Celebrating birthdays!

As the birthdays of Alice and Kaitlin are so close, they have celebrated them together many times. That wasn’t to be the case this year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. So instead, Alice decided she wanted to do something exciting and settled on a parasailing escapade in Kona. She was a little nervous and I, of course, teased Alice that she would be “screaming like a school girl”, but that wasn’t to be.

Heading back to the dock after our big adventure.

Alice had a great time – it was exhilarating and Alice was laughing all the way!

In the meantime, Kaitlin and Adam were off on their own adventure to a cabin in the woods of Colorado. There was plenty of snow and they were able to go snowshoeing along with Matilda their new puppy. It was a big birthday as Kate turned 30 (where did the years go?), and it was great to see that she and Adam were able to get away and relax from their busy lives.

Queen Kate on her big day!

So even though Alice and Kaitlin couldn’t be together this birthday, it was still a special event for both of them. Maybe next year it will be a dual celebration?

A Christmas like no other…

With COVID-19 cases still surging across the mainland, we jointly made the decision that Kaitlin and Adam would postpone their trip to Hawaii until mid-2021. Of course, there was never an option that Grant and Luke could make it to Hawaii given the very strict restrictions that Australia has placed on travel.

Alice and I made reservations to stay at Kilauea Lodge in Volcano for Christmas Day and Boxing Day as we had yet to explore the Volcano national park. This turned out to be very fortunate as Kilauea, which had been dormant for about 18 months had an eruption during the night of December 20. Not only was this spectacular but it meant the number of visitors to the park increased dramatically and of course all accommodation was quickly booked.

On the way to Volcano, we stopped at Punalu’u black sand beach to check out the turtles – there is usually one resting on the sand and we weren’t disappointed.

Being Christmas Day, the number of visitors to the Volcano park was relatively low, so we spent time looking at the various vantage points, but this mostly meant seeing the smoke plume during the day.

The next morning we got early – a little after 4am – had a quick cup of coffee and a snack to wake up and headed into the park. The sky was very clear, and I was happily surprised to see the Southern Cross above the crater – it’s not as bright in this photo but you can see most of it.

Southern Cross above the crater

We did some hiking around the steam vents and Sulphur banks and then headed back to the lodge for a nice breakfast. The lodge was kind enough to pack us a picnic lunch and we headed off on the Chain of Craters drive.

We were again in luck as although the number of park visitors had increased, we were able to find parking at each of the craters where we wanted to stop. It was amazing to see the number of craters, which were all very well defined.

One of the many craters in the park

Road damage from 2018 eruption

We also visited the petroglyphs left by the early Hawaiians, which was a reasonably short hike from the road and well marked and at the end of the drive we viewed the sea arches.

We had a brilliant time and returned to Kona to view a different sunset as the VOG has returned to Kona, although not as bad as it was before and during the 2018 eruption.

VOG sunset over Marley the Moose

One Year on the Island!

It’s a little hard to believe, but Alice and I have now been on the Big Island of Hawaii for a year. We’ve certainly enjoyed our time here and feel so thankful to be in such a beautiful, and relatively safe, place during the pandemic and the unrest occurring on the mainland and other parts of the world.

We’ve settled in well and are doing our best to both join and contribute to the local community. Alice is a part-time social worker and bereavement counsellor with Hospice of Kona (unfortunately getting more busy) and I’m a mentor and judge for the Island’s business plan competition sponsored by the Uni of Hawaii and the Small Business Development Center. I’ve also started volunteering at Habitat for Humanity a half-day a week.

We enjoy outdoor activities including paddling with the Keauhou Canoe Club (in 6 and 12 person outrigger canoes), hiking, going to the gym, and Alice has taken up “bobbing” in the ocean with friends (yes, it’s a thing!).

We recently purchased roof racks for the Jeep as well as two special kayaks which we’re looking forward to using to explore more of the local bays.

The kayaks arrive home on newly-installed roof racks

For our one-year anniversary, we stayed overnight at the Jacaranda Inn in Waimea (about an hour from Kona in the hillside country). For the first time since the pandemic started, we ate in a restaurant, although we felt very safe with temperature checks, socially distanced tables and staff wearing masks and gloves.

