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By Rob and Melissa Gunter

February 8 to March 31, 1996


We are having a great time and are excited about the South Pacific. I知 thinking about all of y'all back home. Please save any cards and letters you may receive from us. I値l let Rob give you all the details.

Ku置 ipo,


Well it痴 the month of March already, that means its been over a month since our arrival in Hawaii Upon our arrival I (Rob) played Navy at the Macalapa (if you池e in Hawaii you will have to get used to the names) Clinic at the Naval Base Pearl Harbor.


Feb 8, 1996

We arrived in Hawai段 and got "squared away" with the Navy Reserve and I went out and introduced myself to people with whom I had been corresponding. I will be able to perform weekend drills here in Hawai段 and have the opportunity to work here for my annual 2 weeks of Navy duty. This should help pay for the expense of Hawai段 On Honolulu we used the bus to get around and found it to be convenient. Each night we went to Chinatown for dinner and managed to find some good food that was cheap ($5pp).

After the first weekend, Mel and I went to the Big Island (Hawai段). The big Island is great. Lots of hiking trails. We stayed 2 nights in Hilo at a hostel called Arnotts Lodge (It痴 in the book). A great place run by Arnott (wouldn稚 you know it), who is Australian. A double runs about $30/night, and bunk space is available for about $15 pp. If you want, they are always looking for help, and you can work around the place for your nights stay (Wednesday you can even work for a Bar-B-Q supper).

From Hilo we went up to Kilahuea crater and stayed in Volcanoes Nati park. A great place to spend a few clays checking out the volcanoes as there are hiking trails all around the main crater and clown to the beach (about 6 miles). We rented bikes and rode around the crater for the day. (Don稚 try this unless you are in REALLY good shape, I (Mel) had to walk the bike about 1/2 mile up the last hill) Be sure to check out the lava tube on the road around the crater. After walking 50 yards through the tube, stairs are provided to get out and the rest of the tube is not maintained as a trail. A sign is just out of viewing that looks like one of those "DANGER DO NOT ENTER" types, but upon closer inspection it invites you into the last 600 ft of the tube--with a flashlight. There is no lighting or markers along the way, and when you switch off your flashlight it is pitch black. At the encl is your opportunity to make it into the national archives via a sign up log stored in a pipe.

The crater is immense, and there are lots of good trails giving views from every angle.  Devastation Trail is good, as you can see how lava has engulfed part of the forest leaving nothing but burned out tree trunks in it痴 wake. Continuing around the crater you get to the caldera. Lots of H2S04 and other nasty fumes being emitted - talk about superfund sites!!

The park at this point is at an elevation of about 4,000 ft, which makes it about 10 degrees cooler than sea level, perfect for me though Mel was cold at night. We checked out some of the programs offered by the Park Service and had one clear night where you could reach up and touch the stars. On a clear day you can see a bunch of observatories on the summit of Moana Kea (13,000 ft). If you aren稚 into observatories, the same mountain also offers snow skiing (no lifts provided). After a few nights around Kilahuea we returned to Hilo and caught the bus to Kona.

One problem with getting around on the big island is that there is little to no public transport. A bus runs from Hilo to Kona once per day and goes around the north end of the island through Waimea. The price is right at $6pp, and you get a 4 hr self-tour. A thumb will also work for travelling as the natives are friendly, though not reliable when it痴 raining. In Kona we stayed in a dumpy hostel called Patey's (sounds like something you spread on a cracker), and explored Kona. Kona痴 a great place with a nice shopping area down by the waterfront and the usual tourist opportunities (whale watching , deep sea fishing, diving, snorkeling, golf, etc.). After a day in Kona, we decided to splurge and rent a car.

We took the car back up to Kilehuea crater and explored some areas that were too far to hike (about 15 miles) in our current physical condition (recent couch-taters). This included a major petroglyph site and the lava going into the sea on the Chain of Craters road. The flowing lava is about 2 miles from the end of the road, and a Park Ranger is stationed at the roads end (where lava covered the road last year) with a spotting scope. As the sun sets the viewing is excellent, you can see the reflection of

flames and explosions in the steam cloud formed by the lava entering the sea. The ranger leaves about an hour after sunset and makes a pitch to keep people from venturing out to the molten lava.

Of course we were tempted to go out there, but the hike is pretty far over lava flows which are black. Maintaining footing on the lava is difficult at night even with a flashlight, and there are lava tubes out there which are active but not visible. As lava flows it cools around the edges and gradually briclges over the top to form a tube for lava to travel through, apparently hardened lava is an excellent insullator. Falling though a thin tube surface and being incinerated - even if you only lose a leg - would sour the experience. Also, the hardened lava is rough with a fiberglass like surface. Lots of raspberries were evident from people falling as they walked the 1/4 mile to the viewing area from the end of the road. Important safety tip: Walk out before sunset and wear good shoes.

