Paradise – Star Party

D9

Today we head to Big Island: it’s the third island we visit and, as its name states, it’s the big one.

We have planned many adventures here, but not today.

So, after the flight from OGG to ITO, only 39 mins, we don’t have any specific plan. The only idea is to be part of the Star Party.

But first of all, we take our rental car and we drive to the hotel in Hilo: we have a nice room with a beautiful Ocean view.

After a quick check on the Net, we decide to go to a couple of hot springs and then to Mauna Kea (yes, Star Party).

We need to buy a few things and we stop at a Walmart: it’s the first time I enter in one of this big and popular mall….what to say? It’s big…. you can find almost everything…. you can make some very good deals… you can also find stuff that I didn’t know (probably even expect) that they existed…peanuts butter spray?!?!?!

Anyway, quick shopping and with some snacks we head to the first warm water pond. Thanks to the volcano’s activity, water coming from the mountain becomes hot and gets just warm when it reaches this pond close to the ocean. Palm trees and volcanic rocks build a unique landscape.

But we need some warmer water….so after a while we move to the next one.

It’s not easy to find and we need to ask for direction a couple of times.

A very nice small path through the jungle along the sea brings us to the pond

 

It’s much smaller than the first one, but the water is much warmer and the location is even better!

 

We spend some time here, just relaxing. A nice lady is snorkelling in the small pond taking out a few rocks; I try to think about any possible reasons for that, but I don’t get any reasonable conclusions.  Emma is thinking the same, but she has not all the filters that we adults have, so she asks directly:

“What are you doing?”

“I don’t know…”

Emma just freezes (I would like to be in her head, like the movie Inside-Out, and see what she is thinking now…), but it is an ice breaker and we start a interesting conversation with the snorkelling lady.

It will take 1.5 hrs to get to Mauna Kea, so it’s time to go.

It’s a dormant volcano that reaches 4200m. Our target is the observatory and visitor center, which are located at 3000m ca. Different temperature, different outfit. The Tour-Operator had planned for that as well…. We dress up more or less like in Denmark and we head to the mountain.

The road becomes steeper and steeper. Now altitude is something that you can really feel and we start driving inside the clouds. It’s like the fog, but it’s magic.

At least it is what we think…. as we don’t know that the magic is actually waiting for us.

We pop up on top of the clouds and it’s sunset time: it is unbelievable; we have never seen anything similar…

 

We arrive at the observatory and it is really dark.

We find out that many people actually had our same idea: the star party is a stargazing event, where students explain the constellations, tell story about stars and answer to visitor’s questions. Of course, big and powerful telescopes are placed all around and we can see very far away stars…

The constellations are so bright that it looks like a different sky, almost fake.

Thank you,  light pollution…

Outside it’s quite cold and a cup of hot chocolate makes it easier to learn about the secrets of the sky.

A sign on the wall advises on how to drive back on the road: it is very steep and you have to use low gears. Ehm…what about cars with automatic gear?!?!?!

A little bit worried we head to the car, in the complete darkness.

We switch on the engine, led lights up inside the car and we discover that this car might be equipped for steep roads: the automatic gear has also an L, which we interpret as Low gear.

It is! A 1.5 hrs drive downhill with a tight grip at the steering wheel and almost no eye blinking brings us back to the hotel.

Safe.

Tired.

Energised by the magic of the day.

 

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Paradise – Waioka Pond

D8

It’s time to leave Hana and we are getting better to pack our stuff: we don’t spend too much time today for that and we are able to fill in the big luggage in a proper way (hopefully proper will equal to less than 50lbs).

We also find out that we were actually five in the house….

But before driving to Kahului we have a few places to visit.

Yesterday, on our way back from the National Park, Johnny mentioned a spot that we shouldn’t miss: its name is Waioka Pond, also called Venus Pool. The latter, together with words like “spectacular natural pool”, convinced us to make it our first stop.

Luckily Johnny is very precise when it comes to parking and hidden paths to follow: we could not have done it without our digital friend.

Expectation is high  and we are very excited!!

We were so tired yesterday that we haven’t even googled it (oh man…I used the verb “to google”!!!! impossible only a few years ago for me!!! 🙂 ), so we don’t have any idea about it.

After jumping over a small gate with the sign “Keep Out” (Johnny was very clear about it too – “it is there, but you are allowed to enter”) and walking in the bush for a few minutes, the spectacular jewel of the Hana coastline (as someone called it) appears in front of us.