Our first time in a restaurant – masks came off!

We also went for a horseback ride on a beautiful property on the side of an old volcano that had tremendous views along the coastline.

Man from Snowy River – not!

What a great way to celebrate our anniversary, and of course, we are still enjoying beautiful sunsets!

Aaah…

Continuing the Covid Clamp-down

This year is turning out very differently to what we had expected and very different to last year when we traveled extensively.

Hawaii is handling the coronavirus really well – certainly much better than most of the US mainland with 14-day mandatory quarantine for all people arriving on the islands and mandatory distancing and masks (at least in the county of the Big Island). This has resulted in very low infection rates and deaths, although it has also meant no tourists with a subsequent dramatic effect on the economy.

We’ve still managed to enjoy life (of course living in Hawaii makes that pretty easy) and participate in a number of activities. First up was a virtual Anzac Day celebration complete with home-made sausage rolls.

Alice and I managed to get some long-overdue haircuts (we were really getting the “Covid-shaggy” look). Alice’s hairdresser was kind enough to come to our house and give us the backyard “do”.

Next up was Mother’s Day, complete with presents, flowers and cake!

Memorial day was made more fun with a virtual “Bolder Boulder 10K Fun Run”. We had completed this multiple times when we lived in Boulder, so it seemed right to participate remotely.

Proof! Turnaround point on our scenic, coastal route.

Our wonderful daughter, Kaitlin and her husband Adam also made the lock-down more fun by organizing events and providing me with some additional activities. The first of these was a chalk art competition where I tied for first place 🙂

For Father’s Day, Kaitlin also sent me a kit for making more “hooch”, which I’m now in the middle of aging.

Kaitlin and Adam then organized a very fun “Murder Mystery” evening over Zoom, and we were joined by Adam’s dad and his partner. I was playing “Papa Vitto” and turned out to be the murderer.

Way fun – Kaitlin had sent us all props for our characters.

We had an adventure of a very different type as we joined the Big Island Jeep Club on an off-road adventure to a local black sand beach. We had the “most whimpy” Jeep in the pack but managed to handle the track just fine in 4WD low range, although I have to admit I held my breath a couple of times as we went over boulders and down some large drop-offs.

Our Jeep is the orange one – we were asked how it went over the rough stuff…
quite well as it turned out!

We celebrated 4th July with hot dogs and beer. There were plenty of fireworks that evening that disturbed sleep for Alice and Josie the cat, but I managed to sleep quite well.

During this time, we continue to have beautiful sunsets! Stay safe and healthy!

Coping with Covid

Like most people in the world today, we’ve been affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Hawaii is under lockdown until the end of April with essential workers only being allowed to travel to work, all beaches, restaurants, bars etc closed, and schools, the University, and church services all online.

We’re certainly in beautiful part of the world to be sitting out the pandemic, practicing social distancing and only going out to pick up some groceries and other necessary supplies. This has lead to some unusual sights including eerily quiet streets.

Ali’i Drive is normally busy with vehicles, joggers and bike riders

We can still exercise by walking in the morning and using weights at home. We also purchased a rowing machine which has been very useful as we can no longer go paddling with the outrigger canoe club or go to the gym.

During this time we celebrated our 31st wedding anniversary and enjoyed some online entertainment in the form of live streamed shows by our friend and fellow Aussie/Kiwi LT Smooth who lives on the Big Island, and have tuned into Jimmy Buffet concerts that from previous years that were broadcast again.

LT Smooth playing on our Anniversary

I also got to act as a zookeeper from Australia after Kaitlin’s school closed and the planned zoo visit had to be cancelled. Even though school moved to online delivery the kindergarten students were very disappointed about missing the zoo – hence “Zookeeper Wayne”. Of course the content is not really accurate but at least the kinders liked it!

I hope everyone is staying healthy and being kind to themselves and each other during this crazy time.

Visitors and some Adventures

February and March saw some visitors come to our island – first was Linda from Seattle and then Sandy from New Smyrna Beach. It’s great to see our Ohana (guest house) being used to provide some relaxation for special friends.

