Sunday, April 26, 2015

There and Back Again - our trip to New Zealand

March 9, 2015 - Monday we woke up in our little one room bunk room and headed out the door.  The best way to hike Tongariro is to go park the car at the end of the trail then take a shuttle back to the start so that you car is waiting for you at the end when you are done.  Jocelyn called one of the shuttles and reserved 2 seats but when we go there, the shuttle that looked like ours said he wasn't the company we booked with. By the time he was leaving he saw that we till didn't have a ride so asked if we just wanted to go with him. We took him up on the offer. He stopped to pick up one last group who presented him with a voucher from the company we booked with and he took said he was the right shuttle. Not sure why he was so confused with us! We were worried we weren't going to be able to get a shuttle to the start so were very glad it all worked out. The trail marker said it was 19.4km back to where we parked so we started up around 8:30. 

It was some very beautiful scenery. We hiked through a volcano so not at lot of green but still lots of wide open vistas and cool rock formations. We followed the main trail up until we got to turnoff for Mt. Ngauruhoe which is Mt. Doom from Lord of the Rings where Frodo takes the ring to throw it back into the mountain to destroy it. We decided to make the arduous hike up to the top. The mountain is actually a volcano that is shaped like the stereotypical volcano. That means the sides are very steep and covered in loose rock. This made it extremely difficult to climb especially for someone who had finished an Ironman less than 48 hours earlier.   
View from the top of Mount Doom

We struggled our way to the top in about 1.5 hours then took some time to eat lunch. There isn't really a good way to get down something like that so we found a little trail that a number of others had created literally straight down the side of the volcano. Enough people had done it that most of the rocks have been displaced (i.e. sent hurtling down upon the heads of unsuspecting hikers was a small miracle nobody got their heads split open). This left a trail of mostly dirt/sand to cruise down. Because the angle of the mountain was so steep, we had to lean really far back to keep from tumbling head first down the mountain like one of the rocks. The dirt was also about ankle or more deep so every step we took would cause us to sink in and slide down quite a bit. With those two elements combined, it looked and felt like we were walking on one of those moving sidewalks. We were constantly moving downward, but our steps were in slow motion. It was actually really fun to come down like that. By the time we did get down, though, our legs were pretty shot. The remaining 17km of the hike was pretty but we were both pretty ready to be done by that point. Unfortunately we were only about 1/3 of the way through. We hiked along the ridges of mountains/volcanos that overlooked emerald lakes and rolling hills. The last part of the trail wound down through a thick green forest and over a couple gurgling streams. If it hadn't been for the fact that both our legs were dead tired and we just wanted to be back at the car, it would have been a very nice hike. Maybe next time we should just start at the end and hike the last little bit. The end of the trail came down from some elevation and going down was really hard on Jocelyn's Ironman legs so I went in front so she could lean on me for the steep parts to help take some pressure off of her legs. I guess we kept up the tradition started in Hawaii of going on a super long, hard day hike right after an Ironman. I'm not sure how she does it!  We finally made it back to the car, collapsed into the seats, dumped half the mountain out of our shoes, then headed off to Waitomo to visit some caves.  Our accommodations were a very small but very interesting trailer room thingy (I think that is the official term for them). It was a stand along structure that was one open space with a bunk bed, small table, and chairs.  It had a sliding glass door and a little porch and that was it.  There were a number of these trailer room thingies around the facility along with a shared kitchen and bathroom.  It was a pretty unique setting but it worked for what we needed.

March 10, 2015 - Tuesday we woke up and headed to the Waitomo Caves.  They are famous for their glow worms that dot the ceiling of the caves.  They used to just float you down their river on a boat so you could stare at the worms then send you on your way.  They have since expanded into adventure tours.  We opted for the adventure tours.  The first one we did was a rock climbing tour.  We walked down a giant circular ramp that took us down into the cave then practiced using our safety gear.  They used a climbing system called Via Ferrata which I was familiar with because that was what they had where I took the scouts rock climbing at the end of last year.  It consists of a series of cables attached to the wall of the cave.  On your harness, there are two cables with magnetic hooks that you attach to the cables.  As you climb from one section of cable to the next, you remove you hook, attach to the next section of cable, attach your second hook to the new section and off you go.  The magnetic piece was interesting because it restricted you from removing both hooks from the cable at the same time so you couldn’t accidentally detach yourself from the safety cables completely.  Pretty slick system.  The climbing tour included climbing up over the river and straddling it 30+ feet in the air, ziplines from one section of the cave to another, a big rope swing that took you out over the river, etc.  It was a lot of fun! I’ve been rocking climbing and I’ve been caving but never rock climbing in a cave.  We did another tour that involved wet suits and inner tubes.  That one was not quite as adventurous because most of it was spent sitting in an inter tube paddling down a slow moving river.  We did get to see some of the really cool glowworm areas, which was neat.

