouldn’t demand that type of treatment), but that was a very nice gesture on their part and I am sure it has much to do with the Chairman status. We had to wait until the very end of the boarding process, but true to his word, Barry got us seats together, and in row 7 no less.

We were given free drinks and then the first class attendant brought back literally two of every kind of snack that she was serving in the front cabin. As mentioned, it was a short flight and then we were in Charlotte and headed to long-term parking to get our Jeep and head home.

So, two taxi’s, one ferry, one rental car, one airplane and one final car later, and we were home Saturday night.

Great trip, great adventure, and that’s a wrap.

Sailing between Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket

Sailing between Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket

Oak Bluffs Marina, Martha's Vineyard

Oak Bluffs Marina, Martha’s Vineyard