Giving back

Alice and I feel so blessed to be part of the Hawaii Island community, that we want to give something back. Alice is doing a better job of this than I am as she works a couple days a week at Hospice of Kona as a social worker and bereavement counselor, and Hospice does a tremendous job, particularly for low-income families. I also try to give back and volunteer one half-day a week at Habitat for Humanity’s local Restore where they sell donated goods in order to help fund their activities.

Ready for another stint at Habitat’s Restore

Last week I also had the opportunity to help out at two events – the first was at the Honu IRONMAN Triathlon (as part of a team from the Keauhou Canoe Club where I paddle outrigger canoes), and the second was at the Love2Fish event which benefitted Hospice of Kona. Both events were a little different given the ongoing COVID pandemic, but each was interesting and successful.

At the IRONMAN event, I helped register the athletes, all the while observing the COVID protocols. This event was postponed from last year, and was the first major sporting event allowed on the Big Island since the start of the pandemic restrictions. All the athletes were in good spirits, looking forward to the event and seemed to be quite relaxed, even when we had some network outages which caused delays in the registration process. The event seemed to go quite smoothly and the competition was strong, as this was a qualifying event for the IRONMAN World Championships that will be held in Kona in October.

Masked up for IRONMAN registration duty

The Love2Fish event, although smaller than in past years still attracted 17 boats with four crew each who were competing for prizes in multiple categories.

Love2Fish celebration held at Hospice of Kona

Again, this was different due to the pandemic, as instead of the usual celebration afterwards at a local club, the event was held primarily as a drive-through at one of the Hospice facilities, with food, drinks, prizes, and the opportunity to step out of their vehicles to take photos in the photo booth.

Alice and I in the photo booth before helping to serve packaged meals and drinks
A winning team!

I’m sure we’ll continue to find other ways to contribute to our community in the future.

My new toy – an ARES OC1

I’ve been waiting for this since August last year, when I placed the order for an Ares OC1 – a one-person outrigger canoe. I think COVID must have added some delays as it was first expected to be delivered in December, then January, then February and it finally showed up mid-March. A little frustrating, but well worth the wait. After collecting it from the local Polynesian Paddling Products store, I now have it in the storage rack at Keauhou Canoe Club.

Safely in the rack at the club

For my first paddle, I stayed within the bay and spent some time getting a feel for the canoe (quite different to the 6-person and 12-person canoes), and doing some huli practice, where you deliberately capsize the canoe and practice righting it and getting back in.

I’m now paddling in the Ares three times a week in addition to joining the group paddle once a week. I’m still not totally comfortable as when the waves are up, the ama (outrigger) bounces quite a bit and although I haven’t had a huli yet, each time I’ve gone out I have had one or more close calls, where I had to quickly shift my weight more to the left to bring the ama back down before it completely flipped over.

Back from my first paddle outside Keauhou Bay

Still, I’m slowly getting a little more confident and getting more of a feel for what happens depending on how the canoe is aligned to the waves and the wind. After my third successful paddle, I decided it was time to make the canoe a little more personal, and so affixed a couple of decals I had sent over from Australia. On the main hull I’ve added the boxing kangaroo, which was first used as the sporting battle flag on Australia II when it won the America’s Cup sailing competition. I also added the Southern Cross to the ama. I think these look great against the green hull, but of course that’s just my opinion 🙂

Looking good!

Horsin’ Around

Alice and I recently decided to take a visit to the Waipio Valley on the Big Island’s north east coast. This valley has an interesting history and is quite isolated with 15 families and around 50 residents in total. There used to be more residents but there was a tsunami in 1946 which caused significant destruction, and while no lives were lost in the valley, there were casualties in other parts of the Big Island.

The valley was also where in the late 1750’s, the future king Kamehameha I was hidden as a child due to threats from warring chiefs. King Kamehameha would unite all the Hawaiian islands under his rule later in life.

The Waipio Valley is very fertile and has large taro farms along with avocados, oranges, bananas, apples, tangerines and cocoa. I learnt just how labor intensive taro farming is, and how the community bands together and helps each other as needed. There is only one very narrow, winding road into / out of the valley and the local families have very long days to ensure their children are at the top of the road by 6am for the school bus. They spend long hours in the fields and before picking the school children up in the evening.

Our horse guides both live in the valley so it felt good to be contributing to the local economy. The guides were also very fun, energetic and knowledgeable. When it came time for horse selection, they asked if anyone had experience, and when no one spoke up, Alice was kind enough to volunteer that I had horse experience (I owned a horse for a time in Australia and rode quite a bit). That lead to a “well, we have a horse for you!” comment from the guide. Sure enough, Maka, the horse I was given was a young mustang and a bit naughty, but it made for an interesting ride.

We had a great time on the ride and it was certainly well-worth a visit to this special place.

The end of a great ride!

Of course, this being Hawaii you never know what you might see on your travels. On the way home we passed a unicyclist on the highway and he had baby Yoda peaking out of his back pack – you have to laugh!

Quite unusual!

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.