After our caving adventure was over, we drove to the coastal city of Raglan.  We hadn’t arranged for a place to stay so decided to just drive around and see what we could find.  We ended up stumbling upon another campground and got a backpacker’s cabin for the night.  Similar to the last place, it was one room but instead of having 2 beds, it had 8! It was a room the size of our living and dining rooms back home with 4 bunk beds and had a big kitchen in the building over.  So we got a large 8 bed room for about $40.

March 11, 2015 - Wednesday morning we took things pretty easy.  We had a breakfast that consisted of some granola cereal, yogurt, fruit, and an angel food cake we bought on Tuesday.  The outside of it was really good but the inside was really gooey so we tossed it in the oven and crisped up the outside which made it taste like a toasted marshmallow.  Breakfast of champions! We went to Raglan because it is a really great place for surfing.  Neither of us have ever been surfing so Jocelyn found a surf school and we signed up for the afternoon class.  The waves were really good in the morning so we drove down to the beach to watch all the real surfers out catching the real waves. We drove down to the little town center of Raglan and wanted to go on a short run together so needed a place to change into running clothes.  We found a public restroom but this was no public restroom to hold your nose at (literally or figuratively).  

It consisted of two side-by-side shiny metal pods.  You pushed a button and the pod door slides open.  Upon entering, the door slides shut and a very pleasant gentleman’s voice welcomes you to the restroom and lays down the ground rules and walks you through the process of using the restroom.  He is accompanied by some very lovely jazz tunes as he informs you that you have a 10 minutes time limit, after which the door will automatically open and expose you to the world.  After finishing your business, you step up to the sink which has three different motion-activated nozzles.  The first one spits out a carefully measured dollop of soap, the second runs the water for rinsing, and the final one is a dryer which also triggers and automatic flush of the toilet.  If you have not exceeded your time limit, you push the button and the door slides back open and you are free to go on your way refreshed and rejuvenated from such a pleasant experience.  It was such an amazing restroom that Jocelyn took a video tour of the thing.  I believe I have reached the pinnacle of restroom ambiance and experience and I now have the rest of my life to remember and pine for the Raglan public restroom.  After lunch and window shopping, we headed back up to the surf school.  

Our class was advertised as a max of 6 students ended up being invaded by a literal bus load of young single folks who came to stay at the hostel and take surfing lessons.  We ended up with 19 students which was a little frustrating.  We had some lessons on land then went down to the “beginner” beach where the waves were small and the water was no more than chest deep.  Jocelyn, of course, was a pro at it and got up several times and I was able to get up few times as well.  One person in the class pointed out that whoever said surfers were lazy had never been surfing.  It is a decent amount of work to get out to the point you want to catch a wave.  You have to drag a giant, somewhat heavy board with you while getting pounded by other waves trying to keep you from getting out. Then you have to turn your board around, climb up on it, then paddle like crazy at the right time so you have some momentum going with the wave.  Then you have to climb up on your board, and in my case, only to fall over shortly thereafter and start the whole process over again.  It was still really fun and a very new experience for both of us.

After swimming, we changed and drove from Raglan to Hamilton.  We ate at a really good burger joint that was recommended by a couple people we talked to and they had gluten free options which was awesome.  Then we headed up to the temple where we were staying the night.  

The Hamilton, NZ temple is huge! All the temples in our area are the smaller temples so it was been a while since we have been to one of the big ones.  It sits on a really big plot of land and has a really big visitor center and lots of patron housing.  We got our room and ended up doing some laundry which was a life saver.  It came right in the middle of the trip which was perfect because it meant we didn’t have to wash clothes in the bathroom sink. The apartment was very spacious, had its own kitchen and bathroom.  That was the first time we stayed somewhere without a shared kitchen/bathroom and it ended up being the cheapest/nicest place we stayed until our last place.  The next morning we learned that there was another couple from America that had checked in at the temple patron housing then gone out to see some sites and at some point that evening, were killed in a car crash.  It was a pretty sobering thing to hear and we were very grateful to have been protected.  The roads can get a little crazy in New Zealand and when you throw in driving on the left side, it certainly can get dangerous.

