Monday, November 30, 2009

Round the dormant Maui Volcano

Feeling that I’d just finished fully adjusted to local Hawaiian time – no longer waking in the middle of the night – only when the sun rose above diamond head, I set my alarm for 4:30am local time, to catch an early morning 25 minute flight to Maui… With hindsight I could have declined the hotel pick up and got a taxi to the airport and had another 90 minutes sleep!

On arrival at Kahului Airport, on Maui, it looked like the rain of my trip to Big Island might be repeated – but the sun soon broke through the clouds and the over night rain turned out to be a blessing as it caused the many waterfalls along side the road to be in full flood, rather than just potential falls – which is their normal state…

The drive along the Hana Highway was impressive - 600+ turns as the road wound its way along the coast clinging to the step north face of Haleakala. Due to the heavy over night rainfall there where plenty of newly fallen rocks littering the road, and in one place a work crew clearing a landslide from the road – including a couple of the trees that lined the road from start to finish… From the minibus it was impossible to take a picture to do the road justice – a helicopter would have been needed for that – the favoured form of transport for the celebrities that own most of the properties along the road – no two hour twisting ride for them to get to Hana!

The journey down the southern side of volcano was less twisty but equally impressive. The made up road disappeared and hire cars are prohibited from travelling the route… Driving on land formed when part of the volcano rim collapsed allowing lava to spill out, left a landscape similar to that on Big Island – but time and water had created four massive ravens which lead to some dramatic views from the road as it proceeded, sometime very precariously down the coast.

The final stop of the day was a winery – one of the wines was an produced was an acceptable traditional Merlot, but the other two – know as Maui Splash and Maui Blanc – originated from pine apples rather than grapes – some how very sweet, yet dry at the same time – the Blanc would be a different desert wine, Splash was more of a alcoholic fruit juice… 

The most amazing thing about the island, and what I’ll remember most,  was the amount and variety of vegetation, and in particular trees of all descriptions – below are just a small sample… The last a citrus tree planted by Captain Cook to be used as a mast should the need arise… The climate is just right for growing almost anything – from cactus to massive rainbow eucalyptus trees.  All on a lump of rock that appeared in the middle of the Pacific 150,000 years ago!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Surfing at North Shore

From Gidget Pro 2009

Those of you that know me will not be surprised that I was watching not taking part in the surfing – I left that to the professionals!

My last visit to Sunset beach was only for the 10 minutes a guided circular tour of Oahu permitted. The surf was up that day – 30 foot plus and the surf event was unsurprisingly on hold for the day. This time I made my own way to the North Shore via route 52/55 on TheBus. While the surf was smaller than two years ago – it was still high enough to be left to those who really knew what they where doing.

I was lucky to get to the beach after the 2 hour journey just as the quarter finals of the Gidget Pro women’s championship where beginning – I found a spot amongst the relatively small crowd watching to enjoy the sun, sand and spectacular. Judging by the number of cars parked along the road – I could have believe that those their had bought a car each some of them two!

I’ve yet to finish proofing the almost 1000 shots I took on a rather shutter happy afternoon… If you’ve got a 32GB memory card in the camera, it would be a shame not to use it and miss a shot!

Once I get home I’ll pick out some more of the shots from the afternoon – edit a few and upload them. Hard to do that on a laptop – especially now I’ve broken the screen and have a lovely crack running across it and a small circle of dead pixels in the middle – I assume where my toe landed as I tripped over it, having left it on the floor next to my bed in jet lag induced sleepiness/carelessness… 

If the surf is up and the surfing is still on, I may revisit the north shore next week - $4.50 for a round trip is great value for a 4 hour bus journey broken up with the chance to view such a spectacular sport…

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Waikiki Thanksgiving Parade

From Waikiki Thanksgiving Parade 2009

It is again strange to have such a strong show of Christmas both in such a non-Christmas climate and so early in the year… It only snows in Hawaii on top of the active volcanoes, to keep the needles on the Christmas trees they import they’re kept refrigerated for as long as possible! Yet there where snow references everywhere from the motorised snow sledge to reindeer… 

It is probably a sign of the changes in the economy since I was here two years ago, that the parade was much smaller this year – three or four marching bands, Pearl harbour survivors, two fire engines and most bizarrely a couple of concrete pumping trucks – from all the building work currently going on – maybe that is the only industry on the up at the moment… Hotels and shops appear to be taking advantage of the lower number of visitors to renovate… 

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Return to Big Island

From Big Island Flying Tour

Since last paying homage to pelehonuamea she has woken up – so a return trip was in order. I’d chosen to opt for a flight in a smaller plane that offer the possibility of a fly past of the now active caldera – but unfortunately the weather didn’t co-operate and a low cloud base made any attempt to over fly the volcano impossible. I did however get a great view of Waikiki and my hotel as the smallest plane I’ve flown in took off along Waikiki beach.

