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Month Forty Four was a nice balance of work, rest and play – in Hawaii!
We spent the whole month at our Help Exchange in South Kona, the first couple of weeks in our little studio, then when one of the other couples moved on, we moved into their room in the big house – luckily Lilo the kitty came with us.
I continued working two markets per week, plus we did a super busy monthly market in the art village of Holualoa. I have really loved doing the markets and through them I got to meet a lot more locals which has been amazing (as well as gaining some serious oven management and pizza cutting skills).
I have also been working hard on this blog behind the scenes, which has included switching to a secure site, switching hosts, changing my URL structure (and redirecting hundreds of pages – one by one), and starting to update old posts with new information and better SEO – something I want to continue to focus on in the next couple of months, rather than writing new content.
Along with all that work, we also managed to do our weekly day out in Kailua-Kona, as well as swimming and snorkeling at our local spots – Ho’okena Beach and Two Step.
We had more pot luck meals with our hosts and the other helpers, cooked lots of great meals including homemade mac nut pesto and chocolate mac nut brownies, saved money and still had time to have lots of kitty cuddles with Lilo – who we found out is pregnant.
Dad arrived from New Zealand at the end of the month, and we spent the last couple of days of month forty four exploring more of the island – now that we had wheels in the form of Dad’s rental car.
I loved hiking to the unique Green Sand Beach, exploring the hippy town of Hawi, hiking to Mo’okini Heiau where human sacrifices used to be performed, and making our way – one slippery step at a time – into the lush Pololu Valley.
It was a productive, relaxing, wonderful month in Hawaii.
Now onto the Stats!
Countries Visited: USA
- Hawaii: Big Island – Kailua-Kona, South Kona, South Point, Mauna Kea, Hawi, Punalu’u
National Parks and Monuments Visited: Pu’uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park on the Big Island of Hawaii
Islands Visited: Big Island of Hawaii
Best Meal: Food highlights of the month included my Strawberry Cheesecake Donut from Holy Donuts in Kailua-Kona, the whole roasted garlic cloves and gorgonzola cheese dip with flatbread from Kona Brewing Company, and the Garlic Shrimp Plate from L + L Hawaiian BBQ. Oh – and all the pizza from Pizza Rovers that I got while working, of course. My favorite concoction was fig, pineapple, black olive, basil pesto, onion and balsamic glaze – mmmmm!
Worst Meal: Traditional Poke from KTA. I really, really didn’t care for the flavor or the spindly seaweed that was all over it. Even the cat wouldn’t eat it until I rinsed it thoroughly. I generally quite like poke, I just really didn’t like this variation.
Best Craft Beer: Gold Cliff IPA with pineapple from Kona Brewing Company. Love that Brewery!
- Captain Cook Monument in Captain Cook, HI 3.5 miles/5.5km return
- 1871 Trail in South Kona, HI 3 miles/5km one way
- Green Sand Beach in South Point, HI 5 miles/8km return
- Mo’okini Heiau Hike near Hawi, HI 3 miles/5km return
- Pololu Valley Hike near Hawi, HI 3 miles/5km return
Reading: I read The Storyteller’s Secret by Sejal Badani and loved it. The book is about a writer who has just had her third miscarriage and is on the verge of divorce from her husband, that travels to her parent’s homeland of India.
She learns the story of her Grandmother while she is there, as well as secrets from her mother’s past that she never knew. The book is so beautifully written, descriptive and heart-breaking while managing to be full of hope and love at the same time. I highly, highly recommend this book.
Watching: As it has been a pretty relaxed month in terms of travel, we watched A LOT of Netflix and Hulu. Highlights of the month included the TV series based on Stephen King’s book of the same name – 11/22/63. The limited series tells the story of a time traveler that spends years living in the past, preparing to stop the assassination of President Kennedy.
Of course the book was better, and a few details were changed, but I still really enjoyed this show, although I don’t think James Franco was the right choice to play Jake.
In regards to movies I loved the quirky horror Velvet Buzzsaw, which involves cursed paintings that start killing off the glitterati of the art world, one by one.
I also really enjoyed Bohemian Rhapsody. I get the backlash about the movie not focusing on Freddie’s last years dying of AIDs, but it just wasn’t about that, it was about the music. Also, he didn’t want to focus on his having AIDs when he was alive, he wanted people to focus on his music, so I think that the movie honored his musical legacy really well.
