Kona, February 2009: Part Four

Filed under: — Anastasia @ 2:23 pm

Sunday was eventful – in good ways and bad.

Our day began at Honokohau Harbor.  More accurately, at Alula Beach, just south of the harbor and accessible by a short hike over lava.  Without SCUBA gear, it’s a relatively easy hike.  With tanks, weights, and cameras, it’s a slightly tricky wobble over uneven ground, best made in two trips.

The dive site itself is variously referred to as “Honokau Harbor,” “Manta Ray Bay,” or “Rip-Off Reef.”  That last name comes from the fact that dive boats will often stop here, even though it’s just a 2 minute cruise from where they dock – thus saving them money.  However, it’s also a great dive site in its own right, so I’ve never minded being “ripped off” in this way.  In the deep, sandy area you can encounter larger animals like eagle rays and tiger sharks, as well as garden eels and small coral heads full of juvenile fish.  Or you can cruise around in the shallows, where big schools of fish like to hang out in the shade of moored dive boats.

We headed deep first.  I remembered doing a dive here with Jack’s years ago, where we found bicolor anthias and other colorful, tiny fish swarming over the coral heads in the sand.  A large tiger shark also showed up that day, so today I had my wide angle lens on just in case.  No sharks (or anthias), but I did get surprisingly close to an eagle ray as he soared over the sand.

Eagle Ray coming in for his close-up:

On our way back into the shallows, I was also delighted to discover more hungry raccoon butterflyfish.  One lonely  fish tailed me for quite a while, ducking in for a snack whenever I approached a seargant major’s nest.

Anastasia surrounded by her peeps:

After we hiked back to the car, I struck up a conversation with two local guys hanging out in the area.  When we’d passed them earlier, the air had been rather pungent with marijuana.  So it cracked me up a little when they told us we should come down in the evenings and hang out, barbeque and talk story – but not drink, as alcohol is illegal on state beaches.  Uh, pretty sure weed is too!

Other favorite local quote: “Honolulu – eh, pardon me for saying this, but it’s just for white folk.”

On warning them that I hoped to one day be one of those annoying ‘white folk’ who moved to the islands, I was assured that all I needed to do to gain acceptance from the local populace was “just love the island.”  That doesn’t seem like too tall an order to me!

After lunch at the harbor, we set off down south to dive Place of Refuge, with its much easier entry.  (Still over lava, but a very short walk followed by a handy set of natural ‘steps’ down into the water, and no hobbling out through rocky shallows.)

Sadly, this was where the ‘bad’ eventful part caught us – camera problems that you already know about by now.

You may recall from my last entry that we’d scheduled a second Pelagic Magic dive for Sunday night.  We’d even gone and bought a nicer focus light for Jeff to use.  Now he didn’t want to go at all – several rounds of phone calls ensued with the dive shop over whether we could cancel at this last minute, whether we could rent a camera and housing from somewhere, and so on.  They finally agreed to let us cancel, which was Jeff’s favorite option – but frankly, I still really wanted to go!  We hemmed and hawed a bit since they need two people to make it worth the trip, so if Jeff didn’t want to go I probably couldn’t either.

Finally I put my foot down and said I wanted to go, and would happily pay for his spot to make it happen.  But I hoped he would change his mind and come without the camera, so he could just enjoy the dive.  He didn’t think that was likely.  We headed back to the house to lick our wounds.

Fast forward a few hours, and Jeff decided a camera-less dive might be fun after all.  I was glad to hear it!

We were the only guests on the boat,  and had three crew members this time to keep us company.  Once again, this is just a REALLY COOL DIVE.  This time around we didn’t see quite as many little tiny critters, but there were lots of jellies – and I even managed some decent shots this time.  Near the end of the dive, I started to notice red blobbish things zipping by out of the corner of my eye – pelagic squid!  Darned things are way too fast to shoot, but nifty to see!  There were also a lot of tiny, colorful fish chasing my lights around.

Short clip from our Pelagic Magic dive – 1 MB, 20 seconds

40 minutes in, the batteries for my video lights died, so I spent the last 20 minutes camera-less and just enjoying the view.  It’s way more peaceful to dive without worrying about your camera – as Jeff was also reminded on this dive, which he enjoyed much more than the previous one.

And that was it for diving – at least until next time!

Our flights weren’t until Monday night, so we still had a day to chill.  We started by doing something we haven’t done since our very first visit to Hawaii: hanging out at the beach!  There’s a gorgeous little state beach not far from where we were staying, and we parked ourselves on the sand for a few hours watching the bodysurfers.

Soaking up the sun:

We must have brought our bad luck from Sunday with us, though – as we were getting ready to leave, we noticed someone being dragged unconscious out of the water.  Someone started CPR right away.  I got on the cell phone to 911 (I’ve learned you can’t always assume someone else has) – luckily, they already had a few calls in.  After about five minutes passed, we noticed the person was breathing on their own again, which is actually pretty amazing.  Another five minutes and the cops showed up.  Twenty minutes after CPR had begun… still no ambulence.  We went ahead and left, and passed the ambulence on the way in.  I have to say – twenty minute wait for an ambulence after you’ve been NOT BREATHING?  This might be a downside of living in Kona versus Los Angeles!

Back at the house, I checked in on our flights.  Jeff’s was good to go, but mine (different airline) had been bumped back to 3am.  Since the car rental places at Kona all close at 10pm, this would have left me in the empty, boring, closed-up Kona airport for five hours.

A few phone calls – and one very helpful dude in India – later, I was all set to fly back the next afternoon, instead.  Five hours of boredom averted!

Of course, Jeff still had to go.  We had a nice dinner in Kona, and then I dumped him at the airport and headed “home.”

Tuesday morning, I did nothing very interesting.  Slept in…  shopped around downtown Kona…  hung out on the balcony with a book.  It was awesome.

Then I left.  One of these days, the story won’t end that way.  It’ll go “and they stayed in Hawaii and lived happily ever after.”

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