A Travellerspoint blog

Wehrell-ed Travel, Hawaii

Slow Ride

sunny

Traveling with a baby really is a game changer.

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Not only does one travel with far too many items for said baby, but one also leaves behind the ability to do whatever the hell one wants, whenever the hell one wants.

Clearly Zac and I are said one.

Today was a pretty low-key day, which is to be expected in this low-key area. Hamakua coast has beautiful hiking and outdoor activities, none of which are realistic for us to do with D at this time. Long hikes are out since we only have his Ergo (we will be getting a baby hiking pack for the summer), not to mention the fact that we don’t use his Ergo enough to really gauge how he’ll do in it for more than 45 minutes. Many of the outdoor activities aren’t baby friendly, like horseback riding. Though let’s be honest, horseback riding isn’t really Jorie-friendly either.

What to do with ourselves?

We first tried to do a tea plantation tour at Mauna Kea Tea, which is right down the road and walking distance from where we’re staying. Unfortunately it’s harvesting season, so they aren’t currently doing tours. Their bathroom is busted in the tasting room, so they’re not doing tea tastings at this time either. I think they just didn’t want us to show up because they heard we have a six month old with us ;)

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You don't want to visit with me? Impossible!

By the time D was up and ready to go we’d spent so much time hmmming and hawing that we really couldn’t go far before he’d need another nap. We decided to venture over to the Hawaiian Vanilla Company and take a gander at the small farm. The HVC is the only location in the United States that produces vanilla, and one of the handful in the world for that matter. It’s a family run operation, started by a man who had no idea what he was doing. The farm is in the hills above Hwy 19, just south of Honoka’a. It was a beautiful drive through rolling hillsides and sprawling green pastures overlooking the ocean as we made our climb. We arrived at a bright yellow house a few miles up the quiet road from the highway. It was inconspicuous and I could have passed by without really noticing that it was a place of business. I LOVE that.

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The drive up to the farm

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We were greeted with the delightful aroma of vanilla as we walked through the doors of the shop, which is run out of the family’s home. Meals and tours are available with reservations, but we just stopped by to look around. There is a small cafe inside that served sweets and treats, and Zac ordered himself up some vanilla bread pudding and an unsweetened vanilla ice tea. Everything prepared in the kitchen uses vanilla in some method of cooking and preparation.

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Checking out the kitchen

We sat out on a relaxing patio in comfortable wicker chairs as we sipped delicious tea and munched on some very sweet bread pudding. The bread pudding itself was too much for me, but the vanilla ice cream (homemade at the farm, of course) was phenomenal.

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"Bring me my pudding!"

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I wouldn’t have thought to stop at the farm if we weren’t looking for something, anything, to do close by. Having gone however, I’d highly recommend it if you’re in the area. The tour seems overpriced ($25 per person, with a free drink of choice), but stopping in, grabbing a snack, and looking around seemed perfect.

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The patio

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Hanging with mom

The rest of the day got a little hairy after our mid-morning outing. D returned to the house for his nap, but woke up early. Rather than try to get him back down we decided we’d drive to Waimea and check out some local hiking spots. Waimea is only about 30 minutes from where we’re staying, so it didn’t seem like an issue--and it wasn’t, except that we couldn’t find any of the hiking spots, what we thought we were looking for was actually much, much further away, and Waimea literally has nothing to do. We found an observatory museum that sounded like it could be interesting since we won’t be taking D up to the top of Mauna Kea this trip, but it closed at 2 p.m. and we had missed it. Two p.m.?! That’s so early! Such is life.

It felt like wasted time, and it really was. We ended up driving through Honoka’a and the surrounding area to check out the neighborhoods and get a better sense of the small town. While the main drag of the city is short and has few offerings, it is absolutely adorable. Many of the homes in the area sit on properties with beautifully manicured lawns that overlook the ocean. It was a lovely drive, which D slept through.

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One of Honoka'a 's adorable shops

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Clearly enjoying himself

Once back at the house D was back up. We played for a while to give him a break before trying to put him down for a small cat nap for the late afternoon. He was having none of it. We’d messed with his nap schedule and he’d had just enough sleep earlier to take the edge off, but not enough to be well rested. This meant he went into crazy baby mode. Crazy baby mode isn’t screaming and crying, it’s...well, mostly screaming. Crazy screams. Like “what the hell was that?” screams. He shrieks and laughs in this maniacal way that sounds like he’s going insane. It’s both adorable and sad.

