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Food Basket and Rainbow Friends

February 6, 2013

Hawaii – Friday, January 25

I didn’t get much sleep on the plane, but at least I got a little. We left American Samoa a little before midnight, and landed in Honolulu about 5:30am but we gained an hour. I had made a reservation to fly to the big island of Hawaii to finish off my week in Hawaii that started back in Oahu. My choices for Hilo had been either 7:15am or 11:15. I picked the later time originally because I thought it was cutting things a bit close going through customs and immigration – which we have to do even though American Samoa is a territory. But we were waved through quickly, and I decided to make a dash for the inter-island terminal to see if I could maybe catch the earlier Hilo flight so I wouldn’t have to sit in the airport. They had room and I was able to make the switch – just barely. It was a short hop from Oahu to Hawaii, but my rental car wasn’t quite ready since I had arrived earlier than planned. At first I thought I’d have to sit around in this airport for 4 hours until I could get my car, but the agent had my phone number in case one came back early. I started researching some donation possibilities, and soon enough my car was ready. I got a map and good directions, and I set off for The Food Pantry, which was open on Fridays and wasn’t too far away. I found the street with no trouble, but try as I might, I couldn’t find the food pantry. I was in kind of an industrial area, but I saw a vet clinic on the corner, and figured they might know where the Food Pantry went. The first thing I saw when I walked into the vet clinic was pamphlets about the Rainbow Friends Animal Sanctuary and a couple of donation jars pretty full of cash. It made me think this was a place people liked, because they were supporting it. The receptionist told me that the Food Basket had just moved up the road a ways where they would have more room. I took a Rainbow Friends pamphlet on my way out, and thought it was coincidental that I stopped for directions at a place where I would be led to another donation opportunity.

This time I found the Food Basket, and the young lady who showed me around had just come back from making a food delivery. Construction crews were getting the new space fine-tuned for their needs. The Food Basket participates in several programs – I chose to have my donation go to their ‘backpack program’ which helps provide school kids with food on weekends.

Then I drove into Hilo and parked outside of town and wandered all around. I was tempted to visit the Pacific Tsunami Museum, but knew it deserved more time than I had now. Hila hasn’t turned into a big touristy resort type city, which made it more fun to walk around. As I was making my way back to the car, I walked through a farmer’s market and got some bananas and tomatoes. The bananas are different from the ones back home and they’re yummy. I got some sweet apple bananas to try. It’s fun seeing all the different stuff at the markets – I don’t recognize everything! Then I drove out to Wailuku State Park to see Rainbow Falls. I wasn’t there at the right time of day to see a rainbow, but the falls were still pretty. I also drove out to the ‘boiling pots’ area, but didn’t see anything that looked like boiling mud pots!

From there I drive to the Rainbow Friends Animal Sanctuary. I called them to get directions and it was quite a ways off the beaten path, but was very pretty. The lady I met showed me around the property and I saw some of the dogs and cats they have. They provide a nice place for unwanted animals, and do their best to adopt some if them out.

Then I headed to the Mauna Loa macadamia nut plantation and factory. Their macadamia nut orchard consists of 250,000 trees, and all the nuts have to picked up off the ground by hand – they’re not fully ripe until they fall off the trees on their own. I took the little factory tour and it was interesting. It’s a very labor-intense production. The shells require a great deal of pressure to crack and then they have to spend a lot of time drying, which they do with a furnace powered by their own shells. Then they’re sorted several times, and salted, or dipped in chocolate, etc. and packaged in a variety of ways. I sampled nearly all the different kinds in the gift shop, and bought a small can to munch on later. My favorites are simply the salted ones – the chocolate seems to overpower the nut in my opinion! (But they’re still good!) I walked a couple miles along the driveway through the orchard – had to take advantage of walking through a macadamia nut farm!

Then I headed for the Pineapple Park hostel near the Volcano National Park. There weren’t any signs or anything, so I called for directions and again, found myself off the beaten path. I had reserved a private room with a shared bath, but I ended up being the only guest in the huge hostel – a big group of college kids had just left, so maybe that was a good thing. At first I thought it might be kind of strange to be the only one there, but I wasn’t going to be spending much time there, and it was convenient to the national park. It’s actually a nice place, although being in the rain forest kind of makes things seem ever so slightly damp. I noticed that on Samoa too – the heat and humidity sometimes make for a feeling of dampness that kind if lingers. Anyway, the hostel had a big outside porch area that can accommodate several groups of people, and right inside the door is a huge living room/family room kind of sectioned off in 4 areas. There were card tables with cards available, book shelves, maps and games. Outside there was a BBQ area, a fishing pond, volleyball net etc. It’s a bit out in the sticks without restaurants and stores nearby, but with some planning ahead, it’s kind of a nice little spot.

Once I carried my stuff in, I couldn’t resist heading to the Volcano National Park to get my bearings there and walk my last couple of miles for the day. The park stays open 24 hours a day so people can drive up to the observation point in the dark to watch the steaming orange-red smoke from the lava lake inside the Kilauea Volcano. I walked along the Sulfur Banks trail in twilight – strange to see so much steam pouring out from countless vents in the ground. It didn’t smell as bad as I thought it would. I was pleasantly startled to run across 3 nene geese – some of Hawaii’s endangered birds. It was getting dark when I turned around to walk back through – all misty and ghostlike. I drove up to the museum where there’s a big area to just watch all the glowing, steaming, colorful activity from the crater. There used to be a drive around the whole crater, but it’s been closed off for about 5 years after an earthquake damaged the area. I stayed up there for a while – it’s a view that’s pretty unique!

And then I was more than ready to head back to the hostel – after a short night on the plane last night, and a full day today, I was worn out!
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