Alice has to meet all of our visitors at the airport with a lei and a smile (thankfully she reserves the whacky outfits for family)! While Linda was with us, we attended a wine tasting event at Gertrudes, a local jazz bar, went to the “Best of Kona” festival, and also had birthday dinner for Alice at Rays on the Bay at Keauhou Bay.

We also celebrated Alice’s birthday with ziplining, which was on her bucket list and was a very fun experience. There were a few squeals along the way but it was a great day.

Our next visitor was Sandy, who Alice has known as a surrogate mother since her teens. We again packed plenty of activities into a short time period, and enjoyed a dinner cruise to Kealakekua. The scenery was great, we heard some historical facts we weren’t aware of and saw quite a number of dolphins as well as a great sunset complete with green flash. Sandy also made friends during a coffee farm tour – Kona coffee is the best!

In between visitors, Alice and I managed to have some adventures of our own. We did the hike to (3 miles each way and rather steep climb back) Kealakekua Bay where Captain Cook was killed after he overstayed his welcome and mistreated one of the local chiefs.

We also went to Hilo for the Panaewa Rodeo Stampede. This was a great event, very local, with many children participating in addition to the adults. We stayed overnight and attended Cowboy Church, which was a highlight for Alice.

Like everyone-else, we are also dealing with the impact of COVID-19. While the number of cases are very low on the Big Island (all tourists so far), we are practicing social distancing and limiting our trips to shops and such. We try to get out and get some exercise on trails that are out of the way and not well patronized.

I’ve also taken up cooking with a sausage roll splurge and making Irish soda bread.

I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy. As Alice says, let’s get through this with our dignity intact.

Settling into our new life!

We’ve now been “on island” for four months and are slowly settling into our new life. We had our former nanny, her husband and their two sons (Alice’s adopted grandsons) in for Thanksgiving and then Grant and Luke as well as Kate and Adam joined us for “Chrismukkah in Kona” – it’s now a thing!

We had brilliant time together and Grant and Luke also stayed to celebrate New Year’s Eve with us – a great way to start the new year.

The replacement for my Holden Ute showed up from Texas and it was a much smoother process to get it registered and titled here – thank goodness! A 2006 Chevy SSR – complete with 6.0 litre V8, 6-speed manual transmission and hard top convertible – styling 🙂

We’ve taken up water sports – kayaking, paddle boarding, snorkeling and we joined the Keauhou Canoe Club and go outrigger paddling each week.

We also try to give back to our new community. Alice now has a part-time role as a counselor with Hospice of Kona, we help feed hungry children and homeless adults each week with the Kona Rotary and we are taking an Hawaiian History class at the Uni of Hawaii Community College.

I hope to start doing some guest speaker / workshop facilitation at the Uni of Hawaii Business College in Hilo – we’re finalizing the arrangement as well as participate in the Big Island Business Plan competition as a mentor / judge.

We recently went to Honolulu for a conference on tech startups and the journey there by Mokuele Airways was a tremendous fun as we saw a number of whales as well as some spectacular scenery, particularly as we crossed over Molokai.

Honolulu from the air

Of course we still get to enjoy stunning sunsets from our lanai! All in all a great lifestyle for us to enjoy.

Moving to Hawaii – Kona Style!

We have finally moved to Kailua-Kona and it has been a busy five weeks that we’ve been “on island” so far. Our to-do list has been quite long in order to clean up the house and the Ohana (guest house), do some work on the yard and settle in with cars, some community events and starting to find our way around the town.

We had some bad news before we even landed as it seemed that there were some issue with getting the Ute registered in Hawaii even though it had been titled and registered in both Colorado and Washington. Sure enough even after I made a personal representation to the DMV, the state refused to register it (it didn’t have a Federal safety sticker on the door jamb) and so it had to be sent back to the mainland to be sold. What I find ludicrous is the number of obviously very unsafe vehicles that continue to registered in Hawaii – I’m not bitter really 🙂

On the good news front, Alice’s new Jeep was waiting for us and it looks very cool – and orangey!

The new Jeep and Ute before the Ute was shipped back to mainland.

