Chez Sophie

September 20, 2002

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It's really nice to sleep in yet still get up early in the morning; the shift of three hours was most helpful for this purpose. From the hotel we headed north around the west coast and enjoyed the view of the somewhat unexpected desert. Most people have seen pictures of Hawaii before. You get the impression of this lush, green place with waterfalls (and based on context, sparsely clothed cuties bathing in streams and under waterfalls). Here by Kona, you feel like you never left your home in California: brown shrubbery and rocks as far as you can see.

The one radio station which you can receive here is also a good introduction to the local culture. Everyone speaks s-l-o-w-l-y and sounds very happy. The music is very much in line with this theme. The commercials are focused on the primary elections tomorrow, elect this, elect that signs on every corner seem to support that impression. One would think that the Hawaiians must be very political people -- I have never seen a campaign as fierce as here.

We made first contact with the ocean, more or less literally. Essan slipped in a remarkable, almost cartoonish way on wet rock and landed very hard, heroically saving the small camera but injuring her big toe as well as her behind. Clearly, her day could only improve.

When you take the road to the Mauna Kea observatory (which features the 2nd largest telescope in the world, or the biggest if you count only the actually functional ones) you will get to somewhat wetter areas of the island. Grass grows here, so do some cacti and flowers. It's nice to see the contrast of the desert down by the ocean and the nice green up at the hill. We didn't go all the way to the observatory but rather crossed over to the east coast, towards Hilo.

The east coast is really nice and lush, with waterfalls and all. We got to see some of these, and also visited a botanical garden with some nice flowers. They seem to like it here, given that the climate is warm and humid all year long. Not being an indigenous plant I find the climate annoying but Essan is in her element. I guess that's to balance for Norway...

Famished, we stormed the first bar / restaurant we could find in Hilo, one with rather remarkable business hours - basically open until "whenever." We ordered some local food: Essan got a fish (what a shocker) and I got a NY steak. Okay, maybe not local food but good food. With our hunger I was sure any food would do... The waitress reminded me very much of Sophie Marceau, every aspect of her other than the clearly native facial features. Naturally you can't understand the fascination with Sophie if you didn't grow up with masterpieces such as La Boum as a teenager. Mmmh, Sophie. In turn, Sophie seemed to have a certain fascination with us, too: "So you work for Apple?" she guessed outright. "Umm, yes". "I figured, the T-shirt and the Powerbook", she pointed at the machine which was busy downloading the first gigabyte of images. What followed was questions about her strawberry iMac and what to get next.

We visited the diving shop right next door and bought some snorkeling equipment. The French guy at the store was very helpful and knowledgeable, and did not agree with my assessment of the weather as being too hot and humid. But he did point us to a good place where to test out our newly acquired gear. So off we were, heading further south east around the island, to the tide pools.

And tide pools full of fish they were indeed. And of sharp lava rocks, too. Essan had her sandals, what a smart choice. I was properly barefooted, and after an hour in the water had to be afraid to be attracting sharks due to cuts and bruises from my feet, legs and arms.

After quick snack / dinner in Hilo we decided to head back to the hotel the long way - around the island through the Volcano national park. However, in the park we encountered rain and thick fog, and since it was already late and dark we decided not to continue down to the lava flow but rather to come back later another day.

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