We spent the next nights camping at county beach parks. You are supposed to have permits, but

no one seemed to check on the Big Island. Permits ($ 1/night-pp) can only be obtained M-F in Hilo, and you must specify where you will be each night. The problem is when it痴 raining on the Hilo side, you really don稚 want to be there camping. We tried to make it to that side whenever it was sunny, and spent the other days on the dry side (Kona). Camping helped us justify the expense of a rental car (about $30/day).

We heard about "unofficial" camping at Kehala Bay from a guy we met so we spent a night out there. It was a perfect place accesable via a dirt road which is on most maps. Of course you have to ignore the private road signs, but once past them you get to "beach access" signs. Apparently there is a law in Hawai段 that all beaches must have public access (even those at luxury resorts as verified by a recent court case). We camped under a canopy of trees next to a black sand beach and a reef. We spent the afternoon swimming and watching humpback whales frolic off the coast. Which reminds me.... BRING BINOCULARS!! This is a great spot with fire pits and picnic tables, but you will have to plan on staying the night. The access road gets locked at night.

A few other things about renting cars in Hawai段. The "saddle road" that runs between Hilo and Kona on the most direct route is off limits for all car rental agencies except Avis (I think). This road leads up to the observatories. Also, you will want a 4WD vehicle for about half of your stay, as most of the roads are unpaved and off limits for non 4WD rental cars. If you rent a jeep, make sure it has a roof as the Hilo side of the island is essentially a rain forest.

Feb. 24-March 1, 1996

We spent one more night on the Big island and headed to Kauai. Travel between the islands can be done on commuter flights (using real planes - jets) for about $35pp between islands. To get the best rate, purchase inter-island coupons at agencies around town. The best rates are on Hawaiian Air, Mahalo Air, and Aloha Airlines, with even better discounts if you are a Hawaii resident. Tip #2, Get a Hawai段 drivers liscense or ask a friend who lives locally to buy the passes for you. Residents get cheap rates on EVERYTHING like car rentals and Hotel fares (Hotel rates that are normally $150/night drop to about $60 for residents) using the kamaina (Ka-my-na) rates.

The flights are short and you get a free juice and post cards on each flight. In Kauai we rented a car and originally planned to camp. Unfortunately the weather did not always cooperate. We spent the first night at the Hotel Lani in Lihue. A small family run hotel in the heart of Luhue which is a pretty good deal at $36/night (save $2 if you stay an extra night).

Our next stop was the Waimea canyon. Kind of a small scale grand canyon in Hawai段 The scenery is spectacular and there are plenty of good trails to interesting places. We went on portions of the #1, 2, and 3 trails (get a map at the visitors center) and hiked out to a spectacularly beautiful waterfall. The falls were relatively small, but at the base was a crystal clear pool surrounded by lush vegetation and large boulders. The water was cool and felt great after the hike. We dried off on one of the boulders. Mel took some pictures of me swimming that will probably end up haunting me some day... That night we camped up in the Waimea Canyon State Parks camping area. The facilities are great, and you will not suffer for entertainment.

I refer to Kauai as "Isle de yard bird". Up at the park there are litterally hundreds of chickens! They are like ants. The Colonel would think he壇 gone to heaven (maybe he痴 there?). Anyway, it is a lot of fun watching them establish the pecking order. In the middle of the night, one tried to roost on our tent. We heard him jump up there and slide down the side of our rain fly. A bit unnerving until you figure out what痴 going on. I think the best way to prepare a yard bird while camping is to skin it first then roast it whole over the fire. Don稚 bother with the feathers. Think of how much you save over the same fare at a trendy restaurent (free range chicken).

If you ask the natives, they will all tell you that Kauai is the most beautiful of all the islands. Apparently the "Blue Lagoon" was filmed there among other things. We found it to be spectacular but rainy. It痴 kind of odd, but the main tourist season over here is also the rainy season. We camped the next night at a county park, and found out first hand about the local governments philosophy regarding campers. First you must obtain a permit in Lihue. For residents or the military it痴 free, $3pp otherwise. About 3-Sam (how would you like that job) the ranger comes around and inspects your permit. You are expected to attach the permit to the outside of your tent for inspection. I don稚 know what痴 worse; having the ranger wake you for your permit, or having one fumble around your tent unannounced inspecting it. A strange policy. I guess they figure that campers (or surfers by the way) don稚 spend enough to warrant courtesy.

About 2 hrs after the ranger came by it started raining. Hoping it would stop, we hung out in the tent for a while playing cards and eating breakfast. When it didn稚 stop by 11 am we decided to take a shower in the rain and head off for laundry. We went into town for a while and just made it out as the river was rising and the only bridge was about to be closed.