March 12, 2015 - Thursday morning we started at the Hamilton, New Zealand temple. We stayed at the patron housing which was quite nice. It was by far the nicest place we’ve stayed and also the cheapest. The best part was that it had its own bathroom! Everywhere else we have stayed had shared bathrooms (fortunately separate facilities for men and women). We were told to get to the temple 15 mins before the session started so we walked in right at 8:15 but they were already sending people up from the chapel. We rushed to get clothes rented and changed into.  The sizes they had were definitely not what I was expecting so I ended up with pants that forced me to hold my breath through the whole session so I didn’t snap off the button and send it flying through the room with the added benefit of having the legs of the pants high enough that I wouldn’t have had to worry about them getting wet were the room to unexpectedly flood.  It was a lovely session, though, with over 70 people.  It is neat to go to the temple in another country.  After the session, Jocelyn went to the YMCA (yes they do have YMCA’s in New Zealand and they did let her in for free because she has a US membership…pretty cool!) and I went back to the visitor center to watch Meet the Mormons.  It was shown in theaters in Cincinnati but fell on the week we were in Hawaii last year so we missed it.  It was really well done and did a good job of portraying how great a blessing the gospel is to anyone’s life in any situation.  It is definitely worth seeing if you haven’t had a chance to.

The next leg of our trip was to drive up to Hot Water Beach (yes that is the actual name of the beach). New Zealand has all kinds of natural hot springs and one of them happens to be right on the beach.  At low tide, you can dig out a little pool in the sand and the water that comes up from the ground is hot and forms your own personal hot bath.  Unfortunately the key word there is low tide and we happened to go on the day that a hurricane started making its way toward New Zealand so there was only high tide and higher tide.  We were able to dig our feet in the sand and could feel the hot water but the waves were too high to sit and relax so we headed off to find a place to sleep.  We ended up staying in another backpacking “cabin”.  We got there after the place closed so they just left a key and hoped we would pay them in the morning.  That happened all over the place here.  People were very trusting.  It was nice to see that because it meant that people hadn’t been burned by trusting others.  It was pretty warm so we opened the windows in our room before we went to bed.  Somewhere in the middle of the night, we both woke up scratching like crazy.  After some investigation, we found that the culprit was mosquitoes.  And that is when the hunt began.  We spent the next 45 mins scouring our 7x7 room for the pesky pests.  We turned on our phone flashlights like search lights to track them as they flew and strained our ears to hear the annoying little buzz of their tiny wings.  They were terribly elusive!  They would buzz by our ears then disappear into the darkness only to make another pass.  We got all of them except one especially dastardly mosquito who eluded us all night.  In the morning, I found the offender and justice was finally served!

March 13, 2015 - Friday morning we woke up somewhat groggily after being locked in mortal combat with the mosquitoes all night. Jocelyn still got up and ran in the morning. It is so impressive how dedicated and consistent she is. With every excuse to take a day off given everything she's done this week, she still goes out and does what she is supposed to. What a great lesson and example. She started running down the road while I packed the car and checked us out. We didn't end up getting into the cabin until after the office closed but they just left the key in our room and told us to stop by in the morning to pay. That happened so many places. We could have very easily stayed the night and taken off in the morning and nobody would have done a thing to stop us. It was refreshing to see how trusting everyone was in NZ and how little that trust evidently was broken. I picked Jocelyn up on the side of the road and we drove into Thames. It is a pretty quiet little town but every town here has the I. This is an Information shop that is staffed by someone who can answer any questions about the area and give recommendations on things to do and see. We stopped there for directions on how to get to the trailhead of our hike then ran into a grocery store to get some food for our hike. We drove up to the trailhead and got our pack ready to go. I checked Jocelyn's hiking pack in my checked bag so we could use it on this excursion. We then started our hike to the Pinnacles. 

Jocelyn had researched this online before we left and it was rated as one of the best things to do in New Zealand. We took the Billy Goat trail on the way up. It was used in the 20’s and 30’s by loggers who were logging massive kaori trees in the area. We saw the stump of one along the trail and it was massive! 

It was easily 6-7 feet in diameter and we saw pictures of some that night that were over 70 feet tall and much thicker than the one along the trail. The loggers built over 100 dams in that valley then would roll the felled trees into the river bed then time opening each of the dams so the floods of gushing water would push the timber from dam to dam all the way down to the mills. Pretty amazing process. They ended up losing so much timber (about 22 million feet) to breakage during this process that they built a series of rail tracks at impossibly steep inclines down the mountain. They had to cut the trees into several sections, somehow get one section onto one rail car ten send a couple cars down at a time. And they built kilometers of track and devised a winch system to move the cars up and down all in 6 months. The ranger we talked to about this said if they tried to do the same thing today it would take 6 years. They sure knew how to just get stuff done back then. Amazing what can be accomplished by people who are willing to work and don't have to fight bureaucracy. The trail he hiked was pretty intense. It was incredibly steep for at least 2.5 of the 3 hours it took us to finish. There were some beautiful vistas along the way though. The valley was covered in green with a number of rocky cliffs and pinnacles jutting up. 