An Afternoon at Mahai’ula Beach
One of the days we went into Kailua, Toby’s friend Gumby picked us up and we went on an adventure to Mahai’ula Beach, which involved some crazy driving over old lava, and a walk around the coastline.
The beach was beautiful, and there were two big Hawaiian monk seals lying on the sand, turtles playing in the waves, and breaching whales that we could see from shore. We ate our packed lunches, lounged on the beach, swam, and watched all the marine wildlife – it was wonderful.
A Day at Captain Cook Monument
Our day hiking down to Captain Cook Monument turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life – because I got to swim with dolphins again, and this time I got to share it with Toby, and the dolphins hung around us for ages.
I am going to write a post about this at some point soon because everything I read about this hike nearly put me off – apparently it is the hardest hike ever – but our experience was so magical that I want other people to be able to do it too.
In short, the hike was not that tough, the views were awesome, we had the monument to ourselves for nearly an hour, and we swam out to a pod of wild dolphins who swam around and below us for about half an hour in calm, blue water. It was seriously the best and it was something that I had dreamed of doing for such a long time.
All the Sea Life on the Big Island
Every island offers different things, reasons why you should visit and experience each island if you get the chance. The Big Island for me is all about the marine life – especially in winter as that is when Humpback Whales are migrating just offshore. And I mean JUST offshore – like they are so close sometimes that you could swim out to them (my host was lucky enough to do this while we were there.)
We saw so many whales breaching, fluming, tail-slapping, porpoising – those whales are show-offs. And so are the spinner dolphins that live in the waters off Kona. As well as swimming with the dolphins, we saw them numerous times close to shore, jumping out of the water and spinning – hence their name.
Turtles, or Honu, are also prevalent on the Big Island and we saw them surfing in the waves and hanging out in the shallows.
Other marine wildlife we saw this month were two rare Hawaiian monk seals, baby moray eels in a rock pool at Two Step, puffer fish (one of my favorite tropical fishes) and so many other colorful fish.
I feel so lucky to have experienced so much wildlife during the last month.
Playing with Snow in Hawaii
Due to the colder than normal weather, there was a lot of snow up on Mauna Kea – the highest point in Hawaii at 13,800 feet – and so we decided to try going to see it. We hitched to town where Toby’s friend Gumby picked us up, then we drove up to the Visitor Center – as far as you are supposed to go in a two wheel drive.
You can hike from there but it takes about eight hours return – we didn’t have time for that – or you can book a star watching and sunset tour up there, but they start at $200, which is a bit too rich for my blood, so we thought we would just walk up a mile or two and see if we could see the snow, trying to hitch as we went.
We didn’t actually think we would get a ride but that is exactly what happened – a lovely couple from Oahu who were over for the weekend felt sorry for us. We went all the way to the top with them, stopping for snowball fights and photos along the way. It was so weird but so cool (ha!) to play with snow in Hawaii!
It was freezing and windy at the top so we didn’t stay long, but it was such a special experience to be able to travel up there – not something that everyone gets to do.
Dad Arriving in Hawaii
It was so nice to see Dad again and to show him Hawaii, even though the day he arrived absolutely poured down with rain. I am usually back home in New Zealand at this time of year so it was great to have an important part of New Zealand for me, come to Hawaii.
Hiking to a Green Sand Beach
Last time I visited the Big Island back in 2010, I didn’t have time to do everything, and I ended up cutting the hike to Green Sand Beach. This time it was at the top of my list. The hike is 5.5 miles return and is easy but there is no shade so we started early.
I’m so glad we did because when we got there, there was only one other couple there so we almost got to have the beach to ourselves, before loads of people started arriving.
The beach itself is in fact green, a gold-green that is very unique – there are only a handful of green sand beaches in the world and the others are a lot harder to get to.
We swam, jumping the waves, then dried off in the sun before hiking back – tougher in the heat of the early afternoon. It was a fantastic day out in the wild nature of the Big Island.
A Perfect Day in the North of Hawaii
The last day of the month we spent on the northern tip of the Big Island, and it was a great mix of hiking, history, great food and beach time.
We stopped at a viewpoint on the way up the Kohala Coast and hiked down to the coast to watch two pods of whales, we had lunch and looked around the shops of hippy Hawi, we hiked to Mo’okini Heiau – remains of a temple that was once used for human sacrifice, we hiked into the beautiful Pololu Valley, then finished off the day at one of the best beaches on the island for a swim – Hapuna Beach.