After a traumatic flight over, Josie the cat has settled into the Hawaii lifestyle. She has lost wait and is very alert due to the bird life and the various new sights, sounds and smells. She is also quite the efficient cockroach hunter.

There’s been plenty to do around the house – to be expected after 18 months of short term rentals. Of course living next to the ocean also means continuous maintenance to take care of.

We’ve also taken the time to have some fun with kayaking and hiking with a meetup group. We also enjoyed community events with a Coffee Cultural Festival parade and a twilight Hawaiian concert.

A great way to spend the evening – with beautiful music at a historic location.

We also had the pleasure of hosting a Kiwi family for a bar-b-que. I had worked with the son and his parents, sister and brother-in-law and (much to Alice’s joy) their toddler all joined us.

Of course, our most favorite activity has to be viewing the sunsets from our back yard. Each evening seems to be slightly different although equally beautiful and we’ve also enjoyed a few “green flashes” as the sun disappears below the horizon, although these require just the right conditions and a little luck.

With sunsets, comes the necessity to have sundowner cocktails, and Alice and I have been working on our Mai Tai recipe. I don’t think we’ve quite mastered it, but we’re getting close!

Mai Tais made with Aloha!

Fun Times Downunder

Our last major trip during our “gap year” was to Australia. We planned this to be soon after Grant returned from an overseas deployment and it was truly wonderful to see him safe and sound. We had a brilliant time including visiting with a number of relatives and friends as well as taking a road trip from Sydney to Brisbane via Canberra.

We started in Sydney after an uneventful flight during which both Alice and I managed to get a reasonable amount of sleep. Our hotel was right on the water almost directly under the Sydney Harbour Bridge. This gave us great views down the harbor, including the Opera House and across to Luna Park.

We had arrived early in the morning, so after a shower, we headed over to the Ferry Wharf and took a ferry to one of our favorite places, Manley, which has the harbor on one side and the beach on the other. We were lucky to have such a wonderful, sunny day to help us acclimate to the new time zone.

That evening we had dinner with my sister and her family, which is expanding with new in-laws.

We were feeling quite refreshed the next day as we picked up a rental car and headed out of Sydney, dropping in to see some friends on the way. We made it to Canberra and spent some quality time with Grant and Luke. Canberra has certainly grown up since the time in the ’80s when Alice and I lived there. Some of the more seedy areas are now gentrified with bars, restaurants, coffee shops and chic stores. Alice lamented that she missed the “old” Canberra.

Canberra is one of the few fully-planned cities in the world

We also got away for a couple of days to Mollymook, where Alice saw the first of several kookaburras she would take great delight in during our visit.

After some more days in Canberra hanging out with Luke (Grant had returned to Brisbane), we headed out on our road trip to Brisbane. Our first stop was in Bathurst, where we stayed in the old police station which has been converted into a luxurious bed and breakfast. The next morning, I had to to take the opportunity to drive around the famous Mt Panorama racing circuit as I had taken a keen interest in the races held there when I was growing up. Unfortunately, Alice wouldn’t let me drive fast even though the hoon in me was telling me to floor the accelerator.

On the next leg of the trip, the Sat Nav in the rental car took us on a very interesting route which included a narrow dirt road which was full of curves and a one-way bridge.

Next on the itinerary was a couple of days in the Hunter Valley wine country, where we stayed in The Convent Resort, which had been a convent in the early 1900’s before being converted into a luxury resort in the late 1990’s. We’ve stayed here before and once again enjoyed it, made more special by the visit of Eric and Deb Schwantler. I had worked with Eric previously in Sydney, and we spent more time together when they moved to Denver when we lived in Boulder CO.

Our friends Deb and Eric in front of The Convent

While in the Hunter Valley, we went for a walk and came across a mob of kangaroos. Alice managed to video one as it jumped across the road.

Then it was off for an overnight stay in Coffs Harbour, before spending some time Coolangatta with my uncle and aunt, Lou and Meg. It was great to visit with them at their tremendous apartment on the Gold Coast, and share family stories as well as our experiences in various parts of the world.