It was a strenuous hike but certainly every bit as beautiful as advertised. We eventually got to the Pinnacles “hut” as it is called. It must have been named as a joke because it was anything but a hut. It could sleep up to 80 people, had a large kitchen with around 10 gas stoves. It had multiple levels and a giant outhouse and shower facility. Certainly the nicest hut I have ever seen. We got in around 5:00 and ate dinner then made another 30 min hike up a series of stairs, ladders, and metal rings driven into the rock face to get up to the top of the Pinnacle. It gave a breathtaking 360 view of the entire valley. We timed it so we could see the sunset and got some amazing photos of the sin dipping below the horizon, through the clouds, and dancing off the rocks. Probably some of my favorite photos I've ever taken. It wasn't a colorful sunset but the way the light played off the landscape was really cool. 

This was taken with my iPhone without any retouching. Amazing that a phone can do this!
After we climbed back down to the hut we talked to Pete the hut master who looked like the stereotypical mountain man. He told us about the history of the area and showed us the pictures I mentioned earlier. As things were settling down, a whole pack of American college kids barged into the hut talking loudly and making their presence painfully obvious. I can see why foreigners think Americans are all loud and obnoxious. We spent a few minutes that evening talking to the hut-master, Pete, who lives up there for 10 days at a time to make sure everything is ok.  He has to pack all of his food and gear for 10 days up those crazy trails.  Very impressive!  We finally wandered off to bed in our big shared bedroom which consisted of bunk lofts.  They weren’t really bunk beds because they were just long sheets of plywood and you found a spot somewhere along the board and throw your sleeping bag.  Someone had the lights turned on which made it hard to fall asleep and after finally falling asleep, the fire alarm started blaring in the middle of the night for no reason.  After looking around and smelling no smoke for a while, we slipped back to sleep.

March 14, 2015 - Saturday we woke up/were woken up at 5:55 this morning so we could hike up to the top of the Pinnacle again so we could see the sunrise. It was pretty cloudy when we went outside but the clouds had been moving so quickly that we thought it might clear up by the time we got to the top. It didn't clear up but we were above the clouds so did get to see the sunrise. It wasn't the most spectacular sunrise I've ever seen but still cool to see it from the top of the world. We came back down to the "hut" to eat breakfast and pack up. We heard there were scattered rain showers throughout the day so we wanted to hit the trail as quickly as possible. The hike back was certainly easier than the one in. It was almost exclusively downhill and about an hour shorter. There were lots of pretty sights to see along the way as well. When we got to the bottom, there was a couple down there who were looking for a ride back into town where their big packs were stored and where they would catch a bus to the next town. We were headed there anyway so squished (and I mean squished) them in the back seat next to our luggage and took them back to town with us. It was interesting to talk to them about their time in New Zealand. She had graduated with a classical music performance degree a few months earlier and wasn't sure what she wanted to do with her life so got a year visa to New Zealand and has been traveling around while she decides what she wants to do with her life. Her boyfriend (or traveling companion-their official status was somewhat unclear) had graduated almost 4 years prior and was also still trying to figure out what to do with his life so was traveling the world while he figured it out. He goes home to Wales every summer to work odd jobs to "refill the coffers" then strikes out on another adventure to discover his path in life. That is a surprisingly common story we've heard in almost everyone we've met on this trip. The vast majority of couples met each other during a previous stop and decided to finish their travels together. One couple (they seemed to be connected prior to embarking on their world tour) moves from country to country visiting the sites until they come across an experience they enjoy, apply for a job there, work there until they get bored, then move on to the next site or country. Another young man had a good job as an engineer in Canada and asked his company if he could take a year leave. They weren't keen on that idea and said no so he quit his job so he could travel for a year. He met a girl somewhere during his travels and they decided to tour New Zealand together. After that they are splitting up so he can go to another country to teach swing dancing for a while. All very interesting people with very interesting stories. I'm not quite sure how all of these adventures are being financed but they seem to be getting along alright. They just have very different perspectives on life from mine.