What a day!
Green Card Interview Nightmares
My lowlights were alllll about the Green Card Interview this month. It started when I received mail telling me my interview was scheduled for 25th February – while we were still in Hawaii. This was about six months earlier than I was told to expect it to be, and I rung them to change it, as from what I understood, changing it once was not a big deal.
After waiting on the line for ages, I finally got to speak to someone and they took all my details and said someone would be in touch about my interview in 2-4 weeks. So I thought it was all fine and it would be changed to a later date.
But unfortunately I was wrong.
Two weeks later I received an email telling me that my request to change my interview was denied because I had already changed it twice, and that if I didn’t show up for my interview then my application for a green card would be cancelled.
Obviously this was disconcerting, not least because I hadn’t changed it before. I managed to get hold of someone and they sent an expedited request to Denver to request the change again. This was all happening less than two weeks before I would need to be in Denver for the interview if it couldn’t be changed, and I only found out that they would in fact change it, five days before the interview was meant to happen – phew! Very stressful!
But the story isn’t over yet.
About a week later I heard when my new interview would be – 26th March, four days before my Maui housesit was meant to end. There was no way I could change it again so I immediately got in touch with the housesitting host and explained the situation and she very kindly said I could still come, and that I could hand over to their regular pet sitter (who they pay) for the last four days.
So alls well that ends well – hopefully there will be no more drama going forward.
Like last month, the weather continued to be extreme this month – even more so. We had severe wind warnings a couple of times that stopped us going to the beach or hiking, there was a week that was really cold – well for Hawaii – and I had to wear thermals and socks to bed, and we had more than the usual amount of rain for this time of year, with the hardest, most consistent rain falling on the day my Dad arrived.
At least we were spending seven weeks on the Big Island so we could rearrange plans, but I felt sorry for the people who were there on a short vacation.
I ran out of my SPF 15 lip gloss and it took me a while to find a new one, and in that time I managed to get a sunburnt lip.
Unfortunately this is something that has happened numerous times to me and it is annoying and painful, making it hard to eat and drink. Luckily it is all healed up now and I finally found a replacement lip gloss.
I am so happy that I actually spent within my means this month! A large part of that was because we actually spent the whole month in one place: At our Help Exchange in South Kona, Hawaii. Because of this there was less transport costs, a lot less food costs, and no activity costs. I did have a couple of website costs that only come up once a year and still spent under $800 for the month – that’s a big win for me.
We spent thirteen nights in our little studio, then the remaining 18 nights we moved into the large Helper house at our Help Exchange.
Food and Drink $433
Most of my money went on groceries – which are expensive in Hawaii – but we did eat out a couple of times a week as well.
- Hat $31
- Gas $25
- Big Island Buses $10
No paid activities this month – every fun thing we did was FREE.
- Phone Credit $50
- Toiletries $4
- Snorkels $28
- Cat food and flea/worm treatment $11
Website Costs $202
- Monthly payment for Keysearch $12
- One Year of Tailwind $119
- One Year of Hosting with Siteground $71
What’s in Store for Next Month
The first few days of the month will be our last at our Help Exchange, which is both sad and exciting as it will be hard to say goodbye to everyone – especially Lilo – but I am also amped to explore more of Hawaii with Toby and my Dad.
We have a farewell breakfast planned at the beach, then we will be heading just north of Kailua-Kona to our tiny home getaway for six nights, where there is a hot tub with a waterfall!
During our last week on the Big Island, we have lots of fun day trips planned including beach time on the South Kohala Coast, hiking and a scenic drive at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, checking out he largest town on the island: Hilo, and maybe even some backcountry hiking from Waipio Valley to Waimanu Valley.
From the Big Island, we are heading to the North Shore of Oahu which is one of my favorite places in Hawaii, and I’m excited to show Dad and Toby around, as well as exploring more of the island.
Toby leaves from there and Dad and I have a couple of nights in Waikiki before I fly to Maui for the last two weeks of the month. I have a housesit in Makawao, an upcountry artist’s village which I am very excited about.
I will be looking after a dog and a cat, and have a vehicle that I can use so I can also explore more of the island.
Hiking and beaches are definitely on the agenda, as is lots of couch time, as I’m sure I will be pretty exhausted after two weeks of hard-core sightseeing.
Another month in beautiful Hawaii!
To read additional Monthly Round Ups, you can find them here