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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Wednesday December 20, 2006 – Hilo
This morning we all went for breakfast in the dining room at about 8:00, and then got ready to get off the ship just about immediately after docking in Hilo at 9:00. We all had shore excursions leaving at 9 – Grampa and Peter went up to the top of Mauna Kea on a long day trip, while Mom and I rented bikes to ‘tour Hilo on our own’. We got the bikes (one speed ‘mama charees’ with back pedaling breaks instead of hand brakes (quite a challenge when I was trying to steer around a car with my foot and ended up running into the curb instead because I’d run out of feet to brake with!)

Following the map I’d been given by Tom, the guy who rents the bikes out, we cycled a couple of miles into downtown Hilo and checked out the farmers market, which had an amazing variety of fruits and vegetables and orchids, etc. It would have been great to be able to shop there on a regular basis! There was a cute choir of 8-12 year old kids singing Christmas carols there as well – it’s funny because it really doesn’t seem like Christmas at all until you hear Silent Night in some loudspeaker or something like that!

We walked down through some of the little shops on the main street, and went into a free ocean museum which was interesting, though we didn’t stay long at all... We were heading up to Rainbow Falls (the operative word being up!) It was a big, looooooong hill up to the falls, and by the time we got there, we were REALLY ready to cool off in some water! There were some sort of swimming holes, but there were also a lot of signs about undertow and drag and stuff, and since we didn’t want to get washed down the 80 foot falls, we just waded in up to our waists and then continued on. We headed past a HUGE, amazing banyan tree, and through a jungely forest which seemed like it was the kind of thing Disney would make! There was a nice lookout with a great view of the falls and big cave behind...
(Huuuge Disneyesque Banyan Tree)
(Rainbow Falls with large cave behind)
(part of the Rainbow Falls Park - where we went wading is just behind and to the left of the rocks in the middle of the photo)

We walked across the street and got some water from a very friendly woman with a snack shop – we also bought a local snack from her, a kind of flat bread cracker dipped in chocolate and macadamia nuts, very tasty! Then we headed back down the hill, much better than coming up! And stopped at Kosmic Kones for soft ice cream before cycling back towards the boat. We took the scenic route and drove past a nice looking park in the Shinto style, though we didn’t go in – we wanted to find the beach that Anna had told us about at dinner the night before. It was about a mile past the ship, in the opposite direction from Hilo, but we didn’t have too much trouble finding it. We did have one false start, where Mom claimed we were there, but I convinced her there was no way that was the beach Anna meant, so we kept going and found it – it was lucky she’d described it well, as it certainly is hidden away! There were just a few other people there (including Anna, but we didn’t recognize her so didn’t find that out till later!), but we hung out there for about 45 minutes, going in the water briefly, and then reading under an overhanging tree on the sand for awhile (well, if ‘This American Life’ on my ipod counts as reading anyway)...
(Anna's Beach (she's actually way down at the other side of the beach, we found out later. We thought we saw her, but weren't sure until we talked to her at dinner that night))
(Anna's Beach with Mauna Kea in the Background - Peter and Grampa went up to the top (the world's tallest mountain; possibly, for their shore ex - they saw snow!)

Headed back to the ship at about 2:45 to beat the crowds of busses getting back at 3, and then got showered and changed and headed to the buffet for a snack. Then, Mom headed back to the stateroom for a nap, and I stayed on deck to read a magazine, and yes, nap too. Just before six, I woke up and found Mom on the same deck as me, and we headed downstairs to the Canadian Trivia in the Captain Cook lounge. There were about 10 of us Canadians on board, and we played first to 10, with three teams competing. We ended up not winning, but having the next highest number of points after the game ended. I also ran into deekay from the cruisecritic role call which was fun, I didn’t think we were going to end up meeting anyone from our roll call on this cruise.

Then the four of us headed to the main theatre for the comedy of Ed Voss, which was OK, but not great – I didn’t think he was as good as the entertainers from the last two nights. There were certainly some good lines, but some not good ones as well!

Headed down to Crossings at about 8:30, and had to wait about 10 minutes for a table, which was fine, but unfortunately, we couldn’t get into Anna’s section, which was too bad, although she did make a point of coming over to say hi to us and see how our day had gone which was really nice of her! Even though we’ve found the service to be fine in the dining room (and really good in Anna’s section), it does seem like it’s a little bit inefficient – a lot of people milling around yet not accomplishing a whole lot. There are also often a lot of empty tables when they have lines out the door – I’m sure its just the time it takes to turn the tables when they have to deal with the people coming at so many different times for Freestyle, and it doesn’t bother me at all – I’m enjoying the cruise parts at least as much as the HAL cruise (with the exception of not making friends through the teen club this time around which is a product of my age not the line!), but I know some of you reading are curious about it, so I thought I’d put in my 2 yen.

We finished dinner just in time to see the lava flow. It was pretty cool, but a bit foggy and rainy, so I think it was probably harder to get a sense of the scale than it might have been otherwise. It was gorgeous though, and so powerful! Very cool – you could even smell the sulphur! Of course, photographs were nearly impossible, but that didn’t stop everyone from trying – I got one cool one, even though you can’t really tell what is going on, but most of mine, and everyone else’s are just blobs of orange blurring into the black background. Enjoy the view and buy a postcard!

After that, at about 1030, we just came up to the staterooms – Mom and Peter have an early snorkeling excursion, and Grampa and I will be doing some kind of chose your own adventure day – we wanted to go on the horse drawn wagon tour, but it isn’t running, so we have no plans as of right now. There’s also lots to do on the ship, as usual, so maybe I’ll check some of that out. Off to bed now, an early night tonight, it’s only 11:05!!


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