Next on the agenda was a visit to the Sunshine Coast to visit with our friends Peter and Nereis Long. Peter and co-founded myDIALS, and we had all become close during that time as Peter had stayed with us quite a bit in Boulder and then Peter and Nereis moved to the USA to help grow the business there.

Obligatory “selfie” while hiking along the Noosa coast

Finally we made it to Brisbane and got to spend some more quality time with Grant. This also meant Alice spent time entertaining the “grand-kittens”. My nephew, Peter also came down to Brisbane to visit with us, which was very special.

Dinner with Grant and Peter overlooking the Brisbane River

We visited the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary where Alice delighted in the koalas and we also saw platypus, Tasmanian Devils, dingoes and wombats as well as more kookaburras and cockatoos.

Of course no trip to Australia is complete without buying some goodies to bring back to the USA.

We had a great time in Australia and are now back in Seattle, making the final preparations for our next adventure, which is our upcoming move to Hawaii.

Amazing African Adventure

Continuing our “gap year”, Alice and I just returned from a wonderful, adventure-filled trip to Tanzania, which is not only a beautiful country with magnificent scenery and wildlife, but filled with the most friendly, charming and accommodating people.

We started our journey with a few days in Amsterdam which I’ve always enjoyed visiting but Alice had never been there. This was a great way to break the trip over and we visited a number of the museums while also enjoying the magnificent summer weather.

A beautiful day for a canal cruise in Amsterdam

Then off to Tanzania where we began our adventure in Arusha. We spent time in Tarangire, Lake Manyara, Lake Eyasi, Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti reserves. At each location we had many close encounters with the various animals and bird life, thanks to the capability of our wonderful guide/driver, Iddy, who escorted us for over a week until we flew to Serengeti where we enjoyed another great guide, Yuana.

Just a small part of the great migration – wildebeests, buffalo, antelope, zebras and more

We stayed in a variety of excellent lodges and camps, which were all luxurious and provided different experiences. While each was special in its own way, the Tarangire Treetops and Grumeti Serengti Camp (where we were serenaded by hippos) were our favorites although the Ngorongoro Crate Lodge was simply spectacular (“where Maasai meets Versailles”) and Ziwani at Lake Eyasi also had a very different feel.

Opulence at Ngorongoro Crater Lodge

The highlights for us were not only the quantity and diversity of the wildlife, but we participated in some very memorable cultural activities. We visited a school where we spent time with a grade 7 class and dropped off school supplies, spent time at a local market that happens once a month and visited with the Datoga tribe who continue to practice traditional blacksmithing as well as the Hadzabe bushmen, a truly fascinating people who continue to live they way have for centuries by hunting and gathering. Their language is very interesting and both Alice and I had unique experiences – Alice went with the women to gather root vegetables while I spent time at bow hunting practice with the young men.

One of our favorite memories – dancing with Grade 7 class
Alice and I were the only non-locals among a crowd of thousands at the market

Another highlight was the balloon ride over the Serengeti – a bucket list item for Alice although she was a little nervous about the “astronaut” position for the launch.

Balloon view provides a sense of the vastness

After we finished the safari portion of the trip, we flew to Zanzibar which has a truly fascinating cultural mix and a very interesting and sometimes sad history including being a major center for the African slave trade. We spent one day touring Stone Town where we again we had a very knowledgeable guide, Talib, who made the information come to life. During this tour we visited another school – this time a grade 1 class which was also very interesting and fun. We also saw the house where Freddie Mercury of Queen lived as a boy.

We finished our Tanzania adventure with a few days at Baraza beach resort (named the best boutique hotel in Africa) for some rest and relaxation.

On the way home we stopped in Dubai for a couple days (I’ve transited the airport before but never stopped). This was very interesting for us to experience a very interesting culture – 1.4M Emeratis and 8M expats – as well as the spectacular architecture, modern buildings, roads and infrastructure and of course the obvious wealth. We also managed to have two high teas in two days – at the Burj Al Arab and the Burj Khalifa.

We very much enjoyed our African adventure and it was a bucket list item that met all expectations. Now on to more adventures!

The sun sets on our African Adventure