We wandered the main street of Thames to see some of the shops that popped up for their annual heritage festival (good timing on our part). The only one we spent any significant time at was a guy selling wooden spoons, knives, serving utensils, etc. They were all made from local salvage wood. There are guys that will essentially X-ray river beds here until they find a buried tree. They can't tell what kind of wood it is so send some poor soul down in a wet suit to dig through the mud and eels (yes they have eels in the rivers here) until he can tie a wire around the tree. They then pull it up, send it to the mill to clean it up and cut it open so they can figure out what kind of wood it is. He collects all kinds of native woods like that and makes beautiful pieces out of them. He integrates multiples kinds of wood into his spoons and is able to join them all together quite nicely. It was fun to admire his work.

Jocelyn still needed to get a bike ride in so we found a bike trail she could ride on but it turned into a gravel trail after a short while and she can't ride her road bike on that so I picked her up and we drove to Auckland. There, amazingly enough, is a YMCA here and she is a member back home and they let her workout here for free. Pretty cool! I guess she had a global pass...or just talked to kind people who let her in.

Tonight we are staying at a VRBO (vacation rental by owner). This is what we did in Hawaii and had a great time. People who have second homes or are going to be away for a while can put their home up for rent to vacationers. They can be pretty cheap and are generally pretty nice because you are staying in someone's house.
March 15, 2015 - Sunday we found a ward to visit and it ended up being a Tongan or Samoan ward so we saw several men in skirts (although I didn't call them skirts to their faces). That was one of the only times we had wifi so we took a couple minutes to FaceTime and see Emi. It looks like she has grown so much even this past week. She has some new words and longer hair. After church we ate some snacks and went to a big park to listen to an open concert they had there. The group was a little jazz trio that was quite unique. The keyboardist was either kiwi or Indian (couldn't really tell from where we were sitting), the bass player was an Asian lady, and the percussionist was an Indian guy playing little bongo style drums. Very odd but an interesting sound. It was a blend of jazz and Indian music…pretty heavy on the Indian. Not quite what I was hoping for but we came part way through a jazzy rendition of Danny Boy which was pretty groovy but the rest left a bit wanting. We spent some time in the afternoon walking the main streets of Aukland looking at shops. Everything was pretty pricy but it was fun to just walk outside in warm weather. We haven't been able to do that for a while in Cincinnati. In the evening, they have a night market that pops up and sells all kinds of different foods and little trinkets so we went to check that out. All in all it was a nice relaxing day which was quite welcome given all the active things we've done this week.

March 16, 2015 - Monday Sunday night going into Monday was a pretty wild one. We evidently have a thing about going to islands for Ironman races and catching hurricanes at the end of our trip. The exact same thing happened when we went to Hawaii. We got a bunch of crazy wind and rain Sunday night. It was so loud I had a hard time sleeping. Morning and waking up was a bit rough. The rest of the day was our big pack up and travel day. We spent the morning packing bags and organizing so we could check as few bags as possible. By the time we got all that finished and checked out of the place we were staying, it was about noon so we took our food to a park to eat. The playgrounds here are amazing! You could never get away with the things they build in the states. This playground had a giant tower that was probably 25 feet tall that had a giant slide down from the top. We of course had to climb up and slide down.

We heard about some good outlet stores in Aukland so tracked those down and get some cheap stuff. Our last stop was to a giant retailer called The Warehouse which is like Walmart. We had $2.70 left in NZ dollars and decided to find some thing that cost that much so we could get rid of the last of our coins. We ended up getting some food tongs for $2 and a sucker for $0.55 and donated the last $0.15 to some charity jar next to the cash register. Mission accomplished! We returned the rental car early because we were right there and decided we might as well get to the airport early. Turned out to be a good thing as Air New Zealand is very strict about their bag policy. You are only allowed one carry on of less than 7kg which made us have to check three bags instead of 2. This resulted in a $137 fee but of course we couldn't give money to the ticket agents, we had to pay at the service desk. Everyone else in the terminal seemed to be in the same boat as us and there were only 2 people in the building who were capable of taking our money and about a thousand people needing to pay. The whole time I was waiting in line, Jocelyn was weighing, shifting items, and reweighing all our bags to make sure the carry ons weren't too heavy but that the checked bags didn't go over the limit in the process. After we finally figured all that out, nobody ever checked the size or weight of our carry ons so all that effort and cost was for naught. Oh well! I am just landing in Chicago with 11 minutes to make the last flight home tonight. Hope I make it! (I ended up being one of the last people on the plane but did make it home that night.)