We stopped trying to get him down for his nap and instead ran out real quick to pick up dinner. If he wasn’t going to sleep we may as well be productive. We stopped by Tex Drive In, which is at the bottom of our road. The restaurant is well known for it’s malasadas, or Portuguese fried dough. Basically a donut. Nope, no basically about it. It is a donut. We chose to split one filled with apricot. Tex serves fresh malasadas all day long with a variety of options for fillings. It was delicious. Like, really delicious. We showed up at 6 p.m. and *still* managed to get a fresh malasada. It was soft, airy, not greasy, and not too sweet. Perfect. We also picked up dinner--and the grilled mahi burger I had was really good. Once I was able to eat it, that is...which wasn’t until D was bathed and put to bed.

Oh, what a day. A lot of driving, a lot of just looking for something to do, but trying to do it in the most compatible manner for D’s schedule and needs. It wasn’t a disaster by any means, but it certainly wasn’t a day of smooth sailing. Poor D was so tired when we got back that he just passed out. I’d say my biggest successes of the day were choosing to visit the vanilla farm, getting in a four mile walk while D took his second nap, and that goddamn delicious malasada.

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Goddman delicious malasada

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Along my walk

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We are literally staying in the middle of nowhere

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Tomorrow we leave Honoka’a and head for the Volcano National Park. We’ll be staying in a treehouse, which will hopefully be awesome. It’s totally off the grid, has a cedar hot tub that we have to light hours before using, is solar powered, and even has a compostable toilet. Good times ahead. The last time I stayed in a treehouse was when we were in Knysna, South Africa. It was such an amazing place to stay, but I ate a bad pork sandwich earlier in the day, got the shits, and spent a good part of my night on the open air toilet in the trees above the forest floor, fearful that a baboon would attack me while I was relieving myself. I’m hoping for a better treehouse experience this time.

Wish me (and us all) luck.

Posted by JorieW 23:35 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Wehrell-ed Travel, Hawaii

What's Shakin, Honoka'a

All good mornings should begin with play.

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Ours certainly do these days, and knowing that we’d be packing up and saying goodbye to Waikoloa today and spending a good chunk of time in the car meant it was important that we get a chance to roll around on the floor with D. He was in good spirits this morning, which made me feel all the worse for having to wake him up early from his morning nap to check out of our condo on time, load him up and essentially give him the remainder of his naps in the car throughout the day, and settle him into yet another unfamiliar place for a couple of nights before we move again.

Good thing kids are adaptable.

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Today we drove to Honokaa, a small town on the Hamakua coast. The town, already quite sleepy, is actually about fifteen minutes away from where we’re staying. We are in the boondocks, as I’ve heard such places be described. The fact we have WiFi is surprising. It’s a far cry from the over crowded resorts of Waikoloa, and I’m not sure whether I’m happy we’re here or not. On the one hand it’s great to not have to kick and elbow your way to get to anything, but on the other hand it leaves a lot of down time when D is napping. This area would be wonderful (I imagine) for hiking or exploring on foot, but with D it’s a bit challenging. Hence loading him up in the car and having him nap while we were out. I normally don’t do that kind of thing, but short of staying in our house rental all day we had no other choice.

It actually worked out well, or at least better than I’d expected.

We began our morning with a stop at pu’ukohola heiau, the site of Hawaii’s last major ancient temple. Heiau were sacred places of worship for native Hawaiians.Pu’ukohola heiau means “temple on the hill of the whale” and was built by Kamehameha to dedicate to the war gods in the hopes of unifying the Hawaiian islands.

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The temple

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In the spring humpback whales can be spotted off the coastline, and it’s been claimed that one can see blacktip reef sharks from the lookout up top, though I’ve been disappointed each time I’ve been. The water just isn’t clear enough, and black tips aren’t large enough to really get a good glimpse of a fin cutting the water. It’s advised to avoid swimming or wading in the nearby waters, but blacktips are relatively harmless. Though if you’ve ever read my Wehrelled of Sharks blog you’d know that you should always give caution to any shark more than 7 feet in length.

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Do you see any sharks?

Apparently I’m not the only shark nerd out there. At this site there is also Hale o Kapuni, a submerged heiau dedicated to the shark gods. Awesome.