WOW

We are speechless.

The blue water is quite deep and there are some tourists jumping from the rocks.

We can’t wait!

Sun is burning (it’s Hawaii, isn’t it?!?!), so we need sunscreen first.

Splash! Another one jumping and diving!

We are coming!!!!

Finally ready! We start with the lower rocks

Once confidence gets higher, we go to the next step:

We really love this place

Time to move.

Do you want to see how hidden is it from the street?

Here we go:

Johnny convinces us that a detour of some minutes is worth.

How could we not believe him??

And of course….it is worth, more than worth.

We jump in the Jeep again

and we are ready to go.

We have time to see the black sand beach only from above

It is time to go back to Kahului. At the hotel, the receptionist sees a tired family with luggage, various bags, flip flop with still the sand of the last beautiful beach, sea-salty hair and faces. She feels somehow that she had to help that family and she gives us a bigger room: customer satisfaction sky-rockets!!!!!

The room is actually quite big, so we decide we can have dinner here: I go to our favourite spot and buy the dinner.

It takes me a while to convince the guy at the shop that I cannot buy a six pack of my favourite beer because tomorrow I will get a plane.

Negotiation goes on, a nice conversation about local breweries takes place and then the request is escalated…. successfully !! 🙂

We can now relax in the room, getting ready for tomorrow (and starting to feel that time is flying too fast….)

 

Paradise – Kevin

D7

In the morning we understand the why for the first part of the name “Garden House Upper Residence”: they could not have found a better name!

After a banana bread and cappuccino we head to Hana “downtown”: in the day light Hana shows all its lost in time charm.

We enter into a small supermarket, that has always been here: prices are crazy, so we just give a look and on the way out I take one of those marketing leaflets, advertising activities in Hana; I like the colours and the pictures.

We wander a little bit downtown and then I put my hand and in the pocket: I find the leaflet… and it actually advertises a kayak&snorkelling activity. It doesn’t seem a bad idea… so we decide to give it a try and we call the number; the guy picking up the phone looks like a nice guy.

Usual negotiation 🙂 and the activity is booked.

Kevin, it is his name, turns out to be a perfect match for the town: time seems stopped for him as well. He has the look and feel of an experienced surfer who decided to work with tourists. He actually confirmed that “My parents planned for me a very good University in Switzerland, but that summer I went to San Diego… Cold mountain in Switzerland or sunny surfing in California?!?! I could have become very rich with my education in Switzerland, but now I am rich in a different way”.

No objections.

When we arrive at the appointment on the beach, Kevin is slowly and precisely preparing the kayaks. No hurry, man.

We are on vacation, so it is the perfect mood.

In the meanwhile, the sun has been covered by clouds, that are getting more and more black.

It starts raining. We are in a tropical place, but the temperature gets a little bit chilly (the chilly Denmark is on a different level 🙂 ).

Kevin provides us with a diving suite shirt; the snorkelling location is not that far, so we decide not to postpone.

Giulio and I are in one kayak and Emma and Susy in the other one. Kevin guides us. He tells us that he is also a nature documentary film maker, so we give him the GoPro and we can feel like explorers in a wild tropical island on National Geographic!

It is always strange to see the contrast between the worlds above and below the surface:

After a very good snorkelling session we come back to the beach. We say goodbye to Kevin:

and we drive South, under a nice and warm sun.

Johnny’s voice fills in the air with his story about a wonderful waterfall and we have to stop and see it:

Let’s shoot a selfie!

“Daddy, I want to hold the stick!!!!”

“No, I want to hold the stick!!!!”

“Ok, ok…take it easy”

Only one happy face at a time…. and funny to see the “I-don’t-want-to be-in-my-brother/sister-selfie-pict-but-my-parents-want-me-to-smile” face

A nice road leads us to the Haleakala National Park: the hike to the dormant volcano would be too long (many hours), so we decide to do a small one to another waterfall.

But the main goal here for us is the Seven Sacred Pools.

The walk to get there is beautiful:

For the first time we also see a pineapple tree!!!!

