A really great last day... I'm writing this from the gate area of Kona Airport in Hawai'i, where Debbie and I are bored to tears waiting for our flight. My bandwidth here is very limited, so I'm writing this post now, but will put photos up after we get home and have enough bandwidth to make that process endurable.
Amazingly enough, today worked out pretty much as planned. We started by packing up and saying goodbye to Hale Ohia, our home-away-from-home in Hawai'i. Then we headed down to Hilo to have our last breakfast at Cafe 100. We both had locos – Portuguese sausage loco with a side of Portuguese sausage for Debbie (could you guess that she likes Portuguese sausage?), bacon loco with a side of ham for me.
By the time we finished our breakfast, it was about 8 am. Just after 9 am we were on the dirt road up Mauna Kea. We drove one of our favorite roads, looking at the beautiful scenery and looking for pueos. We saw no pueos. After about four hours we got to our destination: the Dr. David Douglas memorial, and a memory I cherish – taking my mom and dad here, and hiking the quarter mile or so to the monument with my dad. I got down to the monument this morning and leaned up against a koa tree, memories flooding in. Just a minute or so after I stood against that tree, a little elepaio landed on a branch less than two feet from my face. He perched there for 30 seconds or so, head tilting first one way and then the other, watching me and chirping as if to ask me how I was doing. Then he flitted off to investigate something else interesting in his little empire. I hiked back up to Debbie and our truck with a big smile on my face. Those elepaio are one of our favorite birds here, and also one of the most elusive. We'd only seen them three or four times on the rest of our trip, and never such a close view.
Then we headed back down toward Waimea, going about 15 miles on this dirt four-wheel road. We were still hoping to see pueos, but weren't too hopeful based on the complete failure on the way up in the morning. Boy were we wrong! We ended up seeing ten individual pueos, including two pairs courting (which involves some spectacular flying). One of the pueos we saw was perched, but the rest were flying – and they spent at least some of their time quite close to us. That meant that with our binoculars we had simply wonderful views of their swooping, hovering, low-altitude aerobatics – by far the best that we've had on any trip we've made to Hawai'i. We also saw an io landing in a tree and flying away, close enough for a very nice viewing by binoculars.
Despite all this, I think the highlight for Debbie was the chance she had to feed granola bars to a very eager horse. This fellow happened to be standing near a fence we could access, and then Debbie went to work on him. Within a couple of minutes he was (literally!) eating out of her hand. Many smiles were upon Debbie's face. :)
After all that, still glowing from our birding and horsing experiences, we visited The Gallery of Great Things again. We had a bit more shopping to do there. Then we went to The Fish and the Hog for dinner: ahi poke appetizer that we split, fish and chips for Debbie, and fish tacos for me. All were delicious, and a fitting “last meal in Hawai'i” for us. Then it was time for us to drive down to Kona, turn in the rental truck, and start the air journey home.
As I write, we've checked in, gotten our boarding passes, gone through security, and now we're just waiting. We still have another hour before boarding. :( Then it's a five hour flight to San Francisco, an hour layover, and a two hour flight to Salt Lake City. There a friend will pick us up and ferry we two sleepy, cranky folks back home for a reunion with our furry friends. That should be great! :)