The small loop along the historical site made for an enjoyable morning walk with beautiful trails and well kept pathways. I had D in the Ergo, but we could have easily brought his stroller along the trail.

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Ergo baby

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Along the hike

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After a short hike we hit the road again, ready to check into our rental house and get out of the car. *Somehow* we’ve managed to aquire a lot more shit that needed to be packed into our already too full rental. It wasn’t particularly comfortable, but we made it.

To get to Honokaa we drove through Waimea. Waimea is known as Paniolo country, or Hawaiian cowboy country. A quick elevation gain is met with rolling hills, green and lush, and grazing horses. It’s a sleepy town, and was a pleasant drive. I had wanted to drive up to Hawi before heading east to Waimea and Honokaa, but we decided to skip it since D was with us. Instead we dropped off our stuff and headed to the Waipio Valley lookout.

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Waipio Valley

The Waipio Valley, or Valley of the Kings, is sacred land that was the boyhood home of Kamehameha. It is mostly private land, and while there are some parts of trails that are not private access only it is recommended that one not go into the valley without a guide. The valley was once home to thousands of native Hawaiians, but after a tsunami wiped out land and houses many families moved to nearby Honokaa. Those families still in the valley prefer to live “off the grid” and away from modern society. I guarantee you I don’t get WiFi down there.

This is where I seem like an ignorant traveler: The lookout is nice to see if you’re traveling through the area. It’s beautiful and the valley is stunning with its dramatic cliffsides and coastal stretch. It’s also somewhere I went, took three pictures, and was ready to leave. It’s sites like this that are encouraged for visiting and taking in the historical significance of the land and culture around it, but if I weren’t already in the area I wouldn’t feel compelled to go out of my way to make a trip. There, I said it. Radical honesty, people. It’s important land to native Hawaiians, but it’s just a snapshot for the rest of us.

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One of three snapshots

After Waipio D was asleep in his carseat. He’d just gone down and we didn’t want to wake him and risk him not napping again at the house. We decided to keep things consistent and just kept driving. We ended up making our way down to Hilo, about 45 minutes from Honokaa. The drive was beautiful and the gorgeous, full vegetation was just stunning. I forgot how beautiful the east coast of the island is. Sure, it may not be as warm or sunny as Kohola, but the greenery more than makes the rain worth it.

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Along the drive we took a scenic route along Onomea Bay. We passed a restaurant, seemingly out of place, and decided to stop on our way back for a late lunch. With a name like “What’s Shakin’,” how could we refuse? What’s Shakin’ did not disappoint. They offer an array of fresh fruit smoothies and a full menu of delicious food made with local ingredients. The ono fish wrap I had was incredible. I want to go back tomorrow and have another. If the food isn’t enough to get you, the aesthetic of the restaurant surely will. A bright yellow house planted in the middle of incredible gardens with fruit trees is where we enjoyed our meal. Afterward we were free to explore the grounds and take it all in.

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The restaurant

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Bananas growing on the property

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Papaya

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Limes and pineapple, too

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Enjoying a shake with dad

D woke up once we were in Hilo and we used it as an opportunity to stop and get some fresh fruit at the farmer’s market. We walked away with some great deals on locally grown fruit. For less than $10 we got six large papayas, apple bananas, a bag of rambutan, and mangostines. We’ve eaten nearly half of our bounty already.

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Our bounty

D fell asleep again on the last leg of our drive home. Rather than wake him we continued driving around the back roads by our house. Zac said the sprawling hills and cattle reminded him of Scotland. I thought if you replaced cows with dinosaurs the sprawling hills reminded me of Jurassic Park.

Once back at the house we got D ready for bed, had our dinner, and are now unwinding. I was ready to go down the same time as D. It’s been a long day. My baby is such a champ, and he did so well today. If I’m exhausted I can only imagine how he feels. Poor little dude doesn’t know he’s on vacation and that these changes are exciting, fun, and part of the experience.

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Fun times with dad

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I think he's okay...

Posted by JorieW 11:41 Comments (0)

Wehrell-ed Travel, Hawaii

Aloha Waikoloa

sunny

Life’s a beach, they say.

I don’t know who “they” are, but life being a beach sounds super awesome. Until you walk away sunburned, dehydrated, and covered in sand that sticks to your body as if each individual grain were superglued to your skin. Seriously, why can’t it come off?!