The Seven Sacred Pools are really nice and it is a pity that now bathing is too dangerous and forbidden

Sunset, time to leave

It has been a long day: we have just energies for a nice dinner and a last cheers

Paradise – The Road

D6

Today we will drive through the famous “Road to Hana”: it is a 64.4-mile-long road (yes, I have become familiar with miles, feet and gallons!! but still struggling with Fahrenheit …) that goes from Kahului to Hana; it has more than 600 curves and 54 bridges, most of which are one lane only.

One of my friend suggested me to download the Shaka app:

It turns out to be the must-have for this road trip: based on your location, the narrator starts to tell the story about the place, what to see, where and when to stop and many other local legends and history.

We make it more personal and call the narrator “Johnny”.

The first stop is at a surf beach: we just give a look from above because we are very curious to see all the rest.

 

Johnny suggests then to hike to a couple of waterfalls: the first one is just a few minutes of easy walk; the second one….well…. it is not a few minutes neither an easy one…

But it is memorable!

We hike through a thick bamboo jungle, under an heavy rain

we cross a small creek

and we wade a river

We continue walking through another thick bamboo jungle on the other side of the river, but after more than one hour we still cannot see the waterfall and we start thinking that we got lost…

10 mins later….we are pretty sure: we got lost.

Actually, the jungle is so thick that finding the way back is very difficult.

We try to follow the another small creek that hopefully will bring us to the river.

It will.

Back to the river, the family splits: Giulio and Susy aim just to seat in the dry car; Emma and I want to find the waterfall, that should be very close.

And it is: only a couple of minutes through the path that we didn’t see before!

A small detour brings us to a little village on the coast

Johnny also suggests to stop at an easy-access waterfall, in a Jurassic Park style

We are quite tired now and we can’t wait to get to our next “home”…. but we cannot resist to enter the Lava Tube!

So far, Johnny has been very precise in terms if time and location to stop, but we are pretty surprised when he says: “Now pull over the car and you will find the entrance for the Lava Tube on the other side of the road”

Ehm… should we really enter there?!?!!?!?

Oh yeah!!!!

It is so dark that the iPhone flash light cannot do that much…

Luckily other guys join us and everything seems easier (and less crazy 🙂 ); a walk in the dark Lava Tube and we are on the other side:

It is time now to drive directly to the Airbnb we have booked.

It takes a while to get there, so when we arrive it is quite dark and it is not easy to find it.

It is called the “Garden House Upper Residence”: in the late afternoon, with a dark sky, we can just get the second part of the name, “Upper Residence”. My knee sends many thanks to the 52 lbs luggage on the stairs… And the three girls living in the “Lower Residence” are very happy about Emma and Giulio running from one room to the other one!

In 5 mins drive we are in Hana: Johnny was right, it is a really small town where time stopped back in the 60s. At 8:00 PM we can find only one open restaurant.

We go to bed ready to spend the next day in this old-fashion town and neighbourhood.

 

 

Paradise – The Magic

D5

Breakfast in the sun at our favourite spot (Whole Food, of course)!

Today we drive North-West. The Tour-Operator (have I already told you that it’s me?!?!) did his homework and found out that fantastic beaches lay there.

Before reaching the Northern part we make a first stop: the beach is cool and the sea quite rough, so we rent a couple of Boogie Boards

Surfing the waves is really funny and we spend some time here.

Then, clouds and some rain come and we decide to spend the rainy time driving to the next beach.

We stop at a location that should be the one I noted down in my map on OneNote.

From the street, which is a little bit above the sea level, we can see the reef: luckily we still have the boogie boards, as the sea is rough here as well.

We wear on our masks

and swim to the reef.

Here is where the magic happens.

Since a long time I have been looking forward to the moment I could have snorkelled with my kids; but it was only part of the dream. I have been looking forward to spotting a sea turtle during the snorkelling.

And magically she shows up, beautiful, graceful and delicate as only a sea turtle can be:

We float and watch and feel the power of the waves and currents. We can’t stop floating, watching and feeling. We are a kind of lost in space and time. It is a so memorable encounter that, while walking back to the car, I wonder if this is one of the best days in my life.

I think it is, indeed.

Thanks kids, to be so brave and curious. And thank you, Turtle, who has decided to show up just here and just this afternoon. I also like to think: just for us.

Super excited we drive back to the hotel, where we have to pack our stuff: tomorrow we will move to the Southern part of the island, through the mythical Road to Hana!

 

 

Paradise – Maui

D4

It’s time to move to the next island: we know that O’ahu has still many other things to show, but we also know that we will spend two days here again at the end of the holidays.

