Monday, July 26, 2010

Backpacking in a Tropical Paradise

Friday morning Jenny and I got a lift to Volcanoes National Park from Devin where we began our overnight backpacking trip to the Keahou campground. The hike was about 6 miles all downhill (you can guess what that means about the return hike...) from a starting elevation of 2200 feet to 0 (well about 2 feet technically). Our camping spot certainly won the "Prettiest campsite on an ocean that I've ever camped at" award- though competition is minimal.

We got to camp about 3, went for a swim/snorkel, napped, and then hiked to nearby Halape (1.5 miles away), the campsite we had originally hoped to camp at but was full. Halape was full because it was turtle hatchling season, and a few dozen people had booked up all the sites to watch Hawksbill turtles hatch and crawl toward the ocean. While Jenny and I were there, we were lucky enough to see a few of the intrepid little baby turtles making a dash for the ocean.

For the record, I have now seen both sides of the sea turtle life cycle: turtle egg-laying on Heron Island in Australia (see Friday, October 30th, 2009) and the hatchlings entering the ocean (at Halape). Super cool.

After returned to camp we watched the sunset, and while eating a delicious dinner of bagels, nutella, and trail mix, we learned perhaps the only downside of tropical beach camping: things that crawl in the night. As soon as the sun set, the beach was absolutely swarming with roaches, a great motivation to promptly flee to the tent (and hope there aren't any holes). Fortunately it wasn't too hot at night because of the ocean breeze.

The next morning we got up at 6 to catch the sunrise (above), though it wasn't over the ocean we learned, and we started our return journey at about 7. Since the bus didn't come till 6 Jenny and I decided to take the long-way: a 10-mile hike to the top of the bluffs, a 9-mile scamper down a one-lane road, and then six more back to the visitor's center. The last 2 miles of our hike on the trail were mind-blowingly dry- the lack of water ANYWHERE was actually a little scary. And the desert was shortly followed by the stretch of trail where we gained back 1400 feet of those 2200 we lost the day before- whew. Did I mention it was dry?

My first hitch-hiking experience was awesome: about a mile down the one-lane road, an older couple in a Subaru offered us a ride, told us all the great backpacking spots for next time, and dropped us off much closer to the visitor's center. From there we hiked all the day trails in the park, across both calderas (below- I bet you can guess which one is active), by some steam and sulphur vents, and then back to the visitor's center.

Today was a well-deserved rest day- only a 20-mile bike ride. I needed to get back in the saddle and ride (mission accomplished). The highlight of the day however was certainly dinner. Let me introduce the Spam Loco Moco:

A scoop of fried rice with huge pieces of Spam covered by a fried egg and soaked in gravy; I think I shortened my life by about 8-10 months (depending on future exercise). What a weekend. Now back to work.

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