Fortunately today’s trek to the beach was lovely and while we are still trying to get sand out of unspeakable places, there were no sunburns, dehydration, or other unpleasantries. Nope, today life really was a beach. Hapuna Beach, to be specific.

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Hapuna Beach is one of Hawaii’s best beaches. White sand stretches along a beautiful coastline of volcanic rock. The ocean is a gorgeous turquoise that provides ample and rich opportunities for swimming, body boarding, and snorkeling. The waves are perfect for frolicking, and that’s exactly what Zac did while I sat with D on the beach and enjoyed some quiet time playing in the sand. For the most part D was stuck on the towel. It’s far too risky to put him directly in the sand during his “grab everything and put it in my mouth” phase. He played contentedly while I pointed out all the going ons at the beach and we pretty successfully (though not completely) avoided him eating sand.

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No sand mouth here

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After the beach we drove further north a bit to a small fruit stand that we visited last time we were here. There were slim pickings, but we managed to walk away with a delicious and perfectly ripe papaya, mango, and two citrus looking fruits whose identification we are unsure of. We devoured the papaya and mango, but are saving the citrus for breakfast tomorrow. Zac, in his infinite kindness, was so moved by the delectability of the mango that he even agreed to purchase a mango for a man begging for money to do so himself. I hope he enjoyed his mango as much as we enjoyed ours.

We pureed part of the papaya for D to enjoy after dinner, but he was having none of it. Don’t blame him--he’s young and foolish. He’ll learn one day to enjoy fresh, ripe, and local fruits.

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While D turned his meal down, Zac and I enjoyed lunch at a cafe in King’s Market. D watched on as we ate our food. He got nothing. Sad face for him.

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You get nothing

In the afternoon after returning from the beach we decided to take D into the swimming pool at our condo. He’s never been in a proper pool before, but he loves his bath time and we assumed he would enjoy an even bigger version of it. Getting him into his swimming suit was a struggle and he fought Zac tooth and nail, but once in the pool he was happy as a clam.

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Squirming away from getting dressed

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Gotcha!

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The pool

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D really enjoyed his dolphin swimming, and as Zac propelled him forward, face first, he kicked crazily as if he were actually moving himself. It was adorable, and made me laugh.D has a knack for making Zac and I laugh, and not only was his dolphin swim funny, but so was the fact that he kept farting in the pool. I was afraid we’d have a code brown on our hands, but fortunately that didn’t come to fruition. Not today anyway.

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D tooting

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After getting D cleaned up we ventured out to the market to get some fresh fish to grill up for dinner. It didn’t matter that I’d had mahi mahi tacos for lunch, the more fresh fish I can get while here the better. We enjoyed our dinner and spent the evening packing up to move on tomorrow. We’ll be staying along the Hamakua coast in the small town of Honokaa. We’re planning a few stops along the way, and maybe even a hike if D’s naps are cooperative. They likely won’t be, at least not with the car trip, but one can hope!

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All cleaned up!

It’s been a lovely three days in Waikoloa, and though sad to be leaving, I’m looking forward to what’s to come.

Posted by JorieW 12:32 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Wehrell-ed Travel, Hawaii

Waikoloa Welcome

sunny

“Let’s go on vacation,” I remember myself saying to my husband one overcast winter afternoon in February. “We went to Spain for your 30th birthday, but nowhere for mine. Let’s go somewhere for my 31st.”

There was some initial protesting from my husband, but eventually he agreed that a vacation to celebrate another year older seemed like a good idea. Or, as he would more accurately say, “an idea.” I kind of added the “good” part.

Crazy, isn’t he? Why would anyone, especially someone who loves to travel, take pause at packing up and taking a vacation?

Well, there’s the baby, for one. Things have changed in the Rumford/Wehrell household since Spain. We welcomed our son, Desmond, in November of 2013. Which is why we didn’t go anywhere fun for my 30th birthday...I was pregnant and we went to visit my sister in Pensacola. Not exactly a jaunt around the Greek Isles or a trek in the jungles of Rwanda (both of which were high on my list of babymoon locations, by the way).

When it did actually come to taking a trip during my pregnancy we had limited time. My husband was saving as much of his vacation time as possible to combine with his paternity leave when Desmond was born. We opted to go to Whistler, BC, our cousin to the north. While hiking, bike riding, and glorious mountain air were much enjoyed, it definitely wasn’t what one might call an exotic vacation.