So that is our crazy adventure in New Zealand.  It was an amazing trip where we got to see and experience some absolutely stunning things.  Jocelyn wrote about the week leading up to where this saga began so you'll have to read that to get the skinny on the race etc. It was a really fun week to not have to worry about anything other than having fun with my best friend.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Hawaii Vacation

Here's the play-by-play for after the race vacation! Tried to break up the long boring story with pictures!

If you want to know more about the race you can read that on my other blog

Start of the race.
 After the race we hung out on a porch with Allison and family. Everyone was getting tired so we packed it up and went home. I said at the beginning I wanted to go back down for midnight but I was just too tired and didn’t want to make the drive down. We could hear the finish line from our house even though we were 25 minutes up the mountain.

Allison, Meredith, and me after the race!

Post race insomnia like usual (got up 3X to eat!) but we all got up and going. We had to get my wheel switched over so we went down to do that and talk to the staff about the banquet. I was able to introduce some of the trigger point staff to Scott. We ended up leaving Meredith down there and Scott and I went to church. It was a great sacrament meeting where a young woman talked about family. What she said last was Family means nobody gets left behind (stitch quote). After the meeting we had a couple people come talk to us about the race there were a lot of people who had volunteered at it.
            Meredith had caught a ride to Allison and TJ’s to help pack her bike. TJ adjusted me there and then we went to finish with my wheels and go to Kona brewing company. The food was great and they had gluten friendly things! We went to Scandinavian Shave ice after the lunch. It’s right down next to the finish line and was gluten free and delicious. We went home and promptly lost the keys. Scott looked everywhere for them and then I started looking too. He thought they were probably in the trunk. We prayed and then I went and looked in Scott’s short’s pocket one more time and they were there! AMAZING! We have a joke that one of the three Nephites help us and replace stuff when we loose it. (but we say tree Nephites for some reason). We had a short nap time and cleaned up the house. We headed down for the banquet a little after 6pm.

Before going up on stage, Meredith has better pictures, Scott recorded it.
             The banquet costs $55 for people who did not participate (Scott). We didn’t want to spend that much money on it since at previous banquets you could enter without paying after the food portion was over. We asked the people selling tickets and they directed us to someone else who directed us to some Ironman staff. I explained to them that I was really not going to be able to eat the food because of gluten and that he just wanted to see the awards since I did well. I asked if he could just come in after the food etc. They ended up just giving us a ticket and we went on our merry way. The banquet was fun. The only thing I could eat was peas and carrots so I had a nice big plate of that. They had fire twirlers and other Hawaiian cultural things.
            The awards part was fun as well. They lined us all up and so we all started talking together. The other girls in my age-group commented on how I looked like I was just flying on the run. We went on stage and were announced. I was a little sad that they didn’t announce that I won overall not only for my age-group. They give you a nice long sleeve cycling jersey that they put on you for the pictures. We talked to Ruth from Cincinnati and then took off.

I never got really awesome pictures of the dolphins but here's a decent one!
The start of our true vacation! Bryan and Tiffany Krabbe had told us about a place to go swim with the dolphins for free! I’m a huge sucker for fun free stuff so we left very early to go down since we were told to be there at 6am. The “beach” was very rocky so it was a little tricky getting into the water. We had stopped by Wal-Mart to buy boogie boards and 1 snorkeling mask for Scott. There were a couple other groups of people there and TONS of dolphins! It was so much fun, definitely one of the top 3 things we did in Hawaii. 

Swimming upside-down 

While we were down close to Captain Cook we went to the painted church. No one was there and we walked around the long way, which is always sad when you just did an Ironman! The church was originally built on the beach but the people moved up into the mountains so they moved the church up into the mountains by donkey!
            We then went to a little macadamia nut farm where the owner showed us her property and then gave us samples. She kept saying the word NUT which was a little unsettling.

Me and Meredith at the painted church.

Scott and I at the painted church.

             We went to Garret’s house to exchange Meredith’s race wheels. It was fun to sit at their beach house and chat. Meredith accepted her new job!!!! Happy day! Then we all went down to White Sands beach and went boogie boarding. It took us a couple times to catch the waves but it was awesome when we did! A sea turtle came by and said hi to us for a little while. We went and got some food in down town Kona and of course some Shave ice J. We did some shopping and found some wooden bowls to match the big Kona bowl, other than that we didn’t have much success.
            Got some more fruit at the fruit stand and went home for dinner and got ready to swim with the Mantas! It was raining hard for most of the afternoon so we called to make sure it was still happening! Because of the rain storm we lost power at the house.
            Scott and I went out and sat in the hot tub for a while and got hot so we jumped out and went and picked some figs to eat in the hot tub. The jets stopped working when we were pretty much done anyway which we found out was because of the power.

