Saturday, January 17, 2009

Hawaii Big Island - Got Balls?

I hated writing. At work, if I had to write a proposal or documentation, it would be the longest day. I would work on everything else and get to writing only if I had the gun to my head. One day, I was bored and started writing our Hawaii travelogue. It was a simple account of what we saw and did. My friends loved it and encouraged me to write more. The more I wrote, the easier it got and it also helped me with technical writing. So, I kept at it and now it has evolved into a hobby that gives me immense joy. Here is my very first travelogue.

This was a trip we took in 2004 and I will have the readers know that I am no longer that timid person. Read on to find out what I mean.

We were looking forward to sunny beaches, exciting snorkeling trips, tropical rain forests, and waterfalls and of course the biggest attraction the active volcano. After several days of anticipation, we were on a flight to Kona. My husband Saru, slept very well as usual, while I struggled to find a comfortable position to sleep. As soon as I found that position, the captain announced that we were landing. With images of sandy beaches and lush greenery in mind, we looked out of the window to take a glimpse of this beautiful island and were shocked. There was nothing but miles of black lava fields!! They built the Kona airport in the middle of black lava fields.

We landed, picked up our baggage, and started driving towards Kona. Soon things got spectacular. After a few minutes of driving, the black lava fields turned into beautiful vistas all round.

We were in the middle of a rain forest and true to its name it started raining. We stopped for coffee. There is nothing like having hot coffee and cake (especially when it has rum in it) while watching the rain.

While we were driving, we a saw a big sign saying "GOT BALLS?" Our car of course came to a screeching halt. It was the "Bad Ass" coffee shop that was selling "Donkey Balls". Donkey balls are chocolate covered macadamia nuts. They are delicious and you can't stop eating until you see the calorie content. The restroom in the coffee shop had every "Ass" joke there ever was. I spent a good 15min there laughing my heads out until somebody knocked on the door. I came out and promptly sent Saru inside to assimilate (pun intended) all the humorous material.

We drove towards the area of Captain Cook to check into our Bed & Breakfast. The house, Areca Palms was sitting on an acre of lush green lawn and Palm Trees. We slowly walked up the stairs and found a couple (Nancy & John) enjoying coffee on the lanai (balcony in Hawaiian). The hosts Steve and Janice greeted us with great smiles. They had a huge living room with lots of books and games for the guests. In all these years of traveling we stayed in a wide range of budget to luxury hotels, but nothing beats the experience of staying in a Bed & Breakfast. You get to stay in a homely place, enjoy wonderful conversations with other guests, get restaurant/activity recommendations, and of course enjoy home cooked breakfast. Areca Palms was a very charming house with a lot of character and more importantly pleasant/interesting hosts and guests.

Based on our hosts recommendation, we went to Aloha Cafe for dinner and had excellent seafood while watching a picture perfect sunset.

Next morning, we woke up to the sounds of chirping birds. There were two other guests and by 8:00am, we were all sitting at the breakfast table having pleasant conversation. The 3-course breakfast started with fresh organic papayas and mangoes from their backyard. It was followed by macadamia nut short bread and a plate of Chili Cheese Souffle. That was the most sumptuous home cooked breakfast I ever had on a vacation!! We talked about the plan for the day and while we were eating, Steve called the Kayak rental place and booked a reservation for us. They also gave us free snorkels and fins and reef shoes.

Pretty soon we had the Kayak fixed on the car and were driving towards the Kealakekua Bay. The plan was to kayak in the bay for a mile to reach the Captain Cook Monument, which was known to be the best shallow snorkeling spot in all Hawaii. The tricky part here was to unload the kayak from the car, lower it 3 ft down into the water, and jump on the kayak before it wandered away. If Saru were doing this by himself, it would have gone smoothly. But here I was - the queen of timidity! We decided to pay a guy to help us lower the kayak. Saru got on to the kayak without batting an eyelid. I took some time and slowly lowered myself onto the kayak. Now, try to visualize this: Both my feet were in the kayak and my hands were holding the wall, when the kayak started moving away from the wall!! It was good stretching exercise both for my body and my vocal cords. I started screaming, "I am falling, I am falling!!!" and quickly grabbed the guy's leg with one hand. The guy was screaming, "let go of my leg", Saru was screaming, "Calm down Vam" and I was still screaming, "I am falling, I am falling!!" Bear in mind that I was wearing a life jacket and the water was only 4 ft deep at this place. But logic does not dictate every action of mine! I was very close to falling flat, face down into the water before I plopped myself into the kayak. Now, once I was seated comfortably, I was the epitome of courage (Alright, if you must have absolute honesty, then I did freak out one more time when I thought the kayak was going to topple).