Skip ahead to my 31st birthday (just before Mother’s Day, might I add--all the more reason to shower me with the lavish gift of a vacation). Allocating vacation time for paternity leave is no longer necessary. Though now we have a 6 month old. Hm. I *maybe* see where my husband’s hesitance at taking a trip begins. Six month olds are fickle beings. Squirly, cranky, teething, pooping, crying, fickle beings.

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Fickle six month old

Now my plan for a vacation does indeed start sounding more like “an idea” than a “good idea.”

Nonetheless, I persisted. I spoke endlessly about teaching our son to love travel, starting early so he’ll learn to be adaptable, and how much better it will be to travel with him when he’s small and easily portable. I tirelessly pulled up lists of things to do in places around the world that I wanted to go and thought would be baby friendly. I talked, and talked, and talked, and asked, and asked, and...begged. Finally Zac left it up to me to decide if and where we were going somewhere. By “left it up to me” I mean that he stopped fighting my idea and agreed to go even though he didn’t think we should.

Skip ahead *again* and here we are, a family of three, enjoying our first full day in Hawaii. We chose Hawaii because 1. it’s a nonstop flight from Seattle to the Big Island 2. We’ve been here before so there is some familiarity, we know it’s child-friendly, and we won’t miss out on activities that we’d like to do, but which are fun-blocked by a 6 month old because we’ve already done them, and 3. There are a lot of activities that we can do with Desmond in tow, such as reading on the beach or drinking a beer on the lanai while the sun sets over the ocean.

Admittedly, traveling with Desmond doesn’t seem daunting like it did a few months ago. This is our third flight with him (we went to Pensacola in March and LA just a couple weeks ago), and while we may not be able to predict his behavior on the plane, we have a small idea of what to expect in the way of going through security, what to pack and what to leave at home, and we know his schedule and temperment well enough by now to be able to anticipate his needs and how best to prepare for them when out of the comfort of our own day to day environment.

We were fortunate on the flight here and managed to sweet talk a gate agent into blocking off an extra seat for us so we could have an entire row to ourselves. It made a huge difference in our level of comfort. A 6’5 husband and 6 month old baby aren’t exactly the most comfortable companions to be seated next to. Having an open seat allowed us to stretch out, scatter our shit about without worrying about courtesy to our seat mate, and even permitted a diaper change without having to go to the bathroom. D was up for a good part of the flight, struggling to sleep. It was his bedtime, his schedule had been all messed up for the entire day, and the plane was bright for most of the flight. He had some moments of fussiness and a few minutes of crying, but over all I’d say he did great for six hours under those circumstances.

Six hours is a lot of time to change positions
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We arrived just shy of 10 p.m., Hawaiian time. This was almost 1 a.m. Seattle time. Needless to say we were all exhausted and ready to crash. Zac went to pick up the rental car while I waited with D at the airport, enjoying the warm evening air and a friendly chat with a security guard who himself was a new father. Kona airport is very small, and we were the only flight coming in at that hour. While waiting for Zac it was just the security guard and myself--that’s how small and slow of an airport it is. I nearly laughed out loud as I watched a minivan come rolling up to the load zone, certain that Zac had “upgraded” us as a joke. The van kept cruising, and I realized it wasn’t him. If I nearly laughed out loud at the minivan, I definitely audibly laughed out loud at the car that Zac actually pulled up in. Car is probably a generous description. I’d say it was more like a soda can on four wheels, though it’s so small it might only need two wheels to be honest.

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Beyond all wonders of nature we managed to squeeze all of our luggage into the car. Three carry on bags, a car seat, a pack and play, full size stroller, two very full travel packs, and various loose items like jackets, baby blankets, and travel pillow. I’m pretty sure Zac drove with his knees wedged under his nose and I hugged D’s car seat out of necessity so as to close the door properly.

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Cozy in the car

We’ve decided to scatter our 12 days here all around the Big Island, staying in Waikoloa first, followed by the Hamakua coast, then in the Puna district just outside the Volcanoes National Park, and finally ending our trip in Kona. This allows us to maximize our time by region without having to spend long chunks of time in the car--and with a baby that is important.

Waikoloa is on the west coast of the island, just North of Kona (about 30 minutes from the airport) and is the Southern part of the Kohala coast. It gets an obscene amount of sunshine per year, and this is where you’ll find many of the Big Island’s resorts. Waikoloa exists seemingly for tourism only. Prices certainly reflect that, and one will spend quite a bit more than if staying on other parts of the island.

