Monday, November 26, 2007

Paying Homage to Pelehonuamea

I couldn't fly all this way without paying a visit to the worlds most active volcano - although all visible activity had stopped a few months earlier. Having said that a new eruption had started on Thanksgiving Eve - the VOG we drove through was evidence of that!
There have of course been many visitors before me - some more famous than others! When Mark Twain visited the caldera was a lake of molten lava - that must have been quite a sight. Enough to inspire an entire mythology amongst the original Hawaiian population!
Some remarkable views above and below the lava fields.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Aloha from Waikiki

Evening view of Waikiki beach The sun is out and all is very relaxing - the view from my balcony is great. From what I'd read, I was expecting Waikiki to be more commercial and built up - but there is lots of green around - even the pink of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel next door, in front of me, seams to fit. Na Hoku II coming into shoreGiven that more than half the view is the wonderfully blue Pacific Ocean - it would be hard to build hotels on! It is too shallow for anything bigger than the couple of catamarans that do short trips from the beach to navigate - so no cruise liners moored too close - having said that the occasional large freighter does cross the near horizon. The current headline news here in Hawaii is about containers on one of these visitors to the islands that have brought unwanted visitors to the state in the form of yellow backed wasps in a shipment of Christmas trees! The fact that that is headline news indicates how worry free the atmosphere is! Ship passing just of shore from hotels

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Flight from LHR

Greenland from 35,000ft My winter escape of the British winter has arrived - after many months of anticipation. The plan to maximise the return on my air miles did mean it was going to be the start of a long day of travel... with a planned arrival in Honolulu almost 24 hours after I'd left home. An 8am departure from home, to make sure I could clear the security checks at Heathrow and any possible other delays before my 11:40 first flight of the day to LAX. The ten hour time difference, meant that should be at the hotel before 10pm local time.

I made use of the time they insist you spend at the airport and enrolled in the iris recognition immigration scheme - hopefully winning some of the time back when travelling back to the UK. The technology was very impressive - at least in the comfort of the enrollment center - recording my iris pattern took a couple of minutes, and then testing it simply took me looking very briefly in the right place! Lets see what the reality is when I get back to London. With the one bag rule being relaxed next year, I could be out of Gatwick or Heathrow very quickly in future - no queues at all!

After iris registration, I made my way to AA's first class lounge - I did say I was making the most of my miles - 125K for a first class return to anywhere in the USA - and Hawaii counted - 35K more than the same business class ticket. I have to say I was not overly impressed - there just wasn't enough room - I'd have been better off in the much more spacious business class lounge - but that was just the prelude... next stop a first class seat for 11 1/2 hours.

What a pleasant way to travel. First class wasn't even half full - so lots of attention from the cabin crew - a half empty glass didn't last very long. Video on demand - so a maximised ability to catch up on the latest DVD releases - and lots and lots of choice. I'm really looking forward to the lie flat bed on the return flight - hopefully a good sleep will be possible to kill the jet lag!

Arrival at LAX was ahead of schedule, and even the slow US immigration process wasn't too onerous. My bag was waiting for me to re-check for the onward flight to Honolulu... Quickly locating the AA first class lounge I was much more impressed - as much space at the business class version I'd just walked through - but many fewer people!

Then a short walk to the next plane and my preselected seat at the front... Then my luck when travelling, that has been with me since a very unpleasant long delay on the runway at Toulouse airport ran out.... "we are just waiting for the log book to arrive and we'll be on our way"..."unfortunately this plane has been taken out of service!".

3 hours later the flight crew and ground staff welcomed us all aboard the replacement plane. New seating plan - and it was a very old 767 with a projector for in flight entertainment - and much larger first/business class section - so my nice quiet seat at the front was gone. I gave into the inevitable - and slept - it was 5 in the morning according to my body clock! After four hours sleep I arrived in Honolulu at 1:30am local time, 11:30am back in London!

The travel gods hadn't deserted me completely - my bag had arrived in-tacked and was one of he first in the luggage hall. A short taxi journey and a rapid check-in to my junior suite - a very nice upgrade and possible pay back from the travel gods...

So now to wind down and enjoy the fine weather - even at 2am in the morning it was 24°C - very nice...