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November 25th, 2010

BIg Island, Hawaii

Urgh, the last few days have been epic! Both in good and bad ways. When we arrived after a bad flight with US Airways (we kept getting stuck at the tarmac) which took 10 hours, we got greeted at the airport with leis from Andy's parents. This is a family vacation, in fact it's my first vacation with a large family group in a long time. There are 6 of us, Andy's parents, Andy's sister and fiance, and us.

Sat night was chilling with mai-tais, then we took a walk to downtown Kona, and tried kava drinks. It's a dirty  muddy drink that supposedly made one felt mellow. It's gross! But Andy got some as cultural experience, and we were wondering if it's a scam.

Sunday, we went snorkeling at some beach that starts with "ka" and it was insanely awesome. There were fishes with rainbow irridescient colors and I saw a large sea turtle swimming peacefully next to me.

So, the trip for Maui, I had researched exhaustively for. But this Big Island trip I had not, mainly because I've been busy with other stuff, it was a family vacation, and I think after Maui I just wasn't as excited. Andy did a lot of the research though. But because of my lack of planning, I didn't bring my contact lens, and water shoes. Which meant that the snorkeling goggles couldn't close properly and it kept leaking ever few seconds. This was the first of several lack-of-planning suckage.

Lunch was Hawaiian fare at Big Island Grill, followed by hot-tubbing at our lodging. And then I was attacked by the most excruciating back pain that I've ever had.

It was so bad that when I had to stand up I was crying to Andy and my lower back was spasming. And the pain left a serotonin high afterwards. I spent most of the evening incapicitated. It sucked. I took a bunch of ibuprofen, was offered stronger pain-killers (Andy's father is a doctor) and I felt sad for myself that I was sick in Hawaii. But I did some research for alternative stuff online, and decided I was dehydrated and drank a bunch of water and coconut water (coconut being one of the supposed cures on earthclinic). All the online research seem to indicate that pulled back musles take 3 days to heal, and that's 3 days I didn't have. So I kept drinking water.

I went to the bathroom 7 times during my sleep. The first time, Andy had to get me up, and my back was screaming in pain. Seriously, the most pain I've ever felt in my life have been from neck and back. And that's saying something. The second time, Andy was asleep, so I got on my side, pushed myself up, on my hands and knees, slowly crawled towards an armchair, pulled myself up on the arms and the back of the armchair, and like an 80 year-old, gingerly walked towards the bathroom. It was that way for a few more times, and when dawn came up, I could get up easier. 

So everyone decided we were going to do the trip to Hilo, instead of hiking the volcano to make it easy for me. I had thought I might missed today but since I was feeling better, we all roadtripped to Hlio. On the way there were portugese donuts, a waterfall where I managed a 2 mile easy hike, and sightseeing at the Waipi'o overlook. Hilo was an underwhelming lunch at Ken's House of Pancakes, because the seafood restaurants we wanted to go to was closed. 

Then we went to a heated pool called Anahului at sunset and it was amazing. I loved it. But Andy's sister kept rushing us, because she wanted to see lava in the dark. So we only spent 30 mins at the pool, and it really annoyed me. Basically, when we were in Maui, Andy and I rushed to see everything in the island, and only the last 2 days did I just got to lie back and relax. Now that we have both Andy and his sister, the vacation feels even more like that. Like there's a Vacation Scorecard, and we need to earn as many points as possible. 

You're in a freaking springs, heated by lava underneath. The ocean is just next to us. Why. Are. We. Leaving? 

So, we rushed to see lava. And this was where things got crazy. First, Andy and his sister and her fiance didn't want to pay to see lava. And they found tourguides that were asking for 40 bucks. So a huge discussion ensured on whether or not we wanted to pay 40 bucks each, or in the dark, walk over dried lava, to find flowing lava and steam on our own. I was pretty mad at Andy because no one has lava-hiking experience and it was pitch dark. Also, Andy had been doing crazy stuff again on this trip, like going down stair wells underneath bridges that overlook fatal drops. He did this a lot in Maui, while I waited in the trailhead worrying, but this time, on the way to Hilo, he had accomplices: his sister and his dad. While his mom, me and Mike (his sister's fiance) worry about them. Gah.

So finally we decided to pay $40. We started the hike. The hike itself was amazing. We walked over 30 year old lava. It was gray and coagulated and looked like we were walking over solidified bubbles. WEIRD. There were rivulets of lava that had solidified. SO COOL.. But really hard to walk over. So we kept walking and walking, and we climbed over a ridge to fertile soil which overlooked the ocean. We were walking along the edge of the seaside cliff, in the dark, with our headlamps and flashlights, and the moon over us. SO COOL! But again, there were no time to take it all in, since we were rushing rushing rushing towards the lava. And if you don't look at where you're going you'll trip, which several people did. So finally I asked: "How much further to the lava?" And then the guide said we were halfway. That's when we figured out the the whole trip was 5 miles long instead of the 2 miles we thought, and it was a 4 hour trip. I was like: WTF? What happened to taking it easy for my back? And also, it was dark and we were exhausted, and the guide was keeping up a punishing pace for me. I got left behind once, and the guide was like: "If you can't keep up, you can stay on this bench here and we'll pick you up on the way back." I gritted my teeth and kept going, and the whole time was thinking: 5 miles? How did we end up in a 5 mile strenous hike?? So we kept going, and finally reached the lava spew.