Unfortunately we have to leave our lei in the hotel: they are made with real flowers and we cannot bring them with us

We get to the airport and we check-in: that’s where we face our usual challenge with internal flights…

It happened the same a few year ago in Australia, when, at the check-in desk for an internal flight, we weighted our luggage and it was out of scale…. we ended up in opening the luggage, taking out many things (you know that feeling of no privacy while pulling out underwear, dirty shirts, used socks from you bag….just in front of a long line of people waiting for you) and putting them in plastic bags (our hand-luggage!).

So, we go to the self service machine, we scan our electronic boarding passes, we put the luggage on the weight scale and we see the number: 53lb instead of 50lb. I think it is actually not that bad, only 6% in excess…. But I can see the expression in the face of the hostess close to me and I immediately understand that she has a different idea. I pretend I have not seen that number… but it doesn’t work. Thanks to the experience in Australia, we are able to balance the extra weight with some more room in the hand luggage. It is still not fun…but much better than Down Under!

After security checks Giulio says: “Hey! I miss grandparents”  And he goes to the public phone

Then he comes back and asks “Daddy, how does that work???”

Vintage technology lesson time…..

Maui, we are arriving!!!!!

We are going to spend a few days here and we need a car: Hawaiian marketing is funny even for tough topics, like Police fees

Check-in at the hotel starts at 3 PM, so we go and explore the South-West part of the island: we aim to a nice beach, but clouds are really black

And the black very soon turns to tropical rain and we need to stop at a small market….

Rain doesn’t stop, so we drive North-East and we find a very nice local art exhibition, in a beautiful spot

We buy a very nice glass turtle, hoping to see one in the ocean soon.

The curvy road that runs high over the sea level is an amazing welcome to us from Maui:

Close to our hotel there is a “Whole Food” mall that sells organic food, for take away as well, in a very organized manner: you choose among a big variety of food (salad, sushi, pizza – Giulio likes it very much! – and much more), you buy your favourite one and have a seat outside; a dispenser gives you cutlery, chopsticks included. The nice temperature and the easy setup make the dinner a real vacation time.

 

Paradise – Diamond Head

D3

We like Starbucks, mainly for two things: cappuccino and Wi-Fi. We need the first one to wake up: it is quite decent and it gets better with a soft and tasty muffin! We need the second one to organize the pick up with Uber (how much we like this service!?!?).

We don’t like Starbucks for the freezing temperature inside….

The black car drives us to Diamond Head: it is a volcanic cone in the Southern part of the island; we read that from its top panorama of Honolulu is great. An almost 1-hour hike in the humid weather confirms that: the view from here is really worth the tough way up!

The way down is easier, even if humidity is still high.

Once at the bottom of the crater, coconut milk is a very good relief.

We also get some friends:

The afternoon is dedicated to a well deserved beach

and a dive into the ocean:

The road on the back of the beach could not be more perfect….

A dinner in a local small restaurant is our “bye bye” to O’ahu: tomorrow we will leave for Maui and we are very excited!

Paradise – The Attack

D2

Excitement vs jet leg 1-0 and we are ready for the first step: visit to Pearl Harbor.

But, even if many websites and our hotel receptionist advice to be there very early in the morning, we think it is vacation time and we take it easy…. So breakfast (with a view)

and a quick glance at the famous Waikiki beach

An almost one hour bus ride brings us to Pearl Harbor

It is a good opportunity for a history lesson to the kids: World War II – the start with Nazi and fascist movements, the surprise attack to the naval base here, the US’ entry into the war, what happened in Italy and Europe and how it ended up (atomic bomb included).

The visit is quite interesting: there are many info about the attack and it is also possible to see the Arizona ship, which sank during the attack and has been left under water; this is the most important thing to see here and, apparently, it is the reason why many tourists get in line since 7:00 o’clock to take the free tickets (there is a limited number per day)…. maybe we are lucky, but we are able to get them also at our vacation time.

The bus brings us back to Waikiki and it’s beach time!!!!

Waikiki is one of those beaches you have been hearing about since when you were a kid… and now being here is fantastic: even if it is a cloudy afternoon, it is a lovely beach!