We just giggled at this name where the painted church was. 

 Laying on the front of the catamaran before jumping into the freezing water for Mantas.

             We went to the mantas and drove out in the ocean about 10 minutes. We were in the water FOREVER waiting for the Matas to come. There was a mom and son who had been there two other times with no mantas! We saw a spotted eagle ray and waited for at least 20-30 minutes and finally a girl manta came by and started feeding. It was so cool to be able to see the manta come up and eat and do flips. You kept thinking that the manta was going to touch you but she just came really close. After defrosting we went to bed.

Manta coming up to eat us! Again no good picots of this but we did get a good video.

We ate a delicious breakfast of hash browns, eggs and sausage! Then started our treck down around the south side of the island to volcano national park. 

on our way to the south side of the island.

Black sands beach where you can't ride the sea turtles.
 Scott was sad that he couldn't ride them.

We went to black sands beach on the way and saw a sea turtle on the beach. We missed the southern most tip of the US but made it to Volcanos! We stopped at the entrance and took a lot of fun pictures. We did an awesome 5 mile hike- Kilauea Iki trail. It went down in to the mouth of the volcano and back up. It was really fun and helped work the soreness out of the legs! We went and saw the cauldera with the lava flow and the steam vents and thirsten Lava tube. 

The stereotypical picture at the park sign!

We bought a $2 trail guide that Meredith read to us at each little stop. 

This was the ginger root that was talked about in the guide that was introduced and took over. They were actively trying to kill it all off. 

If you look upper close you will see Scott standing in the middle of the picture. This was the mouth of the volcano, where the Lava spewed.

Funny pictures in the Lava crack. 

 Lava lake bed.

Random stop at rainbow falls... with no rainbow.
 We stopped at the Macadamia nut farm that we did as kids. It was fun just to go back to a place I remembered as a kid on Hawaii. I wanted frozen yogurt so we found a place in Hilo. We had heard about Saddle road but heard it was dangerous to travel and we weren’t supposed to take a rental car on it. After some research and reading our rental car contract we decided we could go. On our way there we went to rainbow falls and a little Lava tube cave on our way up. There was a sign outside the cave that said “no lights.” Scott and I both thought that meant we couldn’t use lights but realized as we were leaving that it really meant there were no lights down in the cave! Ooops! We kept driving up saddle road which wasn’t that crazy. I think that passes in Colorado are scarier. We stopped at the visitor’s center and bought some space icecream from them!

This was a the beginning of saddle road, while we were below the clouds.
  We stopped at the visitor’s center and bought some space ice-cream from them! We ran up on a peak with our dinner and ice-cream. It was gorgeous! There was a couple up there that had come to Hawaii to volunteer at the race because they wanted to qualify for it some day. I think it’s crazy that there are some people out there like that! I just haven’t been involved with Ironman long enough to know how crazy people get about it. It was an amazing sunset on Manau Kea volcano with delicious Neapolitan space icecream and star gazing.

This is when we got above the clouds. Same day, just a couple miles apart.
 I wish that pictures did this place justice! 


            We packed all our stuff up in the morning and cleaned up the house a little bit. Meredith packed her bike AND my bike J thanks! So we bought the manta ray tour at the expo of the race. I had seen previous days there was a wheel with prizes you could spin and win if you bought something. Most of the prizes were not so awesome, like a hat or bag. I somehow sweet-talked them into giving us two prizes. One was a buy one get one free zipline and the other was a canoe rental for two. So we called the zipline people and scheduled for the afternoon. We first went to Waipio vally overlook and loved the view. We wanted to hike down to the beach but we got ½ way down and decided we didn’t have enough time so we had to hike back up L. We drove to Hawi and ate a packed lunch and went shopping a little. Scott and I got the idea to buy a ring in Hawaii so I could have a wedding ring again. There was THE BEST SHAVED ICE ever in Hawi.
Quick look at Waipio valley
 Just pretty with the sun spot on the ocean. 

            The zipline was cool and they had some supper long ziplines and fast ones, but I still don’t think it was worth as much as it cost! After the zipline we went a picked up our stuff from the house. Even though check out was earlier in the day the owner texted us and asked if we wanted to store our bikes and luggage there.  He was the best guy to rent from and an amazing house to rent! The house was awesome! It was huge! 2200 Sq Ft 2 bedroom 2 bathroom. The shower was a waterfall shower with jets. The kitchen was gorgeous and looked over the ocean. There were fruit trees every where that were delicious! The first time I ever tried passion fruit and it was AMAZING!

