Playing Tourist

The dentist’s office is just behind the historic Moku‘aikaua Church, and just a block from Ali‘i drive and Kailua Bay. With an appointment at 9am on a Saturday morning this leads to the question… What do I do after the teeth thing? Deb is off teaching a class at the local sewing store, thus I am on my own.

Hulihe‘e Palace
Hulihe‘e Palace on the waterfront of Kailua Bay

Leaving the car in the office parking garage I decide to walk that block from the office to the bay, just walk about and play tourist for the morning.

It is a rough surf day, not bad, but a decent swell is sending water spashing over the seawall showering the occasional tourist.

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2016 Parker Ranch 4th of July Rodeo

I love small town rodeos. Fortunately we have the Parker Ranch Rodeo right here, and we have regularly made the effort to attend each summer. The rodeo is a celebration of the ranching history of Waimea, a heritage that is alive and well in the ranching families that still earn a living raising cattle and practicing the old skills.

Paniolos head for the steers in the opening moments of the team mugging event

In past years the public had been allowed right to the rail of the arena at the conclusion of the horse races. This had allowed me to get really nice images of the riders without the fence in the shot, shooting through the rails. The last couple years this has not happened… A problem, I attend this event as much for the photographic opportunity as anything else.

This year I wrangled Deb and myself a couple media passes to the rodeo. Access to the pens, the chutes, and the arena fence… Perfect! The media contact at Parker Ranch was careful to explain the safety issues, no leaning over the rails, nothing through the fence, I can live with the stated rules.

We had a great time. Set up right on the fence for much of the day we had a clear shot at the action. I used a 70-200mm telephoto lens much of the day attempting to catch instants in the action that told the story. A rearing horse, dirt and dust flying under hooves, a rope in the air. The elements are all there, catching them at the right instant is a real challenge for a photographer. With the camera in servo mode I would fire short bursts at what I hoped was the right time. Sometimes it worked. As the memory card filled with over 800 images I found that some actually looked good.

Deb at the Rodeo
Deborah at the 2016 Parker Ranch 4th of July Rodeo

Photographically it was the various mugging events that produced the best images. Team mugging, with a rider and several teammates on the ground wrestling a steer can photograph very well. The junior/senior ribbon mugging event with the kids and adults working together was equally photogenic.

Do not ask me who won and who lost. I really did not care to follow the winners and losers that closely. So much of a good score was really based on luck, did the steer buck or twist at the wrong moment? I just appreciated watching the skill and pride that was on display in these events. A skillful flip of the rope at the right moment, a well trained horse that did just the right thing to support the rider. That is what I enjoy in a good rodeo.

Of course there is the chore of processing my way through 800 photos from the day, selecting a hundred or so to pass on to Parker Ranch. That chore is just about done, I have finished mine, I just need to work through a pile of photos Deb gave me to process and add to the package.

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Walking the 1871 Trail

A few hours free in Kealakekua… What to do. Drive down the Puʻuhonua O Hōnaunau National Historic Park? Why not? Have camera will travel.

My goal was not to visit the sanctuary itself, I have been here several times. Instead, my plan was to walk the 1871 trail south along the shore, something I had never had a chance to do. I did start at the sanctuary, passing through and shooting a few photos of Kiʻ i before heading south.

1871 Trail
The 1871 Trail proceeds south from Puʻuhonua O Hōnaunau
This historic trail proceeds south from the visitor center, cutting across the point and then along the shoreline. The trail connected villages and religious centers along the coast. North of the park the trail has become the modern route 160, crossing over the coastal plain to Kealakekua Bay. In satellite shots you can follow the trail along long sections of the Kona Coast. Along the Kohala Coast the King’s Trail was built in a similar fashion and serves the same purpose.

The trail is what was called a two-horse trail, wide enough for two horses to pass with room to spare, about eight feet wide. A curb of stone runs along both sides, while the roadbed between is cleared of rock and sometimes filled with sand or gravel to level the worst pits. In places the trial is built up to cross low areas with substantial stonework. The result reminded me in many ways of Roman roads in Europe, built to a similar pattern and cutting straight across the landscape.

On both side of the trail there are numerous remains of the ancient settlements. Stone walls and raised platforms reveal what was once a thriving settlement along the shoreline. There is the foundation of John Ahu’s house, complete with a cistern and an old grave. The remains of the ʻŌmaʻo Heiau, a hōlua slide and more are alongside the trail as you proceed. Ask at the visitor center desk for a guide to the various points of interest along the trail.