There are many people surfing and many other trying to surf: it’s interesting and funny at the same time watching surf-masters teaching pale tourists the basis of surfing. The surf board is on the beach; the surf-master (yes, beautiful tanned guy, with long hair – is it a movie?!?!?!!?!? 🙂 ) explains how to get up on the board when the right wave comes; in just a millisecond he goes from lying down on the board to standing up on it, in a perfect surfer position; not the same for the poor tourist…..

Emma/Susy vs jet lag: 1-1, so only Giulio and I go out for dinner.

It is Saturday and there is a fair with street food: we go for a pineapple with rice and shrimps. Really tasty….

After this only-men-Hawaiian-night we are also ready to sleep…

Paradise – Here we are!

One day 2017, Denmark

10-year anniversary needs to be celebrated with a memorable trip.

After a few spins of the globe lamp

we decide to fly into the middle of the Pacific Ocean: Hawaii.

For us, kids of the 80s, Hawaii is one thing: the red Ferrari roaring in a beautiful lush environment.

For kids today, it is something seen in many pre-teen TV series.

We will find out that it is actually much much more….

Many days (and nights) 2017, Denmark

The Tour-Operator (alias myself 🙂 ) spends a lot of time to organize the trip: overseas and internal flights,  bnb, hotels, condos, cars, activities….everything matching the puzzle of dates, locations, availability and things to do.

Did you know that Hawaii is actually composed of hundreds of islands??? Luckily, “only” eight of them are the main one: so, which islands should we visit??

After some nights and accurate analysis (“this island looks fully-booked” “oh, that’s a shame…… let’s go to the other one then!”) we opt for three: O’ahu, Maui and Island of Hawai’i (also called Big Island).

February 2018, somewhere in the sky and Hawaii

D1

The flight is early in the morning.
We had planned to pack all luggage last weekend at the latest, but as usual we did it yesterday.
We are very excited!!!
Taxi arrives, we say CU to Polly and we jump into our new adventure.


BLL-CPH is really short.
It’s only in the big plane CPH-SFO that we start feeling on holiday.
The Tour-Operator checked in and picked up very good seats in the front row: there is a little more room for the legs and you don’t have anybody in front of you leaning down the seat.
Kids get familiar with the entertainment system in literally 15 secs.
Plane takes off and, even if we can still see the North Sea below us, Hawaii already looks much closer!
The 11-hour trip to S. Francisco goes pretty well: movies, chats, lunch, sleep and we are landing.
In SFO we don’t have much time. We relax a little bit and we are ready to leave for HNL.
Now Hawaii is really close!!!!
We land in Honolulu after 20-hour trip from DK: being here makes us feel fresh and eager to explore!!!!
The Tour-Operator prepared a surprise at the airport: Lei-Greetings (you know, the Hawaiian flowers necklace that you can see in many movies). The most excited one was Emma, whose smile was huuuuge: she was actually the main target of the surprise.


A taxi brings us to the hotel in Waikiki: only seeing the highway sign “Waikiki” brings to our mind images of beautiful beaches and great surfers. A quick stop to check in at the hotel and we are ready to search for a restaurant. It is quite late and there are not many options: we opt for The Cheesecake Factory. It’s a chain and I have been in the one in Seattle, but here the Hawaiian flavor and influence is big. A local IPA officially kicks off the vacation 😊

A short walk in the warm tropical weather leads us back to the hotel. It’s time to recharge our batteries and get ready for the first day in Hawaii.

Again – Day 8+

More than one week has passed and the knee is healing well.

The situation is getting back to normal. Little by little.

I still need to stay home for a while, but we are having fun anyway.

In the weekend, during the Family Movie Time, we watched an old Italian movie, from 1992

(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ciao,_Professore!)

The movie is set in a small town close to Naples and it starts with kids speaking the dialect from there.

It was funny because we usually watch movies in English and kids get every-single-words.

With that movie, they looked at us and said: “We don’t understand a word!!!!! But…. What language is it??!!?!?!”

I couldn’t help laughing….

I think we should watch more classic Italian movies with kids, because it is a part of our background and culture that otherwise they will never get.

Seeing these 8 year old kids not able to go to school because they had to work, or  Raffaele, the young gangster, who speaks and acts like an experienced criminal, is almost a lesson for my kids.

Actually many. History and Geography, I&S (Individuals and Societies), Language (here we could debate if it is more Italian or more Naples dialect 🙂 ), Life…

The funniest scene? No doubt, here it is!

“The assignment about Switzerland”

😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂

Standing ovation for this kid!