The weather was great and there was a pleasant breeze. I was in high spirits. Just when we were thinking that nothing could have made the trip better, we spotted, if you can believe our luck - a dozen dolphins! These dolphins are called Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins. They travel in big groups and are very playful. It was a treat to watch them jumping and spinning and frolicking in the water. After the excitement of dolphins died down, we kayaked towards the Captain Cook Monument.

We parked our kayak under a tree. Saru, who was very impatient, jumped into the water with his snorkel gear. The water was pretty rough in that part of the bay. He got pushed around by the waves and wounded the middle finger on his right hand. Every time I asked him about his wound, he would show me his middle finger and get a kick out of it. Blood was oozing out of his cut, and we didn't have anything to tie around it, until I remembered my sarong!! We had a perfect Bollywood moment when I tore a piece of cloth from the sarong and tied it around his finger!!

We went to the other side of the monument where the water was calm and began snorkeling. We were immediately treated to hundreds of colorful fish and corals. It was absolutely amazing. We tried to keep a count of the different colors, but lost track. Every corner of the bay treated us to a rainbow of colorful underwater life. We snorkeled for a few hours and then went back to the kayak to eat our sandwich. We relaxed a little bit and I was very enthusiastic to get back into the water. Saru complained that the waves made him queasy and he wanted to relax for the day. I went back into the water and was having too much fun. Every time I saw some cool fish, I would pop my head out of the water and tell him. Finally I made him so jealous; he jumped back into the water despite his nausea.

We kayaked back, saw more dolphins on our way, and went back towards home. Fortunately I had no trouble getting out of the kayak. We went home and washed ourselves and exchanged stories about our day with Nancy and John.



  1. It's more fun to click than write. And you had fun :)

  2. awesome - romantic. the dolphins snap is spectacular. thanks for sharing


  3. well well welll .... the dolphins look super !!!!

    The ass jokes ??? they cant be shared eh ? lolz

  4. lol! that was a very entertaining travelog! loved it!

  5. The donkey balls were too funny! I absolutely love the shot of the dolphin in mid-air! It's amazing you got that shot from a moving kayak. And the sunset pictures are just gorgeous. We spent all our time in Maui when we were in Hawaii. We did snorkel, but didn't kayak ... so now I have a reason to go back! :)

  6. Sloganmurugan,
    Clicking is great, but I want to remember the little things we did on our trips that will bring a smile to our faces many years from now. So, I write.

    Thanks. Dolphins are fun.

    Hitch writer,
    I guess it would have looked weird if I had carried a camera into the toilet.


  7. WOW...that's a well written post. For a person who once hated writing, you have come a long long way. Those images are beautiful and the sunset images are just so gorgeous...Thomas

  8. Bindu,
    For a minute I thought Donkey balls were a weird local delicacy like Huevos de toro (Bull's balls) in Spain, but thankfully they were just nuts:)

    Maui is a beautiful island, but the snorkeling at Molokini crater is not anywhere as beautiful as it is in Big Island. You will be tempted to go here when you see pictures of the live volcano that I am going to publish in my next post.

  9. I loved snorkeling in this Bay. There are so many places to explore in Hawaii. We saw some spinner dolphins and humpback whales here too. It's fun to free dive in these waters where you can hear the humpbacks singing as if they were surrounding you. I enjoyed reading your post which brought back a lot of pleasant memories.

  10. first travelogue! very well eritten. dolphin sht and the sunset pictures are great. Seems like you both had a "BALL" of a time.


  11. natural moments,
    Thanks for your comment.
    We never managed to go to Hawaii during the whales season, so missed out!! I am surprised that the whales came into the bay....would have expected them to stay in the ocean.

    Hawaii is the one place where you are guaranteed fun. Every single time we have been there, we loved it.

  12. Reading the whole kayaking incident had me laughing all over the place...that was hilarious. Reminds me of my first time kayaking when I too was convinced the kayak was going to topple over...they're just such flimsy looking structures. Loved reading the travelogue and the photos are just beyond beautiful! :)

  13. the sunset shot is just too awesome...and i liked the dolphin pics must have been quite an experience...makes me want to visit hawaii

  14. Sunset shots or the dolphin shots??
    I didn't know where to rest my eyes. You had a great time there.

  15. Lots of things! I love balls, and kayaks ;-)

  16. LOL..Donkey balls and Bollywood moment! Glad you started writing Vamsee. It's good to read about your experiences. Those sunset pictures are stunning!

  17. mazaa aa gaya parh kar. and i cud imagine u falling while that kayak moved away. and thru ur past posts, i know ur husband wud have let u fall for a good laugh after.