            We went and ate dinner on the beach out at the energy labs and took Meredith to the airport. Scott and I had to drive 2.5 hours over to Pahoa area.

            When we got to our next house the host showed us around and Scott and I were holding back cracking up the whole time. Every room had a least one remote to the room for the lights, fans, clocks, etc. She was showing us a parrot fan and started petting it. At the end she told us about how her and the owner were married and how sad it was that they were divorced. It was a confusing and interesting tour of the house.

Yes, the house had Christmas lights...

            I woke up and made us breakfast and packed up my Kona backpack for a hike. We drove two hours to Waipio valley to do the hike into Waimanu valley. Most people do this hike in a couple days. They hike into the valley one day and out the next. You need a permit to do that and all the equipment and we didn’t have either

A little rainbow before we started our hike.

 The hike starts with a steep decent and then a river crossing then steep ascent. It then turns into rolling and 13 stream crossings and then a very steep decent into the valley. After the descent my legs were shot! We only had about 30 minutes in the valley since we were on a time crunch to get back before sun set. I’ll let Scott write about our experience going back but it started to rain and we were soaked and tired but at least we didn’t get cold! We got back in record time and headed back to the house.
 We survived... soaking wet and exhausted!

            We slept in and went out to try to go snorkeling in the morning. The air was so cold and the water colder so I bailed. The ocean was pretty rough too since there was a hurricane headed our way!


            The host told us about the beautiful botanical gardens so we went there and sat waiting for them to open for a while. Eventually we called and their message said they were closed due to the hurricane! It wasn’t supposed to hit till Saturday! We were really bumed but went back to snorkel and saw some fish and 2 turtles and some pretty coral.
Turtle we saw.
 Rope lava, there were some pretty awesome lava formations.

            The nut factory was on the way home so we were going to buy some more macadamia nuts but they were closed due to the storm too! Then we stopped in pahoa to try to go shopping a little but there wasn’t anything too good so we just went home.
            There was a huge projector in the family room and in every other room too! We watched Avatar 3D on the big screen which was amazing!
            We went down to the ocean to watch the huge waves crash. They were 10 ft waves which were the biggest I’ve ever seen!

            We went back to the house after we thought we might get swept away by one of the waves and made dinner and watch more movies!

Beads leading into the master bathroom... the host said this was her favorite thing of the house...
 the random things on the master bedroom walls

 Two projector screens one in the kitchen and one in the family room area. Why do you need them this close?
            We finished packing up and picking up and went off to Kona over saddle road again. We had two beach towels in our car that we had to take back to home number 1. The drive was all in the rain but went ok.
            We went shopping in the rain and bought a Ukelele and ooked at rings and dresses for me.
            We took Scott to the airport with a TON of bags! He was flying first class and got to check my bike for free instead of $150! That was very nice to have happen!
            I went back and shopped some more and watched the waves crash at the Kona Peir and watched some kids play in the ocean. I went back to the car and took a nap in the trunk with the seats down. I went back to buy the dress I found and then went to the ring shop and it was closed! I was so sad but I knocked at the door and the lady was still there! Yay! I bought the ring and then walking back to the car I saw the family that was playing in the ocean by the pier. I quickly grabbed the boogie boards I had in the car and gave them to the family. They were SO excited and greatfull it was so rewarding!
            I got to the rental car place and ended up leaving my phone in the car. Thank goodness I looked for it before I got too the airport. The bus driver was super nice and so I sent in a nice note about her to the company.
 My snuggles!
I was traveling Saturday night to Sunday afternoon. My dad picked me up at the airport and took me to my daughter. I was so excited and thought Emi would be excited to see me… I was so wrong! My dad videoed and my mom put her on the ground in the back yard. I though she would run to me but instead she looked at me and ran right past to grandma! After a couple hours she warmed up to me and was snuggly.
We went to Blue bell ice cream early in the morning so we had ice cream as a mid morning snack! The tour was fun but Emi was in love with the ice cream and ate half of my pumkin pecan! We went home and both took a nap and then said by to grandpa! I wanted froyoyo for dinner so we went and bought some… twice!

She got her own seat on both flights!

Froyoyo was eaten again today for lunch! We played in the pool and napped and went to opas “Anything goes” at night while a YW from granparents ward took care of Emi.

We played and mom had to take a nap! Then we went to get froyoyo on our way to the airport.