Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Sunset at the Top of the World

It's been a busy Big Island day for us ~
We have driven most of the north end of the island, 
stopping at amazing overlooks, enjoying the back-roads drive 
and small Hawaiian towns along the way 
(see the post 'Big Island Day on the Big Island').

We have just finished the helicopter tour over the Kilauea Volcano ~ she was in fine form, spewing and spitting 
and strutting and performing for us. 
(See the post 'A Date With a Voluptuous Volcano').

It's  now 4:30 in the afternoon, and Mr. C knows that we have just enough time to jet up the hill to catch sunset at the top of Mauna Kea Volcano.

So off we go.  We have to plow through some dense fog on the way up the hill, but Mr. C got the "tops" on the cloud cover from the helicopter pilot (I think that means what elevation the top of the cloud cover is at); so he knows that we will have clear skies up top of the mountain.   Without this knowledge, we might not have persevered.   Thank you, again, Eric and Blue Hawaii Helicopters!

There are two levels for volcano trekkers; one is the observatory @ 9,000 feet; and the second is clear up-top @ 13,679 feet (it's called the highest mountain in the world ~ but I think they measure that by how far it stands above the 'depressed sea floor'; which makes it over 27,000 feet higher than Mount Everest. Sounds to me like they have to cheat a bit to get these kinds of numbers, though.)

We settle for the 9,000 foot observation point, for a couple of reasons.  One, we can't go to the summit without 4-wheel drive and / or a tour, and the tours were all full.   Two, it's time for sunset by the time we hit the Onizuka Observatory, and we are happy to soak it up right here at the end of a full day on the island.

All that said, it's a remarkable experience to watch the sun go down into the clouds that are normally far above our heads.  It looks very much like the ocean to me, some of  the cloud formations taking on the shape of hills and valleys, the thick clouds looking every bit like thick fog in the hills instead of misty clouds in the clouds.

We park at the observatory, but, ironically enough, you can't  see the sun set from here ~
 you must hike up the ridge.

So we don what little long clothing and sweatshirts we brought along (remember, we're island hopping, so that does not amount to much ~ the only long pants I have here are yoga pants!), along with tennis shoes, and we hike.

And we go up.

And we go up further.

And still we go up.

I am getting an education on how the low oxygen levels at 9,000 feet affect the body.  I am enjoying the complete spectrum of symptoms.  I am fatigued; I have a faint headache (currently looming in the background, but threatening to blossom into a blasting headache at any moment); I nearly fell asleep in the car (felt like I overdosed on Dramamine ~ or somebody drugged me ~ or both); and, now that we are climbing, I am extremely short of breath ~ which causes me to feel disoriented and clumsy.  Well, even more clumsy than usual.

The reason this is so fascinating to me is that we are planning our spring trip to Machu Picchu, which is also at 9,000 feet elevation. Hmmmm......

But still we go up.  Man, this little ridge did not look this steep!

And then we are there.  Mother Nature is about to perform her nightly ritual.  The one thing, no matter what is going on in our lives, that we cannot influence.  The sun rises, and the sun sets.  All on it's own.  Every day.   We have that measure, that beat of the drums, that rhythm to set our life by.  Every day.  We can't change it, move  it, delete it, or  interfere with it.  And then that day is forever gone.  Sunsets are humbling to me.

I was intrigued by how the last red rays of the sunset lit up 
the crater-strewn landscape.

And how it catches the brush on fire (figuratively) 
to frame the ridge-line.

 And then Mother Nature breathed her last breath of the day, leaving what looks every bit like the sun setting over the ocean ~ but we are at 9,000 foot elevation, and those are clouds, my friend.
But I forgot to mention how cold it is.

  It is freezing.  The wind is whipping just enough to make us take notice.  Yoga pants are meant to breathe, so mine are taking in this biting freezing air ~ I'm literally freezing my lil' fanny off!

So once the sun is down, I am racing for the car.  Mr. C is hovering, afraid  I  am going to stumble and then tumble the rest of the way.  He  wants to go have dinner next, not take a trip to the ER.

The observatory breaks into full swing now that the sun is down.   There are huge telescopes set up for stargazing, and people are enjoying a cup of hot chocolate while they peer at Venus and Mars.

 We jump back in our car ( taking care to beware of invisible cows)
and we head down the mountain, where we discover that, once the elements of oxygen deprivation wear off, we are starving!   It's been hours since we grabbed a Hilo Airport sandwich (which was tuna fish, by the way. In hindsight, I'm not sure that was the wisest choice right before a helicopter ride, but it didn't occur to me till just this moment). 

We love the Trip Advisor  ap on Mr. C's IPhone.  Once we are down the mountain, we pull up 'Restaurants';  then 'Near Me Now'; and find something highly rated and close by.  


 It's a Tommy Bahama Restaurant ~ although their clothing line occupies much of my island closet (because on Oahu we live so close to one of the rare Tommy Bahama Outlet stores!), I have never eaten at one of their restaurants.  Here the bottom floor is clothing, and dining takes the upper floor.

 We were pleasantly surprised. 

The restaurant is as cool and classy as their clothing line.

Because I think I  might have residual hypothermia from the mountain top (exaggerating), I want something warm and comforting, and their crab bisque is just the ticket.

Especially when served with these little scone-y biscuit-y things, warm from the oven ~ 


Mr. C opts for spicy scallops and shrimp, which he was impressed with.  (He's a scallop connoisseur, so that's really saying something!).

The manager is circling, checking on everyone's dining experience (always a good sign).  So beyond that I ask for his name, tell him that, even though we have shopped at TB frequently, in fact I am wearing a TB sweatshirt right this minute,  this is our  first time to experience the restaurant ~ and how pleased we have been with our evening.  He tells us they are coming to our island soon, they are going to have a store with a restaurant above (just like this one) in Waikiki.  


We tell him we will watch for it ~ 
there's some other things on this menu I am anxious to try!

To our surprise, the waitress then brings us the  dessert  tray, and when we politely decline, she says that Johnny  (the manager) would like to buy us dessert.  (Isn't it all just so pretty!?!)

I am not a big dessert gal, but OMG!  This creamy-chocolate-caramel thing was something I would go back for!

 So thanks to Johnny and my Mr. C ~ It's a perfect ending to a really perfect (though busier than normal) island day.


  1. That opening photo - Wow! And your food photos are just great too. Sure sounds like Mr.C arranged another perfect day for the two of you.

    1. Opening photo ~ all about the camera. It's got a great 'sunset setting'. Maximizes the reds and highlights. Mr. C ~ he's just a legend....

  2. Really enjoyed reading this! So amazing that the elevation is so high! The snow!! Your day was so diverse; hiking to the top (I always expect this now from you two!) to dining at a great restaurant! That crab bisque looked so good! I loved the presentation on that dessert platter! The thick unpeeled pineapple slice with something served inside!!!
    I really like your photos! The one you captured with the brush “on fire” on the ridge line is so unique! Nice job on the entire article. Also, I am always amused at the great signs you notice! The invisible cows sign is one for the collection!

    1. It was a really big, really fun day. Part of the fun is the diversity of what we do and see in any given travel day. I sometimes think it makes for too long an article ~ but then I think, 'Wait! That's what we really did today!'
      I was intrigued with the way the light played up there so high. There's so much volcanic residue in the atmosphere that it makes for brilliant red sunsets, there's lots of VOG for the light to bounce around on.
      And the signs are just always my favorite. A source of constant travel entertainment if only you are looking for it.


Join the conversation ... comment now!