We spent the last few days hanging out on the beach and renting a sea kayak. We spent one night at the Hostel on the island and the last two at the Hotel Lani in Lihue (HOT SHOWERS!!). We took the kayak to the most overrated tourist attaction in the islands, the "fern grotto. There is a tour company who has river boats seating about 200 people. They take you down the river and dock at a pier they built. One strange thing is that if you have a kayak and try to use the pier they run you off or cut your kayak loose, even thought the fern grotto is supposed to be a State Park. When you go by kayak you have to tie up to a tree and climb up the bank ignoring the do not enter signs. Acutally the roped off area seems to allow you to climb up but makes it difficult. Anyway, once you climb up there is a paved path leading past innumerable chickens to the fern grotto.

The place is just an overhang with a few ferns growing on it. As a matter of fact it is so lame that the tour has some hawaiians standing by to give you a show (free via kayak). This probably was instituted to cut down on the number of mutinees occuring on the ride back. You may get lucky and see one of the cats try to get one of the chicks. The cats were imported to this area to help control the chickens, many bear the scars of battle. I don稚 know how much it costs, but am sure it is too much. Along the river (the big one-forgot the name) there are some waterfalls, jumping rocks, and swing ropes for your swimming enjoyment. Kayaking was a lot of fun. We got one for about half the going rate on the main drag by asking the inn-keeper. She recommended a guy near Lihue.

As a side note we saw a guy with some chicken boxes getting on the plane. He wore a jacket with the embroidered message "Cockfighting is a sport, not a crime". As you can imagine, a lot of that goes on here in Hawai段 I guess the guy was pretty brazen, or it is legal here.

Back on Oa檀u

March 1-end

I (Mel) am writing March so you値l get the super condensed version. Rob had Navy Reserve the 1st weekend and weeks 1-3. I toured the island by car, snorkeled, went to the beach, slept, etc. The Navy usually puts you up when on active duty, but there was no room so they gave Rob cash and a car for his time on duty. We are renting a room (large bedroom, bathroom, fridge & microwave) in a private home in Aiea for about $500/ month. The couple who own the home (live upstairs) are wonderful. Our house is close to Pearl Harbor with great views of the Arizona Memorial and the harbor itself.

Anyway, Rob finishes March 21 and we play tourist Fri-Sun, going to the Polynesian Cultural Center (Rob hoping to watch Tech vs Cincinati then onto the final 4 BABY). On Monday we start an open water diver certification course with dives the following Saturday and Sun. Monday we are off.

We are leaving Oahu April 1 and will fly to Pago Pago in American Samoa. Rob can fly with the military and Mel flies commercial. One way tix run $322. This gets us into central Polynesia cheaply as the cost to Suva (Fiji) runs about $600. From there we can get around by boat ($20/island)

or fly ($40). We think this way will be a lot cheaper. Go figure. I guess there is some competition for rates.

Rob (again)

Once again the Navy calls. I spent the first weekend playing Navy and continued on for an additional 3 weeks. This provided income ancl macle sure I received a "good year" towards retirement. To get a good year you have to "vest" by getting points. I served in the Radiation Health Department of the Naval Shipyard. I had the opportunity to perform QA checks on mamography machines (no subjects). Actually the procedure is simple, but must be done meticulously, shooting phantoms and reading films. I have been a casual observer of the controversy between HPs and MPs relating to whose board can certify you to perform this task, other than protecting turf ($$$$$), the whole controversy seems overrated. We also screened some X-ray units, and I had an opportunity to give lectures on TLDs at the shipyard clinic, and another at the Tripler Army Hospital.

I also met some of the local HPS members. Unfortunately I did not plan it out or I would have received a free dinner for giving the lecture to the local HPS chapter. They only meet on Mondays because that痴 when they serve Mongolian Bar-B-Q at the Officers Club. Our schedules conflict.

Behind Door #2

For a good deal, you can check out volunteering at Midway Island. There is a program underway to return Midway to it痴 natural state.

Apparently you can volunteer to help out. Mel and I tried to get work over there, but the person in charge (Nanette Seto) was going to be off Island when we were available. Rather than delay our trip we decided to move on. If you would like to volunteer to get bitten by gooney birds (albatross) while banding them, or help remove alien plant life, give them a call using this procedure: Call 808-471-1110 and ask to be connected with Midway Island. Once connected ask for Nanette or the wildlife group. You can work out with Nanette how long your stay will be. Word is that you get meals and a place to stay. Also, apparently there is a lot of fishing over there and the boats will take you out for free. Paradise!!! To get there you must fly with the military from Hickam Air Force Base. There are flights once a week (and that痴 it). If the flight cannot make it because of bad weather, you get to stay another week.

Best Wishes,


Had Enough? Everyone take care and we値l write with a new update in a month or so. Mahalo (A little Hawaiian lingo) for reading this far!

Rob & Mel

BTW, The weather was a bit rough at first with temps at night in Feb down to about 65F. Fortunately the weather has improved since then.



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Copyright ゥ 2002 by Robert and Melissa Gunter.  All rights reserved.