Kiʻilae Bay
A cove of blue water beneath the sea cliffs of Kiʻilae Bay
About a quarter mile south of the visitor center the trail reaches the shoreline and runs along the top of the sea cliffs. The view is stunningly beautiful… small coves of crystal blue water lie at the bottom of the rugged cliffs. The coral reef is clearly visible, even from fifty feet above you can make out fish feeding amongst the coral heads. Here and there the bright yellow of small schools of tangs add color to the blues and greens. Next time here I need to remember to bring some snorkeling gear.

About halfway the trail is built against a small sea cliff. A large stone ramp was constructed to allow travelers to ascend the cliff. The amount of stonework serves to highlight how much work went into building this coastal access trail.

The south boundary of the park is a mere 0.8 mile along the trail, an easy stroll. Perhaps add a couple points of difficulty for the rough, rocky nature of the trail. It takes about half an hour to reach the abandoned fishing village. From there the trail continues south, out of the park. It becomes substantially overgrown, the path reduced to a cut through the brush with the occasional branch to push aside. I proceeded a bit further, but became rather annoyed with the amount of spider web I was accumulating.

As I sit amongst the abandoned stone walls of Kiʻilae Village it is interesting to imagine what the scene would have looked like a well over century ago in the 1870’s. A thriving settlement with travelers coming and going along the trail. Fishermen carrying their catch home, village women doing the chores and shopping, the tasks of life that never really change. Perhaps a royal procession going north to the temples at Puʻuhonua O Hōnaunau. The period was an interesting one, when western ways were mixing with the ancient patterns of life in the islands.

If you have some time while visiting Puʻuhonua O Hōnaunau, take an hour and walk the old trail. The scenery alone makes it worthwhile, with a bit of history thrown in.

Super Sunday

Let me be quite clear… My idea of Super Sunday does not involve any sort of professional sporting event. This includes no television or funny commercials, no party, piles of chicken wings or large screen displays, and no halftime show.

Sky Exploring
Sky checking out the reef at Ridges
I joined the guys for some diving instead. My idea of a Super Sunday!

It was a pretty good day to go diving. The surf was a bit high, no problem as we would be diving from the boat. It was Dennis, Sky, Pete and myself, the usual crew. Dennis chose to head south of Kona, a good choice as we found nice conditions… Good vis and little surge. Going south also allowed us to do a little whale watching along the way. We encountered spinner dolphins just outside the marina, and again in front of Kailua Bay on the way back. Two humpbacks caught Dennis by surprise, surfacing right in front of the boat as we cruised south, giving us a great view as we waited for them to move away.

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Diving South of Kona

I have not done much diving south of Kona, usually diving the shores close to home, the reefs of North and South Kohala. I have done a couple dives at Two Step, at Hōnaunau. The terrain is different further south, there are different species to see. Last weekend I got a chance to do some more diving down south.

This was made possible through a friend and fellow Keck engineer. Dennis owns a boat. Not just any boat… The Aqua Safari… A big boat, a fast boat, a dive boat, equipped for scuba, actually a pretty nice boat. I was invited to join the guys for a dive outing. I didn’t even ask where we were going, it really didn’t matter, I just wanted to dive.

Mark Devenot exploring the reef drop-off at Tanks
We headed south of Kona to a dive site I had never explored before, a place called Amphitheater. Just around the corner from the famous Kealakekua Bay, the site features some large sea caves carved into the cliffs by the winter waves. An excellent site, featuring good fish, numerous lava tubes, and good coral cover. Visibility was great, allowing good photographic conditions.

A find of the dive was a Bearded Cusk Eel hiding in a crevice at the base of a rock wall. I managed one half-decent photograph before it disappeared further into the crevice, out of sight. I guess it did not like the strobe, cusk eels are notoriously shy.

Mark, Patti and I shared the meal preparations. They had brought sandwich makings, I brought tuna mac, drinks and chips. Deb even sent a long a batch of home-made chocolate chip cookies. We ate well indeed.

The second dive site was Tanks, a site just north of the old Kona Airport and south of Honokohau. A fair amount of surge made mooring quite a challenge, we actually gave up on one mooring buoy, too close to the rocks where we were getting bounced around. There was quite a bit of surge underneath as well, and visibility was poor. At least poor by Kona standards, fairly good for most anywhere else. The surge and vis did not preclude a decent dive, we descended to the edge of the dropoff, where the slope plunges into the deep blue abyss. A few good photos, including a Undulated Moray. We spent the last part of the dive exploring a number of small caves just under the shoreline, where we found several white tip reef sharks, including one of the largest I had ever seen. This shark was a bit more than six feet, and quite rotund. He lived up to the scientific name for the species Triaenodon obesus.

A great day and a couple good dives. That was the goal, and that was what we achieved. Thanks Dennis!