09.04.2011 - 09.04.2011 20 °C
Another beautiful day in paradise. Day started early for Weary and Conductor with both enjoying their last morning at the King Kamameha Kona Beach Resort ($138 per day). Brekky was cereal and yoghurt eaten on the pier at Kailua-- just gorgeous-- sun was shining, sea was calm food was good! Today was our last day at Kona with us spending the day driving over to Hilo.
First stop on our drive (organised by Conductor of course) was the Waipio Valley. Extremely steep sides and very deep valley. Conductor put the car into 4wd and off we plunged almost straight over the side of the gorge! The bottom of the valley was very lush and rainforest like with a huge waterfall at the western end of the valley (the tallest waterfall in Hawaii). Surprisingly there were heaps of people walking in and out of the valley (trust me there was no way I would even attempt the walk down-- VVV steep-- the car struggled at times!). I think that was probably because they didn't have 4wd-- if you didn't have a 4wd they wouldn't even let you start to descend into the valley-- or were too cheap to take the bus in.. (not sure how much). The drive in was really worth the effort even if it was only so that Conductor could use the car in 4wd!
After leaving Waipio we went back to a nearby town (Honokaa) to have morning tea and have a look around. Found a really cool souvenir (you will all have to wait to see) and bought some yummy fudge. We then began our drive to Mauna Kea (the highest peak in Hawaii).
The drive up to Mauna Kea is really interesting. First stop is to drive along the Saddle Road. The road got a really bad wrap on trip advisor as being really dangerous etc etc.. but geez it is a better road than half of the country roads in AU!! Definatley better than Inner Road at Austral Eden.. and more than fine to drive along with or without a 4wd.. The road up to Mauna Kea itself is a bit different. You must stop at the visitor center which is at 9000ft to acclimatise and get some goss on the rest of the road. At the summit it is normal to feel some effects of Altitude Sickness so you need to get your body semi used to the lack of air and difference in air pressure. The road seems to go straight up (although it doesn't it does keep doing switch backs) but it sure is amazing when you see these white specs way up in the clouds which are cars climbing the hill! We made it to the summit although we didn't get out of the car (the temp was only just above freezing and the whole summit was covered in cloud- a complete white out) but we saw some vague shapes that are the big observatory towers. Probably not that surprising but the summit was blanketed in snow.. yep snow in Hawaii!!!!
Mauna Kea is one of the best places in the world for astronomers (although not today because of the clouds) and it would have been great to see on a clear day.. Oh well.. On the descent from Mauna Kea (again you need a 4wd to ascend passed the visitor center.. another chance for Conductor to put the car into 4wd) the fuel warning light came on causing Weary some stress.. I truely thought we would have to ring AA to come help us fill up the car because the drive from the summit to Hilo was almost an hour... but we made it just in the nick of time.
Hilo itself is more of a city than what Kona is.. Kona is definatley the tourist mecha.. Hilo is well, a city! We're staying at a fairly run down back packers (not the best choice from Conductor, but you can't pick them all) but we did have a really nice steak and vege dinner which has more than made up for it. Tomorrow back to the volcanos with a plan to stay back until after sunset to try and see lava!