Lava spewing. So cool! Like a huge cliffside with lava flowing out into the raging ocean! It was like sceince-fiction movie!

Amazing.

We walked on one month old lava with brittle crunchy surface, some of them had cracks where you could see lava below. And then when you touched the surface it was warm!! So amazing.

After taking forever to get there, I just wanted to take it in. I joked: "Well, we saw this for 10 mins, we can go now." And people actually were ready to go! WTF people? So people rushed to the next lava thing, which was supposedly live lava flowing inches from you. As opposed to large swathes of lava spewing in the ocean. Even coming this far was already amazing, and we passed other people who didn't get this far and wished us good luck and got our guide's number. We got to see lava-spewing from both sides of the cliff. Anyways, so we kept marching on, at this point I felt like I was in a prison march and I finally just said, "No." Not going anywhere else. So Andy and I stayed back, and the others went on to see the live lava which were setting bushes on fire. And I had an enjoyable time just watching fire spewing into the ocean and a cruise ship trying to get closer to the lava.

Then we hiked back home, it was midnight by the time we got to the car. Andy's mom drove us back, swerving sharply at times, through a road not recommmended for tourists in the dark. The whole family is crazy. And now I'm part of it!

Dolphins!

Yesterday morning started off slow and grumpily as I wasn't over my whole hiking 12 miles with a bad back thing. However, hiking through 1-month old lava was pretty cool, and it was a great experience. And then Andy's sister started talking to us, and I told her how I felt and we actually cleared the air as a group.

Andy and I started with lunch at Rapanui cafe, a New Zealand-Indonesian restaurant, and it was delicious. After that we rented kayaks with Andy's Sister and her fiance, and we drove it down to the bay where Captain's Cook monument rested. It's where he died, and then the locals saperated the meat from the bones and shared the bones around among the chiefs as a sign of respect. The British were horrified when they were presented with the bag of meat. And some went on a vengence campaign and attacked a village.

We put in about 30 mins paddle from where the monument was, and started kayaking towards it.

So in this bay, supposedly spinner dolphins come out and play with us. And our kayak vendor had told us, if you have a "calm heart", they will come to us. So we were all trying to calm our hearts, but no dolphins came to play with our kayaks. When we got near the monument, we started snorkeling.

Amazing snorkeling. I started following a particular rainbow fish, and each time he chomped at the coral for some food, I could hear "crunch". It was awesome. I stalked him for a while, and then heard Andy cry my name. I swam towards him and saw a big manta-ray! And then Andy dove down towards it, and the manta-ray avoided him. Then Andy left and I stalked the manta-ray, and it got up to my level and it was huge, it was as wide as my wingspan. And it swam like it was flying, the wings gently moving up and down. (Afterwards I found out it was not a manta-ray, it was a string-ray and it had a giant barb in it's tail which I thought was pretty, and was what klled Steve Irwin).

So then, someone cried "Dolphins!" And I saw just a flash of two dolphins entering the water. And I was so giddy with joy. I love dolphins!! We watched them for a while. Some swam underneath us, and we could see streaks of white in the water when they swam beneath us. Then one dolphin jumped in the air and did a 360 spin. And another one did as well! That's why they're called spinner dolphins! And there were a pod of them just playing around the waters.

Watching them play was just awesome. They were so agile and beautiful and when they swim out of the water to play or jump it was beautiful.

When it looked like things had calmed down, I told Andy to grab our kayak. We were in thie middle of the ocean with the other double kayak. And ours were tied to a tree far away. So Andy swam towards our kayak, and then we saw some dolphins play, and then they started chasing Andy! Then suddenly Andy was completely surrounded by dolphins and it looked amazing until his sister said: "Sometimes dolphins have been known to be aggresive towards human. It's rare." And then I started worrying about him. He was far enough away that I only saw his tiny head at times, but eventually he gave us the thumbs up and continue swimming towards the kayak. As I was waiting for the kayak, I was drifting in the ocean a little bit further from Andy's sister and suddenly I was surrounded by dolphins too! They played around me for a bit, and I saw a few jump up and down, and then they were gone. I freaking love dolphins.

There was a tourist boat in the bay, the only other group besides us there, and they started leaving, and they stole our dolphins. Apparently dolphins love playing in the wake of boats.

So we were the only people in the bay now, and we waited for the sun to set. The horizon was gray, there were rain-curtains in the distance, and the sun was a glowing orange gem slowly making its way down. When it finally set, it immediately began to rain, and we kayaked to the harbour and the guys hoisted the kayak up the car, and we got home.

Happy Thanksgiving you all! I am thankful for all the undeserved goodness in my life.