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Waikoloa

If you’re into shopping, golfing, and going to the beach than this area is for you. There isn’t much to do beyond that--perhaps a helicopter tour if you’re feeling ballsy. Fortunately the beaches are gorgeous, framed by jet-black lava rock fields from eruptions centuries ago. White sand stretches for miles and miles, clear blue water carries perfect waves for body surfing...it’s paradise.

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Kohala coast

Venture further north and you’re heading toward Waimea, a small town with shops, restaurants, and most notably close to Waipio Valley with an amazing and breathtaking lookout into the Valley of the Kings. Venture further south and you’re in Kona where you can find amazing food, beautiful beaches, and snorkeling and diving that will knock your socks off, should you be wearing any while doing those activities. Since flip flops are the prefered footwear of choice here I think you’re safe. That, and you wear flippers while diving, silly.

Kona has a Costco and Walmart, two very economical shopping choices to load up on basics while here. Zac paid $5 for a dozen eggs in the small market nearby. We then went to Costco and purchased another dozen for $3.50. Perspective, people. Costco is only about a thirty five minute drive from Waikoloa, and D was a champ and napped the entire ride home (and then some) so we could get supplies. When traveling with a baby it makes much more sense to purchase his disposable needs here (specifically diapers) than to take up space in our already full packs for items that we can get upon arrival.

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This little dude has a lot of shit. Both literal and figurative

After running errands we were able to enjoy a walk through Waikoloa Village, which is beautifully manicured and pristine. While I generally like to avoid tourist centered locations, I can’t help but enjoy myself as I pass beneath beautiful trees providing much needed shade and stroll (literally, since D is in his stroller) along water fixtures and volcanic rock walls.

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I mentioned before that we’ve been to the Big Island before, and we actually stayed in Waikoloa for a good chunk of that time. It feels nice to be back. There’s a pleasant familiarity that allowed for instant relaxation and melting of the stress that can come when going somewhere unfamiliar and new. Don’t get me wrong, I like unfamiliar and new--it’s part of what makes traveling so wonderful, but for our first family vacation where we’re not visiting relatives it’s incredibly enjoyable.

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We ended our first day watching the sunset at Anaeho’omalu Beach (otherwise known as A Bay). Anaeho’omalu is a great diving, snorkeling, and swimming spot. Because it is protected by a reef the water is usually calm, also making it a very kid-friendly beach. There are restrooms, showers, and snack stands for extra comfort while there, making it even more appealing for those of us with six month olds.

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Before the sunset we strolled along the beach and through the upper pathways in front of the resorts. Here one can find anchialine ponds, small ponds that rise and fall with the tides but have no surface connection with the sea. In the Hawaiian Islands they are only found here and along the southwest Maui coast in geologically recent lava flows. Some were so fresh and clean that they once provided a water source and drinking water for many of the settlements. It was also once told that the ponds had mo’o, guardian water spirits that were believed to inhabit the ponds. They were supernatural beings that resembled turtles or lizards, who could also appear as a beautiful woman sitting next to the ponds combing her hair.

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The ponds at various times before sunset

The pathways along A Bay are beautiful and provided a lovely evening stroll for the three of us. By the time the sun began to set D was more than ready to go home and go to bed. We packed him up and headed for the condo, putting him to bed before making dinner for ourselves, enjoying some quiet time, and going to sleep ourselves.

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For a first full day I’d say it was a success.

Posted by JorieW 20:32 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Wehrell-ed Travel, Spain

Adios Spain!

Every beginning has an end, and our end has come.

Vacation started a short two weeks ago and ends tomorrow. I am sad to leave Spain and want to continue traveling, but I'm also excited to sleep in my bed and eat my morning oats cooked in almond milk. The comforts of home are greatly missed, even with such short absence.

Today we woke up late, but not late enough for a full recovery. I don't think that's possible when you go to bed at 5 a.m. We had a 2 p.m. train to catch from Puerto back to Madrid. It was a four hour train ride, and we knew we should give ourselves time to pack, shower, and eat before embarking on our return trip.

We all moved slowly.

Sabine somehow had the ability to make us huevos rancheros for brunch, though I don't know how. Regardless, I was thankful. I needed a filling meal to help me get going, and nothing hits the spot like something topped with guacamole.