For added value, we stopped to pick up additional passengers in Maui – four perfect take offs and landing in one day – despite the inclement weather. The extra stop in Maui did mean we got to see more of the Islands than the clouds would have liked us to have done from high in the air!

Once we arrived on Big Island, we boarded the bus for the drive from the airport to the caldera, via the obligatory stops at various shops to give us the opportunity of purchasing local produce…

Despite the best efforts of Big Islands typically cloudy weather – at least on the windward side of the island – we where allowed good views of the column of gases now rising from the new opening in the floor of the crater. At one point while at the steam vends on the bluff above the crater the sun even made a brief appearance – raising everyone’s hopes – which where quickly dashed by the return of the rain and the requirement for me to resort to my “camera coat” to allow the photography to continue….

Apparently there are cracks forming in the floor of the crater that with one last reasonably large earth quake might cause the crater floor to collapse into the magma currently hidden below. If that should happen I’m sure I’ll be back – health and safety permitting to view the spectacle. 

Monday, November 23, 2009

Sunshine bound…

From Outbound Flight

After a weekend of watching rugby and tennis, it was an early start on Monday morning to escape the damp weather in London for a second air miles induced very long haul trip to Hawaii. Luckily I appear to be back in the favour of the long haul travel – and unlike the last time, the journey was uneventful. A travel day that started at 7am in London and didn’t finish until 9pm Hawaiian time – 7am London… wasn’t too taxing. Sitting back and catching up on four movies at the front of the plane to LAX, then enjoying an evening meal on the long hop to Honolulu – all first class and paid for by the wonder of air miles!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

ATP Tour Final comes to the O2

From ATP World Final 2009

Bringing together the 8 best singles players and 8 best doubles pairings under the roof of the O2 was bound to create a good atmosphere – and make one of them the British number one and you are on to a sure thing. That is the ATP Tour Final, that brings the tennis year to a close…

Both the singles matches on the opening night turned out to be cracking matches – both going to three sets – with the underdogs, Juan Martin Del Potro and Fernando Verdasco pushing the favourites – Andy Murray and  Roger Federer for most of the first two sets. Unfortunately – or fortunately depending on your point of view, neither of them was able to put in the final killer shots and pull off shocks!

The doubles matches on the other hand where fairly one sides events. The abuse of the sporting spectacle by reducing any game that reaches deuce to a single additional point and playing a “match tiebreaker” if the first two sets are shared seams to devalue doubles – which if anything has the potential to be more entertaining than singles – which can turn into a pure contest of the serve with rallies few and far between, not a problem doubles encounters – even in the artificially shortened matches there where many wonderful rallies that could have gone either way.

Leaving for Hawaii the next morning, I only attempted to get tickets for the first day. Having missed out on the pre-sales competition from the ATP, I managed to get a poor ticket for the afternoon session- up with the gods on the 4th level, and a reasonable ticket for the evening… Imagine my surprise (or lack of it) to receive an email from ticket master - “last minute seats court side available” – this is getting too frequent and very annoying – my guess is that these are tickets reserved to combine with corporate entertainment that isn’t happening at the moment. It is very poor that genuine fans are being sold seats miles from the action thinking they are the only ones left, only for better ones to be freed close to the event. 

But at relative cheap prices I went for it and had two seats I could have used for both sessions – the ones I did use right behind the baseline – it felt like the serves where coming straight at me!

I also took a chance, and for the first time had my DSLR with me in the O2 – despite the “you shouldn’t use that” from the bag inspector at the door… Once I was in there where DSLR everywhere, and a few video cameras.

Events are just going to have to accept their patrons want pictures to remember the event by, and wouldn’t the participants prefer those where the best pictures possible rather than phone camera pictures? They are never going to be able to prevent phones with camera being used, so the cat is out of the bag…  I can understand why artists that are staging multiple concerts with the same content don’t what video of it being put on YouTube – but still pictures for personal use shouldn’t cause anyone to lose revenue – and for unique event such as sport they can only generate more business for the next event!