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February 2, 2020
Hilo: Super Sunday

Gail writes…

Today is Super Bowl Sunday! The ship is going to broadcast the game into the theater and the cabins. Everyone is very excited. Our Cruise Director Andy is from Kansas City, so there is a bit of rivalry with the San Francisco-based passengers. When we picked our excursions months ago we had no idea who would be playing, so of course we have our first all-day excursion today. We start at 8:45 local time and return sometime around 4 pm.

Today is the first palindromic date in 900 years! 02 02 2020 – a date that reads the same backwards as forwards!

After a room service breakfast enjoying our view from the room, we headed out to the gathering spot in the theater. As we were waiting for our trip to be called, there was a lot of conversation over whether we would need warm jackets and rain jackets or not. We were heading up to about a 4,000-foot elevation on the windward side of the island, and you never know. I had my Regent World Cruise jacket, but would it be warm enough? I hate being cold, so I ran back up to our room and grabbed the fleece my sister-in-law Joanne got me for Christmas. I got back just as they were handing out the tickets, and off we went.

There were 24 of us on a small bus, and the guide was a young Marine vet named Bear. He mentioned that he had done three tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iran. I started the applause and he laughed saying, “It’s just a job folks.” Bear proved to be one the best tour guides we have ever had anywhere. He is studying for his masters in ecology, and it is clear he is packed with knowledge about his adopted home. (When he left the service, he was given a choice of where to live by the military. He choose Hawaii for the surfing.)

Bear got his nickname because when he was a child, his parents called the police to report him missing. He had taken the family camping gear and gone off camping by himself. He was seven years old at the time.

Our first stop was to Rainbow Falls, where we saw the falls but not rainbows – it was too cloudy today. We then did a short hike up to large strangler fig (Banyan tree) grove. Two trees were massive, and it was hard to gain a perspective of the true size. Finally, someone from the group walked down into the valley and pretty much disappeared against the size of the tree.

Rainbow Falls

Note the gentleman standing by the banyan tree!

Our next stop was Kilauea Crater at Volcanoes National Park. As we got closer it became clear that the fleece was going to come in handy under the Regent jacket. It was windy and cold. We were in for a 3.5-mile round-trip walk to the crater, so everyone hit the rest room and then we were off to the hike. Now, “hike” is a loose term. This was completely on a paved road or walkway, but it was long. At one point is was like something from Lord of the Rings, a landscape cleared by fire. It reminded me of the fire at Highland House in 2015.

I started out all bundled up, but about halfway there I started to peel off layers. It drizzled off and on. At one point I had my camera hidden under my jacket and Russell patted my tummy; I looked nine months pregnant. We had a fine walk enjoying the views though it was overcast, which makes getting sharp photos difficult. But I did have a lot of chances to get Happy the Hedgehog photos. After forgetting about him on many of the other tours, I was determined to get some this time.

The crater itself is much larger than I thought it would be. On the far side there are still active steam vents. We were able to get very close to the edge; there are no barrier walls, just ropes.

After the 2018 eruption, the Kilauea caldenza doubled in size

On the return walk, the skies opened up. I had put the fleece into my backpack and I only had on the windbreaker. We got drenched. And then cold. When we all got back to the bus everyone was trying to figure out how to remove their jacket to shake it out without getting soaked. There was not much success. The humidity in the bus was so high that all the windows fogged over.

The next stop was the steam vents on the far side of the crater. It seemed clear to me that the visibility was not going to be great. Everything looked like steam coming out of the ground, but half of it was fog. Russell headed off down the path. I made it to the first vent next to the parking lot, stood near it, got warm but more damp, and went back to the bus.

The next stop was a quick one at the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Farm. Bear had repeatedly said that the coconut macadamia ice cream was amazing as was the Portuguese hot dog. I don’t like coconut so I can’t speak to the ice cream (and I was too cold to try any other ice cream). But the hot dog was delicious.

Once we got back to the ship, Russell took off like a shot to try to catch some of the football game in the theater. He got to see a bit of the third quarter and the last quarter.

Superbowl LIV in the Constellation Theater

I thought I would take the pressure off him today and write this quick entry. Our ship leaves soon. I could happily stay in Hilo. Gosh, it’s pretty on this island.

Last night’s moon over Hawaii

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