I can't state enough how generous and wonderful of a host Sabine has been to us. She let us into her home, put us up, put up with us...no easy feat. We're indebtedly grateful--she made the end of our trip a great time. Zac and I have really enjoyed our time in Puerto, even with uncooperative weather.

I wish we had more time to spend in Madrid before leaving. I was excited to return, and we chose a hotel in the center of the city again. I'd love to wander around the park or eat tapas in the Mercado San Miguel. There is a falafel stand that has been recommended, and we still haven't eaten at restaurants that were passed on our first trip through Madrid that are lingering in the back of our minds. I want to wake up tomorrow morning and get coffee and churros and walk through one of the beautiful plazas and people watch.

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Instead our arrival in Madrid didn't come until 6 p.m., leaving us less time than we wanted to explore the city. Our hostel is disgusting, but unfortunately was one of the only available in the city center on such short notice that wasn't outrageously expensive. That's what we get for waiting to book a hotel on the weekend. In retrospect we've both agreed that it would have been worth it to pay three times as much to sleep beneath sheets without fear of bed bugs, take a hot shower, and sleep in a room that doesn't smell like smoke. We do get free porn, though. Really gross porn, but it's free.

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We've definitely stayed in worse places--several hostels in Nicaragua come to mind, but I didn't expect something this bad in this price range in Madrid. Fortunately we're only here for one night, and fortunately we're spending about eight hours in the room total. We tossed our stuff down after checking in and then immediately left the place. Our goal was to spend as little time in the room as possible, though this felt to be a struggle since we'd slept so little the night before.

Our low energy was disappointing, but we were super duper excited to return to Madrid because our friend Marni just moved to Madrid and we are lucky enough to overlap for a night! She kindly came to meet us at our dank hostel and we went and had dinner and drinks and she filled us in on the joys of moving to another country, particularly a country as "laid back" as Spain.

Her soon-to-be apartment is right by the hotel we stayed at on our first trip to Madrid, and we decided to hang out in her new 'hood to check out her digs. She will be living in a beautiful part of the city center. Her apartment is on a quiet street tucked away from the noisiness of the centro, but all she has to do is walk fifty feet to join in the chaos should she choose. I love Madrid's tucked away quiet streets, neatly sandwiched between major junctions and plazas. It's amazing how sleepy they can be when just a block over discotecas and restaurants swell with people.

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Marni in front of her new apartment!

It was so nice to see Marni, though I felt near brain dead and borderline retarded from exhaustion and the residual effects of alcohol still lingering. I felt to be an uninteresting bore, but Zac was able to keep up a conversation. And of course Marni is witty and entertaining all on her own.

I wish I could have made it past twelve, but as the clock tower literally struck midnight we said our goodbyes and parted ways. Marni had to take the metro back to her temporary residence and we were just so dang tired that we had to give in and grudgingly go back to the hostel. There have been riots here in Madrid this past week and police, news caravans, and surveying helicopters kept the busy plaza under watchful eye. We thought we might see some action as we walked back to the hostel this evening, but we did not. Protests in the crowded streets tonight are peaceful (though not earlier in the week), and near impossible to differentiate from the busy crowd of a Saturday evening.

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The room felt even more disgusting upon closer inspection, and I swear it felt like something was crawling on me. Sleeping on top of the sheets seems to be the only option in such situations, and hopefully with some more strength we'll be able to fully close the bathroom door. So far we've been unsuccessful with that.

Tomorrow we say goodbye to Spain and embark on a full day of traveling back home. I'm not looking forward to the long day to come, or the return to reality. I am glad we came, and I've enjoyed my trip very much (and I think Zac has as well). I'd return to Spain, though admittedly there are a few other places we've been that I'd rather return to first. Spain has had some beautiful moments and beautiful places, but it's also had some uncomfortable situations and some annoying experiences. Spanish time is admirable in spirit, but often frustrating in practice. We've made many-a-jokes about Spanish time and failing economy. The jokes feel too easy, but we can't help it.

Still, walking the beautiful and charming streets of a small Spanish city, eating tapas late into the evening, cracking a bottle of wine and sitting on a terrace on a warm summer night--it's hard to beat that.

So onward we go, heading home and dreaming about where we'll go next.

Posted by JorieW 18:02 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

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